Interesting Point of View
Maria Shriver posted this article I wrote on her blog today! What fun! I've posted it here as well. Enjoy! :)
I was the little girl who loved to sing.
My family would ask me to sing a Christmas carol and 30 minutes later, with absolutely no one listening, I would still be standing on the hearth singing my heart out. Music was something I just loved.
So how is it that as a music major in college, I would be asked to sing at a party and my heart would stop and I would begin to panic? “What if I start in the wrong key?” “What if my voice isn’t warmed up?” “What if they wonder why I am a music major?”
How is it that the idea of signing in public became so twisted and contracted?
I realize the effect that judgment has on all of us. The freedom it takes away.
And it's easy to see this about a negative judgment. You tell a child in the choir they should lip sync or say "that tree looks like an elephant" and you will quickly see that judgment at work as the child shuts down, refusing to sing or paint again.
But what about positive judgments? What if those judgments are equally debilitating? Or even more so because they are sneakier?
We don’t even know that positive judgments have taken hold until we are well on our way to stopping ourselves.
What made me sing as a child? Well, I suppose it was the fact that I could. Yet it wasn't long before everyone started telling me what a beautiful voice I had and how good I was at singing. “You should take voice lessons and be a professional singer!” And you would think that would be a wonderful thing. But I remember quite vividly the first time it entered my little six-year-old brain that it was good to be good at singing. And very quickly I craved receiving that positive judgment.It wasn't long until I wouldn't sing unless I knew I would be good. I had to know all the words. I had to warm up. Everyone had to be quiet.
Then after I sang I had to judge myself. Was that good enough? Was it my best? Was anyone in the room better than I was who would think I was not good?
What had once been something that brought me great joy became something torturous and ridden with anxiety. What if the positive judgments stopped? I would never be able to sing again!
I look back to that time in my life and realize simply put, I had no freedom. No freedom to make mistakes. No freedom to do things others didn't like. No freedom to sing terrible or just for the joy of singing.
And thankfully, at some point the weight became just too great, and my craving for freedom won out over my craving for judgment and I began to seek another possibility.
What I found was that judgment didn’t only permeate my singing. It permeated everything. Most of my choices had nothing to do with what I desired to do. They were almost all related to what others would judge me positively or negatively for.
I wasn’t even creating my own life. I was creating a life in reaction to judgment everywhere!
It wasn’t easy reversing this pattern, but it was possible! And that for me was the start of a new life! It has since become my life's work— unlocking people from the judgment that keeps them trapped. For wherever you are trying to align with or resist to other people's judgments, you simply have no freedom to be you.
There is a phrase that helps me get out of being the effect of judgment and I would like to pass on to you. Do not be deceived by its simplicity. It has changed my life. The phrase is simply “interesting point of view."
What would your life be like if everything you thought about yourself was just an interesting point of view and not something you had to make real or defend?
What if someone told you that you were the most beautiful girl in the class and you could also say "interesting point of view" and not have to be bound by their judgment or try to match it? What if someone told you that you were fat and ugly and you could see that as an "interesting point of view" as well?
The true turning point in my life where freedom was mine was when I no longer cared what other people concluded about me. Not from a lack of caring, but actually from a caring for me. I started singing for me. Because I could. Not because I was good. Not because I was bad. Simply because I could. And it made me happy.
It is hard to describe the ease and peace in my universe when someone asks me to sing today. Rather than my heart racing and my palms sweating, I ask myself “would it be fun?" And most the time it is yes.
And most of the time I then sing. And at the end of singing I remind myself that my only job is not to judge myself or try to conclude about what had just happened. It's all just an interesting point of view.
I no longer sing for judgment. I no longer live for judgment.
And the freedom on the other side of that is incredible.