When you judge others, you divide the world into two sides: the good side and the bad side.
On the good side, you have the people with similar values to you, whereas on the bad side, there’s all the people’s whose behaviour you condemn.
Just like a judge in court has the power to put the ‘bad guys’ behind bars, you can let people into or cut them out of your life.
Most of the time, this is a decision that you make subconsciously – and it helps you simplify reality and attract those experiences into your life that resonate with your value system.
For example, if you decide that Tony is a bad guy because he smokes, while Charles is cool because he and you share a passion for skateboarding, that can help you strengthen your friendship with Charles.
But what do you do – when you’re surrounded by people or circumstances you dislike, with no immediate way of escape?
In these situations, judging others is like a toxin. It makes you feel upset, hopeless and desperate.
You get trapped in a cycle of negativity
When you judge an experience as bad, it’s super easy to get caught in the victim mindset.
You can see this when a girl you know has broken up with their boyfriend.
Instead of being honest, the girl often wallows in self-pity, blames her boyfriend for the break-up and feels super bad for herself. She might even say:
- “Why did he do this to me? I don’t deserve to be treated like this.”
- “I feel so lonely.”
- “It’s just not right. He was such a mean bloke, and never really cared about me.”
It’s fine to be upset. But when you dwell on these feelings for weeks or even months, you deny yourself the chance to learn from past mistakes. For example, if the relationship ended because the girl felt her boyfriend wasn’t mature enough, she could ask what attracts her to immature guys.
Maybe she feels uncomfortable in an equal relationship and prefers to take on a motherly role, doing all the chores and pampering the guy. Or perhaps she’s scared of being around a strong, dominant guy, and feels better around feeble and immature partners.
Once she has uncovered the reason behind her subconscious choice, she can learn from the experience and adjust future decisions accordingly. The key thing here is to acknowledge the upsides of each ‘bad’ experience and be okay with both sides of the coin – good and bad.
For example, if you got laid off for underperforming and missing targets at work, you can use that feedback to explore new avenues, and considers careers that you might have otherwise never thought about.
In fact, one of my friends from university was rejected for internships with countless investment banks. But when she stepped back from the applications and reflected on her values, she realised she’d be much happier working in the IT space.
That’s why I like to think that our biggest failures can redirect us to much healthier and more pleasant paths.
Secret tip: Embrace reality instead of judging it
I could complain all day long about the coronavirus restrictions and the challenges they bring to my life. But getting mad at decision-makers and politicians doesn’t help – it only makes you more miserable. Therefore, I try to proactively explore new paths, and step outside my comfort zone.
For example, I probably won’t be able to return the UK for my final year in September. It’s no use complaining about this, and feeling sad that I can’t graduate with my friends. Instead, I try to focus on getting a job, becoming financially independent and making new friends at work.
And when I get too caught up in judging other people’s actions and beliefs, I like to tell myself:
All people are free to believe whatever they want. And I can choose whether I give their beliefs meaning, or not.
All people can say and do whatever they want. I choose how I wish to respond to their actions, but I know that their actions are their choice.
Whatever happens to me, I know it will be okay. I have the strength to deal with any challenge, and I know that life is full of valuable lessons: I invite and embrace each lesson, feeling and experience into my life.
You escape your own demons – until they catch up with you
As you know, it’s much easier to criticise others than to admit our own shortcomings. Or to uncover why their choices rub us the wrong way.
Judging people and calling them names helps us deny responsibility and shift the blame to the so-called bad guys.
And the media and politicians love doing this. They portray all sorts of communities in a bad light: supporters of the political, ‘white supremacists’, anti-vaxxers, Russians, etc.
It doesn’t matter who the enemy is, so long as you have an enemy in the outside world, you don’t need to look at the enemy inside.
Now you might ask: well, then what is the enemy?
And the answer is simple – it’s the thoughts and emotions that you’ve banished inside. The beliefs that stop you from living your life the way you want it.
It’s the fear, anger and hate that you blame on others, the failures you don’t want to acknowledge.
It’s easy to blame the politicians for imposing rules that hurt your business and your relationships. But can you own the circumstances, look your fears in the eye, and choose a new way forward?
Because even after long periods of self-denial and outside judgement, the world will catch up with you. You will need to see the hurtful spots that you’ve tried to cover up for years.
To pre-empt this, allow yourself to feel the pain and own your actions from the outset. As Carl Jung said, we criticise in others that which we hate most about ourselves. So when you catch yourself ranting about circumstances or trying to shift the blame, take a moment to reflect:
- How did your actions contribute to where you are now?
- What bothers you, and what can you do to make the situation better?
- Why do you think the situation is bad? And how might you interpret it more favourably?