What Judging Others Reveals About You

outcast girl

Do you know what judging others reveals about you? A lot.

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.

Your Turn

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!

Shola

Shola

Founder of The Positivity Solution
Author, keynote speaker, and kindness extremist who is committed to changing the world by helping as many people as possible to live and work with more positivity.
Shola
Shola

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Comments

  1. Kristen Quinn says:

    Yes, I am judgmental about one thing, now that I did make my health change and have lost a huge amount of weight.. now in a healthier body and athletic. Just over a year ago, I could barley walk due to my obesity. Now training for a half marathon.. running competitive races, regularly. My judgmental attitude? Heavy people. I will be honest. When I see a heavier person stuffing their face with fast good or junk, it now turns my stomach. Or I see them in one of those sit down auto carts at Walmart, instead of walking through the store, to get at least a little exercise.. I get disgusted. Why? Because I fear being like that again. I am so scared I will fall off of my new found, healthy mind set and return to old habits. I dream of being ‘fat’ again. It scares the you know what out of me. Wow.. admitting that is powerful. Will I still be grossed out by heavy people.. probably yes. I am disgusted at my loose skin I see on my body as it is. Do I like the way I look now, YES.. most defiantly. However, that underlying fear is there. I try to remind myself that they are where I was and I pray they find a way to being healthy and taking care of them-self. I do keep myself in check. But, I have a very very heavy brother, in total denial of his serious health issues as a result and he has ‘disowned’ me being successful too, so that has a lot to do with it too! BTW.. thanks for the perspective.. guess the coworkers are down right disgusted with them-self to gain up on me and bully my healthy weight loss success.. They need to read this blog entry.. but I know they won’t!

    • Hey Kristen–thanks as always for your honesty. I’m in no position to tell you not be grossed out or disgusted by overweight people, but I will offer an alternative: Empathy. You’ve walked the road of extreme weight loss, and as you said, you know what’s it’s like to be in their shoes. Losing weight and changing eating habits can be very challenging, and since we don’t know the full story of the person riding in a motorized cart at the store, maybe they are doing everything that they can to reclaim their health. Or maybe they’re simply happy the way that they are. Who knows? But these days, whenever I see someone who is acting in ways that I may not understand or agree with, I strive to respond with curiosity rather than disgust. It isn’t always easy, and I fail a lot at doing it, but I’ve found that curiosity has helped me to be more tolerant of others and the journey that they’re on.

      • Thank you Shola.. I do have empathy. That is one thing I have a strong skill in and am told that often by others; when helping people. I do keep myself ‘in check’ with that empathy.. it is that underlying fear that grabs a hold of me.. giving me those negative judging thoughts; therefore have to maintain. When I posted my response to this entry, I shared it with my mom. She has gently brought it to my attention that I have acted ‘judgmental’ with my talking to her of my observations.. etc. I am very honest and open with mom, as she is with me. There was power in revealing to her, after writing here and realizing why I was being judgmental towards them being heavy. I do remember and that is what scares me. I was so unhappy not being able to navigate that heavy body and all the health issues as a result of not taking care of my health.. turning to food addiction instead. Now that I am so healthy and thriving with true happiness, I am so scared it will be gone again. But, empathy.. yes.. that is what I need to turn towards when I feel negative towards others. I just had that thought towards two of the coworkers a few minutes ago (quite heavy I might add) that have bullied me so terribly this past year for becoming healthy. I know, I know.. understand they feel powerless to stop their bad habits and get healthy. I know they have to decide when they are ready and not me. I try to encourage gently, but they respond so awful towards me.. gave up months ago! Well.. I guess I will hang in there and keep trying to be positive.. even when I feel that negative though process coming on!

  2. Kristen Quinn says:

    Oh.. BTW.. tried to ‘edit’ my post.. but could not figure out how.. so add here. When I do see a heavy person eating something healthy, or out exercising.. my thoughts are ‘rock on! You can do it.. etc’.. It is always positive. In fact, I saw a very large woman out walking with hand weights.. a few months ago. She had a big smile on her face and looked happy she was taking care of her. I smiled at her. But then I looked at her feet and her shoes were in terrible shape. I knew she needed new shoes to take care of her body in getting healthy. I prayed she wore a sized 10 shoe. The reason? Because I had two great, newer pair of sneakers I cannot wear due to running now. I had to get bigger shoes for my toe box for my foot strike, because otherwise my toes get sore when I go for good run. Anyways, parked my car and went up to her to ask her what sized shoe she wore.. she told me 10 and I got so excited offering her my two pair of new sneakers I could not use. She cried happy tears and they fit her perfect! I know I shared a story here.. but it goes to show.. my ‘judging’ stems from inner fear of myself being unhealthy again. So, wanted to back up my last post to show that I am not judging of heaviness so to speak, but issues that cause the issue or continues the issue…

  3. Thanks Shola for a great post! I too have committed to remaining curious and through my actions show my children how powerful curiosity can be!

  4. Happy Labor Day Shola! Yes, I have the day off, and am chilling out today with the hubby. I did indulge years ago in non-stop judgement of every person I laid eyes on. And you’re right on, it was all about where I was at. Just entering adulthood, recovering an abusive, violent childhood, thrown into the adult world with no preparation. Everyone who was happy, successful. good-looking, in love, etc. I judged them harshly and hated them all, mainly because I could not figure out how in the heck I would ever get from where I was at to where they were at. I judged them all as terribly insensitive to me, to so obviously enjoy life when there I was, little misery-guts, in their midst, and no one would rescue me. Well, I was very young, otherwise I have no excuse. Looking back, now I feel so sorry for anyone who had to be around me, especially at work! Now I am grateful. None of them judged me. Everyone was kind and patient, and gave me room to grow. When I look back on things that they said to me, I do see they consistently gave me positive pointers and gentle advice, which did sink in over time. Those people I judged to be assholes were actually so kind, so loving, and in my judgement, I couldn’t see what was really happening. Maybe that’s another lesson about judgement. It is not only unfair to the one being judged, but it blinds the judge to the truth, and blocks out any useful learning and growth. Thank you Shola, now take the rest of the day off!

    • Oh Donna, I can completely relate to your comment! For me, my harsh judgment mainly revolved around people with money. I thought all of them were self-centered, greedy, snobs who only cared about themselves. And as you said so perfectly, I felt so hateful toward them because I could not figure out how I could go from where I was (broke and miserable) to where they were (rich and happy.) When you added your lesson about judgment, that hit home so hard: Judgment is no only unfair to the one being judged, but it blinds the judge to the truth. Damn, that is SO true! How many times I have judged people based on incomplete information, only to be completely wrong once I did end up getting the full story? Thanks for that gem, Donna!

      P.S. After I wrote the blog post, I did follow your order and took the rest of the day off! 🙂

  5. Kathleen Carey says:

    Shola,

    You are so right, I’ve noticed many times when people criticize certain behaviors, it is something they do themselves. Somehow they don’t recognize it in themselves. Working in retail I’ve seen all kinds, those who understand I’m doing the best I can under sometimes difficult situations and others who just get angry. I try really hard not to judge their behavior and understand the situation from their perspective. As you said, most judgements are based on incomplete information – I don’t fully know why they are angry and maybe they don’t know themselves. I just try to lighten them up. Believe me I’m not always successful stopping myself from making judgements, but I try. Hopefully a lot of people will read this post and benefit from the message.
    Kat

    • Kat, as a former retail employee myself, I can relate to hard it can be (if not, impossible) to refrain from judgment when dealing with the horrific rudeness that retail employees are subjected to on a near-daily basis. Having the emotional maturity to look at that rudeness and even attempt to be curious about where it may be coming from says a lot about the type of woman you are. Also, please know that I even though I wrote this blog post, I judge people (sometimes, harshly) pretty often. My goal each day is to notice when I do it, and then make the conscious shift to being curious. It isn’t always easy, but I’ll still keep trying. Thanks for your comment!

  6. Carrie-Lee Hurzeler says:

    I admit I am horribly judgmental. Another reason some people judge is because it is a “I am going to get them before they get me” mentality. I grew up in a very unstable environment and I grew up not trusting anyone (not even my immediate family). I have a tendency to try to peg people so that I feel like I already know what I am getting into when dealing with them. If that makes sense. It hasn’t done me any good so that is why I appreciate these posts so much, they give me hope that slowly but surely even I can change.

    • Carrie-Lee, I completely understand! I’ve been there too, and any meaningful change first starts with awareness–and you’ve already got that one covered! 🙂 I don’t think that being judgment-free is realistic, but I do believe that we can take the edge off of our judgments by trying to be a little more curious about others’ actions and behavior. I’m thrilled to hear that these blog posts have been helpful!

  7. I agree with you that to be totally non judgemental ever is basically impossible. But I strive each day to not judge myself and others harshly. I think that once you consciously strive to demonstrate kindness and unconditional self love it makes it that much easier to show kindness and unconditional love to
    others. So I would say the fact that you flashed a kind smile to that lady you have been being kind to yourself 😉

    • I’m so glad that you added that, PhillyL. I didn’t spend a lot of time in this post addressing the dangers of judging ourselves harshly, and that is such an important issue. And you’re right–once you demonstrate kindness to yourself, it makes it that much easier to give that kindness to others 🙂

  8. I used to be the queen of judging others, until I found myself on the receiving end of that. It does not feel good and it’s unnecessary. Now, I try to catch myself and pull back. And I ask myself sometimes, what would make another person behave as they do and I try very hard to do that without judging them for the behavior. Thanks for sharing and helping make the world better… one blog post at a time!

    • That’s what it’s all about, Lisa! Sometimes it takes being on the receiving end of harsh judgment to make us realize that we would never want to purposely inflict that type of pain on anyone else. Just like you, I strive to catch myself and pull back–and I know that it will be a battle that I’ll be fighting for the rest of my life. Thanks for the kind words about the blog, my friend!

  9. The people who cause me the most stress/struggle are mean people. But like you, instead of condemning them or judging them, I have tried hard to seek to understand why they are so mean. And if that is not possible, I make up a story in my head that keeps me from judging… perhaps they were abused; perhaps someone they love just passed away; or maybe they just got fired. Whether or not these stories are true is not relevant. It simply allows me to move on and let go my objection to their behavior!

    Keeping it positive thanks you to, Shola! Hope you had a happy Labor Day!

    kathy

    • Hi Kathy,
      I am very similar to you. The people who cause me the most stress are mean people. As for judging them, when I notice that they are being mean, I do judge them, I think to myself, ‘they are so mean’. Sometimes, I can roll with it and say, well they are just having a bad day’ but admittedly, most of the time, I wonder how in the world were they raised to think that what they are doing is anywhere near socially acceptable. Thankfully, in these situations, I am able to walk away and keep my judgements to myself. At least that is a step in the right direction.

      • Sara, I’m right there with you, my friend. Like I said to Kathy, that is also my weakness. For example, I’ll never understand what would cause a person to curse out a cashier because the cashier wouldn’t honor her expired coupon (I saw this happen last year.) When I see people acting in ways that aren’t socially acceptable under any circumstances, I already know that I’m going to judge them for it. But now I’m able to add the second step of attempting to be curious about what would cause them to act that way. And if I fail, then I do what you said and walk away and keep my judgments to myself. At least that allows me to stay peaceful (and sane :))

    • Kathy, I have to admit that these days, mean and rude people are my weakness when it comes to judgment. When I see people treat other people rudely, the judgments come into my mind fast and furious: “what an ass!”, “I can’t believe that this idiot had the nerve to…”, or “Wow, this might be the biggest jerk that I’ve ever seen in my life!” This is a huge challenge for me, and to be able to go to a place of curiosity when dealing with rudeness isn’t always easy. I really like the idea about making up a story to keep me from judging others, and that’s an idea that I’m going to steal from you, if you don’t mind :). I hope that you had a great Labor Day!

  10. It’s a fine line between using good judgment and being judgmental, isn’t it? I’m working on that. There was a time when I’d become friends with those “mean girls” at the gym, or at least try to be accepted enough not to be the brunt of their meanness. It never works. Eventually I’d find out they do it to everyone — including me and most likely including each other. Or worse, I’d end up going along with their snarking and then feel horrible about myself afterward. Now I’d treat them like a toxic waste site and avoid being anywhere near them (smiling politely all the while).

    I have friends who call me judgmental for that. Maybe they’re right. But I can’t fix the “mean girls,” or go back in time and fix what made them that way. What I do have control over is myself, how behave, and how I choose to spend my time. Like I said, it’s a work in progress.

    • That is so true, Maria! There is a very fine line between using good judgment and being judgmental. Good for you for not wasting your time trying to gain acceptance from the mean girls at the gym! Like you said brilliantly, just act like they’re a toxic waste site and move on (I might have to steal that “toxic waste site” comment, by the way ;)). Also, I have to say that your friends are wrong to call you judgmental for doing that–that’s a perfect example of using good judgment, in my opinion. It’s a fine line for sure, but choosing to avoid people who aren’t nice makes complete sense to me.

  11. I’m reminded of a French saying: ce que je n’aime pas dans les autres, c’est moi meme. (Spelling might be a bit off.) What I don’t like in others is myself. I’ve been increasingly aware of my judgmental streak and when the voice starts, purposefully halting and asking what’s the real issue. I’m becoming particularly sensitive to women slashing at other women and wondering if the, to quote Blondie, Rip Her to Shreds mentality is societally acceptable as it keeps women busy dividing and hating each other instead of uniting and challenging the status quo.
    PS Loved the retreat.

    • Nice! Je parle francais, aussi! (Okay, that’s all the French that I know ;)). That is such a great quote and it is SO true. We all have a judgmental streak, and the key is to become aware of it, and ideally ask what is the real issue behind the judgment. Yes, there is definitely a culture of women tearing down other women, and the best way to combat against it is to not participate in it (which can be hard to resist, at times.)

      Also, thanks for the kind words about the retreat! But since all I have are the initials “mbcc”, I don’t know who you are–if our paths cross again, please make sure to say hi!

  12. Well said, Shola!
    People can be cruel, mean, and downright rude. They will do anything they can do to make themselves out to be better than someone else. I had two aunts get into an altercation recently because of this. One did the Ice Bucket Challenge, and the other thought her cause was more worth fighting for. As an outsider, I listened to the two of them try to “one up” the other. It started out as judgment for this, and then ended up spilling into judgment for every other aspect of life. The worst part is all of the dirty laundry was aired on Facebook.

    People don’t realize that their little judgments eventually make them look like fools. Every time you point your finger at someone else, there are three more pointing back at you.

    I have to leave you with a couple quotes. Can’t comment without them!

    “The least amount of judging we can do, the better off we are.” ~Michael J. Fox

    “Who are you to judge the life I live? I know I’m not perfect and I don’t live to be. But before you start pointing fingers, make sure your hands are clean.” ~Bob Marley

    • Valisa, isn’t that the truth? Facebook can be such an ugly place for judgment, and I see it there all the time. If people would just realize the simplicity (and power) behind your statement, the world would positively change in an instant: “Every time you point your finger at someone else, there are three more pointing back at you.”

      Also, as usual, you came strong with the quotes! You will forever be my Quote Queen!

  13. Hi Shola,
    I love your positivity and the insight you bring to the table. I often wonder if it is a deep down mechanisim that provokes these nasty people to be that insecure to try and i emphasize TRY to use emotions as a steam to get other people to follow their meanness. When I see someone being mean and hateful to someone or directly to me. It definitely is a turn off. I simply walk away. No need to be around negative auroas. Keep holding your head high what you are doing is a good thing.

  14. Enjoyed this read. In all honesty I was looking for info on how to deal with judgemental people. But when I started reading this it made me reflect on my self. I really try not to be judgmental but I catch myself doing some of the things on here. I also catch myself being curious to why people act the way they do. Am I wrong to want to limit my interaction with these self loved and judgmental people?

  15. Thank you for your sharing this info on judging others. I have been guilty of this quite often. As I get older it seems to get worse because I think I know everything(haha). I live in an affluent neighborhood where most of the people are quite fit, dress nicely and have expensive houses and cars. It can be easy to get caught up in that trap along with everyone. Another lesson I’ve learned is we must look in the heart and not the outside of someone. The folks that I am surrounded by are also extremely competitive. This is passed down to their children and it can be a very sad situation. Sporting events out here have become almost comical. Anyway, thanks for your wise words and I really appreciate your example of the lady in the gym. I will try to remember that the next time I try to judge someone.

  16. Connie McLaughlin says:

    What a helpful blog entry. Thank you. I have sensed insecurity in myself in the form of judging and went looking for a blog that might address it. The part about being curious was so helpful. It seems like it would allow empathy to maybe take the place of the judgement. I’m trying this! Thank you.

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