We can’t help but judge others. It’s the way we’re programmed. What we can help, however, is the way we respond to those judgmental thoughts that pop into our heads. And it begins with recognizing that these judgments we make, especially the mean-spirited ones, really say more about the way we perceive ourselves than they do about the people we’re judging.
To really move forward in our own journey’s of self-love, self-acceptance, and body-positivity, we need to be keep a critical eye on the negative thoughts we entertain about other people—their qualities, their behavior, their bodies, and so on—because when we refuse to accept others as they are, often times we’re really struggling to accept ourselves as we are. After all, if we can’t accept our own sources of insecurity, how can we accept them in others?
Below we have a few mental steps you can take to reframe your judgments of other people, to open yourself up in kindness toward others, and in doing so, find some kindness for yourself.
1. Be mindful of your snap judgments
We are so inclined to judge other people that we may hardly even realize when we’re doing it. It can be as easy and require as little thought as breathing. So the first step, in reframing these judgmental thoughts, is to really look for them and to pause on them when they do pop into our mind. And not just the thoughts we voice aloud, but the thoughts we leave unspoken too. The more practiced you are in your mindfulness, the more often you’ll catch yourself and think, “Huh, that wasn’t a very compassionate thought, was it?” or, “Wow, I really jumped to a conclusion there.”
2. Where did that thought come from?
Next, it’s time to ask yourself, where did that mean-spirited thought really come from? Chances are, whatever it was that inspired that judgmental feeling, has something to do with our own personal insecurities. Sarah Sapora, life coach, and self-love and body-positivity advocate, who we have been fortunate enough to work with in the past, explains it like this, “When we stand in judgment of others, we’re really standing in judgment of ourselves. We’re highlighting, with a big yellow highlighter, what our fears and beliefs are about ourselves. That other person becomes a catalyst for our own processing. That other person becomes the measurement by which we evaluate ourselves.” And in that way, the people we’re judging become a sort of reflection of the limiting beliefs we hold about ourselves. Sapora says that what we really need to do is ask ourselves, “What is it about this person that I see in myself, and that is causing me to react this way?”
Let’s try some examples. Have you ever thought something like, “Yikes, what is she wearing?” Or, “He totally isn’t pulling that look off,” or “What’s she doing in that swimsuit? Even I wouldn’t try to wear something that small—she definitely shouldn’t.” First of all, let’s step back and realize that whatever someone else chooses to wear, whatever the shape of their body happens to be, it really doesn’t have any impact on us personally, does it? So why should we feel upset then, or mean-spirited about it? Maybe, more truthfully, we’re just insecure about our new look, about our bikini bodies (reminder: all bodies are bikini bodies if they're in a bikini).
Dr. Clayton Chau, the Regional Executive Medical Director for mental health and wellness for Providence St. Joseph Health, told us that what Sapora describes here is exactly right. “We often judge others that somehow threaten the way we perceive ourselves—someone that, for one reason or another, agitates our own insecurities, and then becomes a projection of those insecurities.”
3. What do I need to work on?
Once we understand where the judgmental feeling is really coming from, we can use it as an opportunity to grow, to look at ourselves with compassion, and to face our fears. Sapora says it’s as simple as this, “The more acceptance we have for others, the more acceptance we have for ourselves. And the more acceptance we have for ourselves, the more acceptance we have of others.”
Dr. Clayton Chau adds that “When we choose to defy the impulse to judge, and approach instead with compassion, these moments can also become opportunities to expand our social networks, and to learn about the beauty of other perspectives and cultures.”
But facing up to our insecurities is a difficult thing to do. It takes daily effort, and it takes courage. As Sarah Sapora says, the only way to make these changes sustainable is to do so from a place of massive self-love. “You can’t make these choices and changes from a place of fear,” Sapora says. “You have to do it from a place of love.”
Read more of our thoughts on practicing self-love and body-positivity here.
We want to hear from you. How do you reframe your judgmental thoughts of others? How does celebrating others help you to celebrate yourself? Join the conversation on social media using the hashtags #BeWell, #BeThere, and #BeHeard.
To hear more from Sarah Sapora and Dr. Clayton Chau, look here.