Why do We Judge, and How do We Stop

In a culture where everyone’s life is broadcasted through social media, it’s only a matter of time when a picture you post is harshly judged or you’re the one making a rash judgment call. Even in the absence of social media, dealing with judgement is a personal skill one needs to learn at an early age to make it out alive without a tarnished self-image. And what is up with that anyway? Why do we judge others and how does that affect us? Let’s first clarify what judgement is. Judgment is a formed opinion, not truth or fact. We’re not talking about the wise and prudent form of good judgement that one needs when choosing a trustworthy friend. This is the kind of judgement that feel less like a simply stated opinion and more like a knife through the heart. So why do people do it?

The first and most popular reason is pure jealousy. Have you ever been consoled by a friend who said, “Don’t even concern yourself with her, she’s just jealous,” after you were the target of a nasty comment? Your friend may have been right. People can become resentful against someone because of that person’s success, advantages, happiness, relationships, etc. This isn’t so hard to understand when our eyes are constantly looking at the highlights of people’s lives on social media feeds. When someone else has what we desperately want, such as a dream job or a loving significant other, it feels unfair. Bitterness starts to take the wheel of our emotions as we begin to compare our lives to everyone around us. When you dig a little deeper, jealousy has a pretty sad undertone that explains why we judge a bit bitter.

The following and more in-depth reasons are insecurity and dissatisfaction. Judgement altogether can evolve into a vicious cycle because an individual can develop insecurities as a result of another person’s judgement. For many people, their parents or caregivers where the ones to instill feelings of dissatisfaction with self-image because of constant nitpicking and hurtful comments. Feelings of not being good enough are emotionally tough to work through, especially when everyone’s life visually looks better. It’s not good logic, but it sometimes seems like tearing others down makes us feel a little better in life. As the saying goes, hurting people hurt people, unfortunately. In moments like these, it’s important to remember that everyone’s life story is different. Mark Twain was quoted saying, “Comparison is the death of joy.” Once people begin to compare their own lives to those around them, the joy of the moment is stolen. It takes a radical change in perspective to accept the beauty of your own journey and celebrate the journey of others.

The next time you feel yourself drifting into the judgement zone, ask yourself these questions:

1. Is my judgment coming from a place of personal insecurity? Stopping to evaluate the areas where you may feel insecure and vulnerable is painful, but tremendously beneficial. It's difficult to form healthy relationships with other people if you feel bothered or uncomfortable with another person's happiness, success, victories, etc.

2. Am I frustrated or dissatisfied with a specific area of my life? Dissatisfaction can be a great thing if it is used as a catalyst for growth and change. On the other hand, if not dealt with properly, it can produce a deep sense of anger, sadness, and/or anxiety that can wreck your life and everyone's life around you.

3. Do I know what's it is like to be this individual? The common practice of putting yourself in another person's shoes creates a sense of empathy and understanding. Much of the time, we have absolutely no idea what someone else struggles with, even if their outward appearance is covered with smiles and happiness. If we knew what people had been through, we would not be so quick to judge.

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