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3 Causes for Judging People (and How to Accept Yourself)

“If we learn to open our hearts, anyone, including the people who drive us crazy, can be our teacher.” ~Pema Chodron

Every person you meet has something special to give you—that is, if you are open to receiving it.

Each encounter offers you the gift of greater self-awareness by illustrating what you do and don’t accept about yourself. An honest look will show you that the reactions you have to others give you more information about yourself than about them.

You can never know for sure what motivates other people. But you can learn what you are accepting or judging in yourself.

For instance, if someone makes a remark about you and it’s something you also judge in yourself, it will most likely hurt. However if they make the same remark and you don’t have that judgment about yourself, it probably won’t bother you at all.

I once visited a new friend’s house and everyone in the family was shorter than me. Since I’m the shortest person in my family, I never felt too tall.

When my friend’s mother met me at the door and said with a slightly disappointed tone, “Oh, you are so tall,” it didn’t affect me. I was aware that she had some discomfort with my height, but I didn’t take it personally.

However, had she been tall and said, “Oh, you are so short,” it probably would have pushed my buttons, since I do feel somewhat short.

This point is valid for almost any interaction imaginable: Reactions always have to do with our own self-judgments and feelings of inadequacy or strength, not the other person.

Most judgments of others stem from one of three basic causes:

1. You wouldn’t tolerate the same behavior or characteristic in yourself.

For instance, you might be shy and encounter a very gregarious person. Your judgment might go something like this: What a show-off. They are so loud and obnoxious. Because you would be embarrassed to act this way, you resent somebody else doing it.

This type of judgment might reveal that you are not fully expressing yourself, hence you feel resentful or put off by others doing so, even if they do it clumsily.

Becoming aware of the truth of this reaction and working on expressing yourself more fully and authentically would result in a valuable gift of freer self-expression.

2. You display the same behavior and aren’t aware of it so you project your disowned behavior onto others and dislike it “out there.”

Everyone has encountered the second cause at some point. Someone is complaining about a friend or acquaintance and you think to yourself, “That’s funny, they do the same thing they are finding wrong!”

Taking an honest look within to see if you share some of the characteristics you dislike in others. You may be surprise to learn that you do, and it is likely to offer insight into gaining greater self-acceptance and compassion for others.

3. You are envious and resent the feelings that come up so you find something wrong with those who have what you want and end up judging them.

Someone who has attained recognition may remind you of your own lack of success in this area. You may resent their higher degree of accomplishment and then find something wrong with them in order to avoid your own feelings of inadequacy.

Since inspiration is a much more effective motivator than competition, you’d be more likely to experience success if you got inspired by other people’s victories instead of wasting time finding fault with them.

Most judgments of others are ego strategies to avoid uncomfortable feelings. However, if you lack the awareness of where they come from, they can lead to even more discomfort down the line.

Becoming aware of the nature of your judgments doesn’t mean that you no longer have preferences. You may still notice that certain types of behavior seem unappealing.

But with right understanding and a little work, discernment rather than judgment kicks in and causes you to feel compassion for others, even if you’re not enthusiastic about their behavior.

At the very least, you’ll feel neutral.

Discernment is awareness and understanding without an emotional response. Exercising discernment feels very different from getting your buttons pushed. Judgments that cause emotional reactions are clues to help you find personal insight.

When you explore beliefs and assumptions instead of judging people, you open a door to expanded self-awareness and self-acceptance.

Rather than unconsciously delighting in the ego gratification of judging others, you let your reactions and judgments help you achieve greater self-understanding—and accordingly, greater happiness and success.

When you use your judgment of others as a mirror to show you the workings of your own mind, every person’s reflection can become a valuable gift, making each person you encounter a teacher and a blessing.

Photo by mark sebastian

Avatar of Jarl Forsman

About Jarl Forsman

Jarl Forsman is the co-founder of gratitudetwentyfourseven.com. She and her husband, Steve Sekhon, craft free Daily Insights guiding readers to fulfill their potential and discover happiness within. Their 40-day Be Happy Now Course has had tremendous feedback, along with their book Wise, Happy and Feeling Good.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/skip.blankley Skip Blankley

    could not agree more! when i realized this to be true years ago i learned more about myself with a single interaction with someone than i had in years! what amazed me was when i was in a higher state of being and at peace with myself i could have encountered someone who would normally upset me in some way shape or form but because of my enlightened state i felt nothing of the sort, in fact i felt a deep since of love and compassion. now i just need to feel like that all the time… ;)

  • http://lifeisnotamovie.net Robin

    Bravo! Well said. I try to look at this whenever I get jealous or angry about something. I wish others did it more.

  • http://winewillfixit.blogspot.com Winewillfixit

    This is a very honest and much needed post for me today. I find myself struggling to feel compassion for friend’s behavior that is not consistent with my beliefs (but that I used to display myself).

  • http://www.gratitudetwentyfourseven.com Jarl

    Thank you Skip. Ah yes, to be able to feel it all the time. That’s what I’m shooting for, too. Just choosing to feel grateful every time my buttons get pushed is very freeing in itself.

  • Cezar

    Excellent post!

  • Donna

    Very wise words.

  • http://www.gratitudetwentyfourseven.com Jarl

    I know the feeling! When it’s a struggle for me, I go back in and see how I still wouldn’t or don’t accept myself when I act that way. Going straight to compassion rarely works for me until I deal with my own lack of self-acceptance.

  • http://www.gratitudetwentyfourseven.com Jarl

    Robin, I wish everyone did it more, too. And I find that the more conscious I become of my own lack of self acceptance, the more I attract others who are willing to look within and take responsibility for their own feelings. They are my reflections!

  • http://twitter.com/jessescotto Jesse Scotto

    I’m a very judgmental person, and have been for a long time. I battle with violence and all types of demons resulting as such…. I have a feeling this lesson may help me develop further in the right direction. Thank you.

  • Louisa

    Wow, I really needed to see this article! I’m currently struggling with a friend’s behavior and wondering why I keep feeling the way I do. When I’m around him, I get so angry and now I know why. He’s I guess what you would call “selfish” and is very comfortable about monopolizing people’s time and resources. I guess for me is that I wish I could be a little more selfish and feel more comfortable in voicing my needs.

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  • http://newdaynewlesson.com/ Susie @ Newdaynewlesson

    I agree with your reasons-which are very similar to causes for anger. The one that I think applies here as well as with anger is having no control over a person or a situation.

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  • http://www.writechangegrow.com Thea | Write Change Grow

    Hi Jarl

    Really good post. It definitely has me thinking now. I have been rather judgmental with a friend lately and I realise that is probably coming more from my end than anything else. Lots of food for thought here.

    Cheers
    Thea

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001642911068 Jen Nguyen

    *sighs* So so true. I find myself thinking someone is a complete show-off when they are loud and “obnoxious.” Yet I myself want to be that kind of person, but can’t seem to do so. I have trouble expressing myself because I grew up in an abusive household where my parents did not let my brother and I to express ourselves. We used to get beaten like hell for giggling (that’s what little children do right?!) or for being upset. Even nowadays they give us trouble for expressing ourselves..

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  • Sasalool

    oh my God!!
    I was looking for this for so long
    I feel you’s talking to me directly, even the examples you are using, you’re taking them from my own life
    thank you for shining the light on what’s been bothering me all this time
    sometimes I have these feeings that I can’t express them, I can’t find the words for them. And you say it so eloquentely and precisely too

    thank you for giving me some peace, at least now I know what’s wrong so that I can work on it some more

    thank you for wonderful article

  • Sasalool

    oh my God!!
    I was looking for this for so long
    I feel you’s talking to me directly, even the examples you are using, you’re taking them from my own life
    thank you for shining the light on what’s been bothering me all this time
    sometimes I have these feeings that I can’t express them, I can’t find the words for them. And you say it so eloquentely and precisely too

    thank you for giving me some peace, at least now I know what’s wrong so that I can work on it some more

    thank you for wonderful article

  • laura rdz.

    definantly an eye opener! also it will be great for a debate project i am currently working on about prejudice. thank you -lala

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  • Mi MomshandPhoenicianBeauty

    You can’t judge people. I mean, I gotta work with what I have–brown eyes–strawberry blond hair–double eyelids. And unless a little girl [paternal/Ukrainian/Swedish/Phoenician/Japanese/ of Tatar descent–[maternal/Korean] had a Caucasian feature [double eyelids], marrying a man whose ancestors were born in Lebanon, from Japan, and Lebanese would’ve brought a mixed girl or boy.

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  • Jgm8530

    One and three are very similar, so perhaps there are only two – envy and denial.

  • jia

    how can it hasty moral judgments prevent critical thinking

  • fedupwithya!

    people should be ashamed of themselves these days….

  • disqus_DoWwobWXb9

    I hate articles like these, it makes it sound like being judgemental is such a negative thing. I have been judgmental all my life and i believe its an asset not a flaw when it is cultivated properly.
    Being judgemental has contributed a great deal regarding the success i have had in my life. People who complain about judgemental people usually do bad things that they feel insecure about and whine about judgemental people.
    Having the skill of making good judgements can help bring prosperity into lives.

  • disqus_DoWwobWXb9

    This article is skewed as it states being judgemental automatically means the judge is insecure which is complete baloney.
    It’s actually making poor judgements that creates problems and articles like this discourage being judgemental when we are suppose to work at making good judgements not poor judgements.

  • aloneforlife

    This is clearly one of the reasons why people are drawn to Buddhism. No judgements. I judge people all of the time because they judge me. I only judge what is correct for myself. I refuse to go around blind to the evils of other people under the guise of being ‘non-judgmental’. I will judge and shall continue to judge so long as this world is filled with bias, racial inequality and general hate. My form of judgment is one that allows me to tell right from wrong. in a fantasy world it would be nice to not judge others or situations. But the reality of life is much different. America is a society that hates men, children and families. I make judgments on that society and understand that it does not have my best interest at heart. I judge it to be evil in it’s intent.

  • Cometdog

    Thank you for this.

  • http://twitter.com/MillionLuck MillionLuck

    Good Post.

  • don

    I was sitting in my chair this evening and thought how pathetic my life has become and then I asked myself why I felt this way. I realized that it was because this is how I have always judged others, it was how I learned to judge from my society, and culture, along with my ego strategies for self protection and preservation. The thought then came to me, Judge not lest ye be judged for with the judgement that ye judge others so shall ye be judged (something to that effect). Yes indeed I Judge myself as I have learned to judge others. I should have been more loving,tolerant, and understanding with others.

  • Bro Bann

    depends on what you’re judging…….

  • Isaiah Dix

    It is a negative thing when you’re unable to see a situation from someone elses POV. Yes, passing judgement is natural and beneficial in specific situations (in industry, sports) but sometimes people go too far with it and it destroys relationships. Nobody’s perfect so it’s ok to give people a chance before you judge them.

  • rabbit

    i had an incredible life changing moment this week regarding this very subject. It was as if my mind did a 360 degree turn around. The moment I decided to accept things rather than judge them, it was such an overwhelming and liberating experience. This is especially true when it comes to that special someone you care about. I discovered a sense of peace and that caring now runs even deeper.
    Just a couple of conversations I had with close friends somehow sparked this state of mind off.
    It has had a profound affect on the way I view people I care about. People will always do what they want to do. It is up to you to determine how you will accept the things they do.

  • Mara

    I agree with a lot of this but what if the person who is judging you, is not only judging you for things they also do, but thinks they should be around other people instead of you because you’re too similar in nature and there’s an uneven balance of energies?

  • Mara

    I guess I should elaborate. For example, if you’re always serious because you are naturally a deep thinking person, and you mirror the person you are with because they are also serious and deep thinking. Instead of being uplifting, light and buoyant, you just have two sensitive people mirroring each other and one of them blaming the other for being so serious and heavy. In the end the person doing the blaming wants to find other people that are opposite in nature because they believe that they need that uplifting energy to come from outside of themselves… What do you do about that?

  • A-Non

    Hey,
    I applaud your success in life and I know you have your reasons for your opinion that I can not change. Here’s my understanding of the article and the authors intent. The article is trying to state that there is a difference between being judgmental and discerning. Being discerning is deciding what is right for you without condemning the person for that behavior. Being who you need to be in the moment and focusing on the good in your life but accepting others who don’t want the same. Empathizing.

    Judging is condemning the person for who they are yet getting something from them. Telling a person not to be themselves but enjoying the way they let go. Calling someone names because you can’t be in their shoes. Looking at things superficially instead of ambiguously. including ones concept of self. It’s something we all go through at times being both the one being judged and the one passing judgement. Depending on how unhappy we are.

    It’s all grey my friend. I respect your opinion though

  • Gourm

    That sounds like discernment to me. The judge in this situation seems to have weighed the options and decided that someone with different qualities would better fit the role that person serves to him. Not all uses of discernment or judgment are going to be fair for everyone.

  • Connected Isolation

    Good article. I feel our society has become so overly judgmental. This article helps clarify the reason behind judgement and how to not fall into the habit of always judging people.

  • murphlaw

    I wish this was easier done than said. I have been struggling so much with someone who bullies me and emotionally attacks me – says hateful things to me and is intentionally rude/mean. Sometimes I feel that in being more zen, I become a doormat. NO, I do not believe the things that this person is saying to me and about me, but after several years of “ignoring” and knowing that it should not affect me…it is starting to affect me. She will not stop. Unfortunately, this is a person that I am going to have to deal with on a regular basis for a long time. What do I do…continue to feel like a doormat for this person’s ego or do I stand up for myself? There have been years of non-reaction from me, but it is getting harder and harder to hold my tongue. I don’t know how to remain nonjudgmental in this particular situation.

  • ms rene

    greatly inspired by these quotes – still adit about a friend delivering negative info. and suggesting how I should handle this 35 year failed relationsjip with someone who was I inhuman towards his own flesh in blood -chose to desert his son friend does not understand im in a higher state of consciousness today…peace and blessings

  • metallie gillette

    so true i completely understand

  • Μιχάλης

    In my opinion you have to set boundaries. You can google “how to set boundaries” and read a few articles.

  • DarkAntiCretin2012 .

    “People who complain about judgmental people usually do bad things that they feel insecure about and whine about judgmental people”

    They’re not all complaining about judgmental people. Some simply disagree with unfavorable judgment. They may not state that so you have to read between the lines. Other times it could be emotional problems that cause them to feel bad when judged. Judgement it often with the sole objective to hurt. And that’s what I think they respond to with complaint. How do you know they usually do the same thing? Have you met everyone in the world who does it? Making generalizations like that doesn’t sound like properly cultivated judgment. Not everybody that complains about judgement do bad things. There might be another reason why they complain. At the end of the day actions speak louder than words. How do you treat others when they are different from yourself (even if you judge them)? That’s important too. You’re right, it’s important to make good judgments. To me two of those is to have compassion and mercy. Shakespeare wrote in The Merchant of Venice, “A quality of mercy is not strained. It dropeth, as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath. It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.”
    Remember despite our best intentions we are all imperfect and can therefore be imperfect at times in our judgments of others. There are always two sides to a story. Sometimes we have the only part of the story, sometimes we have the whole story and sometimes we have the story wrong. We misinterpret others sometimnes because of various reasons form style of communication, missing information, difference of personality etc. It’s a good idea to keep our standards but allow a little window of open mindedness to be willing understand and learn. I have learned something positive from you. You see?

  • Jessica

    I agree, and I also feel that people who whine and complain about people who judge other people, are also judging the people who judge. Hypocrisy is never attractive.

  • OwlieBub

    This article helped me understand a problem that’s been troubling me for some time!! I have a friend who’s behavior I found very difficult to comprehend, but looking at it from multiple directions at once lead to an epiphany. My friend seems to adopt needy women and seems most comfortable when other people are at their lowest. She seems most at ease when other people are melting down about minor problems. I now realize that she is usually very uncomfortable and it takes the pressure off her. Plus, she wants to know that other people will make a big fuss over her minor problems. When people handle major problems and hardships independently or confide in other people besides her, she feels rejected and hurt. To her, all problems are to be brought to the group, discussed apart at great length, but not necessarily resolved. She feels uncomfortable with me because I am too independent and want to work most things out for myself.

  • Howard koor

    Yes. Beautifuly and succinctly expressed.

  • Zak D.

    This makes me want to say something like “tips fedora” or another critical comment about your ‘enlightenment’, but it made me realize that I’m exhibiting issue #3. And now I’m being critical of myself for not being critical. Where does it end?

  • M

    No, actually it is not baloney. People who readily judge others usually do so because they don’t like themselves very much, and therefore feel the need to bring those others down so that they can feel superior to them. It’s a coping strategy for extremely insecure personalities, a way to distract themselves their own failings by focusing on the perceived failings of others: “Well, I might be bad, but at least I’m not as bad as him/her!” People who are truly secure in who and what they are do not need to bring others down in an effort to bring themselves up because they understand that true emotional security and happiness can only come from within.

    Try something the next time you catch yourself judging someone – ask yourself “Why am I judging this person? Is it because they are deserving of being judged? Or is it because my own self esteem is somehow threatened by him/her and I therefore feel the need to convince myself that I am somehow better than them?”. Try to break through the defensive wall that your ego will instinctively throw up to protect you from knowing the unpleasant truth. Be completely honest with yourself, and I think you will find that the person you are really judging is yourself.

  • starlight

    hello! i totally agree with this and as I have going through CBT at the moment to help with this having had a very judged upbringing with strict rules and expectations, I am struggling with something> this seems the perfect forum to help me find the peace. I am struggling to acept my friends new boyfriend. She is vulnerable with mental health issues and her new partner is a known drug addict and has abused his 2 previous girlfriends. I slipped inold habits telling her to stay away. she stopped replying to messages and i realise my underlying concern was ‘don’t ignore me!’ that was the hottest emotion, so that’s my main issue that i am dealing with for myself, but in the mean time, how do i move forward to accept her choices even though i whole heartedly believe it is bad? thank you in advance x

  • jennifer

    your right and they do this in the prime of their lives …. notice like two women are the same age and one seems to think the whole world is ahead of her because she is popular in high school and has “status” and the other is well just fucked. This has happened to me of each decade of my life why i choose to be alone with my own success rather than have someone social murder my thoughts. its true.

  • jennifer

    try an experiment…. get rid of your doormat on ur front door and back door. You will notice how the dust settles differently. I used to apologize alot for other people and stopped doing this and even in the worse moments *yes you will sometimes loose for sacrifice” jobs, friends or whatever but when you stand up for your dignity and do the right thing you will win the situation by not being a doormat. Sometimes if you loose the physical “doormat” the actual object then you focus on how the mental.

  • yohami

    So if I judge racism, it means that Im 1) not embracing my full racist potential, 2) Im racist and 3) Im envious of racists. Similarly if I judge pedophiles it must be that Im not embracing my inherent lust for children.

    Thanks Buddah, you took something that is sometimes behind judgement, tried to apply it universally, and robbed it from any meaning while probably messing up with a bunch of people who were probably right in passing judgement in the first place.