No matter what we do in life, we will always encounter positive and negative feedback. Sometimes this feedback comes from a place of love and in knowing this, we can accept and even embrace it to help improve ourselves. But often, this feedback comes not because someone cares about us – but in the form of judgement. Why does this happen and what can we do about it?
The act of judgement is about questioning the moral intentions of another person – showing (or convincing oneself) that one’s views and intrinsic value are greater than another’s. We should note that judgement is very different to educating or challenging someone for their own benefit (as a mother might do her child), but that judgement is the act of self-imparting one’s moral superiority over another, with no genuine care for the wellbeing or growth of the person being judged.
In fact, judgement is made more often than not without the other person knowing, either inside one’s own heart/mind or within the whispers of hushed conversations; only occasionally rearing its ugly head to the judged via third parties or the open forum of the Internet where the moral critics are able to hide behind technology.
Whilst we might tell ourselves that we don’t care what others think about us, sometimes being the subject of judgement can still hurt us. We wonder – why do others judge us and what gives them the right to do so?
When we investigate why judgement hurts, we realise that in each one of us there is an ingrained fear of not belonging and not being accepted for who we really are. Being judged feeds upon this fear – maybe we really aren’t good enough; maybe we really don’t deserve the best. Yet over time as we gain the courage to stand by our choices, we find out that our initial fears were never valid. That even in our differences and in the face of judgement, there will yet be others out there like us and others who will love and accept us exactly as we are.
We uncover that judgement from others only hurts us if we rely on other people for external validation.
The reality is, that judgement reflects more on the person doing the judging than the person being judged. People judge when they are afraid and when they are in need of validation of their own values and beliefs. Perhaps we live our lives differently, make different career choices, or have unusual friends and relationships. When others see this, it can make them subconsciously question their own choices or be fearful about the impact of our influence on their own lives. So they consciously convince themselves that they’re better people than us, that their choices are better than ours or that they’re happier people or deserve more in life. …And when they share this view with others, they then feel validated being amongst others similar to them who can help them reaffirm themselves and provide a sense of security.
In truth, anyone who is truly happy and at peace with their choices has no need to judge others. They may offer help, love and support, but to judge reflects a much deeper need to validate themselves and their own beliefs. As we grow and develop in life, we start to realise that as humans, we all experience at some stage or other, all the emotions on the spectrum of possible experiences.
We realise that life is unpredictable, and were it not for a stroke of luck, we could very well be in the shoes of the ones that we judge (or even in more dire situations). We realise that life is complicated, and what we see on the surface is never the real truth, that to judge is like condemning someone without a trial. We realise that we have no right to judge others, because at some point in our lives, we’ve also been at fault, we’ve also made mistakes, and we are continually evolving. These realisations then provide us with humility, acceptance and empathy.
So what should we do when we feel judged?
We should not feel the need to defend ourselves, or attack the person judging us. We should understand that it’s the other person’s limited understanding about life, and deep need to validate their own beliefs, that means they must convince themselves of their moral superiority over us. We accept their limitations, just as we continue to strive for growth and understanding. We continue to make the right choices for ourselves every single day – not for others, and not for the perception from others, but because we are living our own personal truths. …And then we can sleep well every single night, knowing that each person has choices in life. Whilst we can never make someone else act or think in a particular way (including making them think of us in a positive light), we can choose every day to live according to our own values and beliefs and be completely at peace with those choices.
Chiara is the Melbourne-based founder of CIIARA.