We all judge people. To some extent or the other. Almost compulsively. We tend to compare behavior and/or traits of others with our own understanding or standards of excellence as a quick way to approve or disapprove a person with regards to that behavior or trait. The urban dictionary defines judging as quickly forming a bias and/or personal opinion about someone or something.
I like to think that judging is related to stereotyping. Stereotypes typically guide our judgments, to the extent that we believe in those stereotypes, that is. “Stereotype” as a phenomenon has its own place and serves distinct purpose in our lived. It provides mental shortcuts to form quick decisions in the absence of any discernible information. Of course, like many of our other instincts, stereotypes will not serve us well in all circumstances and have to be exercised with caution, and taken with more than a pinch of salt.
Stereotypes are like statistics. Just like a statistic such as “70% of population favor x”, will not tell you for sure whether the one person you encounter in the middle of the road favors x or not, stereotype may not be applicable to each individual or instance. Of course, it is always possible that a stereotype could have become obsolete or in the process of becoming obsolete what with the ever changing cultural and social picture and hence shouldn’t have been relied upon. Of course judging goes beyond stereotypes. It’s based on our own perception of things.
So, stereotypes can be good or bad. Following this, it can be argued that judging can also be good or bad. But I would typically associate judging with a negative feeling, even in the case of a positive judgment. As per negative judgments, even as you try to feel superior to others in the process, in the end it won’t result in any positive feeling/emotion.
This brings up the question as to why we judge in the first place.My theories:
- When you seek validation for your own behavior, you judge others who deviate from your own behavior as inferior.
- When you are insecure about your own behavior
- When you are unable to appreciate and accept different perspectives. Not open to new or different standards or ways of life.
- You want to quickly determine whether you like or dislike a person and so you judge them as good, bad, or not good enough as a proxy based on your likes, dislikes , and expectations.
- People like to be custodians of their positive traits/behavior
It’s amazing how much prevalent judging is, despite our best efforts. Some of the common things that are judged widely:
- Parenting: I feel that this one trumps all others. Almost everyone have at least a few things that they do absolutely right and look down on others who fail to do so or do them differently.
- Significant other: You got to be perfect spouse, BF/GF. How can you not be this or not do that?
- Weight: If your BMI is perfect, you may judge overweight, obese , or underweight people.
- Fitness: if you have got it right, you may not able to empathize with those who lack the self-control or will power to eat right and/or hit the gym.
- Homemaking: If you are an efficient and skillful homemaker, you may judge others’ homemaking skills which don’t measure up to yours
- Efficiency: If you are super-efficient, you may judge others who are less efficient.
Whatever your strengths are (or what you think your strengths are), you may judge people based on them.
Will non-judging help? Will the world be a better place if no one judges others? I like to think so. Even without delving into the root cause of this phenomenon and its ultimate purpose, the simplest reason why I work on curbing this is to avoid the negativity it breeds.
But how to go about it? The first step is always awareness. Once you are self-aware and catch yourself being judgmental, it’s just matter of letting go. It takes a little self-discipline and management. But once you let go, there is freedom. You got to experience it to understand the uplifting feeling that non-judging results in. Here are some helpful tips on becoming less judgmental: 10 Reasons to Stop Judging People.
When you do not judge, you accept. Acceptance is the key to peace and harmony.