To Judge Is Human
April 19, 2020
It is in our nature to classify and categorize everything that we come across or experience. Rich or poor, strong or weak, smart or dumb, happy or sad, speedy or slow, honest or dishonest, success or failure, etc.
We have mental models and rules built in our minds for everything based on how we classify and categorize something.
For me, Books are good. Digital gadgets are not great. I have a mental model reading books is useful, and the use of too many digital devices is not good. My son could have a mental model that the books are old world; gadgets are useful. I think he is wasting time. He feels he is managing his time very productively.
I feel in control when I have more information. I may have a mental model that I will get inputs from multiple sources and take as much time as possible to make critical decisions. My partner may have a view that one does not need to get into information overload as broadly the vital choices are directional, and it is better to be efficient and speedy in decision making.
I may have a mental model today that COVID-19 is not a big deal from a statistical standpoint, and governments should look at economics and human wellbeing as two sides of the same coin. Someone else may have a view that every life matters, and no amount of economics can justify any lifting of the lock-down.
We are constantly getting bombarded with a lot of information from multiple sources. Anything aligned to our mental model, we feel good, since it reinforces our position. Anything not aligned to our mental model, we categorize that as negative.
This process of classifying something and labeling it as good, wrong, like, dislike, agree, disagree is judging.
It is human to judge. In a society, everyone is always judging others and everything around and also being judged by others. It is normal and natural to judge or be judged. Where this becomes is a problem is when one of two things happens
- I start paying too much attention to how others are judging me, and I get fixated in trying to behave in a way where people judge me positively. I call this FOOPO- Fear of other peoples opinions. When we start having FOOPO, it is debilitating.
- I start judging everything negatively. My mental models clash with those of the people around me. My language with others and within myself takes a dark tone, and I go into a downward spiral of well-being. I am on a toxic merry-go-round.
How do I protect myself from falling into either of these two traps?
First, It starts with accepting this simple reality. It is the nature of people to judge. Whenever you are feeling stuck and worried that you are being judged, ignore that voice in your head. When you feel judged , you also become very judgmental. Negative judgement in a lot of ways stems from our own perceived deficiency. It’s impossible to please everyone. Just do what you have to do.
Second, pay attention to how you are reacting to events and people around you. Is the proportion of negative criticism in your head very high? It’s time for you to acknowledge that you need to break the cycle. Negative judgment is a bit like a virus. If not addressed upfront, it can take an exponential dimension and become a habit. Break the cycle. An excellent way to break the cycle is to build a set of mental models around curiosity, gratitude and appreciation.
When we start recognizing and actively working to stop judging ourselves and other people, we lift a big weight of negativity off our shoulders. We free ourselves to be happy with who we are and content in the world in which we live.