Judgment. Friend or foe?

Now that election season is over, we can finally take a deep breath. I don’t know about you, but dang, it was stressful. When it comes to politics, we can either be very strong in our opinions, or be pretty neutral. Maybe we don’t have opinions, or maybe we don't feel “educated” enough to have them. Maybe we choose not to have opinions because we are afraid of being shamed for them, or what I would like to talk about today, being judged for them.

We as humans really don’t like to be judged. I think there is sort of a negative stigma around judgment. A lot of religious people use this word in relation to God, and whether or not you will be received into heaven. Non-religious people use this word in relation to deciding whether someone is deemed “good” or “bad”.

I often feel judgmental when it comes to “success”, whatever that is. Sometimes it is related to envy or jealousy. We want what someone else has, and so we judge them for it. We decide with the “information” we have whether their intentions are “good” or “bad”.

But, like a lot of spiritual leaders have already become aware of, I have realized that judgment is usually something internal. It comes from our own judgments of ourselves and we project them onto others. The more we judge others, the more we end up judging ourselves and vice versa. We become hyper aware of judging the “bad” in others that we become overly critical of others, and of ourselves. This can obviously have a tremendous effect on our mental health (stress, sleep, eating habits, exercise habits, our relationships, anxiety, etc.) which becomes a vicious cycle. When our mental health is suffering, we become more cynical. When we become more cynical, the more likely we are to judge others and ourselves.

I read an article that said that we are inclined to “fuse” with our judgments making us perceive them as reality. Nothing is really “good” or “bad” but rather our perception decides on which side of the spectrum it lands. We decide its value based on our own perceptions. This is unhealthy because it limits our ability to accept that others might feel a different way, might perceive things differently.

We can change how we approach judgment by being more aware of our words. Instead of saying something or someone is bad, you can change that by saying that you don’t like it or them, that way you are still leaving room for a conversation, instead of just closing it by labeling it as factually bad. Know what i'm saying?

There is a wonderful book called The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz and he says:

“We make the assumption that everyone sees life the way we do. We assume that others think the way we think, feel the way we feel, judge the way we judge, and abuse the way we abuse. This is the biggest assumption that humans make. And this is why we have a fear of being ourselves around others. Because we think everyone else will judge us, victimize us, abuse us, and blame us as we do ourselves. So even before others have a chance to reject us, we have already rejected ourselves. That is the way the human mind works.”

We like to judge ourselves so that we can beat others to it. Maybe we think that it won't hurt as badly when someone else does it if we do it first. But it is so important to recognize how we talk to ourselves, how we judge ourselves first so that we can become more aware of how we judge others.

A lot of the time we have our perceptions because of experiences. This forms our “lens”. They become really person, and anything that is related to those experiences form our perceptions and our judgments. For instance, I have been cheated on by my boyfriend's in the past a few times. For this reason, it is very hard for me to trust men. It is also very hard for me to trust women. I have in the past struggled with constantly comparing myself to women's bodies because I thought they were my competition. I would judge the women who were friends with the men I was dating. I didn’t know these women at all, and yet here I was judging them, all because of my own perceptions that stemmed from my traumatic experience. That’s not fair of me. Sometimes I think we have these perceptions without really understanding where they are coming from. We feel them, so we just assume they are factual. But I think that if you peel back a few layers on your judgments and perceptions, you can understand that this doesn't really have anything to do with them, but with you. This has to do with your own insecurities.

We use our judgments to put other people down so that we can feel better about ourselves. That’s it. It really has nothing to do with them. It has everything to do with us.

Mark Manson has an interesting point of view that I happen to agree with:

“The way you measure yourself is how you measure others, and how you assume others measure you.”

He also goes on to say in another way:

“The yardstick we use for ourselves is the yardstick we use for the world.”

According to Psychology Today, there are two different attributions we make about others behaviours:

Situational attributions: we believe their behavior is due to something in their situation: For example, our coworker might have been short with us, because s/he is tired or overworked.
Personality attributions are more about a person’s character. When we make these attributions, we believe the behavior is due to the person’s personality. Assuming that same coworker who was short with us is impatient or unkind is making a personality attribution.”

Unfortunately, we tend to immediately lean towards personality attributions before thinking about a person's situation and why they might be behaving the way that they are. We take things personally. We believe that they are just mean if they are mean to us.

But have you ever behaved in a way that didn't really align with your personality, but because of the situation you were in? Difficult circumstances?

Before we move on, I just want to mention one other thing that I feel is often paired with judgment and that is GOSSIP.

What is gossip and why can it be good AND bad?

Gossip is really any form of talking about a person that is not present. Of course, not all gossip is bad, even though people like to think so. We can use gossip as a way of sharing information within a community. For me, I use gossip to talk about others as a way of seeing other people's perspectives on people in a neutral way, as a way of understanding others. We can’t know people in ways other people know them. Sometimes sharing this information can be really helpful for us to be more understanding and empathetic. But sometimes people use gossip as a way of hurting other people, but maybe a bit indirectly. Judging people based on your perspective and then spreading that information to others so that they will side with you on your opinion (not facts) is hurtful. Spreading rumors and intentionally trying to make others look bad is really unhealthy. Also, when you do this, people will begin to trust you less and less and might do long term damage to the relationships you do have.

I am almost positive we have all experienced hearing gossip about ourselves, rumors about ourselves, and how bad that feels, especially when we know better. Gossiping in this negative way makes you look immature, rude, childish, and judgmental. It actually says even more about you: that you are insecure. Please avoid gossiping in this way.

I could go on and on about judgment and why, even though it is instinctual and can be helpful SOMETIMES, it is unhealthy.

Now I would like to address how we can work on managing our judgment of others and our judgment of ourselves.

  • If you have an issue with someone, communicate it to them instead of talking to others about it in the form of gossip. Being direct is always better. Or if you're not interested, just leave it alone.

  • Don’t use gossip as a way of validating your preconceived notions. Remember that judgment is not always factual. Someone's judgments might be ill conceived, and if you use their judgment as a way of validating yours, that's no bueno and pretty unhealthy.

  • If you feel like you are about to start talking badly about someone, stop what you are doing and really think about what you are about to say. Is your judgment true? Do you know enough to know? Are you projecting your own insecurities onto this person?

  • BE CURIOUS! Not just when it comes to judging others, but when it comes to judging yourself. Ask more questions. What do you not know? What areas can you dive deeper to better understand yourself and others? What do they say? You can't judge a book by its cover.

  • Either call out negative, untrue gossip when it's happening, or change the subject.

  • Ask yourself if you have behaved that way before judging someone. If you have done it before, it’s easier to be empathetic. No one is perfect. Not you. Not me. We have all acted in ways that we aren't proud of, or that aren’t in line with our values.

  • AWARENESS. That is my dang word. My mantra for everything now. It opens yourself up to empathy and compassion and understanding of yourself and of others. It is a CHOICE. You can choose to REACT or RESPOND and awareness is the key to behaving in ways we are proud of.

  • Give others the benefit of the doubt. You never know what someone else is going through. Like I mentioned before, we aren't perfect. None of us are. Be compassionate.

  • Reframe the situation. Just because someone does something differently than you do, doesn't mean it’s wrong. Just because they respond differently, doesn't mean they are wrong. Not all flowers bloom at the same time. Not everyone is going to take the same path as you. That might feel a bit uncomfortable, but if you become aware of it, then you can let it go.

  • Practice viewing things from a situational perspective rather than a personality perspective.

  • One of The Four Agreements that I mentioned above by Don Miguel Ruiz is: Don’t take anything personally. This will explain:

Whatever happens around you, don’t take it personally… Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves. All people live in their own dream, in their own mind; they are in a completely different world from the one we live in. When we take something personally, we make the assumption that they know what is in our world, and we try to impose our world on their world.

Even when a situation seems so personal, even if others insult you directly, it has nothing to do with you. What they say, what they do, and the opinions they give are according to the agreements they have in their own minds…Taking things personally makes you easy prey for these predators, the black magicians. They can hook you easily with one little opinion and feed you whatever poison they want, and because you take it personally, you eat it up….”

  • Be mindful. Just catch yourself anytime you are feeling judgmental. Of others or of yourself. Be kind. Be compassionate. If you can't be positive, at least aim for neutral.

  • Remove “judgy” people from your life. The people who gossip all the time. The people who “call out” others to feel better about themselves. The people who spread rumors because it makes them feel better about themselves. The people who judge you to feel better about themselves. LET THEM GO. Social media pages that are toxic. GET RID OF THEM.

  • Remind yourself that it is normal to be judgmental. It’s instinctual. Just don't let it get the best of you. Don’t let it control you. It is a CHOICE.

  • Remember that AGGRESSIVE BEHAVIOUR and VIOLENCE has NEVER CHANGED ANYONE'S MIND. If you want to have a real conversation about a difference of opinion, approach it in a compassionate, curious, and kind way or you will be met with defensiveness and a closed off person.

  • LOVE YOURSELF. The only thing that matters is what you think of yourself. No one else's opinion matters. You do not need external validation. You do not need permission from others to feel the way that you do. You are perfectly imperfect and we are lucky to have you here. I promise, if you make loving and accepting yourself a priority, judgment will disappear. It will.

So remember, judging is instinctual. But it is a choice. I hope that you found this helpful. Please love yourself, and be kind towards others. We all want to be happy and loved and cared for.

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