29/02/2016 09:38 GMT | Updated 01/03/2017 05:12 GMT

Looking Beyond Appearances

It is natural to judge people, and equally natural to judge yourself, since it usually happens without us even thinking about it. We take one look at someone and in a matter of seconds summarise our opinion of a whole person. We decide in those few short seconds whether we consider someone to be overweight, pretty, stylish, sloppy, untidy, scrounging, rich, poor, friendly, aggressive and a whole lot of other things. This habit comes from the brain's need to categorise the world in a way it understands in order to be able to function without becoming overwhelmed.

Judging is your way of identifying 'relevant information'. You are trying to decide if the person approaching you is a threat, a friend or someone you don't need to worry about. This way of looking at people makes sense if you are observing in a dangerous context. You have heard people explain how their whole lives flashed before their eyes when they were in a life threatening situation. This is the brain going through every single experience you have ever had since the day you were born trying to find a solution to the predicament it sees you in. But in your daily life your brain trying to make sense of someone approaching you, can lead to an overly simplistic (and not necessarily accurate) reading of the people you meet.

If you have ever judged someone dismissively, thought they were not worth bothering with, only to have them become an extremely good friend once you got to know them properly, 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 'tip of the iceberg' observations. For instance, you may notice that someone is driving an expensive car, but will you decide whether or not to befriend them based on getting to know them over a period of time, or will you dismiss them because they are driving an expensive car?

Would you rule out a friendship with someone with unruly hair? Or would you find out more about them and discover they have a great sense of humour and a kind heart?

Liking or disliking a person is a choice you will naturally make, but it will be after you have got to know them.

Next time you notice yourself judging somebody, STOP. Think about sending feelings of love to that person. Make the effort to listen to them openly and learn more about them. Your initial perception of them may be totally wrong.

If this is not easy for you, remember not to judge yourself either. Trust that, with practice, you will change your habitual judgemental patterns. And as you do, 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.