“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” ~Mother Theresa
It was the second time I’d gone out to lunch with a new friend I met through this site.
We’d experienced some of the same things in life, and I instantly admired her attitude and perspective.
Sometimes when I meet up with people I’ve met through Tiny Buddha, I feel a sense of inner conflict. One the one hand, I want to live up to everything I imagine they expect of me.
I want to be positive, present, and upbeat—all qualities I aspire to embody in my life and through my work.
But I also want to be free to just be, in whatever state I find myself on that given day, without worrying about how I’m perceived.
That’s been my lifelong journey—learning to show up as I am, without fearing whether or not other people will accept that.
My greatest drive in my life is to be authentic. But if I’m not mindful, I can easily get in my own way.
As we sat chatting, I found myself feeling more and more comfortable, and relieved that after all the years I'd spent isolating myself, I’d finally learned to relax and be myself in the company of new people.
We broached the topic of crowds, something I’m pretty vocal about disliking. I made a sarcastic comment, something along the lines of “People are best in small doses.” I meant that I prefer intimate groups of people, but I immediately questioned how it came across.
That didn’t sound very Tiny Buddha-ish, I thought. Then I reminded myself, “She’ll know what I mean. Clearly I don’t hate people.”
I wasn’t quite so confident when she said, “Are people best from a computer screen, when you’re sitting alone in your living room?”
This hit me like a jolt to the stomach, completely knocking the wind out of me.
This is precisely what I did for most of my time living in New York—sit by myself, desperately wanting connection but fearing what that would entail.
She likely had no intention of being hurtful—after all, she was still the same kind, giving person I admired so much—but her comment felt like a red-hot poker, jabbing at something raw and tender.
In that moment, I asked myself three questions: Why is this so raw? Why do I feel so defensive? What am I really afraid of?
When I dissected my feelings, I realized I’d internalized her comment to mean: I am the same person I was at my weakest, and if I’m not careful, people will see it and reject me. People will think that I’m a fraud and that I haven’t really changed at all.
It was based in the same limiting thinking that kept me isolated years ago—the fear that other people may judge me, and their judgments may be true.
At first, I reminded myself, “You are not the same person you were before. You’ve come such a long way, and that’s something to be proud of.”
But then I stopped myself and questioned my well-intentioned internal monologue. Was this really what I needed to hear—that I was so much better than my shameful former self?
Maybe what I really needed to hear was, “You are the same person—because the person you were before was beautiful and worthy of love, just as you are now. She was just at a different part of the journey.”
That’s the missing piece of this self-acceptance puzzle I’ve been making all these years. It’s not about fully believing I am better than I used to be. It’s about releasing the need to judge that person, because she is, in fact, still me.
I may have made poor choices before and I may have struggled more than I do now, but I was doing the best I could, based on where I was at that time. This was no reason to be ashamed of where I’d been.
It’s only in releasing shame about the past that we’re able to be free in the present.
I knew not to assume my new friend meant to be judgmental, but I realized then that even if she did, it would only have power over me if I judged myself.
So here’s my most recent admission and affirmation:
My name is Lori. I spent a ton of time sitting alone and self-destructing, feeling terrified of all of you. I sometimes still fear being judged, but I work every day to move beyond it. Still, that’s not why I am proud.
I am proud because I choose to validate myself—who I am, who I’ve been, and who I will be.
That, I believe, is the deepest kind of self-love. And we all deserve it.
Photo by sissilove31