Today I'm exploring #judgment of others as it is a topic many of my clients ask for help with.
Little known fact: People actually become less judgmental of others as they become more self-compassionate!
Below are three common reasons we may judge others.
1. We don't know how to manage uncomfortable feelings.
What are we supposed to do when we feel uncomfortable feelings?
If you are like me, you probably didn't get much early training on how to deal with uncomfortable feelings.
Most of us just try to move away from them or get rid of them. Turns out that isn't generally a good recipe. One way we try to get rid of them is by shoving them down, and another way we do this is by acting them out.
Judging others or our selves is one way we act out our feelings when we don't have better-coping skills( better coping skills generally consist of being mindful and present with them). Some feelings that may manifest themselves as judgment are fear, sadness, loneliness or disgust.
Below are two relatable examples of how this occurs.
The airport example. A flight is canceled, due to weather, and you won't arrive at your destination on time.
The Traffic example. You are stuck in traffic and no one is going anywhere.
Usually, if you pay attention to how people behave in a traffic jam or in an airport, you can see a lot of judgment and blaming happening, and explore observe just how unhelpful it is.
What do people feel?
How do they react?
What happens around you and within you at the airport and in the traffic jam?
Who gets blamed or judged?
Who is to blame?
We feel out of control and afraid when things don't go as planned, and because we don't have the tools to deal with our emotions, we engage in blame and judgment of others ( and sometimes, ourselves). This is the normal way our minds work, but we can learn how to circumvent this process with some skill, and feel better in these situations.
Mindfulness practices with emotions can help with this. Becoming aware of thought patterns, emotions, and bodily reactions are key, I think. #RAIN is a great formula. Yoga, meditation, and other mindfulness practices can help immensely.
2. We expect people to be perfect.
Some people have " other perfectionism' which includes the expectation that others are perfect too! Some of us just have high expectations. People are flawed in every family, church, workplace, friend group, or neighborhood. I've learned not to expect perfection, when I do it causes me to be miserable, because people are fallible, just like me.
3. It makes us feel better about ourselves
Sometimes we judge others to avoid feeling bad. This isn't a reliable strategy. Feeding the idea of "I am better", "I am right and they are wrong", or propping up our sense of self in this way is not something that will lead to happiness. Self-compassion is such a fantastic skill to cultivate because we can hold ourselves accountable for mistakes and it doesn't matter. Everyone makes them, it's not a big deal, and we can forgive ourselves easily.
If self-righteousness is involved, it may be a clue that your judgment has this flavor. Additionally, you see a similar phenomenon when people throw each other "under the bus." Fear of getting caught, making a mistake, or some kind of retaliation when we have discovered ourselves as flawed is usually involved when this is the mechanism at play with this kind of judgment. Just paying attention can give us a clue as to what kind of judgment is happening.
How do you feel when you are judging others?
Is it a reliable strategy to feeling good about yourself?
Some times we will be focused on another's behavior that doesn't affect us and it can border on an almost obsessive quality. This looks like being preoccupied with something bad happening to someone else or some bad behavior they are engaging in. If we find ourselves in a rut like this I think reminding ourselves to STAY IN OUR OWN LANE can help.
Strategies that can help with judgment
Others have their own consequences
It may be helpful to remember others will have consequences for their behavior. For example, when someone arrives to work late every day, it isn't our business. It is their business. It may look like there are no consequences for their behavior, but every action has a consequence. It's a natural law.
Mindful observation of judging
I think it's helpful to pay careful mindful attention when we are working on a habitual pattern. Thinking and journaling about these questions below should help when judging.
What is the state of the mind when judging or criticizing?
Why is the mind intent on criticizing someone?
Is it a habit? What triggered it?
What came just before?
Is your mind peaceful and calm before, during, and after judging? If not what is the state of your mind?
Does it feel good before, during, and after judging? If not how does it feel?
What is the state of your body before, during, and after judging?
Particularly interesting to me is a quote I heard while studying judgment today, from Bhante Buddharkkhita.
"Your body is biofeedback"
He suggests that if we begin to track our body carefully when we are engaged in judgment our body relaxes when we are not engaged in judgment and tenses when we are. This should be clear evidence to us that it is a toxic, taxing, experience for us.
Other suggestions he makes for mindful strategies I'll be using this week:
Noting is the strategy of verbalizing what is occurring in our minds. It helps us to have distance and diffusion from your thoughts. So when the mind is engaged in judgment, simply state " judging" or " judging mind" to call attention to the fact that we see the phenomena occurring.
The sky mind.
Picture the mind as a blue sky, and the judgmental thoughts as clouds. You don't need to react to the thoughts and can practice the noting skill. Remind yourself that the judgment thoughts are temporary just like clouds, and the blue sky is underneath is a stable mind.
When we indulge and engage in the judgment of others we are feeding bias, fear, and insecurity in ourselves. These are weeds in the gardens of our minds. I want to cultivate happiness and joy there, don't you?
Some of these teachings I am crediting to Bhante Buddharkkhita.