Monday, November 26, 2012

How we judge others



Recently I read a great post on Tiny Buddha that inspired me to write today.  It's title "How we judge others is how we judge ourselves," is an idea that I think has become so common that it's almost like a saying.  It might even be criticized as being "psycho babble," but I have to admit that every time I'm reminded of it, it's like a light bulb goes off in my head all over again.  As in, oh yeah, I have to remember that.

I used to have a theory that I thought made me feel like I'd figured out how to deal with people I didn't get along with very well.  I decided that all people who I found annoying fell under the category of not being able to be "their true selves."  If they could just relax and be themselves, they wouldn't be annoying, and I was sure I would like them.  I was completely positive that that was what was going on. I told myself that I wasn't judging them, but that I actually felt sorry for them, because they weren't comfortable in their own skin.  So very sad, but unfortunately, it's what made them annoying to me.

Pretty smart theory right? Ugh. I'm cringing as I write it out.  But I really believed I was doing the right thing thinking that way.  I was not only being nice but also smart about how to deal with annoying people.  And yet, my theory never made that annoying feeling go away. My theory did not make me stop judging.

Alright, so I guess you know where this is going: not being my "true self" is an issue I have with me.  It's something I judge myself on really harshly, and trust me, I can be kinda mean to me.

So here's my new theory: when I find myself judging others (this is connected to feeling "annoyed" with them, which I didn't realize at first) I remind myself to feel compassion, which is totally different than pity.  Compassion reminds me that we probably have a lot more in common than I think we do.  I also try to remind myself that I probably don't really know the person who is annoying me very well, that there are probably huge chunks of their story that I know nothing about.

I'm not saying that being aware of what we judge in others will miraculously make you get along perfectly with everyone you meet, or suddenly allow you to accept and get rid of those flaws you judge about yourself   It's not a magic spell.  But it really can make you change how you see others and yourself.  Feeling judgmental is something that most of us have been doing for a long time, before even being aware that we were doing it.  And I think for a long time, for me, I thought secretly judging others, or judging someone with a friend was not only harmless, but kind of fun.  We've all laughed at things like this, or the Sex and the City scene I posted above.  But, until I stopped to think about it, I never realized how much I judged myself for holding back and not showing the true me all of the time.  I didn't realize that when I judged others it was always for the same reason, for the thing I judged in myself.

I know that being your true self all the time is really hard.  It makes you feel really vulnerable and puts you at risk- what if someone doesn't like the true you?  But what would I want someone to do if they noticed me acting this way?  To be kind, and try and put me at ease and not judge me for it, which is what I'm trying to do now too.  I should understand this better than people who don't have this problem, I should be an expert on making people feel okay about it.  But until I stop judging myself about it, that mindset won't come naturally.

I'm curious readers, would you be willing to share your judgments of others and yourself in the comments? Are they also one in the same?  Have you ever thought about this before?  And how do you deal with people you find annoying?  Feel free to comment anonymously on this post.  I know how hard it can be to let everyone see the true you.

7 comments:

  1. I had something happen yesterday that had me thinking about the judgements we make about people... I was on the 1 train coming home yesterday. It was crowded and it seemed like half the passengers were toting large luggage (myself included), so it seemed extra cozy. A few stops into the trip, a woman with a child who looked to be about 5 or 6 got onto the train and as soon as the child saw how crowded the train was and that she would not get to sit down, started sobbing and wailing, "I don't want to be on the train! I don't want to be on the train!" and it was all pretty much in my ear.

    My first reaction was rage. I don't do the crowded subway well, and a tantruming kid on a subway pretty much just makes my blood pressure rise through the roof. I wanted to just give that mom the stink eye and tell her to duct tape her child's mouth shut.

    That initial feeling gave way to feeling a lot of empathy for the child. The kid started standing on my foot and then pretty much started sitting on my knee, as the mother let out with a vent about how horrible the last six years have been, how insufferable and embarrassing her child is because of the constant tantruming that happens every time they go out in public, and how all of the child's teachers don't like her because she's so disagreeable... I was so angry at the mom because I felt like those were really harsh words to be flinging around about your child right in front of her, and I started wondering if there might be something wrong with the little girl if this explosive behavior was normal for her and wanted to be all smug and say, "If this is normal, you need to get your kid some help and stop acting like a bitch."

    They got off at the next subway stop, but I kept thinking about them and felt sort of bad about how harshly I had been judging that mom. She was in desperate need of a kind word or two, but I got really caught up judging her based on the fact that despite the fact she was trying her best, she was at her wits end, and I felt kinda sad that I couldn't have pushed past through all my smug judgement to have said something to brighten her day.

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    1. Thanks so much for this honest comment Nikkiana! I've definitely been there on the crowded train. I bet you'll be able to push past that feeling the next time something like that happens, and you know as a subway rider, that it definitely will haha :)

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  2. I think that just because you find someone annoying, doesn't mean you are judging them, sometimes personalities just don't mix well.
    - But I do think that being self aware and taking a moment to tell yourself to show compassion opposed to acting on our judgements is important. And it is something I try to practice in my day-to-day life.

    - tianna :)

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    1. Thanks Tianna! Yes, it's really about taking that moment before you act.

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  3. probably one of my biggest fears in life is that everyone is secretly judging me (paranoid, much?), which often keeps me from truly being myself and truly being happy. I hate it.

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    1. Funny how connected that is, isn't it?

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  4. I don't think you can go through life without finding other people annoying - some people *are* just rude, inconsiderate or simply don't have the sort of personality you find it easy to get on with. BUT the people who I find most annoying are the ones who have character traits I'm really worried about having myself - for example, if somebody's rude it really annoys me because I'm scared of coming across as rude myself (I don't know if I do; I don't catch myself doing it very often, but it is something I'm conscious of trying to avoid).

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