We’re judgmental. It’s human nature. But when you look up the definition of judgmental, “having or displaying an excessively critical point of view,” it’s not a positive one. Face it, most definitions of judgement are not warm and fuzzy! Not only do we have a negative connotation of being judgmental, we willingly engage in the behavior as we browse selfies on Instagram or comment on Facebook and we can’t help but wonder if others are judging us in return. No wonder it’s hard to be our personal best. The critical factor of the brain goes on high alert and the nervous system creates fear and confusion about being judged. Then, the negative feelings of being judged trigger a fear, flight of freeze response in 88% of the brain!
Fear of being judged by others creates a huge hit to our self-confidence and that’s why I do not care for judgement all together! If we can look at our lives and evaluate judgement so that it doesn’t create the same fear, flight or freeze mechanism in the brain, it’s easier to manage life and easier to stay healthy.
Why Being Judgmental is Harmful to Your Health
Remember that the yardstick you use for yourself is how you measure others, and how you assume others measure you. Judging is relative and validates what we experience against what we believe. Our beliefs are made up of our personality traits, our societal, cultural, familial or religious conditioning, and our life experiences. The world around us is our mirror, and judging someone does not define who they are—it defines who we are. The more you judge others, the more you judge yourself; besides, judging others focuses on the negative and trains our minds to seek negativity. This can lead to stress which, in turn, weakens immunity, increases blood pressure and contributes to fatigue, depression and anxiety. It can also lead to people steering clear of you, thereby creating social isolation. People like being around positive people.
Another unwanted response to being judgmental is a physical change in the brain which is more severe than changes caused by other negative emotions. The amygdala is the part of the brain that controls your response to fear and anxiety as well as other emotions and memories and the amygdala is smaller in people who are more judgmental than it is in those who aren’t judgmental. I mean, who wants a smaller brain?
It’s All in How You Choose to Measure Success
As humans, we often get caught up in unnecessary status concerns and superficial comparisons. We must take care in how we measure success because the metrics we choose will determine our actions and beliefs.
Carl Jung said, “Thinking is difficult, that’s why most people judge.” Judging is easy to do on auto-pilot and doesn’t require much thinking or reasoning. Our brains are wired to make automatic judgments about others’ behaviors so we can move through the world without spending much time or energy understanding everything we see.
People also make all kinds of judgments about themselves, and one of the key ways that we do this is through social comparison. In the 1950s, a psychologist named Leon Festinger put forth the social comparison theory which suggests that humans are driven to compare ourselves to others to gain a better assessment of where we stand in relation to the group. Festinger believed that we engage in comparison as a way of establishing a benchmark by which we can make accurate evaluations of ourselves.
People compare themselves to those who are better when they want inspiration to improve, and they compare themselves to those who are worse when they want to feel better about themselves. And, face it, social media holds up an inaccurate picture by which we judge others and ourselves.
When you engage in self-talk, most of the time it’s mundane self-chatter, like telling yourself you are hungry or you need a haircut, but sometimes your internal monologue turns negative and you end up judging yourself. When this type of negative self-talk becomes habitual, you create a limiting belief system in your mind. Whether it’s demanding your own perfection, believing you’ll never be good enough until you lose those last 10 pounds or focusing on perceived weaknesses in your abilities, these judgmental playbacks in your brain can become self-fulfilling prophesies. In my book “Perfect Enough,” I go through the steps of changing your self-talk in detail, including building awareness, stopping the negative and replacing it with positive, and practicing the act of stopping negative thought in its tracks.
Escaping the Judgement Trap
Now you know that being judgmental is something that you should avoid for your mental and physical health. So, how do you get out of the judgment trap?
There’s a way to escape by creating a positive and lasting change to attain your personal best by using a unique combination of techniques including hypnosis, Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and certified Emotional Intelligence Training, along with life and sports coaching. I’ve helped Olympians, cutting-edge CEOs, public figures, professional athletes, prominent physicians, award-winning trainers, and parents improve their quality of life using these techniques.
When I wrote “Perfect Enough” in 2007, my goal was to help people achieve happiness and balance in their lives, and in “The Power to Win,” which I wrote in 2004, I guide equestrians to deal with negative events including comments from fellow competitors, trainers, or horse-show judges.
Along with my books, online courses and downloadable MP3s, here are eight tips to help you help you escape the judgment trap:
- Have an open mind and be curious. There is so much to learn; be open to it.
- Be kind. Remember the old adage about not knowing someone until you walk a mile in their shoes? There is often more than meets the eye. Give others the benefit of the doubt for situations or circumstances beyond our awareness. Don’t forget to be kind to yourself.
- Be Self-Aware. Forgive and accept yourself. The more you understand yourself, the more compassionate you become toward others.
- Be appreciative of your circumstances instead of trying to fit the world into the confines of your personal optics.
- Look at situations from a different perspective. When you are judging yourself, try to think about what it would be like if someone else were in your shoes and they were judging you. Would you want them to judge you the way that you are judging yourself? Probably not.
- Look for the good in people. We all make mistakes and are not perfect. The best way to stop being judgmental is by realizing that everyone has flaws and imperfections, including ourselves.
- Practice using the magical words, “I am” so that your subconscious will assume the words that follow. Replace “I’ll try,” “I hope” and “I can’t” with “I am” and you’ll be surprised how the self-judgment is replaced by positive self-talk.
- Remember that mistakes are just feedback. A mistake simply tells you that there is something you need to do differently and you must commit to making that change. In “Power to Win,” I go over the steps to change your relationship to those “mistakes” so you can quit judging yourself and edit those distractions.
Be patient with yourself. Once you make the commitment to escape the judgement trap, stick with it. It has taken a long time for you to engrain the pattern of judging others and yourself and you will have to maintain awareness so that you don’t fall back it. Everyone does it at their own speed, but it can be done.