I know that as humans, we all tend to be judgmental. Judgment is our built-in system that helps us to make decisions about our own lives. We take information in, analyze it, and decide whether it’s right for us or not. Simple, right?
Except you and I both know that judgment can hurt other people. But a few years back, I had a huge realization: my judgments of others were hurting ME more than they were hurting anyone I was judging.
Forget about the fact that knowing I was doing this already made me feel like a bad person. It was, but that wasn’t the worst of it.
I began to realize that the source of much of my constant insecurity was actually the thoughts I was having about OTHER people.
I would go through my day and in my head would make these judgments about the people I came into contact with. Most of my negative judgments tended to be directed at women who were most like me: other moms, women my age, celebrities, and yes, even my friends.
I thought that if the thoughts stayed in my head and I wasn’t speaking negatively about these people to others, there was no harm. But as I said, the real harm was being done to me. The negative judgments were ripping my OWN self-esteem to shreds.
When you’re constantly judging people around you, especially people who are like you, you ALSO conclude that others are judging you too, whether they are or not. We tend to project our own experience on to others, and so if we’re looking at someone and automatically picking out their flaws, we assume everyone is doing the same to us.
That’s where the lowered self-esteem comes in. You see someone look at you and think, “are they looking at my thighs?” “Did they notice the big zit on my forehead?” “She hates my dress, I knew I shouldn’t have worn it.” You go through a mental checklist of everything they could be picking apart in their mind, which is really just one big constant reminder of everything you hate about yourself.
What you’re doing is creating an internal world for yourself where everyone is judged, worst of all, you and everything about you.
So how do you stop when judging is, in fact, a normal human thing to do?
When I realized how much I was judging everyone around me and how much it was affecting my self-esteem, I decided to experiment with making only POSITIVE judgments about people I saw.
I would go out into the world and in the instant between taking in what I saw and making a judgment about it, I would look for something positive. So, for example, one mom sat down next to me at a restaurant. We both had new babies, about the same age. I was nursing my son while I ate, and she pulled out a bottle of formula for hers. At the time, I felt very strongly about breastfeeding for my own baby, so I had a moment where I could have thought “Oh no, not formula, why wouldn’t you breastfeed?” but I stopped that thought and turned it around to “I have no idea what her life is like and why she isn’t nursing. She looks like an amazing mother who loves her baby and just wants what is best for him.” I even took that one step further, leaned over, and told her she seemed like an amazing mom. She teared up and thanked me, and it was a moment I’ll never forget.
Since I put this idea into practice, my own self-esteem has skyrocketed. Just this weekend I was at the swimming pool, and as I always do now, I found the positive in everyone around me. Instead of looking at flaws, I noticed swimsuits in fun colors, beautiful smiles, devoted parents, infectious laughs, and gorgeous hair. And when I got up and walked around in my swimsuit, I didn’t think about whether anyone was judging me. I assumed that if they were thinking about me at all, it was about my own cute suit or something else positive—because I was projecting my own experience.
Chances are, someone DID judge me negatively. But that’s ok, because it’s none of my business what others think about me, and now I truly understand that judgments are 100% about the person doing the judging and 0% about the person being judged.
That’s an important thing to know. Other people’s judgments of you mean absolutely nothing about you and everything about them.
The mom with formula, for example: my insta-reaction to her mixing formula was about me feeling good about breastfeeding and validating my own decision. Truth be told, I really never enjoyed breastfeeding; I would even say I hated it most of the time. My judgment was about my resentment of my own choice to continue anyways, not about this mother I knew absolutely nothing about.
When you put good thoughts out towards others, they come back to you, and this is how.
It won’t be automatic and it will take practice, but it will pay off in the form of personal growth and increased self-esteem.
ACTION ITEM #1: This week, make a conscious effort when you leave your house to see something positive about everyone around you. Take a mental note of how you feel afterwards.
ACTION ITEM #2: Write down 5 things that someone passing by might be thinking positively about you. Example: “She seems like she really loves her baby” or “She has beautiful hair”.