Picture this: I was at a bustling conference center, desperately seeking a moment of peace amidst the chaos. So, like any sensible person, I made a beeline for the bathroom. Ah, sweet sanctuary! Finally, a chance to catch my breath and enjoy a few moments of solitude in the cubicle— or so I thought.

As I settled in, the handle of the door started to rattle furiously. Seriously? I mean, come on! It should have been obvious the cubicle was occupied, right? But the rattling went on and I started to feel irritated. I was about to give an annoyed shout of: "It's occupied!” - But before I could, I heard a voice from the other side, a desperate cry: "Daddy!!!!!!" 

The urgency in the voice melted my irritation, causing me to freeze for a moment. The person outside, who seemed to have been so desperate for the bathroom, was a little girl! 

From beyond the bathroom's walls came a gentle reply, "Yes, sweetie?" And then came the heartbreaking words: "It's too late!" That sad, helpless voice pierced my heart - and I immediately felt tremendous compassion. Also guilt for nearly expressing my impatience towards the trouble-maker for interrupting my long-awaited peace - or piss -  and quiet. 

With a heavy heart, I reluctantly left the cubicle, steeling myself to face the scene that awaited me. The girl was in her father’s arms, sobbing. I think we adults, the father and I, probably both thought - well, it’s not the end of the world, we can change these pants and all will be fine again. 

While he was trying to comfort her and started to clean her up, it became very clear that, for the girl, this was not simply a matter of getting rid of wet pants. While I was at the sink, washing my hands, I continued to listen in on the conversation between father and daughter. You know when you just can't ignore what's being said two meters away from you? And this is what I heard her say, still through great sobs: 

"No one will understand. They'll say, why does she still not get it, why is she still wetting her pants?" 

It hit me like a ton of bricks—this innocent child, no more than three years old, was already burdened by the fear of judgment! How could this be??? And then, as I was walking to the bathroom door, and her beautiful, big, teary eyes and mine met, it struck me—the connection between her fear and my own was stronger than I wanted to believe. 

Suddenly, age became inconsequential and the boundaries between that little girl and me dissolved. I would have loved to hold her, to tell her that she was beautiful, powerful, perfect just the way she was, and much stronger than she probably thought. I felt so much love and compassion for this girl I did not even know - at least that’s what I thought - that I was quite overwhelmed. 

I stepped outside into the bustling hall of the conference center, but my mind and heart were still with the little girl. While I heard the voices around me as if from a distance, I stayed connected to my own inner world, where something was opening up beautifully and powerfully: I realized so clearly that it was not only that girl who needed reassurance; it was also me, and the little girl within me, longing for acceptance and understanding. 

This realization hit me like a lightning bolt. How many years, well, decades, had I been carrying this fear of judgment around? How long had it influenced how I felt about the world? Well, if I was totally honest with myself, I had been aware of that fear, but most of the time had chosen to blissfully ignore it - believing, hoping, that one day, it would magically disappear. It did not take magic for it to shift. It took an innocent girl. 

On that day, it was the very first time it hit me so strongly how much control this fear had had over me. It was also the first time I allowed it to hit me. I did not run away. I was ready to look the dragon in the eye: It was high time to let go of that fear. The girl sparked the conscious decision in me to embark on a journey of self-empowerment and the discovery of self-love. 

Today, three years later, is the fear of judgment fully gone? No, it isn’t. Do I unconditionally love myself? No, still not fully. But since that encounter in the bathroom, I have a new voice in my head. And more and more often when I’m worrying about what others might think, or when I hold back from expressing my truth, this voice shouts inside of me what I was about to shout in the cubicle when I was getting irritated with the impatient person rattling the door: Stop it! 

What will be your next first moment of conscious realization that a thought, a pattern, built long ago, no longer serves you? When the courageous decision to stop it makes you laugh and cry at the same time, like the story above did with me? 

I can’t wait to hear about your Stop it! moments and the many firsts you will create with this playful yet powerful approach to transformation. 

Stay curious and courageous!