I’ve secretly despised a life coach who is younger than me for a long time. She pops up in my feed with her smiley face and optimistic quotes, and I quietly judge her. My silent musings include, “She comes from a rich family—she doesn’t know real struggle!” and “She must be a fraud. Why can’t anyone else see it?”
Until I met her at a party recently and she was… lovely. Sincere. Honest. Kind. It was an unexpected surprise to have months of my own judgment backfire in my face like that. And it made me think, What else might I be wrong about? And more importantly, where is this judgment coming from?
To get some answers, I started digging into an advanced copy of Gabby Bernstein’s latest book, Judgment Detox. Bernstein writes, “When we judge others, we’re really judging a disowned part of our own shadow… Often other people trigger our wounds. We judge them when this happens instead of accepting that the discomfort is really about us.”
Boom. This got me thinking about the judgments I feel on a daily basis (and trust me, there are plenty!). Here’s what I’ve observed about learning to judge others, and myself, less:
1. Accept that you’ve suffered… and that this shows up when you judge.
Beneath every judgment is some kind of pain we’ve experienced, but instead of feeling it, we project it onto others.
I have a friend in London—let's call her Tina—who was bullied at school, and now every time she enters a new group of women, her guard is way up. She loves to find something to criticize or condemn; she grabs hold of the first innocent comment she perceives as a slight and holds onto it for dear life.
Like the time she visited me in New York and a friend of mine said to her, “Your accent is so sexy—you sound like Nigella Lawson.” Later on, she vented to me, “I’m nothing like Nigella—I’m younger and way thinner!” I knew her reaction wasn't really about the remark.
Tina simply has some feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness, just like the rest of us. What might your trigger straight to judgment be?
2. See for the first time.
I’ve had mixed relationships with my sisters over the years. We can fight and go for long stretches without talking, instead getting caught up in a mess of blame, anger about the past, and plain old stubbornness. The more I talk and write about it, the more other people tell me the same thing happens in their families. I have a former co-worker who hasn’t spoken to his twin brother for years over a business they began together than went awry.
When you honor your difficult personal experiences and take the time to really examine your judgment(s), you can see the person involved differently. You lose the lens of fear and attack. “The experience of seeing someone for the first time (without the stories/hate/resentment you’ve placed upon them) is one of deep relief,” Bernstein says. If you removed the negative ideas about someone in your life—in my case, my sisters—how might it affect your emotional well-being?
I, for one, experience calm and peace and even joy. And that sure feels good.
3. Cut the cords.
This is where meditation works magic. You can cut the cord of judgment without uttering a word to the person you’re judging.
Can you sit quietly in a room and mentally picture the person that you hold judgment toward? Can you recall a happy time you experienced together? Can you use this to allow yourself to send them more kind, peaceful, loving thoughts?
That’s all you need to do. You can work on releasing your judgment and let the rest unfold as it will.
The power of forgiveness—of yourself and others—is critical in managing the judgments that we all experience. Ironically, when we accept and stop hiding from our judgment, it dissolves far more quickly. And we can get back to feeling like the relaxed, change-makin’ badasses we really are.
Susie Moore is Greatist's life coach columnist and a confidence coach in New York City. Sign up for free weekly wellness tips on her website and check back every Tuesday for her latest No Regrets column!