Greetings all, and welcome to another article where we learn, grow and step toward our goals together. This weekend I’m taking some running strides toward my goals by running in my first official 5k race! It’s at the zoo, with giraffes and I’m wearing a costume. Pretty much my ideal running situation:) Like I was talking about last week, we do a lot of the work of self-improvement in silence, with few spectators or visible results. On Saturday I’m excited to share this accomplishment with the other runners and revel in the result of my hard work. A 5K is a small race, and participating in it is going to serve to open me up to longer ones. But enough about running, this isn’t about that. This article is about judgement, or more specifically, being judgmental of others.
I recently got back from a trip to “The Happiest Place on Earth”, Disney World. You know who goes to Disney World?
Families, single people, couples, children, grandparents, new parents, dog-parents, vegans, carnivores, omnivores, teenagers in short shorts, big people, small people, just so many people. They all journey into the blazing suburbs of Orlando to sample the delicious food, exciting and magical rides, and be entertained by decades of R&D.
What happens when you put thousands of sweaty people from all walks of life, countries, age groups, socioeconomic levels and perspectives together in one place? You see some stuff. And if you’re like me, your mind is inundated by so many sights and thoughts that it’s hard to keep them in line, and keep out the narrative of judgment.
Now, determined to change whatever I can to move myself toward love and compassion and away from judgement, I want to share what I have learned from reflection and study. Next time you find judgmental thoughts popping up in that gorgeous brain of yours, try one of these:
- Recognize that you see yourself in the object of your judgement.
Often the things we find most egregious in others are the things we just decided to stop doing ourselves. We scorn those who don’t exercise while the ink is still wet on the back of our gym memberships. We chuckle in derision at “unhealthy people” while we’re one salad into our new “healthy lifestyle”. We are most bothered by behaviors that we have most recently learned to see for its detrimental effects, and as such we are most likely to judge it harshly. Next time you find thoughts of ill-will coming into your head against a certain person exhibiting a certain behavior, it’s likely that they’re an affront to you specifically because you see yourself in them.
- Remember that people do the best they can.
I read about this a little while ago, and it’s taken me a while to believe it, but people really are doing the best they can. We all want to be happy, and loved and fulfilled. We want to feel good and enjoy life and have relationships. Our pasts, the things we learned in childhood and the patterns we’ve learned since are very different, but we all want the same results. I find my thoughts softening and turning to compassion when I remind myself that the person who seems to be making a mess of any and everything is doing their best. The mum who threatens her kid with leaving a place for the millionth time would love to have a more effective way of handling her child. She’s doing the best she can with the skills and situations she’s been given. People don’t want to be unhealthy or rude, they want to feel good and be heard and understood and have their needs met. We’re all just trying to do the best we can.
- Reflect on your self-esteem.
The natural tendency to judge others is often a reaction to feeling particularly low about ourselves. How better to get a little boost to how we feel about ourselves than to compare to someone obviously less successful than we are? When we feel unhealthy our minds are quick to point out others who are less so. Feeling unaccomplished and frustrated at your perceived lack of progress? There will always be someone less successful to judge harshly for a quick ego boost. Unfortunately, as anyone who has experienced this kind of self-promotion will attest, this kind of comparison does more harm than good. When we base our value, worth and sense of progress on others we will always fail. Just as there will always be someone less skilled, fit, financially independent, popular, or creative than we are, there will always be someone greater. Elevation at the cost of lowering others will never get anyone ahead.
- Get busy.
We know that our minds are most prone to judgement when we are feeling lowest about ourselves, and the best way to change your feelings about your situation is to do something about it. When I’m feeling unhealthy and frustrated that I haven’t exercised the way I want to recently, I find my thoughts more judgmental towards other people’s health. No one is safe really. When I’m wallowing in my own frustration and self-loathing about how gross I feel in my own body, how frustrated at my own failures, my brain tries to make me feel better by belittling the people who it perceives as less healthy and criticizing the people it sees as more healthy. The best antidote I’ve found is to get back on track with my own goals. Instead of making me feel superior, I find that this helps me to feel confident in my own abilities again, reminds me of what I’m working for and encourages me in moving forward.
- Get grateful.
When I find my mind swirling with judgement, crackling with criticism, it helps to take a breath and think of the things in my life that make me happy to be alive. Filling our minds and hearts with gratitude necessarily rids it of negative emotions. It’s pretty near impossible to have belittling thoughts of others while filled with your favorite memory of finally standing on a surf board riding a wave, biting into the most amazing dessert you’ve ever tasted, feeling the wind on your face as you drove through the countryside or meeting your baby for the first time. Gratitude is an amazing antidote for “what ails ya”. So much so that I’m frequently surprised by its power.
As I said, I’m still learning these lessons. I can still let my mind get carried away by negativity and lose my way in judgement. But now I have a plan of attack. I have a thought process and diversionary tactics and an end game. And it helps! So give it a try. We’ll see if we can’t all just shrug off some criticism and lean into love.