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