The Illusion of Self: The Secret to Judging Less and Loving More

The secret to loving more and judging less comes down to these 3 key things:
  • Living the golden rule (with a twist)
  • Increasing your self awareness and understanding of others
  • Loving yourself first

Have you ever noticed how people who struggle with something judge others for exactly the same problem they themselves are dealing with? It’s totally contradictory, but yet it’s the truth.

Why is it that it feels bad to make others feel bad but feels good to make others feel good? Some scientifically minded people may say it’s because humans are social creatures, and being kind was beneficial to our survival many many years ago.

But what if this was all because the individuals you interact with are actually YOU!

“What? But how would that work?” you ask.

Because self and other are more related than most people imagine. Way more. In fact, they are actually the same.

To most people this seems ridiculous, but to the mystics and Zen masters of human history this is their truth. Sam Harris, a modern day philosopher, knows all about the illusion of self and loves talking about it.

Check out what he has to say on the illusion of self, he’ll be able to explain it better than I can.

The Golden Rule (with a twist)

At one point in your life you’ve probably heard the golden rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Sounds like a pretty good rule to live by right? But you probably didn’t understand this rule like the great mystics of history did. In fact they are the ones that made the golden rule.

To the great spiritual masters of the past the golden rule was quite literal. But they dumbed down their version of reality to help simple minded people who did not understand the universality of self.

You see, they left out a section of the golden rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you… because they quite literally are you.

You and all other human beings are made up of the same universal material and experience life through the same lens of awareness.

This wasn’t made up just to make a whole bunch of people feel good about themselves. Although it did have that consequence. The rule you probably learned in kindergarten, holds deep existential truths that most humans will never understand.

Learning to Judge Less

The basis of love is understanding. We learn to judge less by increasing our understanding and awareness.

Try to think of a situation in your own life where you judged someone. Think of the coworker who was a jerk to you the other day for no apparent reason, or the lady who cut you off in traffic and really pissed you off.

But what if that coworker just had a fight with their significant other the night before and that’s what caused their mood towards you. What if that lady in traffic is late to their doctor’s appointment and she’s having an absolute panic attack inside her Toyota corolla.

If you knew what the context was to every situation that frustrated you then I guarantee you’d be a more understanding person.

The key here is giving people the benefit of the doubt. Assume there is a reasonable explanation (or perhaps an unreasonable explanation but an explanation none the less) for the way people act towards you. Instead of immediate judgement, try to take a step back and inquire to find out why.

Wouldn’t you want others to give you the benefit of the doubt on your worst days of the year?

Check out Positive Psychology‘s tips and activities for increasing self awareness

But First, Love Yourself

To truly love others more and judge less, you have to have the same attitude towards yourself.

If you are highly critical of yourself you are going to have outrageous standards for other people. If you’re self conscious about how you look then all you’re going to be focusing on in social interactions is how others look and how they view you.

What I’ve come to learn is when you give yourself the freedom to make mistakes and allow yourself some grace you will become exponentially more allowing of others in your life to do the same.

Because it’s not always easy to love others, start with loving yourself. Take some time and repeat this to yourself:

“I know that I’ve neglected you recently. And even though I can do better, I deeply love and accept myself. I vow from now on to give you the love and grace you deserve.”

Say this to yourself everyday before going to work, the gym, or a family function. You may be surprised at how easily you start to allow others in your life to make mistakes and be themselves with less judgement.

Why? Because self and other are infinitely more similar than you may believe.


The secret to loving more and judging less really boils down to increasing your understanding and self awareness. Doing these 3 things are the keys to being exponentially more loving to those in your life:

  1. Live the golden rule. Genuinely start viewing others as more intimately connected to you and treat them as such. Start to become aware of how the line between self and other start to blur in your life, especially in intimate relationships.
  2. Give others the benefit of the doubt. Expand your understanding of others. Try to see their perspective and inquire into why they might be acting the way they are. Wouldn’t you want them to give you that grace too?
  3. Love yourself first. We don’t give ourselves enough love and grace. How can you expect yourself to be more understanding and loving to people in your life if you can’t even do that with yourself! When you love yourself more you will become more loving to those around you. Try repeating the affirmation in the section above.

Where in your life can you start using these 3 keys to start loving more and judging less?

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