We live in a judgmental world. It is a fact. Just turn on the TV or check your social media feed and you will find the views of others displayed before you like an all you can eat buffet. Opinions on politics, world events, climate change, health directives and more, await your consumption.
Whether we care to admit it or not, we all have judgmental thoughts. From the time we wake up in the morning until we close our eyes at night, our thoughts are filled with opinions, values, and judgements on what is right or wrong, based on our own morals and beliefs.
We judge the simplest of things without cognizance …. “I look fat in this outfit”…” That jogger should be wearing reflective clothing” … “That person is driving like an idiot” … “Karen’s Facebook post is inappropriate” … “John talks too much”. You get the idea.
We make a judgement every time we decide something is right or wrong, good or bad, should happen or should not happen. We even make snap judgements about people we don’t even know, based solely on the way they look, act, or speak.
Think about your day so far - what judgements have you made in just the last 4 hours?
You might even be judging yourself, at this very moment, wondering if you are a bad person because you have so many judgmental thoughts?! LOL! Don’t worry, you’re probably not! 😉
It is our nature to make judgements and they are necessary. We rely on our own good judgement, and the good judgement of others, to keep us safe – physically, mentally, and emotionally. Good and necessary judgements are made by using our instinct, knowledge, and intuition to discern legitimacy, assess risk, and make intelligent decisions.
HCBH Clinical Director, Tiffany Hogue explains,
“There are benefits of judgements. Sometimes they can keep us safe, and some say that they exist to keep us safe. In history, if a tribe member is going against tribe beliefs or putting the tribe in danger, judgements were made and that person was exiled- which, in turn, kept everyone safe and alive. Also, in today's world, there is a place for judgement (and judges) on right versus wrong. The problem exists when these judgements are not factual and/or not necessary. The example I share with clients often is- Let's say you are walking down a dark alley at night and see someone you label as "sketchy looking" so you get out of that situation, that may have kept you out of danger and is healthy at that time. However, judging Karen for her Facebook post is not a threat to you in any way and it just causes more stress for you, people around you and Karen if you decide to say something.”
The negative feelings and actions that can result from unnecessary judgement can have a significant impact on our psychological well-being. In fact, studies have shown that unnecessary judgement increases levels of stress, anxiety, and feelings of depression. Fortunately, we can learn to control our thoughts and actions, and thus our judgements, through practicing awareness, acceptance, and mindfulness.
Adopting a non-judgmental response to your own thoughts and feelings is not always an easy task, so when judgmental thoughts creep up, remember to….
Reflect on your own state of mind. Our judgements are often a projection of our own fears and insecurities, so reflect on your current state of mind to determine if your thought was an emotional response to a personal trigger. You may be surprised to find how many times this is the case.
Question your thoughts. Your thought is not a fact - just because you think it does not make it true. Ask yourself why you are making this judgement and if it is valid and fair. You may find that your thought was influenced by someone else’s opinion or belief.
Be curious. Rather than making a snap judgement about someone, ask questions to try to understand them. Put yourself in their shoes for a moment and try to imagine the circumstances that may have led them to be the way that they are.
Adopt an attitude of tolerance. Not everyone will be your cup of tea and that is OK! And, goodness knows, we will never all agree! Decide to accept others as they are, by respecting your differences and acknowledging that their personal experiences, values, and beliefs are valid.
Practice empathy. We can never truly know what another person is going through. Before judging the actions of another, remember that most people are just doing the best they can. There may be a reason for their off-putting behavior.
Making a conscious effort to control unnecessary judgement is a noble endeavor and a marked achievement in personal growth. It will also help you to curb feelings of stress, anxiety and depression, contributing to your overall mental health. It’s a win, win! However, do not be blinded to this effort. Remember why we have judgement in the first place - listen your intuition and use your instinct and good sense to keep yourself and those around you safe and well.