Week three has been a trying week for me. The goal was to stop my critical thoughts in their tracks and replace them with positive thoughts. This worked well for me in some instances; typically in the less "intense" situations. Other times when I was more worked up, I caught myself thinking things like, "Jeez! What a ____. STOPSTOPSTOPSTOP. Something positive... ok, she's got great hair. She's a ______, but she's got great hair." Not ideal. Did you have this problem too?
Sometimes I could stop my negative thoughts by sorting through what I imagined to be their thought process, or simply by giving them the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes I would have a little fun and make up situations for them... I know, I'm a nut. Maybe the guy at the front of the line in the coffee shop is taking forever to pay because his five year old took all of the money out of his wallet and replaced it with shredded toilet paper and pencil shavings. Ha! What parent wouldn't feel at least a little sympathy for him? That lady speaking loudly on her cellphone at the table behind me in the restaurant? Oh, she's probably just talking to her half-deaf uncle. And what about that person who cut me off on the highway on my way to work, and then proceeded to drive 5 miles below the speed limit? He's in a hurry to get somewhere, but there's a bomb wired to his engine (Sandy and Keanu forever! My brother will get that reference), so he can't go above 53. If you can't tell, I had a good time with this one.
If that didn't work, it was time to go to my last resort. Remember in my last post when I said the people I judge tend to be the people I don't know? I used this to my advantage. I think I'm less likely to judge my friends and my family because I know about their struggles, and I love and care deeply for them. I'm more compassionate and forgiving of their shortcomings because I know that I, too, am human and will inevitably fail them at some point. Any time I find myself unable to shake my negative thoughts about a stranger (or acquaintance), I picture one of my loved ones in their situation. Maybe it's one of my best friends, or my brother. If that doesn't do the trick, imagine your mom, or break out the big guns and picture your grandma. Nobody can hate on grandma! Once I've got myself straightened out, I remind myself that this stranger is human, just like the ones I love so much, and they will struggle and ultimately fail. And they have the right to, just as much as you or I do.
I do have one last tip, before Non-Judgmental January is officially over. I've found it's important to be careful about the company you keep. Did you know that you become most like the five people you spend the most time with? I heard that somewhere. I don't know if it's true for everyone, but I have noticed that in looking back at different chapters of my life, it tends to hold up. When you surround yourself with supportive and caring people, you work to become more supportive and caring. Likewise, if you surround yourself with people who are negative and judgmental, you're more likely to pick up their behaviors or attitudes. And, if you're like me, you're probably more worried that they're judging you or talking about you behind your back. Not really the best people to fill your life with, if you ask me.
I hope you've had a great January. How are you doing with your own resolutions? Coming up in February, I'll tell you all about my struggles and progress (mostly struggles though) with Insanity.