One of my favourite poems, Desiderata, mentions that we should never compare ourselves with other people because it can make us “vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself”. I agree, but I still love to compare myself with other people and, in the process, judge myself as well as others.
It’s interesting to me that judging others can make us feel better or worse about ourselves. This is one of the reasons gossiping has been found to lower stress levels. We all love drama, especially when it’s happening to someone else. Someone we don’t really care that much about. This part is crucial I think, because we never want the drama to happen to someone we love.
I think of myself as a critical person, especially when I meet someone new. I can’t help judging someone immediately when I meet them. The phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover” makes no sense to me, because we do it all the time. And it’s natural, because when you meet someone you use the information you have to make up your mind about someone. And if you don’t know someone, that information is usually visual. What someone looks like, how they talk, how they smell… We use this information to categorize someone to decide, very early on, who they are to us.
“I bet if you think about your top ten closest friends, you can sum each of them up in a one-sentence description. We’re all innately judgmental even subconsciously” – Aliza Licht
What does judgmental really mean? For me, it’s a very basic categorization of people I meet – the smart one, the creative one, the lonely one, the naïve one. Like Aliza Licht says in her book Leave Your Mark (great read!) I can easily sum up everyone I know in one sentence. This doesn’t mean I’m superficial and mean, it’s just a way of organizing people in my mind. It’s perfectly normal and I’m sure I’m a certain type of person to other people as well. I secretly wonder how other people categorize me and sometimes I ask my friends and family exactly how they see me. You’ll never know the whole truth though. People are never as honest to your face as they are in their minds. And that’s a good thing!
So why am I so judgmental? I speak for myself here – even though I’m pretty sure we’re all the same. Does it make me feel happy to judge others? Yes, sometimes it does. And sometimes it doesn’t. The truth is, I really love being around people who intimidate me, because that means I look up to them and can learn from them. On the other hand, being around people who look up to me can make me feel unjustly “vain”.
I don’t think I have a judgmental personality, I think it’s perfectly normal and human to judge other people. I do think you need to be careful with expressing this judgment. It doesn’t help others, or yourself, if you tell someone you’re better than they are. First of all, you’re not. Second, it does absolutely nothing for the person or for yourself. All you do is spread negativity. You make someone else feel bad about themselves and there’s no way you can feel good by making someone else feel bad. I firmly believe that.
So I think there’s no need to stop judging people, but it is important to keep this judgment to yourself. If you judge someone, do it quietly and for your own satisfaction (whatever that may be). Use this judgment to better yourself, or be proud of who you are right now. If you’ve worked hard to get yourself through university and you meet someone without a degree who has trouble getting a job, it’s perfectly fine to feel proud of your own achievements. But don’t make the other person feel bad about it and don’t let it get to your head; there are also many people higher on the ladder than you.
I think that’s the most important thing for personal growth: it’s fine to look down, but it’s much more important to look up. And don’t let it make you bitter, let it inspire you. Look at where you want to be and see who’s already there. Feel happy for them and feel excited that you will achieve it too one day. I really believe that in order to achieve something, you have to feel happy for the people that have what you want. If you want more money, feel happy and excited when you meet someone who has more money. Don’t resent them. Pretend it’s you. How would you feel if you had that money? This can work wonders for your mood.
Be happy now
People are always happy for other people’s achievements once they’ve achieved something themselves. But you shouldn’t spend your life being bitter and resentful and wait to achieve something to be happy for other people. Be happy now. What do you have to lose? Avoid people that make you feel vain or arrogant and surround yourself with people that inspire you. Don’t be bitter, feel inspired; get ready to grow to their level. I’m convinced that bitter people will never achieve anything for themselves. Just try it for a while and see how it makes you feel. It will change your perception on life – trust me, I’ve tried it! I used to love getting lost in hating on other people and it gave me nothing except lots of negativity. It certaintly didn’t take their success away, it only made me feel bad. Once I started shifting my perception to people I admire, everything changed. It’s liberating. So judge others, but don’t let it define you. Feel inspired, be happy for other people’s accomplishments and you will soon celebrate your own.