I’m at a meetup for healers committed to a mission. It’s part of a larger event I’m in Portland for, over the next week, called World Domination Summit.

We’re meeting at a brewery, in a private room. There’s about seven of us in total.

Like Jason Bourne, I’ve already started to identify what is wrong with everyone in the room.

That person speaks too quietly, that person is trying to be entertaining and charming because they don’t trust that their impact is sufficient without any frills or gimmicks.

And so on.

I’m not really doing this consciously — again, like Jason Bourne, the muscle memory of my survival mechanism is so well worn and practised, I don’t have to think about it at all. From the moment I lay eyes upon someone, I’m already sizing them up. Figuring out what isn’t working about them.

I’m not doing this to be a jerk, or so that I can manipulate or gaslight someone.

I’m (unconsciously) doing this because I’m scared, and this is the contraption I created to alleviate that fear.

In fact, this contraption — this survival mechanism — works better the less conscious I am of it. Then it doesn’t have to come into conflict with the part of me that is open-hearted and genuinely cares about people. Instead, my fear can self-manage, and I can operate as though I was never scared in the first place. That’s the holy grail of managing fear: getting to pretend and believe that we were never afraid to begin with.

As long as I can figure out what isn’t working in someone — what’s broken or less than their very best — then I can hold that over them. And as long as I’ve got something I can hold over them, I’m better. I don’t have to feel intimidated or frightened by them.

These days, though, there’s a wrinkle for my survival mechanism. I AM conscious. And while I can continue to stay safe by picking out people’s imperfections, it turns out that creates a pretty lonely existence.

It’s hard to really see, experience and relate to people as their fundamental greatness when I’m scanning them constantly for their flaws. It’s not that much fun hanging around people when what you’re mostly present to is what isn’t working about them.

We see what we look for in the world, and so down this path I end up experiencing everyone as … not that good.

And while I get to stay safe in this palace of arrogance, there’s not much capacity to connect with someone’s heart (or to let them connect with my own).

Finally, if I’m relating to people through this lens, it creates a pretty high cost to letting them see any of my own imperfections. And so I’m left maintaining a façade of perfection.

Social interactions become tiring and draining, becomes I’m working so hard to maintain this illusion. Over time, rather than realize all of this is a function of my own fear and me trying to manage that fear, I simply conclude I must be an introvert, and that I don’t get nourished by being with people.

All of this goes through my head in the span of about two minutes — from sitting down, starting to scan people this way, becoming consciously aware of what I’m doing, finding the courage to admit to myself that I’m scared and intimidated by the people around me, acknowledging that it’s okay to be scared and to have strategies to mitigate for my fear, and finally, concluding that while it’s okay to keep doing what I’m doing, it might not really lead me to the experience of life I’m really committed to.

And upon arriving at that last conclusion, I instead choose something different — something edgier.

I choose to create an experience for myself where there isn’t “better” or “worse” — and where there’s space for all of us to be incredible exactly as we are, without that having to mean that someone else loses out.

I look at each person, and I practice seeing the fundamental greatness that lies underneath the flaws my fear is shining a light on.

Sure, someone might be putting on a show to ensure they’re seen, but what kind of beautiful quality would do that when it’s afraid? Maybe Radiance?

Yah, this person is really chatty and a little bit glib, but what kind of quality do I imagine might be underneath that, if we took away the fear? Possibly Connection… Perhaps Love?

And as I start to open myself up to the vulnerability of seeing people as perfect exactly the way they show up, I start to become present to my own perfection, exactly the way I am.

And that’s how I change the world — by changing my own experience of it.