The more we judge others, the more we judge ourselves

Photo by Daniele D’Andreti on Unsplash

We judge people. What clothes they wear, what job they do, how much sugar they put in their tea.

Judgment comes from an upbringing in society which puts moral values on what is right and wrong. Our parents, teachers and institutions around us want us to decide the right choices to become the right sort of people.

Whilst well-intentioned, these moral values are generally placed upon us, rather than formed by us as individuals. We learn from our families that going to university is a correct path, whilst dropping out is a failure. An engineer is a prestigious career, but a plumber is a dead-end. Marriage and kids is the right choice, living single is the wrong one.

But we are now adults. The moral standards that were placed upon us as children no longer need to govern our lives. And yet, they regularly do without us even thinking. The first time I saw someone with tattoos I thought ‘that’s a bad thing to do for their skin’, because the moral code I grew up in dictated so. It is only now that I have chosen to question this messaging. I wonder whether the narrow parameters I learnt growing up fit in a complex, diverse and disorderly world.

Now, questioning fundamental beliefs is no easy task. It requires us to separate the things that we find pushed upon us and what we really think. And often there is no clear distinction between the two – what we believe is influenced by what we see. Nonetheless, it is something that will give us true value and allow us to enrich our lives greatly if we do so.

I recently realised that my life is based upon judgments I make on others. Furthermore, the more I use this outdated moral code from my past, the more I reinforce it and feel guilty about my own life.

Let’s put this in an example. I lived in a large family home when younger. This was to the point where I felt uncomfortable with the idea we brandished our wealth in such a carefree, bordering on flashy way. I recall a comment from a friend about how it is bad to be rich and rich people are dislikable. From this framing, I would therefore judge my own family and the way we lived as something that was wrong.

Fast forward to today, this came up when speaking to my coach around the fact I’ve moved to a bigger apartment. A sense of guilt came up that I did not deserve the space I was inhabiting. The silly thing is that I hardly have moved into a mansion, but now have different rooms for different activities (i.e. a space I can actually use as an office rather than co-opting the kitchen table!). By pretty much anyone’s standards, what I was doing is very reasonable. Yet my own judgment based upon an internalised moral code from my youth was making me feel guilty.

Fortunately, there is a way forward. The first step is an acceptance of others and how they want to live life. This is a message we inherently know, but do not always practice. Under stress, we are pushed to be critical, and make outcomes happen quickly. Our responses can therefore often come through as judgy or opinionated without us realising, making people feel uncomfortable being honest with us.

But I also think there is a greater step. We can decide to reshape how we view the world, and how we live by our own values. We can do this by understanding that something like the idea of judgment, or indeed anything in life itself, is a subjective creation that is based upon concepts we build in our own head.

I believe the truest way to return to being is to separate our existence from the lens of what we believe in our heads, and what we truly are as part of a collective. Our focus upon what is right for ‘me’ and the insistence of looking at the world based upon what we as individuals want brings a disproportionate attention to our thinking and beliefs, compared to us as humans in a part of an ecosystem and part of something greater than ourselves.

There is more to life than what we think and believe. We are but one individual out of 7 billion, in a whole universe around us of life and creatures. I do not mean this in a negative, or disparaging way. Rather, I see this as extremely liberating. We can live life through the lens of what is good as a whole, and what role we can play in serving society. Through this lens, the focus upon judgment of others and what we spend too much time thinking about melts away.

Now, I’ll take a guess at what you might be thinking – that I had you with the being less judgy bit, but what the hell am I on about with all this existential stuff? I realise this may sound somewhat crazy, particularly if you’ve never heard the idea before. But bear with me here! I truly believe in what I am saying, and I believe it will greatly enrich you as a reader by understanding what I am saying.

I want to highlight to you that what we think and believe does not define who we are.

What you think and believe does not define who you are. You are a whole, loving being capable of amazing things. The over-focus on thoughts and judgment cloud you from seeing this.

Moving away from judgment, or any other negative belief or thought we have is best served by realising we are part of a greater collective. If we can shift our thoughts and beliefs from what others are doing wrong to how we can serve others, amazing things will follow.

I’d love to hear what you think, particularly around the idea of moving away from our personal identities!

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