We all do it. We all have it done to us.
On the one side, it is smug, superior, self-righteous. The other, cutting, lashing, condemning.
The thing is, we all know it’s not a great trait, being judgmental. We learn that old adage, ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’, at an early age. We often don’t want to do it, but we can’t help ourselves.
Sometimes it’s safely inside the confines of our own mind. We’re not saying it out loud, so no one will know, right? We may even berate ourselves for doing it — that’s good, that’s a start. It shows we have self-awareness. We can work with that.
But what is even worse, is that we judge ourselves by the reaction and judgement of others. We doubt ourselves, doubt our decisions and worry what others will think. How will they judge us?
The Judgment Call
Now, I’m not saying all judgment is wrong. Making judgments is part of life, an inherent part of us being social beings. We need to make assessments of others, judge them. But that is a different type of judgment. Not the bad kind.
Everyday life demands that we use the evidence in front of us and make that judgment call.
Is someone suitable for the job? Can I leave my child in that person’s care? Can I trust this salesman? Should I run from this crazed looking man with a knife running towards me? It’s fair to say that you’d be justified in making a judgment on the spot and then getting the hell out of dodge. That would be a good judgment call.
These judgments are necessary. They are reasoned and informed. They protect us and help us in guiding decisions that affect us. We are allowed these judgments.
But what of these other judgements?
The Smug Ones
What about the smug, superior, self-righteous ones? Can you really keep them to yourself? Or do they sneak out, hidden discretely in the things you say and do? These judgments are perhaps hidden so well, that even you are not aware of them.
Whether it’s the mother with a screaming child at the supermarket, the old man rummaging through the trash cans, the young woman with multiple piercings, stood on a street corner. We all have our opinion, we’ve made our judgement. Rightly or wrongly we’ve made split-second decisions about their lives, their education, their social status, their values.
Our judgments are in by the tone of our voice, a twitch of a muscle, an upturn in the corner of our mouth, the widening of our eyes.
But what kind of arrogance do we possess, that we can judge so quickly in such a vacuum of knowledge? It is a ridiculous notion really. Quite absurd.
So, instead of judging, let’s practise being curious. In the words of Walt Whitman,
‘Be curious, not judgmental’
Because, by being judgmental, we are throwing knives that cut, and stab and wound.
The Nonsensical Notion
How many of us, as mothers or fathers, have been subjected to the hard stares and disapproving looks at the supermarket. Is it not trauma enough, that our toddler is choosing to throw a temper tantrum in the middle of the aisles. No, here judgment is on special, 3 for the price of 1.
What we need to realise though, is that whatever we do, we will be judged. We all have different values, different beliefs. We judge on our own value system, we have no other reference point. People will judge, but from what their life is like — not yours.
So, whether you give your toddler a lolly to placate him, if you ignore him and let him scream it out, or if you leave your trolley in the middle of the shopping centre and just leave with your kicking screaming child, (I happen to have done all three), they will judge no matter.
Therefore, we need to ignore the raising of the brows, the slight shake of the head, the double take, that twisted smirk that says, ‘You’re doing it all wrong’.
However, we don’t ignore it. We take it on board and we do something. Something that is as nonsensical as some of the rhymes we recite to our children. We judge ourselves by the reaction and judgement of others.
We judge ourselves by the reaction and judgement of others.
It’s absurd, but we do it. We pay attention to someone else’s opinion. Someone who has not one iota of knowledge about our life. No idea of our motives, our circumstances, our thoughts. But we let their words, looks, gestures, their judgment, we let them in.
We let them aboard. We take the lashes of their judgemental whips and then we whip ourselves some more until the blood trickles down our spine.
Taking on Judgment
When I left my marriage and moved out, leaving my children with my husband, I let those judgmental talons attach themselves to me.
I wish I had known of the absurdity and ridiculousness of judgment then. I wish I’d seen it as a silly non-sensical rhyme written by the masses. But I didn’t. Judgment found me and smothered me. It squeezed me so tight I could barely breathe, my eyes so swollen, I could hardly see. It clung to me. And even when I fitfully slept, it was there, whispering, sneering, jabbing at me incessantly.
I saw it in people’s faces. I heard it in their voices. Some were tactful, some were not.
But most of all I saw it in the mirror. My own judgement, the self-doubt, the worrying about what was being thought of me. The voices screaming at me, ‘What a terrible mother’. I’d let them get inside my head. I let them matter.
I realise the absurdity of it now. The utter ridiculousness of it all.
Trust in Your Judgment
I want you to realise too. To free you from the judgemental chains that we so carefully wrap around ourselves.
Do not give even the slightest thought to another’s judgment of you. It is like taking the milkman’s advice in regard to your gynaecological problems. Absurd.
Trust in your own judgment — ignore the judgemental Judys and Johns. They are making a judgmental decision based on their own perspectives, their own lives and value system. Their lives — not yours. How silly that we pay any attention at all to their raised brows, contorted facial expression and meaningless words.
We Just Can’t Help Ourselves
But let’s go back. When I left my marriage of twenty years … There we go, just then, it happened.
Did you feel it, did you hear it? With that simple statement, someone judged. It might not have been you, but already someone has self-righteously come to the table with their piece of judgment pie.
Anyway, let’s ignore them for the moment. When I left my second marriage, of twenty years … ‘Second marriage’. Whoa… now we’ve got the party started, more joining in with their finger pointing food.
It’s ok if you have already fallen off the wagon and jumped to conclusions in a judgmental way whilst reading this. It’s hard not to judge, it’s an inbuilt mechanism that we can at best keep in control but seems unlikely we’ll ever eradicate.
So, don’t beat yourself up if you have a few judgemental moments. I won’t take offence. Just remember you don’t know the whole story. You have a snippet that’s all. There are things I have not shared. Things that if I did, might help you make more of an informed judgment of my decisions. But, just as in life, we can never know it all, never be fully aware of all the facts and the multifaceted twists and turns that lead to another person’s decision.
So, let’s continue, now you know that I myself am not judging you for judging me.
How Could She?
When I left my second marriage, of twenty years, I made the decision to move out and leave my children in the home with my husband. The other option was to stay and fight about it. My husband was adamant he would not leave — remember let’s not judge him. It’s hard, isn’t it? But you do not know his story. I didn’t want that fight. Not for me, not for him but most of all, not for our children.
Now, at this point, you may be wanting to bring your creamy critical cupcakes to the table too. You know you shouldn’t but… And, if I’m not mistaken, especially if you are a mother, you have put yourself in that situation.
You are simulating the scenario and deciding what you would do in those circumstances. You wouldn’t leave your children, right? You’d put up the fight. That’s the ‘done’ thing in our society. The right thing.
The thing is, you don’t know the circumstances. You have no idea of the reasons why I made that decision. The only baseline you have to work with is your own life — your own circumstances. You can imagine all sorts of scenarios too. But until you are actually in those circumstances you do not know what you would do.
It’s Ok, I would Have Judged Too
Don’t worry, I would have thought the same as you. How could a mother leave her children? What kind of a mother does that?
Well, as it happened this kind of mother does that.
That bond of love that’s so strong for your children, that very one that makes you think you will do anything, absolutely anything to keep them by your side and protect them. That love was the same one that made me think about what was best for them.
Maybe that little tidbit of information makes you feel better? Maybe you have just softened any judgement you may have made a few seconds ago? You know, the one you shouldn’t have made in the first place?
What if I tell you that was the hardest decision I have ever made in my life?
The ultimate grief, relief, confusion, and all other manner of emotions that overwhelm you when a marriage ends layered themselves over me. My family was splintered, and I was using all my given strength and more to survive. On top of all of that, I took on the judgement. Oh, how I wish I’d known the absurdity of it. The utter ridiculousness of it all.
Realise the Absurdity of it
The details of my broken marriage and all the reasons that led me to my decision are, however, another story. You see I’m learning. There is no need for me to justify. There is no reason for me to listen to your judgment because I am learning to no longer judge myself on your opinion, on your judgment. Of course, to do so would be absurd. It would be absolutely ridiculous.
We have this inbuilt mechanism to judge others and worry about how we are judged. By being aware of this, we can begin to control it. We can change our mindset around it.
Next time you are about to judge, take a deep breath and instead be curious. Instead of judging a behaviour, look at it as interesting, wonder why it might be happening, without judgement.
When you find yourself worrying about what others think of your actions, think about the milkman giving you gynaecological advice. Remember how absurd that would be. How utterly ridiculous and nonsensical that would be.
We may not find this easy, but less judging will make us feel better about ourselves, and less paying attention to the judgment of others will free us from unnecessary pain. It won’t happen overnight, and it’ll take practise and repetition but it’s a start.
We just have to realise the absurdity of it all.
A Non-Sensical Rhyme,
Why must you stare?
If it is me you are judging,
I really don’t care.
Why give me strife?
I will gladly ignore you
I’m living my life.
By a loving mother
Pin and Save
You may also be interested in reading: