It’s easy to get into the pattern of judging other people. “His clothes are so cheap”, “Her hygiene is terrible”, “I would never be caught dead in that!”, and so on. Judgement is a perfectly natural and human thing. Sometimes, it’s important. It’s important that we can judge other people quickly so that we know if a situation is dangerous or if someone seems dodgy. If we couldn’t quickly tell whether somebody might be mentally unhinged or aggressive or trying to con us out of our money, we wouldn’t be able to go on living our lives safely. But, sometimes our judgement antennae our overly sensitive, we stop judging people because they might be dangerous or might be wanting to swindle us, and start judging them for other, more superficial reasons.
Whenever we look at somebody else’s clothes and judge them for it, it builds up in our minds an expectation that other people are likely to be judging us. If I know that I judge other people, it would only be natural to think that other people are probably doing the same. My mother told me something that I’ve always found very powerful: a friend of hers would constantly be judging other people, always commenting on their clothes or their new partner or their music taste. My mother revealed to me that at the heart of this judgement was a deep-seated insecurity. My mother’s friend was also judging herself incredibly harshly, and it was making her unhappier.
This type of judgement can lead to a vicious, and unhelpful circle. We judge others, assume we are being judged, focus on our own perceived inadequacies, and then continue to judge others more harshly as a reaction against the judgement we assume we must be receiving. If we can break that circle and be conscious of when we are judging other people, we can stop feeling judged and become more confident and improve our own self-esteem. I wrote an article on this site about how fostering self-compassion is so important for our mental wellbeing.
Try this: next time you see somebody you would normally judge, practice compassion and empathy and pick out something that you really like about them. Maybe they have a nice smile, or beautiful eyes, or are radiating some other quality you wish that you had. Often, when we judge other people, it’s because there’s something about them that we secretly envy. Try and pick this out, and try and foster a sense of feeling happy for them because their good features. Perhaps, if you’re feeling brave, compliment them on what a lovely smile they have, or whatever feature of theirs you have chosen as particularly good.
Simply by standing back from our judgements of other people and picking out their good qualities, we will start to feel better about ourselves. Those of us who are liable to judge others on their negative features will also find it easy to pick out our own negative features, those of us who focus on the positive qualities of others will be better placed to be aware of our own good qualities. Thus, simply by thinking highly of others, we can think more highly of ourselves.