“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.” —Albert Einstein
The above quote is attributed to Albert Einstein, but it is not confirmed. Regardless the author, I believe it is a great observation of the effect of judgment. Sadly, it only represents half the equation. If I could take artistic liberty and re-write the quote, it would read:
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, you will believe it is stupid; if it judges itself by its inability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.”
I believe this better speaks to both sides of judgment.
When you judge another based on your own filters–your beliefs, your abilities, your way of doing, your expectations–and deem them incapable, unworthy, or even worse, stupid, your focus is on the ways in which they are inadequate. If you look at the person and embrace them for who they truly are, you will shift your focus to all they are capable of. They may not be able to do what you want, in just the way you want, but each individual has his or her unique type of genius to offer. Believe it or not, sometimes new and different are better than your old ways of doing and thinking!
Looking at the other part of the equation, when we judge ourselves against what others are capable of, what they have achieved, or what they believe, we cut off a tiny piece of who we are and hold that up for inspection. We cast aside the larger, genius part of ourselves and instead grasp desperately to this minuscule piece of us that doesn’t measure up. It is a shame when others believe we are less, but completely unacceptable when it is we who propagate the belief we are less. The world doesn’t need another martyr, we need your particular brand of genius!
I tend to notice when I or others pass negative judgments. On the “you are less” side of the equation, I have noticed judgments are prevalent when an individual feels he/she must appear superior; when he/she feels self-righteous; when he/she feels frightened; and sometimes from sheer laziness, when he/she doesn’t feel bothered to seek truth. On the “I am less” side of the equation, judgments against self are noticeable when an individual is fearful of an outcome; when he/she buys into the one-size-fits-all mentality; when he/she buys into an outsider’s judgment; and most often when he/she forgets they are a fish and not intended to climb trees!
It is human nature to judge others in order to find our own sense of belonging, and I cannot change human nature. However, if you will adopt a more conscious awareness of the negative judgments you pass on yourself and others, and then work toward curtailing those, you will improve your life!
Quite frankly, it is exhausting to constantly find fault! Next time you are inclined to pass judgment against another, instead make an effort to seek out, value and recognize his or her unique brand of genius.
Equally exhausting is trying to climb a tree when you should instead be swimming. Seek out, recognize and value your own genius. Your talents, beliefs, and ways of operating in the world are what make you special; stop holding yourself to standards that are not applicable to you.
If you seek the negative, you find negative; if you seek the positive, you find positive. Make a little effort toward the positive and others will find you to be better company and you will find more pleasure in the company of others. It really is that simple!