Guilty of being Judge & Jury – Part 2!

Judging is a two-way street. It hurts to be judged. But when you are sitting in judgement there’s a slight sanctimonious ring to it no?

I have a close-knit family of maternal aunts, cousins, their kids and spouses, etc. Growing up, I have been influenced a lot by my aunts as they assisted in bringing me up from my adolescence to my teens. Today, that influence that they wielded then is like a millstone. It keeps me in a conflicted zone all the time. While I love them and cherish them and admire them and respect them, sometimes there also creeps in a certain sense of frustration, anger and resentment. And everytime they say something that is a sweeping statement of some person and said with great authority, I cringe. I cringe because of my own failings and insecurities about who I am. And I allow the sphere of influence to affect me, my state of being and my environment. The impact is unbelievable when I sit for hours thinking why was a particular statement said like this, or why do they always see other people as noble and amazing and fantastic and why don’t hey have nice things to say about me and so on.

But we’re all like this aren’t we? We do make sweeping statements of people purely on the basis of some media-fuelled nonsense, or on the basis of how someone looks. I know I do. If there’s a new actress in town, we take one look at her and say “Wow” or “Eeks, she looks godawful! Look at her figure, she’s so thigh-heavy or what ugly lips…” and so on. Who in the name of God do we think we are to be making such rude remarks of people who can’t even respond? Fine we do this. But why, pray tell me do we do it? What is this insane urge to somehow stick our necks out and define people and slot them? I hate it when it’s done to me, I hate it when it’s done by me, I hate it when it’s done to people I love, by people I know.

At some point I think it’s time we realized that:
a) people are not necessarily true to themselves or to the people around them – flattery does get you somewhere, up to a point. And then nowhere.
b) your interactions with people do create an impression – make the first your best and make your best last. I mean really last, like a lifetime last.
c) transparency, honesty and vulnerability actually do mean something, even if you don’t see it instantly like 2-minute noodles. It’s that intangible that touches people, leaves the “last”ing impression :). And whatever anyone says, it’s worth it.
d) some amount of detachment to self is essential – what some people say, “don’t take yourself so seriously”. The world is a better place with you, but it’ll still run when you’re not in it. The sun doesn’t rise because of me or you.
e) like my young but very mature cousin said, “develop a thick hide”. Yup, tres important. People will say, compare, judge, and it will hurt. But how long and how deeply is something for us to decide. If we let every single thing said affect us adversely and impact our wellbeing and our mental health, then we’re to blame not the person who says things.
f) we too need to be less harsh on ourselves. Yes we too judge and crib and cuss and diss, so? No one is a paragon of virtue. And hey, paragons of virtue can be boring. :). So yeah, chill, go ahead diss, crib, get anger, throw a glass at someone who broke your heart, call him an a#@$le, it’s fine right?
g) when you do (f) above, we need to also understand that we could also be the bane of someone’s  lives. Some will show their dislike openly, some may brood, and some will backbite. You can call it judgement, crib, diss, anything, but please do remember, if you can do it, they can do it too.

And so the jury is out. We can judge or not. Stuff can hurt or not. We can be happy or not. Let’s just be human, humane and spread love. Ideally.



Guilty Of Being Judge & Jury – Part 1!

I'm human

Who are we to judge?


“I’m human and I have a brain. I can think. That’s why we’re humans, man.”
This is perhaps the most common excuse in the world. In any language, with any combination of words, it sounds the same – lame. When there’s no other recourse, when you know you cannot justify your own conditioning and bad behaviour, you will judge yourself and run to the arms of the above excuse – I’m human.

But ironically it’s because we’re human that we’ve got the ability to pause and contemplate on our behaviours, our magnificence and our own insensitivities all at the same time. Being human means we’re forever striving to be more, do more, grow more, live more. We’re never satisfied with what we have achieved. What lies beyond our ken is far more enticing than what lies in front of our noses. More often than not, most of us are dreamers, dreaming about making it, whatever form the “making it” takes. And in the course of being people, we are so trigger happy to judge people if they don’t fall within the known paradigms of virtue. Tell me if these aren’t true.

a) Fair girl = nice person.
b) Attractive person = nice person, successful person.
c) Hangdog expression = dull, boring, uninteresting
d) Soft spoken, hesitant, shy = dull, loser, won’t amount to much
e) Short-tempered, loud = bold, brash, mean, impatient
f) Tall, slim, attractive woman = great catch, likely to be more successful at work
g) Curvaceous, charming, helpful = maybe an easy lay, dim witted
h) Not too educated, hardworking, not fluent in language = pitiable, tsk tsk, nothing much can be done
i) Diplomatic, manipulative, sly = mostly the verdict is “amazingly successful person”
j) Diplomatic, people-pleaser = amazing,fine human being
k) Reliable, dependable but invisible unless needed – er…do we really care?
l) Husband at home, wife working = loser, why does she tolerate him?
m) Younger woman, older husband = he must be a dirty old man and she must be a moron or gold-digger
n) Soft spoken, penny pincher with a hangdog ‘help me’ expression  = poor thing, he needs help, rush, rush, rush even though he could be the meanest, Silas Marner this side of the equator
o ) Outspoken, loud mouthed, short tempered = bloody bitch or bastard
p) Tall, dark, handsome armed with fluency of language = cad, no-gooder, cheat

Am sure you have your own interpretations, and perhaps an even longer and more varied list. I call them judgements. Let’s face it and admit it, we’re all judgemental including parents with their children.  I’m guilty of judging people all the time, however hard I try not to fall into that very “human” trap. Yes there are people I don’t like. Why? Because they don’t fall into my definition-box of good, nice, gentle, beautiful or amazing human beings. And how did I arrive at this definition? Who gave me permission to create these definitions and then happily put people into boxes only to dismiss and discard them if they didn’t fit? No one did. I am after all a product of my environment, of my conditioning and a legacy of behaviours and limited understanding. Poor me. (Yes, that’s right, deflect the blame, it’s great to pass the buck!).

Over a period of time, I’ve realised that being judgemental hurts. And you know when it hurts the most? When others are happily playing judge and jury with you in the witness stand. God it feels like hell, when you see people’s minds burgeoning with ideas of who you could be. Why don’t they see me for who I am? Look ma, am good. Look, look here, for God’s sakes, I’m this and that and that and this…not what you think at all. Oh please, don’t do this, please let me off the hook, please I beg of you.

You can writhe in protest all you want, but hey you know, what? Being judgemental is our right. After all, we’re human. Yes, you heard me, we’re human. Now go, lose yourself, you unsightly creature, you of the dark skin and the loud mouth and the brash manner. You must be a sinner! (Sigh!)

What have you failed at today?

I was listening to this interview that Jonathan Fields had with Sarah Lewis and she mentioned something there about Sarah Blakley, the founder of the multi-million dollar company Spanx, whose story incidentally is an inspirational read for every one of us who dares to dream of doing something daring. So anyway, in the interview, Sarah Lewis (they both share the same name, just realised) apparently talks about how her father would ask her and her brother at the dinner table, “so what did you fail at today?”.

Pause. Mull. Take the question in an imaginary glass, sniff it, sip it, roll it over your tongue and then swallow it. Does it create a warm fuzzy feeling as it slides down your throat or do you start spluttering because it just wouldn’t go down well with you?

What have I failed at today? Little do we realise that it’s our failures really, all the small ones, the big ones, the stupid ones, the funny ones, the egg-on-your-face ones, any kind of mistakes, failures and slip-ups are what teaches us to be smarter about it the next time. If little gorgeous miraculous babies were to give up at the first instance of a fall when they’re first starting to get over the crawl and learn to walk, well we’d all still be crawling on our fours wouldn’t we? Doesn’t it strike you as strange that as we grow up, more aware, more insightful, the things that we dared to earlier, only get more and more fearful as time passes by. We fear:

a) ridicule – the egg-on-my-face, what-will-people-say moments when we fail (notice I say when, because failure is a certainty that we honestly don’t want to embrace)

b) comparison – she did-it-so-well and she’s so goddammed successful why can’t it happen to me or with me or to me? Yeah. Stop. Did you ever ask “her” or “him” about his journey to the success that you have ascribed them to? Why don’t you ask and be prepared to hear about their travails?

c) judgement – now this one is a classic irony – we yearn to be successful because success to most of us is about the external approbation and the applause and the camera flashes popping in our faces and the people gushing about how “successful” we are. Yet, yet we fear these very people’s judgement about us if we’re not. What is success if not a judgement by the very people we fear of failing in front of? (Now that’s a tweetable).

d) censure – people who have our backs will always encourage us to go out and really s-t-r-e-t-c-h our limits and bask in the flowering of our potential as we do so. The muscle of potential really does get all warmed up as we s-t-r-e-t-c-h and practice everyday. Slowly, little by little by little we get better. Watch The Karate Kid, one of my favourite movies, to understand how practice helps. But we don’t want to put our time and effort into it. We want mastery in a day, sorry, in an instant, NOW. And when we fail, we are afraid of censure. Are we strange or what?

e) being left behind – we’re not rats, yet we call it a ‘rat race’. We’re not rats, yet we have books alluding to rat food, “who moved my cheese”?. In fact if you see ant behaviour (and there are myrmecologists who’ve devoted their lives to the study of these wonderful tiny creatures with big hearts and will), you’ll be blown away by their intrinsic discipline that is so individualistic and yet works so amazingly in groups (read this fascinating article on Swarm Theory here) as well. So why are we equating ‘living’ to a race? I just want to live freely, happily, connectedly, joyously and doing my own ‘thang’. Why should I be afraid of you? Beats me. Always has, but the heartbreaking truth is that we end up beating ourselves over it. We’re our own worst enemies.

f) not coming first – winning is everything. Or not. Depends on how you want to look at life. And how you define winning. Winning, success, failure, are not just adjectives in the language of life. They can make or mar us. Coming first in school I remember was the ‘big’ thing for me. When I came 2nd when I was in the 4th grade and got rebuked by my folks, I honestly felt like I’d let them down. That was perhaps the beginning of ‘wanting to please other people’, and the fear of failure. It’s okay isn’t it if you don’t come first? But then the guy with the podium finish is the one who gets all the endorsements. Ha!

g) shame – what does shame mean to you? this is perhaps the most inexplicable yet one of the most powerful emotions that can elicit a visceral reaction, can have us bound like a mummy in our own fears and keep us from truly blossoming out into the fabulous human beings we are. Shame. I hate that 5 letter word. Because we internalise it, we make it about ‘me’, we make it about ‘not being enough’ we make it about ‘never being good enough’ and we eat it for breakfast, lunch, dinner. Jesus! We need to chew it and spit it out.

h) guilt – what is guilt? is the flipside of shame? Perhaps it is. It gnaws at your innards, brews toxic emotions and suffuses your being with this toxicity that is a drug that you are addicted to all your life. No amount of detox helps. Guilt has you firmly in its grip. But guilty of what? If I have to be convicted for:
being myself, being flawed, being quirky, being imperfect, being ‘too much’, being my true unique self, being non-conformist, being politically gauche or savvy, being a free ranger, being anything goddammit that is at its core being human, then yes, I am guilty. I want to listen to the beat of my own drummer, not yours. Is that alright or what?

When and if we are able to traverse this rocky road of the fear of failure, it is then and only then that we come to a self-assured, perhaps tranquil and “indifferent to a world-view that defines success” place. Yes, it is only then that we have truly arrived. It is time we rejigged our internal GPS to point us in a direction that is N-E-W-S (North, East, West, South). How does it matter? It’s your direction, your definition, your path, your life. Go fail.

And while you do so, please do share with me how you failed today, or tomorrow, and what you learnt from those failures? Did you feel misery, shame, guilt or were you able to take it all in your stride? Sharing is caring, I invite you to do so. Lots of love.