Going back twenty-three years to my senior year of high school, my AP Calculus teacher gave us a test in class that I will never forget. It actually wasn't a math test, go figure. She was one of those teachers that made class fun and allowed for digressions from the curriculum. So this one day, she decided to give us all the Meyers-Briggs Personality test. If you have never heard of this test, it is a bunch of questions that you answer that will create a personality profile for you based on four different scales. According to the Meyers-Briggs Inventory, the four scales that compose our personalities are: extrovert vs. introvert, sensing vs. intuition, thinking vs. feeling and judging vs. perceiving.
Aside from the fact that we didn't have to think about math that day, I loved the experience of taking this test. It didn't do much for my calculating skills, but it did help me to understand myself and my classmates better. Peers that I had literally known since kindergarten took on a different light to me when I realized how their personality traits interact with the world around them. I felt like I knew myself better - like I finally made sense. My profile was ENFJ - Extravert, Intuitition, Feeling & Judging. This is a rare combination -- according to the 16personalities website only 2% of people have this personality. Ironically, my most challenging child shares this profile. I don't think that it's a very easy personality to manage. Because it's so rare, you can really feel so radically different from others. Years passed and anytime someone would mention the Myers Briggs, I remembered my personality profile. I did not remember anything that was on the AP Calculus exam, however. I guess it's true that we hold on to what we really need to know.
Skipping forward to a little over five years back, just after I had my twin boys. They were babies #3 and #4 for me. As a mom of twins, you really begin to look at yourself and the world through a unique lens. One thing that I started to notice was a tendency of mine that I really didn't like. And maybe, yeah probably, I noticed it because I really, *really*, didn't like when I noticed other people doing it - to me! As a matter of fact, I noticed it all the time -- for better or worse.
Lucky for me, I have grown to discover that when I find myself looking outward at something I don't like in someone else, it's really just a reflection of what I'd like to change in myself. So, what is this nasty habit that I was/still-kinda-am seeing all over? Well, it's the fourth scale of the Myers-Briggs test, "judging". Judging had really become a bad habit of mine. But not just with me. I mean, it seems like it's a real trend in our society. People, in general seem to be very judgmental and I don't think it's anything new at all. Did I mention how annoying it is the number of people that feel the need to judge your parenting when you are the mom of four little boys? So, yeah, I was bothered by this trend, but truthfully, I was most bothered by the fact that I knew I was just as guilty as everyone else. You might immediately assume that I was only judging others, but actually the person I was judging the harshest was myself. Does this resonate with you at all? Anyone else out there with the same bad habit? To go a little deeper, I would often judge my body, like, not in a nice way. No matter how many times I would look in the mirror and say, "I love you Bonnie," (You can read a previous blog with this story here.) I would then look at my thighs and wish my cellulite would go away. I would look at other bodies people and judge them with these almost unconscious thoughts, the clothing they were wearing, the size of their body, the beauty of their face, the house they have, etc. etc. the list goes on. But, let me clarify first. My "ideal" clothing, body, look, house, etc. is probably different from yours. It's probably different from what some magazines or religions teach as what we should all want to have or what some doctrine teaches that we should dress like. You see, my parents were quite unique people. My mom was a hippie that grew up in California and cared more about playing the piano that looking a certain way. My father was raised by two factory workers who were dirt poor and placed no importance on looking a certain way. So, unlike many people, I was not taught that you "should" dress a certain way or puton a certain façade. It then makes sense that I grew to value what is real. Being authentic and truthful was more important than impressing someone else was the message that I was raised with. And it wasn't until I've gone on this mission of self-development that I realized many people are not raised with this message. Many people are actually brought up with a certain standard of how they are supposed to look and act and say and what type of life is a successful one. Most people are actually judging others based on a set of judgments that was handed down to them. And so was I, but mine was just the opposite of everyone else's.
Judgments come in so many forms. People judge others on if they are "an idiot" or not. People judge based on if someone is "a good person" or not. Whether or not someone uses social media "the right way" or not. Religion, politics, the list goes on... How about if someone has followed all of the grammar rules correctly or not? Do my sentence fragments make you want to punch a wall? The list of ways that we are all judging one another is very long, to say the least.
So five years ago, I started using this practice, and I was reminded by it on Facebook. Facebook has this nifty feature where they remind you of things that you posted "on this day" in past years. Here is what I said five years ago:
Never underestimate your power to shift someone's day. Just a few kind words, or a few judgmental thoughts or words can really make an impact on someone. Lately, if I have a judgmental thought, I pray, "Dear angels, please shift my thinking and vision so that I can see the good and beauty in this person. Help me to see their light & beauty." I'm just so grateful for the people who see the positive and speak it out loud.
Five years ago, I noticed that I needed the angels help in shifting my judgmental thoughts to loving ones, and I began praying for this help. But that still wasn't enough, because I was still judging myself. So, even more recently I upped the ante. I went into a mode of being open and curious, thanks to my yoga trainer, Victoria's, advice. I basically put a question out to the universe, something to the effect of, "What is there to love about my cellulite?" And here is what came back to me, "That is what makes you real." It suddenly clicked for me. "Yeah! That IS what makes me real!" A light bulb literally went off over my head because I felt this deep connection to the body that I've chosen as my vessel in this lifetime being part of my real experience as a person. Every (perceived) flaw is just part of my soul's experience here. They are not actually flaws, but REAL human features.
Every time I wanted to judge something about myself, I took on a new habit of saying, "That is what makes you REAL." It seemed to instantly shift my thinking and transform me into a place of acceptance. Honestly, there's nothing more that I'd rather be than real. Authentic. 100% me.
The cool thing is, I naturally started transferring this concept to others. When I felt a little judgment coming on, I would just remind myself, "That is what makes them real." Instantly, my thoughts would go to their experience as a soul in a body and how their body and their life's experiences were perfectly planned for their soul's evolution. Even if something is "fake," like plastic surgery, for instance, it is still their soul's real experience in a body. It's still real. 100% them. And something about this way of thinking cracks my heart open to loving them. Because when you're loving, you're not judging. Likewise, when you're judging, you're blocking yourself from loving.
So a few weeks ago I was at the lake with my kids, and I was looking at everyone in their bathing suits. Each person I looked at, I would go to the thought, "that is what makes them real." And every time I went to that thought, my heart shifted to a place of peace. I was literally able to be in a place of non-judgment, a place of love. As I sat on my beach blanket looking around, I decided that I wanted to re-take the Meyers-Briggs test. I wanted to see if I was still more of a "judger" than a "perceiver" based on all of the inner work that I had been doing. So I spent a few minutes answering the questions on line - none of which, by the way, have anything to do with what thoughts come to your head when you are looking at people in bathing suits. After a few minutes, I came up with my new result - ENFP! I literally changed my personality by changing one thing - my thoughts! The ENFP is a more common personality, comprising 7% vs. 2% with my previous profile. And it's not to say that one is better than the other, AT ALL, because both are REAL! The point is, when we notice habits that we are not fond of, we have the power to change them. By using the power of prayer, staying open and curious, and shifting our thoughts, we can change our habits!
Here is the most exciting part. When we shift our thoughts to ones that are more in alignment with love twords ourselves and others we open ourselves to what Abraham Maslow described as a "Peak Human Experience." According to this university article, these are experiences of the "highest happiness and fulfillment." And who doesn't want more of that?
In the online program that I am developing and the yoga and yoga dance classes that I teach, I attempt to provide opportunities for these experiences for my students. I know for me, these classes were my starting point. For many of us on a spiritual quest, once we have felt this peak human experience, we want more of it. More importantly, we want everyone else to experience a peak moment as well. This desire is what fuels my passion for what I do.
So what about you? What is that thing that you have such a hard time accepting about yourself? What makes you real? And what is the habit that you want to shift? Have you had a peak human experience? I want to hear more from you! Send me a message or comment below. And remember, I'm still working at it. I've got several more habits that I'm currently giving attention to. I've still got cellulite. And even if I have a bad day, I know that cellulite and bad days make me real.