Talking Shit?

Photo by  Max Nelson

Photo by Max Nelson

An exercise in reframing judgment.

It can feel as though our judgments easily get out of hand, both towards ourselves and others.

After all, studies suggest that we make judgments in only a fraction of a fraction of a second. In fact, our brains often come to conclusions before we are even able to process who someone is or what they look like.

That there is some subconscious influence at play here indicates that it may take some serious work to reframe how, why, and on what basis we judge others.

Recognizing and admitting to this habit is a necessary starting point. We all judge, placing others in boxes so that our minds can better make sense of the wild and confusing world around us.

You can judge another as being nice, mean, aggressive, dumb, intelligent, fit, fat, hard working..it doesn’t matter. Whatever flavor it may be, judgment is judgment. And it is often unfounded, based only on perpetuated biases or longstanding (and perhaps outdated) beliefs.

When we see someone, for example, how quick are we to come to a conclusion about the type of person they are simply, for example, because of how they look? Or based on some trivial thing they did or didn’t say? Perhaps even based on others with whom they’re associated.

No matter the iteration, it can be useful to adopt a more introspective approach to our inevitable and hasty appraisal of others.

Once we become conscious of our patterns, it often follows that we don’t like certain aspects of how we judge others.

So how do we reframe this? By turning it on ourselves.

Reflecting Judgment Back Onto Ourselves

That our judgments are merely a reflection of ourselves has become a more universal idea; everything we judge others for is, to some degree, something that we harbor or see within ourselves.

“How you perceive others is always distorted by your very own self-image, so the whole mess becomes a self-perpetuating cycle of egoic disillusionment.”

Since in many ways our reality is simply a product of our own perception (I recently read a fantastic book that offers a refreshing perspective on this), judgments only really exist, at the most basic level, if they are present internally.

Situations that we find particularly triggering tend to be indicative of repetitive and habitual judgments towards ourselves that we are either ignoring, unconscious of, or have yet to confront/admit.

They therefore also tend to be rather uncomfortable. Such lessons have a way of slapping us in the face, time and again, until we get over our pride and stubbornness to actually learn something.

An example?

Elderly people can be very triggering.

At times, I find myself sitting in the presence of an elder, basking in the wonder of their stories, their love, and their accumulated wisdom.

I can similarly hyper-focus on their bitterness, rigid adherence to habit, and refusal to change or to listen to the opinions of others.

Quite the paradox, eh?

The interesting thing is that I have often have often felt this way about the same person. In the same day.

Has the individual changed throughout the course of that time? Sure. We become different people every second of every day. Yet this is an inconsequential fact when you consider the radical difference in my experience of them.

One would then conclude that it’s ultimately my perception that is accountable for this shift. My judgement in the moment that is defining this person.

I’d then assert that I feel triggered because I believe that I myself have a tendency to be arrogant, or selfish, or unwilling to listen to others. I’m simply electing this poor oldie to be an avenue for my frustration.

When we turn judgments on ourselves, it’s necessary to ask if our perceptions are rooted in seeing these undesirable traits within ourselves.

Love and acceptance starts within us. Everyone has their flaws. Just as life would be meaningless and inconsequential without the imminence of death, so too would humans be boring if we were all perfect.

Judgement holds a place in the world. That’s the truth of it. We can use it as a tool to help us become better people, and improve our relationships to ourselves.

If, for instance, we choose to voice our judgements, connecting with one another to uncover where these are coming from, a mutual healing can occur.

Perhaps an elderly person in your life, for example, is actually being a selfish asshole. Refusing to listen to you. That’s frustrating! And that’s ok.

In the instance I described, you could say, “I feel as though I’m not heard when I’m with you. I feel particularly triggered because I beat myself up for doing the same thing. I’d really appreciate it if you could listen to me, and I’ll try my best to do the same with you”.

Get the idea?

Boom.

We judge ourselves harshly. We’re our own worst critics. Noting, considering, and reframing our judgments can be an excellent exercise in shifting our internal dialogue in the right direction.