22/10/2013 05:50 BST | Updated 21/12/2013 05:12 GMT

Looking Beyond Appearance

It is natural for us, as humans, to judge people, and, of course, ourselves, since it just happens without us even thinking about it. We take one look and in two seconds summarise our opinion of a whole person. We may decide they are overweight, pretty, stylish, sloppy, lazy, stuck up, friendly, unapproachable, tacky or something else. This habit comes from the need of our brains to categorise the whole world in order to be able to function without becoming overwhelmed.

Judging is our way of identifying what we consider to be relevant information. We are trying to decide if the person approaching is a threat or a friend, or whether they are somebody we don't need to worry about. This way of looking at people, making snap decisions, does make a lot of sense in a dangerous context, but in our daily lives it can lead to an overly simplistic, and often incorrect, reading of the people we meet.

If you have ever judged someone dismissively upon your very first sight of them, only to have them become a very good friend once you really got to know them, then you will understand the hazards of the judgement cycle. An experience like that may lead you to question your natural tendency to believe your first impressions.

You will always notice things about the different people you meet, but as you become more conscious of the idiosyncrasies of judgement, you won't be satisfied with your surface observations. You may notice that someone is driving a flashy, expensive car, but you will decide whether to befriend them based on getting to know them over time. You will not rule out a friendship with someone with uncontrollable hair, especially if they turn out to have a great sense of humour and a loving heart. Liking or disliking a person is a choice you will make naturally, but it will be after you have taken the time to get to know them and not after your first sight of them.

I challenge you, next time you notice yourself judging somebody to stop. Try to radiate love to that person. Then listen to them openly and learn more about them. You may just be surprised to find that the person you saw shuffling in the door, dropping their papers, acting like a demented half-wit, is actually a person at the end of their tether with a whole host of personal trials that make it difficult for them to function. They have so much to do that they are often late and appear disorganised. But if you sit and listen to them you will find out they are overworked and frazzled and in need of someone to just listen.

If it is not easy for you to stop judging others, remember it may be even harder to stop judging yourself. Practice not judging, and when you can trust that, in time, you will change your habitual judgemental patterns you will find a whole new dimension of perception opening up to you, allowing you to see beyond the surface and into the essence of people you meet.