Judgment is all around us. We silently evaluate and judge others for what they say, what they do, how they look. We make assumptions and project personal fears and beliefs onto people and situations. We compare ourselves, deeming our situations and decisions as better or worse than another’s. We judge ourselves, creating beliefs about who we are and expectations about who we should be.
Recently, I wrote about an interaction with a friend that left me feeling judged and hurt. I also shared that I chose to forgive my friend rather than being angry and to forgive myself rather than taking on the judgment as a reality about myself. This is a major step in healing and growth, it requires that you fight the ego’s urge to proliferate the cycle of judgment by dismissing the other, becoming defensive, or letting the judgment wound you.
Judgement leads us to evaluate ourselves and others as good/bad, better/worse, wrong/right, superior/inferior, worthy/unworthy. We have been conditioned to understand that judgment is completely normal, but learning to judge less and react differently to the judgment of others offers us a level of emotional growth and freedom that is nothing short of miraculous. I’ve been making conscious attempts to witness my own judgment; which also entails learning how to react differently when we feel judged by others.
Here are three common reactions to judgment and how we can chose differently:
Separation. One way we protect ourselves in many aspects of life is to make ourselves separate from others subconsciously. If we are separate, than we are different. If we are different, we can build walls of protection. Making ourselves separate from a person who has judged us is a common reaction. We separate ourselves by offering them an unfavorable title or label such as asshole, petty, stupid. Essentially, when we dismiss and label someone who has judged us, we are now placing our judgement on them and building a mental wall that allows us to feel separate and “better than” them. Meeting judgment with more judgment will not help you gain peace, but rather grow anger and resentment.
Instead, choose to forgive. Forgiving the person from whom you felt judgment does not require any interaction. It simply requires a willingness and a desire to feel better. Harboring anger towards someone halts your ability to heal and grow. From a bigger metaphysical perspective, we are never detached from another. We are all interconnected, so the feelings we project towards them are an energy. We continue to share this energy with them, even if we are not in the same physical space. So, if we are sharing an energy, either positive or negative, it also entails we are retaining some of that energy for ourselves. Yes, anger is often comfortable, we feel entitled to it when someone has done or said something hurtful. But, we are also entitled to happiness and inner peace, it is available to us always and is a choice we make by deciding what feelings and energies to hold on to. I’ll double back to this post and link several meditations and prayers about forgiveness, but here is one I love by Gabby Bernstein.
Defensiveness. When we are feeling judged or attacked it is easy to become defensive. Defensiveness acknowledges a threat; a threat creates anger; anger makes us counter-attack. In this cycle, we feel justified because our own attack is in the name of self-defense and preservation of our pride. Defensiveness is a vicious cycle through which we will not achieve any kind of peace.
Instead, practice defenselessness. When you feel judged or attacked and are tempted to let foolish thoughts raise your defenses or attack another, simply pause. Pause and remember that when we are defenseless, we affirm that we will not trade our own peace and happiness for a fragment of senselessness that crossed our path. In these moments, remember your job is not to argue for your worth or preach the value of your “side” or beliefs; it is merely to demonstrate a better way.
Taking on the judgment. We often take on a judgment as reality. We let the words and opinions of others wound us and affect our sense of self worth or dictate what is possible for us in the future.
Instead, be gentle and witness the judgment. Remember, what another person projects on you says more about them than it says about you. Be gentle; they are offering you a glimpse into their fears and the past experiences that shape their current reality. Witness the judgment and understand that judgments are deep-rooted. The most kind thing you can do is to witness the judgment of another and hold space for their growth and healing. Know that this requires nothing but compassion.
I realize, in typing and reading these tips that they are easier said than done and certainly reflect my own vantage point on my journey of growth and self-awareness (though I do not practice these steps perfectly). A past version of me might not have had the capacity to choose to forgive or be defenseless. Certainly, a past version of me would not have been okay with holding space and trying to find compassion and gentleness for someone whom I felt had judged me. No, these are most assuredly steps that required a great deal of prior learning and willingness. It’s also taken a dedication to becoming aware of when I have chosen low-vibe states like fear or anger and choosing to see peace instead. I wholeheartedly realize how hippy-dippy these concepts might sound if you’re not quite yet ready to practice them. My wish for you is that your journey of growth will be swift and this will resonate with you and serve you soon.