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Adapted from the works of Susan Jeffers, Ph.D.

We all do it. We constantly make judgments about people we come across every day. Most of the time it's benign, and there is nothing wrong with making those small judgment calls that can be important in navigating through our day. Things such as ''That car in front of me is distracting with all those bumper stickers,'' or ''That young man really ought to pull his pants up,'' or ''I like that woman’s dress.'' These are mostly harmless judgments that are really neither here-nor-there.

But when small judgments lead us to larger, more disparaging judgments that are unkind, or worse, there can be a problem - a problem within ourselves. Often times when we judge other people it makes us feel righteous or more virtuous than the object of our criticism. This way of interacting with the world can often lead us to some very negative places. It is definitely not a part of living with our Higher Selves. It degrades the best of who we are or can be.

Whether we express those negative judgments out loud to others or just express it to ourselves, it can be equally damaging. Making fun of a terribly overweight person working out at the gym, or getting satisfaction from the failure suffered by a rival at work, or even gossiping among friends about another friend’s divorce - these types of reactions do no one any favors, least of all ourselves. As Susan wrote: ''Self-love can't exist in an environment of negative judgment and putdowns.''

In several of her books, Susan talked about a wonderful exercise:

Pick Up The Mirror Instead Of The Magnifying Glass

She went into great detail about this in The Feel the Fear Guide to Lasting Love and recommended the technique to improve personal relationships. We are adapting it here for use more generally, because the concept works in a similar way as in relationships. The technique goes something like this: When you find yourself being critical or disparaging towards another person, looking at them through the magnifying glass, think about why you are reacting that way by looking in the mirror instead. Being judgmental, making ourselves feel superior or more virtuous, are ways of hiding our own fears and concerns. It is reacting through our Lower Selves.

When we look through the magnifying glass at the overweight person struggling to exercise, we see the negative aspects of their activities - they've let themselves go, they'll never be able to get thin, they are unhealthy, etc. But when we look at ourselves in the mirror instead, we see that perhaps it is our fear of being out of shape or in poor health that is fueling our judgments. When we view that person again, we now see that he is working hard to change his life and should have our support, not our condemnation.

Feeling gratification about someone else's failure or reveling in someone else’s pain are not the actions of the Higher Self. When we pick up the mirror and ask ourselves why we feel that way, we will likely find that it has something to do with our own previous experiences, our fears for the future, or our own perceived inadequacies.

When we practice this type of negative behavior, whether in our own minds or in conversation with others, we are pushing our own insecurities and fears onto other people. While we might get a small feeling of satisfaction at the moment, this type of behavior will never lead to happiness because it stems from a place of distress or pain. We will always be left wallowing in the reactionary fears of our Lower Self. By using Susan's Mirror technique, we can become more aware of how easily we fall into these negative, critical judgments. Susan wrote:

Self-awareness is the first step towards positive change,
and your mirror is your primary tool for creating
self-awareness. It removes all your denial
and allows you to become honest with yourself.

When we can look at another person and instead of being critical, we train our minds to approach them with love and support, we find ourselves in a more enlightened place. Susan was certain, ''The more clarity you get, the less righteous and judgmental you become.''

Like any self-improvement practice, changing the way we think about others takes a lot of work. For most of us, our knee-jerk critical reactions are the result of the practice of a lifetime. The Mirror technique is a powerful and necessary way to rewire our thinking. And when we quit scrutinizing others with a magnifying glass and use the mirror instead, our outlook on life will expand and be elevated.

''Ultimately, it is by looking into the mirror that we are able to pick up our power and discover what we personally need to do in order to change what isn't working,'' Susan wrote. ''The mirror is our key to controlling our own happiness. Powerful indeed!''

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