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When People Judge: Why It’s Not Really About You

Judgment Image

“Doubt yourself and you doubt everything you see. Judge yourself and you see judges everywhere. But if you listen to the sound of your own voice, you can rise above doubt and judgment. And you can see forever.” ~Nancy Lopez

You and I, we judge others. And they judge us. We all do it. Sometimes we judge with positive or non-harming intentions.

Unfortunately, our judgment often comes from a negative place, with darker intent.

Why Do We Judge?

Though we judge for many reasons, we often do it when:

  • We don’t know a person well (yet)
  • We cannot identify with a person’s belief system, values, or behavior
  • That person somehow threatens how we perceive ourselves

I believe we judge for the first reason because our minds want to simplify the processing of information by putting environmental clues into categories. This just makes things so much easier, doesn’t it?

For me personally, when I judge for the second and third reasons, I have especially negative emotions and thoughts toward others.

I try hard not to judge, and have been doing so less and less, but I still have a ways to go. 

How I’ve Judged Others

I used to judge people, especially men, when I learned that they had been unfaithful to their girlfriends.

As soon as I learned about the situation, I would feel resistance and anger building up inside me. I would immediately begin insulting them in my head, and sometimes would actually verbalize it if there was someone to discuss it with.

Today, I rarely react like this. I know not to judge someone based on their actions because everyone makes mistakes, and some people prefer to behave in a way not everyone else can relate to.

I still don’t find it appropriate or fair to cheat on someone, but I stopped letting that define the worth I assign to that person.

I know now where that strong negative response comes from. Someone once cheated on me, and it caused me a lot of pain. As a result, I have developed a pretty rigid mindset around that topic.

In the past, I also judged women when I felt threatened by them, especially those who I perceived to be extremely attractive.

I compared my body to other women’s bodies because I feared I didn’t look as hot as they did, which was clearly a matter of low self-esteem. The conversation in my mind went something like this:

“Oh, look at that girl in that red dress—her tight body and her perfect curves. And look how she moves. I’m sure she must get a lot of attention and admiration from the guys around here. She has to be really arrogant.”

This inner chatter made it pretty apparent what was going on inside me in those moments. First, I began comparing myself to someone who I perceived to be better than me physically, then I decided I couldn’t measure up. This, of course, made me feel threatened.

So I judged her by using a big generalization to put her down so I could feel better about myself.

What Can We Do About It?

I’ve noticed that my increased level of self-love has helped me judge a lot less. (You can find some helpful tips to increase your own self-love here.)

Also, I’m more aware of it now when I judge because I feel threatened, and with awareness, I am able to step back and ask myself whether my initial judgment is true.

I almost always have to own up to the fact that no, just because someone is attractive, that doesn’t have to mean she’s arrogant.

I’m not saying that we all have to learn to stop judging others. Maybe it isn’t even possible to do so because of the way we’re wired as human beings.

But what we can learn is that our judgments mostly have to do with us, not the people we judge, and the same is true when others judge us.

In most cases, we judge others in order to feel better about ourselves, because we are lacking self-acceptance and self-love.

If we could learn to embrace ourselves as we truly are, would we still be so judgmental toward others? Most likely not. We would no longer need a reason to put someone else down just to raise ourselves up.

This is only one of the many reasons why self-love is so important and powerful. If we could all learn to love ourselves, we would make our world a much more compassionate and much less judgmental place.

Judgment image via Shutterstock

About Martina Weiss

Martina is a Self-Love Coach for women who want to free themselves from expectations and judgments and start living life on their own terms. She believes that learning self-love and self-acceptance is the only way to become the best versions of ourselves and thus, live a happy, fulfilling, authentic lives. Visit coachingwithmartina.com or connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

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  • Talya Price

    Good article. It all starts with self-love. I believe that people who are very judgmental lack self-love, I think that way about myself when I find myself judging others. I have learned to reprogram my thoughts and focus on the positive no matter what the situation is.
    Thank you for this.

  • I’m still here

    Judgement belongs exclusively to God

  • Great article, thank you! I watched Teal Scott video about it, and the things we judge about others, we are afraid of being ourselves. I think the most important part is to accept who we are and to be OK with it.

  • Lynnie

    I really love the way you write and how you have linked in the other articles for reference. A great post. 🙂 It made me think, we can all be judgmental at times without really thinking we are doing anything wrong. I see a lot of terrible judging of people on Social Media (troll heaven), especially towards famous people on their Instagram accounts or people leaving awful comments to YouTubers and successful Bloggers which makes me sad. As I see it done to individuals who inspire me and they sometimes stop their passion because they listen to the judgements of others which impacts their confidence. People forget people are just people going through the same battles. I have to admit though, I am no angel. I have in the past opened up a newspaper and said out loud, “my gosh, what on earth is she wearing?” Not nice and I can’t say it made me feel good either. You are right though, noticing the behaviour and accepting it is not right, is all part of our journey to the path of self-acceptance and love. At times, I still feel I have work to do in this area. Peace and love!

  • Kevin Wild

    With consciousness come a knowing that we are one. There is no judgement, as there is nobody else to judge, there is only oneness. Any judgement is a separation from our selves. Love

  • Daniela

    Spent my whole evening (well after 8:00 PM) feeling awful about myself. This is the 3rd time a woman that I used to be very friendly with (she was the asst teacher at my child’s preschool last year) was quite rude to me tonight -just looked and looked away. We were picking our children up at CCD classes -go figure -shouldn’t people who take the time to drag their kids to religious education be somewhat nice? Anyhow, feeling very down and paranoid…I’m very misunderstood a lot. I’m a bit shy but VERY friendly and approachable. However, I suffer from trichotillomania (have pulled my eyelashes and brows out since I was 6 and am now almost 45 -have none of either by the end of any given day). Grew up shamed and beaten over this -don’t have the highest esteem. Anyhow, it is hard for me sometimes to look at people and I’m also having issues recognizing people. I just feel so awful -my whole life I have been the target of so much hate, yet I am filled with so much care for others. I couldn’t hate myself more. I wish I could just disappear…so tired of the pain. Be kinder than necessary folks -you never know what someone is going through.

  • Totally agree with you, Talya. The more people are judging, the less they are at peace with themselves. Great you found a way to minimize your judgments about others, this is beneficial especially for yourself! Thanks for your words!

  • So sorry to hear that you are having a tough time, Daniela. I can see that you are blaming yourself a lot for who you are. You know what? You are here on earth to be happy and fulfilled, not to have a bad time forever. You can change the place you are in, Daniela. You are wonderful and perfect the way you are, you just need to learn to understand and believe that. Let me know if I can help you and shoot me an email at weissmartina33@gmail.com. All the best!

  • Absolutely, Kevin. Thanks for taking your time to comment!

  • Lynnie, I totally get what you are talking about. The negative judgments especially on Social Media are often shocking. Imagine, we all would be aware of our words and their impacts on others – life wouldn’t be the same. If we all would come from a place of love and compassion, there wouldn’t be this hate and war in this world.
    I’m glad you are aware of the judgements you make, this is the first way to make a change. Don’t worry, we all are judging (and I don’t believe we will get to a point in our lives where we don’t judge others at all), but what we can do is to be aware of it and actively change our position from hostility to compassion. Thanks for your contribution!

  • So much agree with you, Lolita. Once we learn to accept ourselves the way we are, we will stop being afraid of other people’s judgments and thus stop judging others. I actually also realized, that we judge people especially for things, we ourselves are afraid to be judged for. So interesting… Thanks for your time to comment!

  • IBikeNYC

    I always feel weird giving an “UP” or “LIKE” to someone who’s expressing pain.

    I go through the SAME stuff with feeling invisible. It’s especially hurtful when you get actively ignored by people who clearly and obviously remember you.

    I know that when you’re in that horrible, black place, you wanna slap the next person who tells you that you CAN feel better and that “all” you need to do is Learn To Love Yourself.

    Another side of that is that it really IS up to YOU!

    I hope this helps you in some way, and I really hope you feel better and then great, both in general and also about yourself.

  • Sophia Montgomery

    I think judging others is often an act of indirectly establishing boundaries between self and others.
    I know some people whom I would describe as extremely judgmental (and they’re religious at that), and I really don’t think any one of them lacks self-love or doesn’t accept themselves — just the opposite.
    It seems that because they are so religious, they don’t openly say that they don’t like someone, or that they don’t want to have anything to do with that person, or whatever the boundary might be, as openly talking about those things would compromise their image of being a spiritually advanced, compassionate, and all-in-all enlightened being.

    So they judge, and find ways to religiously justify their judgments.

  • Thanks for voicing your opinion, Sophia, and I see where you come from. It doesn’t always appear that people who are judging do this because they are lacking self-love. And even those people aren’t aware that they are judging because they don’t feel good about themselves (which can be a reason for them being so religious at it, they truly believe they see the only reality). However, let me ask this question: If those people really loved themselves would they have a reason to speak badly about someone else? Would they really put someone else down for who they are?

  • So much agree! Learning to love oneself is anything but easy. It contains so many aspects that require all your attention and energy sometimes. It requires to open yourself up, let your pain come to surface and forgiving everyone around you – even yourself. Taking responsibility and realizing who you are without the voices around you is essential for that process.
    Thanks a lot for your input!

  • Sophia Montgomery

    “If those people really loved themselves would they have a reason to speak badly about someone else? Would they really put someone else down for who they are?”

    Why not?

    It comes down to what one belives is the structure of this universe and the people in it. If one believes (the way many religions propose) that humans are not equal, that there exists an eternal hierarchy, that some humans are (eternally) worthier, better than others, then the people who judge others might actually not be “speaking badly” about others or “put them down”; they might simply be stating the truth (which they believe to be stating anyway).

  • Alright. What you say definitely has a point. When people believe they are better than others because of whatever reason (values, beliefs, religion, etc.) they believe they have the right to judge others. Absolutely. However, this is where the roots of judgment lies – people start to believe their environment (religion, parents, teachers) telling them “You are better than others” or “As long as you are a certain way, you are on the right side of life”. They are being told in their childhood that they are only good enough when they are a certain way and what they understand also is that those, who don’t share their views are bad. By this “domestication” they lose touch with themselves, their heart and their belief that we are all one and equal. Take a look at children. Children until the age of 4 or so don’t perceive any difference in their peers, no matter their skin color. Young children just don’t judge. The older they get, the more conditioned they become, the more they learn about what is good and what is not good. This is also when they start to judge others as we incorporate the messages we are exposed to day in and day out.

    Long story short: It doesn’t matter if people think they are right about the judgments they make. What counts is that they do so in order to prove others wrong. The more they were told “Believe in xyz or you are not worthy” and “If you behave this way you are a bad kid” the more they got disconnected from their self-worth and the more they have to judge others based on their beliefs and values.

  • Sophia Montgomery

    What if those religions actually _are_ true?
    What if there actually exists an eternal unchanging hierarchy between people, and some people indeed are forever worthier than others?

    You seem to come from the perspective that all people are in some essential way equal and good. But this perspective is a matter of faith, not of fact.

  • Forgot something ;). If we all were raised with the feeling that we are loved, no matter what, if we all were told that we are adequate the way we are, we wouldn’t have stopped at some point to love ourselves and we all would come from a place of love and compassion, where it wouldn’t matter how we look like or religion we believe in.

  • Well, then we need to start a discussion about what is “true” and what are “facts”. For me religion is a concept made up by men for men to create some guidelines in our society. What is being pledged there are certain beliefs and beliefs are no reality. I talk about our essence, about our nature. And based on our nature, we all are equal and good, yes.

  • Sophia Montgomery

    How do you know what “our essence” or “our nature” is?

  • Lynnie

    I am going to be honest, Sophia. I really do not like it when people play the religion card. It drives me insane… I go pretty nuts, as I am a great believer that people have choices and should not be dictated to. I am also not aware of any ‘true religion’ which says it is better than other religions or if you do not believe in God / Allah you are not an equal / good person? I am aware, as we all are given the current climate, of extreme ‘behaviors’, which let’s be honest are not following any true religion but out to destroy democracy, individuality and to create a dictatorship society. So, for me I do not follow any god, I do not go to church. I do not prey, as I do not feel I need that in my life. Does that make me less worthy? Does that make me a bad person? No, of course not. I am a pretty amazing individual with my close family and friends around me to understand what right from wrong is. Do I judge others who follow a religion? Of course not. If a faith, a belief gets someone through their day, then that is amazing for them. It does not however, make them better or more worthy that anyone else.

  • Jeevan/Mirthu/Gupt

    Daniela, adding to what IBikeNYC & Martina said…as much as you may feel broken & hopeless; you seem to be a good person. If I may make a suggestion; if you have the means…finding a good therapist could help you in letting out a lot of these build-up emotions inside of you… Take care of yourself; you are not alone! As for the person who mistreated you…don’t put with such B.S. Being a shy person by nature, it can often feel like the end of the world speaking up to people…but sooner or later, you have to find a way through it!

  • Daniela

    Thank you to everyone below who took the time to help me…I truly appreciate this…

  • This was so eye-opening. Thank you.

  • LRP

    Hi, I was searching online to try and find ways to accept people without judging them. But my mind is too confused to think clearly. What if someone who has cheated is close to you? It is taking me all the strength I can muster to accept them in spite of their deeds. Yes, one of my best friends cheated me in the past and it has wounded me a lot. I completely removed contact with that person and have lived peacefully ever since. But now I see my husband’s sister, and we are stuck in a situation to care for her. She cheated on her husband, was accepted by him, and now he is suffering from a brain tumor. The husband has his own share of bad deeds. So they have kind of let go of each other’s mistakes. Unfortunately, having recently known this, I am unable to see beyond her deed and continue doing for her and her husband. What hurts and confuses me more is how my husband’s mom has accepted her, and even glorifies her saying, there was little mistake on her, and she was forced to do it under the circumstances. Not one day passes without my mil singing glories of her, or talking on how well her daughter has handled her family. I see no reason to be proud of cheating. And am torn between doing for him as a cancer patient, and not allowing myself to accept his sister? They have a son, whom they don’t care about. And expect us to take care of him whenever possible. My husband’s sister has always been the one who made mistakes, and comes running to the family for help. And my husband has always sacrificed his education and life so she can have her way. I am really tired of doing for them, I have accompanied and supported them through out the diagnosis, but the revelation of the past, and their immaturity to handle their problems, is taking a toll on my own marriage. My mil is happy only when we continue doing for them, and any time spent for ourselves is not taken well. Please advise me on how to accept, not judge and let go. I have read through most of the posts here, and am still very confused. I am no saint, and am willing to accept my flaws and shortcomings.

  • LRP

    Hi, I was searching online to try and find ways to accept people without
    judging them. But my mind is too confused to think clearly. What if
    someone who has cheated is close to you? It is taking me all the
    strength I can muster to accept them in spite of their deeds. Yes, one
    of my best friends cheated me in the past and it has wounded me a lot. I
    completely removed contact with that person and have lived peacefully.
    But now I see my husband’s sister, and we are in a situation to care for
    her. She cheated on her husband, was accepted by him, and now he is
    suffering from a brain tumor. The husband has his own share of bad
    deeds. So they have kind of let go of each other’s mistakes.
    Unfortunately, having recently known this, I am unable to see beyond her
    deed and continue doing for her husband. What hurts and confuses me
    more is how my husband’s mom has accepted her, and even glorifies her
    saying, there was little mistake on her, and she was forced to do it
    under the circumstances. Not one day passes without my mil singing
    glories of her, or talking on how well her daughter has handled her
    family. I see no reason to be proud of cheating. And am torn between
    doing for him as a cancer patient, and not allowing myself to accept his
    sister? She has always been the one who made mistakes, and comes
    running to the family for help. And my husband has always sacrificed his
    education and life so she can have her way. I am really tired of doing
    for them, I have accompanied and supported them through out the
    diagnosis, but the revelation of the past, and their immaturity to
    handle their problems, is taking a toll on my own marriage. My mil is
    happy only when we continue doing for them, and any time spent for
    ourselves is not taken well. Please advise me on how to accept, not
    judge and let go. I am no saint, and am willing to accept my flaws and short comings. I visit your site everyday, wishing to grow and heal. Thank you so much

  • LaTrice Dowe

    It doesn’t feel good to be judged, especially when someone doesn’t know your story, as well as NOT knowing anything about you. How would you know their everyday struggle? In my opinion, it’s based on insecurities. It seems some people can’t find creative ways to boost their self-esteem, so bringing someone down is ideal.

    Three months ago, a Black woman called me a racist, and accused me of being rude to her sister, because she’s dark skinned. All I could do was smile, letting her know that I wasn’t doing anything wrong. This lady continued to keep running her mouth, so I politely put her in her place. I told her that pulling the race card stunt wasn’t working, and I wasn’t interested in arguing with someone who enjoyed playing the role of a victim, as well as maintaining a sense of entitlement. Also, I threatened to contact metro if she didn’t keep it moving. She wanted to know my name, and I refused to give to her, since I’m a “racist” towards Black people!! Hopefully, we’ll NEVER cross paths again.

    Thank you Martina, for sharing your story.

  • Kaleb Mazzeo

    Even so I can compare to this. It just hurts me in school that I wrestle and I started late and get made fun of when i’m working to try to go to states. I’m the only one on my team who really cares for the sport and it’s done wonders on my life and It makes me feel different in a good way but now everyone constantly remind me of it by getting on me about it. I take as in they try more to put me down instead of encouraging me. it hurts but i just got to move forward but some advice would be nice because I just feel alone and none of my fellow classmates help me boost my self-esteem.

  • Marcel Blanes

    It felt good to read this, however, a large part of me still believes judgment is necessary in terms of survival. I feel that in today’s fast-paced world, coming from a place of love and non judgment can get one into menacing crowds, relationships and situations. I feel that, at times, it is essential that one uses their instinct and approaches people in a calculated way (e.g. an extreme example would be a criminal). Not sure if this is the type of judgment you are referring to here but thought I’d type my view.