“The quicker you are in attaching verbal or mental labels to things, people, or situations, the more shallow and lifeless your reality becomes, and the more deadened you become to reality.” ~Eckhart Tolle
Things are hard right now, aren’t they? When I first started writing this article about my goal to drop labels so I could live without judgment, I was thinking I didn’t want to judge people at the gym based on what their T-shirts said.
Now I’m trying not to judge people in my local community and around the country for taking actions that make me feel afraid for my safety and the safety of my family. It’s quite a different kettle of fish, let me tell you.
In some ways, though, this experience has clarified something for me: We are all human and we are all doing our best. And judging someone else’s best, someone else’s beliefs, does nothing but harm us.
I’ve spent a long time trying to become aware, trying to become more conscious, trying to practice gratitude and compassion.
But this pandemic, it’s testing me.
When I read a news article about people in my town caravanning down Main Street, protesting the stay-at-home orders, I admit my mind immediately jumped in with negative labels and assumptions.
And I bet those same people caravanning would judge me in an unflattering way, as well.
That’s the thing with judgment—it cuts both ways and there is no final answer. There’s no way to know who is “right.” Likely because we all have glimmers of truth in our belief systems.
I also find myself listening to the news and calling people names, both out loud to my husband and inside my own head, which is just another way of labeling and judging them. It makes my insides feel awful, but I’ve noticed my fear makes it hard for me to stop.
Since I don’t want to spend my entire existence during this crazy time wrapped up in a ball of nerves, worries, and anger, though, I’m realizing it’s more important now than ever to try to let go of labels.
But how?? How can I let go when I think that guy over there is doing something stupid, something that might literally kill me?
There’s one thing I’m certain of, and it’s that I feel better, calmer, and more present when I stop listening to and believing the chatter of my mind. When I go outside and take a walk, when my mind is busy admiring the flowers rather than tearing down the politicians, I’m at peace.
I want more of that. Fewer labels. More compassion. So here’s how I’m currently encouraging myself to let go of judgments.
I’m reminding myself that labeling helps nothing. Nothing at all. Whether you’re labeling people who want everything to stay closed for a long time as ridiculous snowflakes or judging the leader of a city who wants everything re-opened right now as a right-wing nut, you’re not helping.
Judging other people won’t make you feel better, not really. It may temporarily make your ego feel self-important, or smart, or special, but if you’re in touch with yourself and your real feelings, it will just leave you feeling empty.
When I judge, I get angry. When I get angry, I’m not compassionate or kind. I’m not calm and available with my kid. And all of this negative energy would be significantly lessened if I simply accepted people for what and who they are.
Accepting our differences and other people’s opinions doesn’t mean taking no action, though. It just means taking action from a place of peace rather reacting from anger or fear. It means putting yourself in their shoes for a moment.
Instead of commenting on someone’s Facebook post during a fit of rage (which will help nothing), take some deep breaths, then assess what the actual problem is.
Can you do anything about it? Can you organize a petition or take other actions to protect yourself and your own family? If you can, go ahead and do it from a level-headed place.
Judging someone from your home computer and getting riled up doesn’t help anything or anyone. Remember these are people, too.
I’m realizing that labeling is judging, plain and simple.
You label someone as with you or against you, as old or young, as sick or healthy, as pretty or ugly. You label yourself as too wrinkly or too saggy, too nervous or too loud.
They are all just words. Look at yourself and let your mind be still. Look at that person with the offensive (to you!) opinion and let it wash over you rather than tearing that person down in your mind.
See that your mind is busy, busy, busy giving out comments and justifying why they’re necessary, when in reality it’s not helping anyone.
I’m observing without the labels.
I’m also noticing my judgments without labeling them.
I would be embellishing the truth considerably if I told you I’m already really good at looking at things, especially other people with differing opinions about the way this pandemic should be handled, without labeling them.
However, as part of this process I’m giving myself compassion. When I notice that I’m labeling someone or something, (She’s trying to do what!? Why he is saying that, it’s so dangerous! How did we get in this horrible position??), I simply stop.
I take the time to notice that I’m making judgments without labeling myself as “not good at this” or “never going to change.” A huge shift like this takes time, and getting down on myself certainly will not make the process more enjoyable.
I’m consciously inviting myself to notice the present moment.
When I start judging others, it takes me out of enjoying what’s happening around me.
Instead of relishing the smell of baked ziti in the oven, I’m grousing about what I just read online. Instead of appreciating the brightness of my daughter’s laugh, I’m mentally worrying about her smearing jelly all over her shirt. Instead of feeling the warmth of my husband’s hug, I’m inwardly grimacing at the smell of the paint on his t-shirt.
I’m simply not there when I’m in my mind, labeling every little thing. And current life events have made that even more noticeable.
Instead of getting sad about living so much of my life in judgment, though (which is just another label!), I’m going to feel appreciative that I’ve arrived at this point.
I’m going to take a deep breath and come back to right now. I’m going to spend as much time as I can simply being in the present moment.
Being in the present moment also makes these circumstances easier to deal with. Instead of worrying when it will be over, or what tomorrow will be like, I can simply live in the now, my mind clear, my heart open.