“When you judge another, you do not define them. You define yourself.” ~Wayne Dyer
I’ve always been judgmental. I will judge someone else’s buying habits, looks, grammar, or political beliefs and get some perverse pleasure in it. It’s very painful for me to admit that.
You see, I strive to be kind and compassionate toward myself and toward others. That’s why I have turned much of my personal development focus this year to letting go of judgments.
When I first started seeing a therapist, in college, we spent quite a bit of time talking about a particular family member of mine. After describing this person, my therapist said that it sounded like they may have had a superiority complex, and that all superiority complexes are built on top of inferiority complexes.
Now I look at myself and wonder: Is that what’s going on with me? Do I judge others negatively because I need to feel better about myself? Am I so insecure in my own place in this world that I have to build my own self-esteem on top of other people’s perceived shortcomings?
I don’t want to be that person.
It’s weird, because I’ve always felt I was put on the earth to help people. And I don’t feel judgment toward those that I help. I love them. So why is it so easy for me to judge strangers and friends of friends?
I know I have a long way to go, and I know I have to work on both letting go of my judgments toward others as well as toward myself.
This past week I tried something, and it made my heart feel light and my face feel happy: I made observations instead of judgments.
Let me give you an example.
I was out and about and I saw a woman with a baby. I also have a baby, for the record.
At first I noticed that I was making judgments about her based on her appearance and the way she spoke. It made me feel sad and, well, icky, inside.
But I stopped. I realized this was a perfect time to try doing something different.
So I took a mental step back and looked at her for the absolutely perfect human she was (and is).
I observed the way she looked with no attachment to it as right or wrong, good or bad.
I observed the way she spoke with no disdain or criticisms.
And I felt love. I felt peace. I felt wonderful.
This is how I want to live. This is how I want to feel.
You see, I know rationally that we are all these wonderful, gorgeous creatures of the universe. Sitting here at my desk typing, I am 100% sure of this. Yet, somehow, out in the world, I lose sight of this. I forget.
And it hurts me. Judging others makes my life worse, not better.
I am completely committed to shifting all of my thoughts away from judgment and toward kind, gentle, unattached observation. I know it’s going to take practice, but almost everything worth doing takes time and energy.
If you’d like to make the same shifts in your own life, I have a few suggestions based on my short time entering the No Judgment Zone.
First, you’ll have to admit that you judge others. It may be painful, as it was for me. It’s okay; acknowledging this is the only way to recover from it.
Next, decide that you want to actively give up judging others. You may do it more often than you’re even aware, and without a conscious effort, it will be difficult to avoid.
Now, start paying attention to how judging others feels in your body. If you’re like me, you’ll feel the corners of your mouth pulling down in sadness, and may feel a pit in your stomach. It’s good to know how your body feels so that you can start to identify when you’re judging others without even noticing.
It’s time now to practice the act of observing instead of judging. The next time you notice yourself judging someone else, do what I did: Stop, take a step back, and describe the situation with no inflection of tone that casts a negative light.
Instead of “Wow, now that’s an interesting outfit,” try “that woman is wearing leopard print pants with pink sparkly boots and a bedazzled tank top.”
Take the judgment out of it. Observe it. Find the beauty in the other person or situation.
Now you just have to practice. Over, and over, and over again. I am still very much in the early stages of becoming aware and observing instead of judging; this is not an overnight change!
To really make a permanent shift, stay away from places where others are judgmental for fun—websites that attack others for their beliefs or way of living, TV shows that humiliate, and friends on social media that love to make loud proclamations about others are some good places to start.
Now is a good time to mention that there will certainly be occasions when it is not judgment that I am experiencing, but discernment.
If I see someone being verbally abused by their partner, or someone harming an animal, or someone stealing, it is not the time to step back and just observe and try to find love and beauty. On those occasions, I hope that my good sense allows me to help in any way possible.
Above all, it’s about creating peace, both in my own mind, and for others as well.
I am sorry if I have ever judged you. I am sorry if someone judging you has ever hurt you. Together, let’s create a world where we are kind and compassionate to everyone we encounter.
Friends pointing and laughing image via Shutterstock