Judgment can really be an ugly thing.
A few months ago, I was line at the gym waiting to swipe my membership card to enter the gym for my morning workout when I heard something disturbing.
Two women who were ahead of me in line started chuckling to themselves and commenting about a woman inside of the gym.
Lady #1: “I wonder if fat-ass Shamu is here this morning.” (Side note: In case you didn’t know, “Shamu” is the name of the huge killer whale at Sea World.)
Lady #2 (pointing at an overweight woman on an elliptical machine wearing a black-and-white outfit): “Yep, there she is! God, she is such a pig!”
Then they both swiped their membership cards and chuckled their way inside of the gym.
Yes, these were grown women in their 30’s, who got their jollies by making fun of a woman who was working hard to positively deal with the issue that they were currently laughing at her for (if that makes any sense.)
Yes, judgment really is such an ugly thing.
Unfortunately for those two women, what they didn’t realize is that their comments about that woman told me (and the world) so much more about them than it did about that woman.
The Truth About Judgment
When you judge others, you do not define them, you define yourself.” -Earl Nightingale
For some reason, people love to judge other people.
I know firsthand, because I’m definitely guilty of doing it too. I don’t do it nearly as much as I used to, but I still catch myself doing it more often than I should.
Whenever I slip up and start becoming judgmental of others, I take a step back, and remind myself of this truth:
We usually judge others in the areas where we feel the weakest.
Seriously, think about it.
If you’re being honest with yourself, I’m sure that you can relate to some of the common examples below:
“Ugh, why can’t that mother control her unruly kids?? They are running through the store like animals!” (Translation: “I don’t feel great about my abilities as a mother, and it makes me feel a little better to judge a woman who appears to be struggling in her duties more than I am.”)
“Why is this guy’s blog more popular than mine? His blog posts look like a third-grader wrote them.” (Translation: “I wish that my blog was as popular as his is, and I’m insecure about the fact that it isn’t.”)
“This woman thinks that she’s all that because she drives a fancy car and has so much money–it’s disgusting.” (Translation: “I wish that I had as much money as she did, and by judging her as a villain, it makes me feel a little better about being broke.”)
“Look at that dude smiling all of the time, he’s so fake and annoying.” (Translation: “I wish that I was happy enough to smile all of the time. But since I’m not, I’m going to judge this guy as a phony and a fraud.”)
“Look at that fat-ass whale on the treadmill, she’s such a mess.” (Translation: “I don’t feel great about how I look, and it makes me feel good to viciously judge someone who I believe looks worse than I do.”)
Be real with me–do you know anyone who is completely secure with him/herself who also consistently and harshly judges other people in the ways described above?
Yeah, me neither.
That’s because our judgments reveals our soft-spots. Our insecurities. Our weaknesses.
And usually, we harshly judge others because we do the same to ourselves.
Here’s how we can change that.
Remain in Curiosity
I’m not naïve about this judgment stuff.
I don’t think that it’s possible to live a life where we never judge anyone, ever.
That’s an admirable goal for sure, but my goal is to offer solutions that are realistic enough for people to be willing to give them a try.
And here’s a simple one to remember next time you’re feeling the urge to be a little “judgy” of others:
Remain in curiosity and stay out of judgment.
Judgment shuts us down and keeps us from understanding the full situation. If we’re being honest, most judgments about people are based on incomplete information.
Curiosity, on the other hand, keeps us open to the possibility that there is something about the situation that we don’t fully understand.
Whenever I see people acting in ways that I think are insane, stupid, or worse–this is the question that I ask myself:
“I wonder what’s going on with that person that I don’t know about?”
I’ll admit, this may sound simple, but it’s much easier said than done.
Judging people is easy, and it some cases, it can even feel good to do it. On the other hand, being curious requires maturity, emotional intelligence, and a healthy dose of self-control to do it consistently.
Even though in my mind, I immediately (and pretty viciously, to be honest) started to judge the two women at the gym who were pulling the “mean girls” routine, I was eventually able to step back and look at their behavior with curiosity by asking myself:
“I wonder what would cause two grown women to act in such a mean-spirited way toward a woman who is minding her own business at the gym?”
Lots of different answers came into my mind, and the act of switching from judgment to curiosity made it possible for me to shift to a more positive frame of mind.
And once I was finally in that positive frame of mind, I shifted my attention to the person who deserved my attention way more than those two women did:
Specifically, the woman who was on the wrong end of those rude comments.
So, I decided to do something about it.
Making Things Right
I have been on the wrong side of harsh judgment before, and I know how much it can hurt.
Whether it’s the fact that I smile a lot, or because people think that I’m delusional for fighting for a kinder world, or even because of the color of my skin, I’m used to being judged.
These days, I expect it and I’m actually okay with it.
That’s because no one can judge me more harshly and viciously than I have judged myself.
(You’re just going to have to trust me on this one.)
While that’s all true, it still really bothers me to see other people being the butt of other people’s mean-spirited teasing and jokes. And even though the woman on the elliptical machine didn’t hear a word that the two women in line said about her, I still felt the need to do something about it.
So, did I angrily confront the two women who made the “Shamu” comment?
No. There’s no point in wasting my energy on people who aren’t open to hearing the message.
Instead, as I was walking to the locker room, I made eye-contact with the woman on the elliptical and I smiled at her.
She genuinely smiled back, and then she put her head down and re-focused on her workout like a boss.
Sure I didn’t do much, but in that very brief moment that we shared, I wanted her to know that in a world where she may be harshly judged by others, I will not be one of those people who does it.
Will that brief moment that we shared make a positive difference in her life?
I have no idea.
Only she can be the judge of that.
Do you judge people often? How do you deal with it when you become judgmental of others? Jump into the comments below and make your voice heard!