living my happily ever after now
who's afraid of the big, bad past?

stop judging: 4 reasons, 5 things, 6 ways

positive judgments 

You can easily judge the character of others
by how well they treat those
who do nothing to them or for them.

Malcolm Forbes

 

How much time do you spend judging others? I would love to be able to sit here and write that I am such a wonderful, open, loving person that I don't judge anyone, but that's just not the case. I judge. And I mean judge. And I hate it. It's one thing I do much more often than I should and it's one thing that ultimately causes a great deal of unhappiness within me. I judge others' clothing. I judge others' actions. I judge others' words. I know we all do this to some extent and I also know that it relates completely to how we feel about ourselves. If you are 100% happy with who you are, you are a lot less likely to feel the need to judge others. Though I'm becoming a lot more comfortable with who I am and, therefore, judging others less (yay!), I still have a long way to go until I am self-assured enough not to cast a downward glance at others.

I've been thinking a lot about this, and I've realized that judgment is something I do without thinking -- all the time. Someone cuts me off in traffic? I mumble, "What an asshole!" Someone comes to work wearing something from a few decades back? I think, "God, she needs a makeover!" A friend spends time with a no-good ex? I think, "That's really pathetic." When I think about these things (which are only a few small examples), I realize that all of them could easily be me. I've cut someone off in traffic before. I've worn outfits that weren't fabulous (hello, middle school!). I've certainly spent time with exes I shouldn't have. I judge others when I could very well be in their shoes. And, worst of all, I feel bad about it after. When I judge someone, I don't feel good about myself -- not even for a second. I feel bad. I feel sad. I don't want to be judged and I've always believed in the idea of treating others how I want to be treated. And I certainly wouldn't want someone whispering to a coworker, "Did you see her new hair color? Awful!" (Yes, I've said that.)

 

It's not what you look at that matters.
It's what you see.

Henry David Thoreau

 

So why do I do it? Right now I think it's become a habit. I believe it started off as a way to bond with people, especially other women. When you talk about someone else, most people will gladly join in. There is a bonding that comes with judgment so I understand why I started doing in in middle school and high school. There's nothing like getting a laugh from the popular kids! But I'm not in middle or high school anymore. I'm not even in college either (where I did a fair share of judging as well, though I always found a way to rationalize it so I didn't feel like I was being a grown-up high school girl). I'm an adult now and that means I need to act like one. Which means NO MORE JUDGING.

 

Everything you need
to break unhealthy cycles
is within you.

Unknown

 

I know I can change. After having changed so much in relation to my attitude, I know I have the ability to change and to stop placing so many judgments on others. It's important to remember that I'm talking about negative judgments here. Not all judgments are bad. Not all judgments are hurtful or painful or wrong. But most of them are. And those are the ones I want to stop. I want to be a happy person and judging others does NOT make me happy. Ever. I know, as the quote above says, that it's up to me to make the change. No one is going to put an end to my judging for me. Just like happiness, it's up to me to make the change. I'm pretty darn sure this won't be easy. I've been judging others for a long, long time. It's going to take a lot -- and I mean, a LOT -- of work for me to realize what I'm doing and stop it before it happens. It's going to take a lot for me not to join in when I hear the critical words of others. It's not going to be easy, but, most things that are worth it aren't. After doing a little thinking, I thought of 4 reasons we judge, 5 things judgments do, and 6 ways to stop judging. I think understanding why I do it and what it does is just as important as figuring out how to stop, which is why I've created three lists instead of just one. Feel free to add your own ideas in the comments section.



4 Reasons We Judge Others

  • We are insecure. This is the main reason we judge. When we are insecure and/or unhappy with who we are, we try to put other people down. Though it doesn't usually build us up when we put others down, we do it anyway. We want to feel good by making others feel bad.

  • We are scared. Often, when we're scared or intimated by other people, we'll put them down. Coworkers band together and make fun of their boss (see The Office). Two women see a prettier woman as a threat and they make fun of her outfit. When people are scared, they try to feel better by putting others down. We also may fear those who are different from us and may judge them just because they are unlike us.

  • We are lonely. As I mentioned before, there is a bonding element that goes along with judging others. When you are lonely, you might use judgments to bond with other people, but these bonds are based on negativity. The bonds you have based on judging others are superficial and are not likely to contain true substance.

  • We are seeking change.When we want our own lives to be different, we are quick to judge the lives of others. For example, if someone wants to be in a committed relationship and his friend gets engaged, he might whisper, "Oh, that girl is so not right for him. I don't know why they're getting married." If we are jealous of others' changing lives we are likely to make quick judgments.

 

5 Things Judgments Do

  • Hurt other people. This might not always happen. If the person never finds out what you said, you're in the clear, right? Not necessarily. Things have a way of coming back and hurting people in unexpected ways. Think about what you say. Would you say that to his/her face? If not, it's probably best left unsaid (and un-thought!).

  • Make you feel worse about you. When you judge others (or, at least, when I do), you feel bad afterward. You don't feel good about yourself. You might get a tiny rush from the judgments, but, ultimately, you feel guilty. You think you're a bad person for casting such harsh judgments on others. You bring yourself down when you bring others down.

  • Perpetuate stereotypes. The more judgments out there in the world, the more stereotypes get formed and people are trying to live up to (or avoid) the ideas of what they are "supposed" to be. Whether stereotypes are based on race, gender, spirituality, ethnicity, appearance, or any other attribute, they are bad news. They force people (including you!) to feel as if there are standards they must meet instead of living a free, happy life. Don't be a part of perpetuating stereotypes with your own judgments.

  • Put negativity into the world. No matter what you way you rationalize your judgments, they are not bringing anything good into the world. They bring others down. They bring you down. They make the world a more unhappy place. Can you imagine if we were all accepting and loving of one another? Can you imagine what the world would be like if we tried to understand other people rather than judging them?

  • Encourage you to judge yourself. If you're judging others, you're probably judging yourself pretty harshly as well. As for me, I know this is the case. For example, I judge what other people wear, and, as a consequence, I'm extremely concerned with what I wear. I spend quite a lot of time on my clothing and appearance and I bet I would do this less if I didn't judge others so harshly.

 

6 Ways To Stop Judging

  • Monitor your thoughts.Think about what you thinking about. I often go along thinking things about other people, judging them, and I don't even realize it. I'm going to work on paying more attention to my thoughts and do my best to push them in a positive direction. 
     
  • Look for the positive. Judgments are negative. There is almost always something positive you can find in someone or something. While my mind might immediately focus on the negative, I can push my thoughts in a more positive direction and look for something nice to say. And, of course, if you can't find something nice to say, don't say anything at all.

  • Avoid stereotyping. Stereotypes are never, ever good. I really try to avoid them, but I know I don't always. As I said above, they really create a lot of negativity in the world and I know I don't want to be a part of that. I want to work on recognizing stereotypes and working to avoid them at all costs. There is no need for them in my life.

  • Stop judging yourself. It's not all that easy to do, but the more we judge ourselves, the more we'll judge others. I judge myself a lot and I need to work on that. I need to focus on the positive aspects of me and then it will be a lot easier to focus on the positive aspects of others. There's no reason to be so hard on myself and I'm going to really, really work on this one.

  • Focus on your own life. When all else fails and judgments are hard to push away, focus on yourself. Don't worry about what other people are doing/wearing/etc. Think about your own life. Focus on what you want and go after it. When you're trying to avoid your own problems, it's easy to criticize others. Don't. Think about you and focus on the good things.

  • Remember how it feels. Remember how it feels to be judged. AND remember how it felt the last time you judged someone else. It doesn't feel good to judge or to be judged so put an end to it right now. I'm going to work on remember these feelings the next time I feel like a negative thought about someone else is cropping up.

 


In my quest to understand (and stop) my judgments of others, I found a few really interesting articles/sites. I especially liked this passage from The WELL called "On the Foolishness of Judging Others": 

"The act of judgment is an act of pride. It involves looking to our own store of knowledge, putting together a few facts, figures or fancies, and coming up with some sort of answer or solution to a given problem or situation. All too often it is the wrong solution or answer, and because of pride, we refuse to correct course. Judging others is an act of monumental pride - enormous pride, stupendous pride, galling, astonishing, fantastic pride. This should be understood. When you render judgment on another, you have taken upon yourself an awesome responsibility for making the correct judgment. Because, after all, your judgment is not necessary. All things, big and small, invite your judgment. The condition of the weather, political matters, the taste of your food, a television program - at every moment of the day, something or other is inviting your judgment of it. And so often, and so willingly, you render it, without being aware of the consequences, without taking care of the responsibilities entailed. You judge, and then to make matters worse, you believe in your judgment. You've looked at the evidence, you've made a judgment - it must be right! There couldn't possibly be any other conclusion to arrive at but the one your've chosen, could there? What you don't see, don't understand, is that your judgment leads to suffering - your own suffering. It does not touch the person judged; he or she is free of you and your thoughts and your judgments. You cannot change their behaviour by even a hair's breadth by your judgment."


For more passages like this one, visit these sites:

stay-positive-book

 

Wondering how you can stay positive and present on a daily basis? Check out my book, Stay Positive: Daily Reminders from Positively Present, filled with daily tips, advice, and inspiration for making the most of every day. Stay Positive is available in Paperback and PDF. Learn more about the book (and watch the video!) at StayPositive365.com

Comments

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Hi Dani,

Wonderful post, as usual! So, in my mind, there are two definitions of "judgments". Not all are bad. One is the negative kind that you speak of. The other kind is more innocuous. Like, a supposed friend of yours flakes out on you and cancels all the time or just doesn't show up to your lunch dates. After five times of this, I may "judge" her to be a no-show type of person, and either confirm like crazy with her OR stop being her friend. This is what I think of as a good type of judgment. You take people's actions at face value and react accordingly. Likewise, if this friend always shows up on time, then you "judge" her to be reliable.

Okay, so the way I see it, the negative type of judgment is what you write about here. And I think it boils down to putting people into "good" and "bad" bins. Like, that car cut me off, I'm going to put them automatically into the "bad" bin. You are not the one to put people into heaven or hell. And that's what this sort of judgment amounts to.

By the way, I think you're totally right in that making judgments is a way for people, especially girls, to bond.

Vi - Thank you! I love the insights you've provided in your comment. I think you're completely right about the different types of judgments. In the example you gave, I see nothing wrong with thinking of her as a flaky person if she's been a no-show many times. But in terms of the negative type of judgment, you're right -- it's not up to me (or anyone) to put someone in a "good" or a "bad" bin. There is absolutely no reason for it and I hope that after writing this post I can work on it and stop being so judgmental!

Great topic for the post and I love the 'tools' provided!

I love this entry. I was a bigger judger in middle school. I think the bonding element is especially relevant at that age. And then one day I decided to judge less. I'm sure I could judge even less if I tried but I don't do much judging of clothes and such. It really does allow you to be more accepting of people and that's a nicer feeling than judgment.

Good stuff. I think you've done a really job expanding on what I only touched the surface on in my last blog post :)

Dani,

Useful post!

I tend to judge other for all the reason that you describe. I'm getting better at monitoring my thoughts through all the meditation that I do.

A wonderful post. I live with a chronic disability as do so many others. Being judged by others can be such a big part of our lives. Of course being disabled or ill doesn't mean that I am not human and don't judge others myself. This post was of great help to me.

Cat - Thank you! :) I appreciate you taking the time to comment.

Lyndorr - I definitely feel like I am much better than I was in middle/high school but, like you, I could certainly judge less and I need to work on that. Not judging appearances is especially important in my opinion.

Srinivas - Thank you! I really enjoyed reading your post as well.

Roger - Ah, another remind that I need to incorporate meditation into my life! I think meditating would definitely help me in relation to this whole judging thing.

Kelli - I'm so glad you found the post helpful. It's terrible for anyone to judge others and I hate that I've been the type of person that judges. I'm really going to work on this and I hope that soon judgments will be a thing of the past!

What a lovely post. You are so right. When I started teaching yoga I found my judgments of my students melted away, I just wanted to connect with them. Now when i find myself getting catty about someone's hair or dress or whatever, I imagine they are my student and it changes everything. Still, just to take notice of the judgements is sometimes difficult.

Michelle - That's a great way to think about it. If we think about trying to connect with everyone we meet or see, we certainly won't be judging them. I love the way you put that and I'm definitely going to try to put that idea to use in my own interactions with others. Thanks for the comment!

Hi Dani .. good post with some really good points - you do set it out very well - it's clear and concise.

I'm trying to stop judging others .. as you spend some much time on it .. and it's unnecessary .. just get on with your own life - forget what others do, do your best, do your kindest, and be the nicest person you can be .. let everyone else do 'their thing' - it doesn't affect you.

Thanks & I've noted the meditation comment re Roger .. something I need to get into too ..

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters

hi Dani,

I really like your approach to life and to the topics you cover here.
Your posts are more than only some shallow "advices" blended into a nice looking lists.

I feel real passion behind your words.
Thank you.

Michael

Hilary - You've said it perfectly. I need to worry more about me and less about what other people are doing. Writing this blog helps a lot with focusing on the positive aspects of life, which makes me want to be more positive when it comes to others.

Michael - Thank you! There are a lot of people out there writing about similar things so it means a lot to hear that you can feel how much I care about what I'm writing about. Your comment made me very happy!

Thanks for sharing this post. I really enjoyed and can relate to the 6 Ways To Stop Judging especially "Look for the positive"

How true it is.

You've hit the nail on the mark, how we judge... but we never think what it does to us.

John - So glad you liked it and felt like you could relate!

Rebecca - Exactly! We judge but we don't really think about how negative it is for us. I'm going to do my best to put an end to it!

Great points! Judgment saps energy and hurts us much more than whoever we are judging. The Buddhists have a great saying: we can only be angry/offended/judgmental of others when we are afraid of the same thing in us.

Yes, I could totally relate too, having known my share of judging others. Your being aware and willing is well over half the battle.

Are you getting enough sleep? I know when I'm not rested enough everything else is more of a challenge. With lots of sleep I can take on most anything and look for the best in myself and in others. And looking for the best becomes habit forming indeed.

Awesome post! We have all judged from time to time, this is why some are often terrified that they too will be judged, often causing them to limit themselves.
You hit several great points! This helps so much with awareness~ noticing why we do things, therefore maybe we can stop it before the bad habits continue!
Wonderful!

I'd like to add a 5th reason to "Why We Judge Others" which is basically "We have opinions."

While struggling with feeling judgmental can be frustrating, some judgments are simply opinions. Like, for example, the friend with the stupid boyfriend. It's hard not to have an opinion about that. I find it helps temper my judgment a little if I can embrace that concept.

I have opinions. Sometimes they are not all sunshine and rainbows. But I try to be mindful of them. Basically "monitor your thoughts" is the first step to changing your mindset.

Love this article!

What a useful post - after all, who hasn't judged someone, sometime?

I know I am guilty.

I'd add a 6th reason why we judge - because it becomes a habit. Sometimes it just slips out of my subconscious like a curse word.

What has really helped me is practicing finding a connection between myself and the person I judge. The more I can identify with someone, the less likely I am to hold those harsh feelings.

@Hilary- I'm doing Roger's meditation tutorial. It has been really helpful - highly recommend it!

Kaushik - I've heard of that Buddhist saying before and I think it's great. I definitely think that's one of the reasons I get so upset when I judge others -- because I know I'm really judging myself.

Jannie - I agree -- being aware of the problem is a great start. It's funny that you mention the sleep thing because the day before I wrote this post I had not gotten any sleep at all. Maybe I'd been judging people and that was what sparked the idea for the post. I agree that a lack of sleep can definitely cause a lot of problems.

Angie - Great point! When we judge others, we increase our own fears about being judged and, therefore, might limit ourselves in our actions/words/etc. SO true!

Hayden - Wonderful observation. You're completely right. If someone is dating a complete jerk, it's hard NOT to think he's a jerk. And that's okay. I guess, maybe, it's what we do with our opinions too. There are ways to give constructive criticism of others and there are judgments that are just plain mean. Opinion are okay (and important!) and I thank you for bringing up the idea.

Ann Elise - I agree - it definitely becomes a habit (one that I'm trying to break!). The idea of trying to connect with the other person is a really great one. I'm going use it!


Hello Dani - I'm going to throw a curve ball. (Note: I throw like a girl, which is a judgment, heh.) I think judging doesn't need to be modified to the point of never, which it appears to have been within certain circles. A society which doesn't judge has no boundaries. It's okay to put people into "bad" bins (love Vi's analogy). The real issue is the criteria, not the act.

Betsy - Thanks for the curve ball! I like it. I think you're completely right and Vi was definitely onto something in her comment. Not all judgments are bad...It depends on the type and the context. As you can see in my post, some judgments are just flat out not necessary and hurtful and those are the kinds of judgments I want to stop making. I appreciate the comment!

Great great post! Funny, I was talking about this yesterday. I was very badly judged after making a mistake. I am human, it was not that big of a deal...but I was judged for that by another Mom who tends to big a gossip. Sometimes I feel like I have a scarlet letter on my shirt. What can you do? I know in my heart who I am and this experience has changed my whole outlook on judgment and gossip. We are human, it's natural to judge...but when it becomes malicious, it's a whole other ballgame. All I can say is, it's not about me...this Mom has self esteem issues and builds her ego by putting others down. I am so glad that I am not like that!

Caroline - Glad you liked it! You've got it completely right. When someone is judging you maliciously it's not about YOU, it's about HIM/HER. Gossipy people are the worst and, when you think about it, their own insecurities are so apparent when they are judging others so harshly.

I beleive people judge, because they feel the need to label people.
When a person judge, they limit themselves from seeing more.
And when a judgemental person stop judging, they will be judge less themself.

Thanks for sharing.
Giovanna Garcia
Imperfect Action is better than No Action

Giovanna - I completely agree with all of the points you've made in you comment, especially the last one. When we stop being so hard on others, we are less hard on ourselves (and vice versa!).

Thank you so much for posting this,
I have just entered college and find myself judging others excessively in an attempt to reconcile some of my own insecurities within my new environment; and I am just really impeding my self-growth. I know it will be a hard to mitigate this challenge; but reading your post really inspired me.
BTW, have you gotten any better in trying to eliminate negative judgements??

Gladys - I'm so glad you liked this post. I felt and acted the same way you are when I first went to college (8 years ago! Ahhh!). I was insecure about who I was (and, believe me, EVERYONE is at that age no matter what they seem like) and so I tried to validate myself by thinking I was better than others (did this in high school too, actually). Judging others never made me feel better about myself; in fact, it only made me feel worse. I've definitely gotten MUCH better at trying to eliminate negative judgments in my life and one of the best ways I've worked on that is by focusing on the positive in everything. When I look for positive aspects in myself and in others, I am MUCH happier. Sometimes it's hard to see the good, but it's always there. Don't beat youself up too much about judging others (most people do it), but know that you can overcome it. If I can do it, ANYONE can! :)

I absolutely loved your post and i could relate to it as well. I have been trying to stop judging as well and the hardest part for me is that everyone else does it all the time. Sometimes all my friends talk about are other people, so it's hard not to join in to bond with them. Very few people have the courage to do what you are doing, so you should be very proud of yourself! Thanks for writing this because now i have even more of an incentive to keep up what I have worked on. It's good to know i'm not the only one who has recognized that judging is hurtful and wrong and is trying to take steps to reduce it. Thanks again!

Victoria - Thank you so much for your comment! I'm so happy you were able to relate to this post. I think judging is something a lot of people really struggle with and it's hard habit to break since it's reinforced so often in our society. I'm so glad this post has inspired you. Thanks so much for reading Positively Present!

Hi,
I loved your post. I asked these questions to myself recently when I realized how judgemental i had become after entering college. I tried staying away from the habit but it always came back to me. Over time, I realized it was because of my roommate who constantly found fault with everything around her. Since i used to be with her throughout the day, i starting doing the same thing. I tried ignoring her comments about others and didn't participate in any such talk. After some time, she started blaming me for ignoring her and not talking to her properly...Its pretty bad how judging others becomes a way of life for some. The constant need to accomplish something makes us judge every other person who has it. Isn't it amazing how the spirit of independence is celebrated every now and then yet we all live our lives around others....

Aarti - Thanks so much for the compliment on this post. It means a lot to me to hear that you liked it and could relate to it. It can be really difficult when surrounded by negative people, which is why it's really important to choose friends who are not judgmental. I love that last line your comment. It's so true!

I love the article. I'm in a point in my life where I'm trying to "monitor my thoughts" as well. I'd like to add "reflections of past experiences" to the list of why we judge people. For example, if you had bad relationship with someone who acted, dressed, talked, or looked a certain way, someone else with one or more of the same traits could cause you to assume that that this is a bad person. This reason is often subconscious, though, which makes it harder to erase. Most of the time in this situation, we don't realize "I judged him poorly because he dresses like my mean ex-boyfriend" or "I called her a slut because she carried herself like the woman my dad cheated with". It's a very interesting and hard-to-knock reason why we judge people, and I came across it in another article and I thought I'd share it here.
Anyways, thanks for the post. I'm curious to know how you're making progress?

Katie - Thanks so much for your comment. You raise an excellent point about how we often judge people based on other experiences/people. As you said, this is something we do subconsciously some of the time, which makes it hard to stop doing. However, realizing that this is a possible explanation for judgment is an excellent first step and I think your comment really will help others to realize that there is often more behind the judging than we realize. As for my own progress, since writing this I've gotten a lot better at viewing people from an objective perspective. I won't deny that at times I'm still prone to judging, but I've come a long way since writing this. Thanks for stopping by and for leaving a great comment!

Your article made sense to me. I have been researching on my "issues" and this helped. Some. I judge. Everyone to me is : lazy, wong choices are made, can do better, or just WRONG!

It doesn't help that I grew up with a cop for a dad. 10 aunts and 10 uncles, 30 something cousins, not to mention I'm a hairstylist. So I hear (but do not repeat and do Not voice my opinion) EVERYTHING About everyone. I'm everyones ear. I started to think everyone was wrong. I hear nothing but how people need to act. I'm 29, 2 kids. I'm always telling them how to act now. Its shitty. I'm always mad. I don't agree with everything people tell me. I stay home when I can. I don't go anywhere so that I don't listen and pass judgement on others.
I need a therapist! I have diconnected myself yet I'm soo unhappy. I'm insecure. I lost weight, people thought I was on drugs and loosing "too much". I'm not heavy anymore but stopped losing because all that talk tore me apart.
All of the things you mentioned about how to fix it? I do automaticlly after its said or done. I verbally give people the benifit of the doubt. (Maybe that's why people come to me).
I'm not looking to get "fixed" writing this. Doing so helped, that I'm just noticing. This is my secret that has never. Ever. Been shared. I don't know what is wrong. I don't want a phych. Any advice is good advice I sopose.

Elizabeth - I'm sorry you're going through a tough time. It can be very difficult when the people around you appear negative and judgmental, especially when they are family members. Looking for the positive can be very hard when everyone around you is looking at the negative. Though I'm not an expert or a therapist, my advice would be to seek out people that are positive and non-judgmental and spend more time with them. You can't always avoid judgmental people completely, but you can focus on the people who are more positive influences. It may take time to find the right people, but if you look for them and seek them out, you will find them. Also, I found that, when dealing with negative people, therapy was a HUGE help to me. It helped me to have an objective perspective and taught me what I could do to make the most of the situations I was faced with. If you find the right therapist, you might find that it's much easier to deal with judgmental people and you may even be able to help them focus more on the positive as well. I know it's tough for you right now, but hang in there -- things will get better if you keep thinking positively!

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