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  • Writer's pictureMartin Stepek

Keeping our Judgements under Control

Updated: Sep 26, 2023

My automatic mind is incredibly judgemental. Incredibly, in two ways.

It judges all through the day.

And it judges very harshly.

When we watch Strictly Come Dancing on television the mind judges the costumes, the dance movements, the choreography, even – maybe even especially – the judges comments.

When we look outside we judge the weather – “lovely”, “miserable”

We judge people’s hairstyles or hair cuts, and we judge their clothes.

Some people judge others by their height – tall, small; or their weight – fat, skinny; or how they look in terms of age – “young for their age”, “looks much older than what she is”.

More disturbingly our societies, or our neighbourhoods, even our families, teach us to judge people by their gender, their skin colour, their faith or lack of it, their sexuality.

In short we are full of critical and judgemental impulses, ready to spring out in a split second.

Notice that we are not anything like as ready to praise, to applaud, to compliment.

What are the consequences of our constant judging?

It reinforces the negative habit, making us more likely to be judgemental in future, and possibly, more harshly at that.

It reinforces the wider natural tendency we have to be negative about life in general.

If the person we judge hears – or reads, which is commonly the case with famous people in the media - what we say, they will probably have a negative reaction. Even those who say they are thick-skinned or “it’s water off a duck’s back” are protecting themselves from the deeper upset that they feel. In other words, being judged or criticised makes some people build an armour around them, and pretend that they are not hurt by something, but deep down inside criticism gnaws away at such people, as it does with everyone else.

Therefore one consequence of judging others is that we hurt their feelings unnecessarily.

So in summary we strengthen our own negativity, making us feel worse about life, and we potentially hurt others. Not exactly a great set of results.

But what can we do about this negative and usually unpleasant habit?

  • Notice it as and when it arises.

  • Don’t get caught up in it, but rather just accept it is there.

  • Smile at the absurdity of such judgements coming up in your mind without your permission.

  • Then gently take your attention to something else, maybe even something positive about the person or thing your mind has just been critical about.

This is really hard work. We are most definitely hard-wired to judge and criticise. But work at it – you’ll have plenty of opportunities, believe me!

One final observation. We are programmed to think our opinions are always right. But that is the case for everyone, and we can’t all be right. Consider the recent U.S. Presidential Election. The two main candidates got nearly the same number of votes, and both sets of supporters felt their guy was the better candidate, and the other candidate unfit to lead the country. It’s the same with almost everything we judge. One person can like a jacket they see in a shop at the very same moment as another shopper is walking past it thinking, “that’s horrible”. Some people like certain types of music, others hate it.

It’s all right to have personal preferences but just be careful you don’t develop these from a personal preference to a wider view that everyone should agree with your preferences; and where serious differences exist, try to be respectful and tolerant of views and opinions that are not the same as yours.

As I said earlier, this is hard, but working at it, we can learn to keep the harsh, judgemental habit firmly in its box inside our mind.

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