I grew up in a household that was super-critical.
Oh, you’re not going out looking like that, are you?
I don’t know why they feel the need to splash their money around.
Imagine, being at the beck and call of your child, like that!
If they’re being mean to you, it means that they have problems of their own. Maybe they’re insecure. They’re the one with the problem; try to ignore them. It’s sad, because they’ll never have any true friends; just people who are too scared to stand up to them.
Who watches these trashy TV programs?
It is tremendously hard to shake off behaviours that were encouraged while you were growing up. Over the years, though, I’ve learned how much I judge people, and I’ve been working on changing this.
Judging appearances was the first habit to address. I still automatically do it – but now I’m in the pattern of subsequently thinking: “Do they have a heart of gold?” and that changes everything. (It’s cheesy, but it works for me.) As soon as you question whether someone is kind or not, it doesn’t matter what they look like; you can see them in a different way. I don’t care how anyone looks anymore, although I do acknowledge how they seem to be feeling. Angry, sad, uncomfortable, content, pleased… that’s all important.
Judging myself is another bad habit, but I have some tactics for dealing with that (mostly from The Artist’s Way book) – ways of being able to love, forgive, be kind, and be protective of myself, and also having the right conditions for the sleep, food, alone time, social time, work, and play that I need. This doesn’t always work, so as with most changes that we try to make, it’s an ongoing project.
Judging behaviour is a tougher nut to crack. I think the main reason is because whenever we identify ourselves with certain behaviour (“I don’t smoke,” “I don’t watch reality TV shows,” “I always remember friends’ birthdays”) we start to judge people by our standards and ideals. Then, in worst-case scenarios, we get self-righteous about everyone else. (“What kinds of idiots still smoke,“ “Vegans are dumb,” “These people who are anti-refugees are stupid and they disgust me”)
Back when Big Brother was new, I remember thinking that people who watched reality TV shows were pathetic. Then my brother and I had the same idea – we would watch a season of Big Brother and stop being so self-righteous about it. We saw how it was entertaining and how much we got involved, how it was something common to talk about, how we enjoyed being familiar with the contestants, and how we were hoping that some of them would win more than others.
From then on, I knew that whenever I looked down on something, I probably needed to try it, so that I could break through that self-righteousness, get some understanding, and not be so judgmental. After a while, I was able to stop being Judgy McJudgerson about such things without having to try them. If you take something like “people who are anti-refugees,” the judgmental part (or: the evaluative part?) is not the part that will increase contentedness, kindness, good health, prosperity, innovation, wisdom, and so on. The understanding part, on the other hand, might be able to affect some change.
A subset of this issue, but one that’s just as harmful, is judging how perfectly someone behaves in comparison to your standards or ideals.
For example, maybe my boyfriend doesn’t do his laundry in the same way that I do, and I think my way is better, so I judge him for that. Or a friend goes to Subway for dinner once a week, and I think I make better food choices, so maybe I judge him for that. Or another friend is about 30 minutes late to every appointment, and I think that I’m far better at time organisation, so I judge her for that. This form of judgement is insidious! You can silently judge everyone, all the time, and all you will do is feel frustrated and alone. Nobody matches up to your expectations. You’re better than everyone else. No, no, no.
This problem, I think, is similar to the judging appearances one. Have the thought, and then have a way to move it along. If I think, “James always parks his car in a way that it gets dirty from tree leaves and birds, and I know better,” then I can subsequently think, “Cool. He likes it that way. Yeah, it is a pretty handy parking spot.” If I think, “My friend buys a terribly cheap brand of pens, and they stop working after a couple of days, and I wouldn’t make such a bad choice,” then I can subsequently think, “Cool. She likes it that way. Yeah, they do come in great colours.”
Judging behaviour that personally and negatively affects me
The last bastion of judgment that I want to SMASH! is judging behaviour that personally and negatively affects me. For example, when people behave in ways that make you feel ignored or like they’re giving you the cold shoulder, or when people behave like they’re excited to do something with you, then they cancel at the last minute because there’s something else they would rather do instead.
This one is tricky, because you have to balance standing-up-for-yourself (I deserve to be treated well!) with being understanding, loving and forgiving (I don’t know the full story for their behaviour, and they don’t know that they are making me feel bad). I’ve oscillated on how to deal with this one. For years, I would forgive almost anything, and tried to be *super easy going, * while behind closed doors I licked my wounds, reacted passive-aggressively, and harboured ill-feelings towards offenders. More recently, I took a firmer stance, and chose to “let go” of people who were making me feel bad… of course, I still wasn’t being assertive and talking them about their behaviour.
My love theory
I think my issue is that I’m coming from a place of fear, rather than a place of love. (So much cheese, but I don’t know how else to explain it.) My theory for how to deal with this… well, I am calling it The Love Theory. Bam.
People want to be loved.
I often forget this. People don’t want you to dislike them. If they do something that personally and negatively affects you, then that’s not the outcome they want. You might need to talk to them.
Coming from fear = They slighted me. They don’t care if I dislike them.
Coming from love = They slighted me. They want to be liked, though. Maybe they don’t know that they made me feel bad.
The exception to “People want to be loved” is when people don’t respect you and don’t care what you think about them. This is one of the many times when loving yourself is important. You need to stand up for yourself and seek the best treatment for yourself, which might involve being assertive, or it might mean that you need to say goodbye to someone or something.
Coming from fear = My colleague ignores my emails, which makes working with them impossible. Their peer review of me said that they don’t think I am suited to this role, and maybe I could do “admin work” instead, so I know that they don’t respect me. I feel like shit, but they’re probably right. I’ll just work around them and we’ll get less done in the company. Hopefully they’ll move to another role soon.
Coming from love = My colleague ignores my emails, which makes working with them impossible. Their peer review of me said that they don’t think I am suited to this role, and maybe I could do “admin work” instead, so I know that they don’t respect me. I think I deserve to be treated well, and so I need to address this. Firstly, they are not replying to their emails. I need to take that up with them, and then our manager. Secondly, I am working with someone who believes that I am not suited to this role, and they don’t respect me. I need to talk about that with my manager. If nothing changes, I will find a new job that’s better for me.
Yep, Love yourself twice!
Not loving yourself creates sooooo many hangups. “When they said this, were they trying to insult me?” “My friend hasn’t asked to catch up in months, I guess they don’t care about me!” Death by insecurity!
Consider that everyone else around you is worried about whether people like them or not, and they want to be loved, and they’re suspiciously seeing negative subtext in every situation, and when you write them a message like “Here’s a website I thought you might like,” they’re thinking, “They don’t even ask me how I am… they don’t care!”
Then, you be the rock of love. OOZE with love. (Wait, that doesn’t go with the rock metaphor. Anyway.) Overcompensate with love. You be the stable rock that doesn’t self-doubt, or read negative subtext into a situation, or worry about whether people like you or not. Everyone else is doing that. You be the person who is just… there. Enjoying life. Not judging people, but trying to understand them. Wanting to be treated well.
Love yourself, love the people that you love, and try to understand everyone else. And pretend that everyone else is worried whether you like them or not… and be a rock of love in response.
Oh my gosh, I just died from syrupy sweetness.
Did I just write all that on the internet?! YES?
Hey look! Something else.
P.p.s. The story behind the image: I never draw because I think I’m bad at drawing. I went to a “How to Draw Badly” class on the weekend at the Supergraph art fair, and afterwards, my sister Liesl suggested we design plastic plates, and I gave it a go. No judging self! Calm down, self!