I am no stranger to judgment. In fact, I’ve celebrated a lifelong relationship with its scorn. I am a woman who is undeniably fluffy. Curvy, plus sized, what have you. I am an easy target for disapproving glares and outright comments.
Being brought up in a world that could be so unkind to my mere existence had polarizing effects on me. Sometimes it made me infinitely more compassionate, capable of recognizing the struggles of others. Other times it made me more susceptible to the ugliness. To providing it.
If I was fair game. Why couldn’t I contribute to the onslaught of rude comments and rash judgmental? What did I owe anyone? It’s not a version of myself I am proud of. But denying its existence isn’t fair to my story. The reality is that no one is perfect. Our journeys teach us how to extend compassion to others and forgiveness to ourselves.
But it teaches us something else, too. We will never be fully immune to judgment. The initial reaction we have to a man touting a brightly colored wig and dog suit handing out hotdogs at the local park might always be shock accompanied by laughter.
I use this example because that’s typically what you get out of these discussions — obnoxious, wildly impractical scenarios that play out and are worthy of our reaction.
Yes, sometimes a situation will be so outlandish that we are incapable of not reacting, of not judging. It happens. But to have the conversation end there, or worse, using it to excuse whatever slew of daily judgment we dish out is fiendishly uncool.
Sure, we may be conditioned to react to difference with an almost instinctual judgment. But, anything that can be learned, can be unlearned. Our conditioning might have us initially readying mocking jokes or insults, but we have the power to shift that conversation. To address that reaction.
Why does seeing something that doesn’t reflect us process like an attack that we have to retaliate with our scorn? Why does anything need to be said? True or not, how does what we’re about to put out into the world stand to benefit it?
Sure, that sounds insanely cheesy, almost do-goody, but it’s true. It may not be the easiest conversation to have with ourselves, but it’s one worth having.
The idea that we have to exist in this dichotomy of complete non-judger or offensive jerk shielded by the defense of ‘free speech’ and humor is, frankly, bullshit. The fact that we aren’t perfect isn’t a reason to close ourselves off from the idea of growth.
We should at least entertain the notion of looking at people’s perspectives and seeing the world outside ourselves. At the very least, it’s more productive than darting glares at strangers.
We all have a Regina George lurking inside us, ready to puppeteer. Changing your thinking won’t be instant, it takes time. And in that frame, shut your mouth. Don’t voice the judgment. Don’t add to the pile.
You can’t control the fact that you may still find the ugliness lurking in an instinct in your mind, but you can ensure that it doesn’t escape your lips and ruin someone else’s day.
Besides becoming a more compassionate, understanding person, judging other people less in practice makes you happier. You spend considerably less time judging people and it leaves you open to actually liking them and maybe even learning from them.
Being judgmental is a nasty habit because it can make you combative. Everyone is a potential target that can’t escape your gaze. It’s taxing. It’s energy that you’re exhausting on something that even on your sassiest day, you know is negative.
What better things could your energy be focused towards? Being overly judgmental doesn’t add to your happiness, really. Making a conscious effort to relieve yourself of its shackles leaves you free to pursue things that do actually make you happy. Not being so consumed by your need to input disapproval of other people’s lives leaves you time to celebrate yours.
Think of the innocence you held as a child and how easy it was to make friends then, how cherished and genuine those relationships were. Can you honestly say a judgmental attitude opens you up to that same opportunity?
Maybe a lifelong friend is hiding under your fashion faux pas tweets or unadulterated biases, however superficial. Think of the rich social tapestry of friendships you had the potential to weave if it weren’t for your judgment that so easily dismissed people. More than friendship, everyone has something to teach you.
One of the consequences of your judgment is that it stifles the knowledge that lives and breathes around you.
Knowledge that is bodied in history, in educated and worldly people that may very well have the kindness to impart their wisdom if you weren’t so fixated on judging them for their perceived differences. It’s not only a matter of who, but what you’re missing out on.
Sure, change isn’t easy. Especially not when it’s on-trend to boast our ugliness. Snapchat unsuspecting strangers. When its commonplace to back talk friends and hold their names in our mouths like grenades.
The goal isn’t to be perfect. It’s to be conscious of our thoughts that become the words and actions that shape our lives. It’s to strive to have that reality defined, however imperfectly, by an openness and willingness to understand, rather than superficial judgments.