“That was good.”
“That was bad.”
“Wow, that was stupid.”
Listen to your own self-talk sometime. And when you do, take a look at how often you speak to yourself with a voice of judgment. Good, bad, smart, stupid… words of judgment regarding other people, and words of judgment applied to yourself. The judgments just keep coming.
It’s human nature to pass judgment. It’s one of the ways in which we evaluate the world around us. And on one hand, using judgment can help us avoid danger and stay out of trouble. Like when you judge a situation as potentially harmful or dangerous, or to make a wise decision.
On the other hand, the urge to pass judgment can become second nature, so that everything and everyone gets judged. There two problems with being in constant judgment mode.
First, we may come to a conclusion without adequate information. And as a result, miss out on something that might actually benefit us. Like when we avoid getting to know someone who might have become a good friend, or avoid an experience that might have provided an opportunity to grow, all because of a judgment based on a first impression.
Judging leads to looking at the world through the lens of absolutes. It doesn’t give you or the situation you are judging a middle ground. In other words, black and white instead of shades of gray. But when you really think about it, the vast majority of what we encounter in life falls somewhere in between. Right?
The second problem with the urge to pass judgment is that we can turn that voice against ourselves. As a therapist, this is especially concerning to me. Self-judgment can lead to feelings of depression and anxiety. As such, it is often a reason why clients come to see me.
In my experience, individuals living with chronic conditions are especially prone toward judging themselves. It comes from constantly being told to monitor yourself for symptoms, as well as having to follow guidelines for treatment compliance and self-care. All that self-evaluation can lead to judging yourself. “What did I do well?” but also “What did I do badly?” Your doctor or family members may heap on judgments of their own.
Breaking the judgment cycle starts with curbing the urge to judge yourself. So when you feel the wrath of your own voice of self-judgment, here’s what you can do:
Recognize what’s going on. Take a step back and consider your self-talk. Are you telling yourself how wrong, bad, or stupid you are? If so, that’s a sign that you’re working against yourself.
Remind yourself: I’m doing the best I can. This is one of the best ways to counter the inner voice of judgment. Your acceptance of yourself doesn’t have to be based on self-imposed conditions. You’ve had a lot to deal with. So love yourself unconditionally.
Choose your evidence. It’s always easy to reach back into the archives of our memories and come up with reasons why we aren’t where we think we should be in life. And then judge ourselves accordingly. But how about shifting the focus of your evidence-gathering toward what you’ve done well? Like those times when you’ve done healthy things for yourself or have shown kindness to other people. You can choose to judge yourself in a positive light instead of making yourself bad.
Resolve to do better. Those words of self-judgment can come at us automatically. It’s normal. Tell yourself: “Thanks for the opinion. I’m a work in progress and I am always learning.” And then apply what you’ve learned going forward. End of story.
If you can curb that urge to judge yourself, then you will also be less judgmental of the people around you. Remember: We’re all doing the best we can. And we’re all in this together.