“We judge people in areas where we’re vulnerable to shame, especially picking folks who are doing worse than we’re doing. If I feel good about my parenting, I have no interest in judging other people’s choices. If I feel good about my body, I don’t go around making fun of other people’s weight or appearance. We’re hard on each other because we’re using each other as a launching pad out of our own perceived deficiency.”
My own personal journey of letting go of judgement is an ongoing and evolving process. If I’m being completely honest, I have certainly been guilty of passing judgment on others in the past and it is something I continue to work on. I have come to realize that my judgment of others is less about them and more about myself and my insecurities and feelings of lack in my own life.
The first step for me has been learning to love and accept myself- including all of my wonderful and not-so-wonderful bits and pieces. It’s easy to pat myself on the back for my efforts in the kitchen and the recent strides in my career and much trickier to embrace my belly that’s still jiggly 3 years after my last baby was born or my tendency to flip out and lose my cool with my kids. But I’m much more likely to be kinder and gentler to those around me if I can be kind and gentle with myself.
Here are a few other things that help me on my journey towards becoming less judgemental:
1. Pause, take a deep breath and look inward. When a jugdgy thought pops into my head (“how can that mom berate her child in the grocery store?”, “why is that 13-year old smoking?” “what kind of parent feeds their children such crappy food?”) – I catch myself as quickly as I can and simply take a deep breath. If the thought persists, I make a note of it and when I have a quiet moment I reflect on the judgment and how it may mirror my own fears and insecurities.
2. Reframe. I first learned this strategy from Dr. Stephen R. Covey and the chapter on “paradigm shifts” in his Seven Habits book. If I see a person who I’m tempted to judge – I’ll rewrite the negative script that starts unfolding in my head and change their story in my mind. For example, that goth-looking teenager with multiple piercings might be a lonely child dealing with the devastating death of a parent or the man freaking out on his kid at the playground may have just lost his job. This is not to excuse or ignore bad behavior but only to free my mind from judgment and to look at situations in new ways. It also allows me to approach people with more genuine compassion.
3. Be cautious of stereotypes (especially those perpetuated in the media). My 12-year-old son recently told me that he doesn’t want to become a teenager because “all teenagers do drugs, drink and get into trouble.” Pretty harsh! We are constantly bombarded by media images that portray individuals and groups in very stereotypical ways. There are bombshell women, housewives, businessmen, nerds, jocks, musicians, gangsters, terrorists (and on and on)- and each one calls to mind a particular person with a certain way of behaving in the world. Repeated exposure to these very warped and limited depictions of human beings can be very damaging- especially for children. I had a long chat with my son about the amazing and positive things teenagers are doing in the world (thank you Kielburgers!) and I reminded him to do his own research before buying into an image put forth in the media.
4. Read, research, listen and learn about others. If you are feeling judgemental about a particular person or group, it can help to dig a little deeper and learn more about their particular story or set of beliefs. This could mean taking the time to chat with a new person or doing some research in the library or on the internet. This has come in very handy recently in my own family when we’ve been curious about different religious groups, political figures, celebrities and even sharks!
5. Find a role model. I am fortunate to be married to one of the least judgemental people I’ve ever met. As long as I’ve known him, my husband has been very accepting of all people and always makes friends easily and often. When I feel the urge to stand in judgment of someone else, it can really help to chat with him and get his perspective on the situation. I encourage you to seek out a non-judgemental person in your own life who can act as a sounding board and mentor when those judgemental inclinations pop up.
As a mom, I am particularly aware of the example I set for my children and I strive to model both self-acceptance and acceptance of others. At the end of the day, we all would benefit from spending less time judging and more time becoming kinder and more loving towards ourselves and each other…..jiggly bellies and all.