My most recent epiphany? I am a judge-y biach. And listen, I am not saying this for self-deprecating purposes or to publicly shame myself. I am simply stating my mind’s natural tendency, as I have observed it. If left to its own devices, my brain will run off with all sorts of judgmental criticisms of those around me. I am not a bad person and I genuinely believe in the good of other people; however, regardless of my values, my brain tends toward a cycle of mental abuse of not only others but myself.
I recently spent some time at a work conference in NYC. As I sat there the first morning and looked around, I found myself in a foul mood. I couldn’t figure out what I was so irritated about. So I started writing down my thoughts…
I hate stuff like this… I don’t want to meet new people… I don’t want to make small talk…this is dumb…I don’t want to be friends with these people…
And then when I started being curious and asking why I hated stuff “like this” and why I didn’t want to talk to anyone, my brain was more than happy to explain:
We are all competitors, I don’t want to be friends…you all probably think I’m some country bumpkin who doesn’t know her way around the law…I’m sure you’re all thinking I look like an idiot and probably have no idea what I’m doing…you are all judging me and thinking you are better than me…
Clearly, I was on some defensive mission. I imagined that all these people were making judgments about me and criticizing me while pretending to be friendly. In turn, I was fuming and hating them for it. So, naturally, my brain opted to engage in its own bad behavior and started criticizing them. It was a pretty amazing spectacle to observe. I had convinced myself that they were judging me and I’d be damned if there were going to get through this day without me judging them right back. Ha! I was going to show THEM who was right and who was wrong. I wasn’t going to let them mentally bad mouth me without any recourse! I was on to their game!
Alas, there was the cause of my misery and dark mood. It was almost humorous in its simplicity. My mind had taken off on its own and it was making me miserable. I was swimming in a pool of frustration and bitterness . . . I don’t even want to be here, this is dumb, they are all criticizing everything I say, they think I’m dumb but I already know all of this information, what a waste of time, etc. In reality, no one said anything unkind. In fact, at that point, no one had said anything to me! There was no indication of judgment what-so-ever. Everyone was incredibly friendly and welcoming and the conference was lovely. The only bad behavior was my own thoughts and I was in a rotten mood because of it until I got my thoughts under control.
This happens so often and it brings to mind a few critical coaching lessons:
If you spot it you got it – if you point a finger at one person, there are three fingers pointing right back at you – the things we disdain in others, are likely the things we disdain in ourselves – hurt people, hurt people
I had convinced myself that these people were judging me unfairly, so in turn, I was judging them harshly and without merit. Judgmental people are one of my pet peeves – but isn’t that, in and of itself, a judgment?! More often than not when we find ourselves judging other people about a particular personality characteristic or action, it is often because we have that characteristic in ourselves and we don’t like it. If we weren’t so intimately familiar with that characteristic, we probably wouldn’t be able to notice it in others, right?
For example, I had a client who came to me furious about her brother. She felt that he was always putting on airs and not being himself around the rest of the family.
He just wouldn’t open up and was always being fake, she said.
What do you do when you are around him and he acts like that, I asked.
I clam up; it makes me so uncomfortable, I don’t even know what to say to him!
So, when he’s around, would you say that you are not being yourself? Would you say that is because you are uncomfortable? Is it possible that he too, is uncomfortable and that is why he is acting that way? Do you see that you are frustrated because he is not being genuine so in turn, you are uncomfortable and not showing up authentically?
Do you see!?
Often times when we criticize someone for acting a certain way or doing a certain thing, we are likely doing the exact same thing we are condemning!
Furthermore, when we catch ourselves judging someone else about something they are doing, if we can evaluate how we too have shown those characteristics in our own lives, we can see that person with so much more compassion! Instead of judging that behavior we can relate to it, understand it, and perhaps let go of that judgment and replace it with empathy.
The next time you catch yourself criticizing or judging, ask yourself if you have ever engaged in similar behavior or whether you can relate to what that person might be thinking that may be causing them to act that way. It’s a game changer!
The second thing that came to me was this: when you find yourself judging others, take a look at your thoughts driving that judgment. Is there something about the situation that is bringing up insecurities or fears? Are you operating from ‘fight or flight’ mode? What thoughts or feelings are you trying to avoid by mentally lashing out at others?
In my case, I was trying to avoid feeling like an outsider. I was afraid of feeling like I was “less than” the others around me and I was afraid that I wouldn’t fit in. Instead of feeling those fears and proceeding anyway, my reptilian brain went into “fight or flight” mode and obviously, chose FIGHT. I was going to fight with everyone (in my head, of course) and let them know how worthy I was and how dare they think otherwise!!
Instead of being myself and being vulnerable, I shut down and closed off, lest I be measured and found lacking. I was scared and uncomfortable. My feelings were driven by all sorts of nasty thoughts about my worth and value and in the end, I was feeling terrible all by my own hand. The end result was that I wasn’t showing up as myself. I was closed off. I was making myself the outsider that I was so desperately trying NOT to be. Pure craziness!
As a life coach, I don’t have it all figured out and I am just as human and fallible as the next person. What I do have is a good understanding of my brain and how my thoughts drive my feelings, actions, and results every moment of every day. I was able to get to the root of my sour mood and resolve it in a way that lead to greater clarity about myself and my fears.
Every bad mood and negative feeling is simply an opportunity to explore your mind and deepen your relationship with yourself. This is the journey of life!
Interested in continuing this work? Sign up for a free coaching consultation with me!