Who will you still judge today?
I grew up performing under great stress — both for education and personal life. And I felt good about myself those days.
I learned how to keep up ‘high standards’, to achieve the highest possible quality of my work.
What I missed that I was feeding my ‘inner critic’.
When I grew up and navigated through a wider variety of life than presented in my childhood, I struggled to keep up to my impossible standards.
My inner critic grew louder.
This went on for years before I knew about my inner cheerleader.
Looking at scientific solutions in psychology, I realised a minor tip given to me, that became a major game-changer in my life. I went about testing it on friends, family, work, and even asked nearly 30 different people to try it out. It worked for them too.
The reason I used to be so worried about being judged by others is that I constantly used to judge others.
Most of these judgments were hidden under the illusion of ‘reaching for high standards’ in my life, my work, my relationship, and even minor things in daily life.
How did I do it
When you judge another, you do not define them — you define yourself. I read it somewhere. But didn’t understand the real meaning of it until I was determined to stop worrying about other people judging me.
It’s not that people stopped judging me after this. I stopped worrying about it instead.
It wasn’t easy. So I broke it down into the following steps:
- Caught myself judging someone. Here, I simply waited for the word ‘should’ applied to others. I knew that I ‘should’ avoid ‘should’s for myself but I was very happy applying it to others. The moment I had a ‘should’ phrase in my mind about someone else, I shut my mouth and made a note for myself.
- I told myself that I didn’t know the whole story behind how someone is behaving. Everyone has a background story and we only see a part of it (and that too with our own biases in perception). Since I don’t have all the information, I better refrain from judging. It helped me jumping to conclusions. And gave me a lot of mental bandwidth to think about the next step.
- I gave an alternative explanation (sometimes even if imaginary). In psychology, this is called reframing. I call it ‘alternative storytelling’! (Who wants jargons from psychology!). Let me share a silly, and simple example (most judgments are far more complicated, isn’t it?). If my friend is wearing the same shirt from the last two days, perhaps s/he has two of the same shirt or perhaps I missed some days in between. Why judge or jump to a conclusion? I don’t know what happened. And if I am too curious, why not ask?
- I replaced my earlier judgement with either the alternative story or a clarification. We judge when we don’t clarify — we just assumed instead. If my alternative story is not helping, why not just talk to my friend? And in the case of judging myself, why not self-talk to understand the real reasons? (The easiest person to cheat is myself, by the way.)
- I decided to slow down before I stopped. I didn’t want to stop judging altogether, but to build momentum by dropping a few judgments. Once I felt better, it helped me progress towards stopping judging altogether. It took a few months but what a relief! What freedom!
I started testing this out a few years ago.
This is what I achieved:
- My mind was clearer because all of a sudden I didn’t need to carry a load of information on how other people ‘should’ behave or how a situation ‘should’ be.
- I stopped (really felt as if it vanished) worrying about being judged — this felt very powerful to me, personally.
- I saved myself from unknowingly going into ‘micro versions’ of pity/victim mode. What I mean my micro versions is those little situations where you think you are not wallowing in your pity, they last for very short durations, and in general, you feel okay (not at all like a victim), but (a big but), a bunch of these micro self-pity moments adds up to a potentially big pity fest, without me realising. Once I caught these moments, reframed (told an alternative story), and replaced them in my mind, I felt so free!
- I stopped feeding my inner critic and recognised my inner cheerleader. I stopped judging myself harshly and replaced it with a correct version of feedback. Not judging myself doesn’t mean I had a free card for every mistake — what it meant is to balance the criticism with the effort and do something about it than wallow in self-pity or creative excuses.
- My self-esteem went upward — I felt strong.
- I am repeating this because it is so powerful — I FELT FREE!
Now, I didn’t want to tell this to others yet. But my friends and family saw a difference in me and asked me about it. I chose a few of them and shared what I am up to. In some cases, I was laughed at (and I decided to not judge them nor myself). In other cases, I was encouraged. Over many years, I shared this with nearly 30 people, and all of them had similar positive results.
If you judge people, you have no time to love them. This includes yourself.
What to do today
Let me share what I will do and you decide about yourself.
Each time I catch a ‘should’ moment, I pause. (‘Should’ moments refer to ‘I should do this, He should have done that, the situation should be blah blah blah — you get me).
I will go on with my own work. If I can’t, I will tell myself that I don’t have all the information to judge someone. If I still can’t be at peace, I will clarify with them (this applies to self-criticism too — clarify with myself before judging!).
I will remind myself that not judging does not mean get out free of any responsibility. It simply means to balance things in a correct way, to do something about the situation if needed, and to not get into the trap of self-pity plus creative excuse-making.
Who will you still judge today?