Can you see it? A judge, sitting on a bench, banging the gavel and calling for order. This is actually quite appropriate to compare to how our brain uses judgment to create order.
Judgment is initiated by the brain in order to decide, or judge, if something is good or sustaining, or bad or destructive for our survival. Back before we had so much around us to judge, it was critical to use our judgment in order to eat non-poisonous foods, connect with other humans that would protect us, venture into unknown places, and so on. In a chaotic world, judgment was key to make sense of it all.
Now, in an environment saturated with so much more to judge, judgment still has its place. We typically place value on sound judgment, although that can sometimes be debated with how entertaining unsound judgment can be. (There would be no America’s Funniest Home Videos without it.)
But the judge in our heads can become problematic when our judgments have harmful or negative consequences when it comes to others, and especially when it comes to ourselves.
Where judgment comes from.
The area of the brain that judgment originates from is the frontal lobe. This is the part of the brain that controls higher executive functioning, like problem solving, impulse control, and language, among other things.
The activity of judging is constant in our brain. Some of these judgments don’t create much palpable feeling, but others can create all encompassing, distracting feelings.
When we judge, we’re judging against the past conditioning we’ve grownup with. And one of the most fascinating things about judgment is that when we judge someone else, we’re actually judging ourself in some way or another.
You spot it you got it.
“You spot it you got it” is one of my favorite sayings to keep top of mind, to help me recognize when I’m judging someone else, and how it relates back to me. I know that if I’m fixating on something in someone, and judging them harshly for it, it’s something that I don’t like about myself, and they are a reflection.
I’ve changed my mindset and consider this a gift, because it allows me to see where I’m hard on myself, and where I can release judgment against myself. No one likes being judged. It’s scary. But a lot of us do it to ourselves all day long. The good news is, you don’t have to.
Awareness - you can’t start to change something if you don’t bring it into your conscious awareness. So that’s step number one. Challenge yourself to recognize when you are being judgmental of someone else or yourself.
Don’t judge yourself - this is a tough one. Once you start to recognize all the judgments your brain creates, it’s easy to negatively judge yourself. “I’m a jerk!” You’re not a jerk. You’ve just been on autopilot, allowing your brain to judge at its own whims, which is what most humans do.
Relate the judgment back - when you judge someone else, take the time to see how it relates back to you. Whether what you are judging is an example of something you don’t like about yourself, or it conflicts with the “values” you’ve been conditioned with, you can figure out why you’re judging it.
Take responsibility - the judgment is yours. No one did anything to deserve your judgment. You decide what and how you judge. This can be the hardest part of the equation to see, but as an adult no one controls the thoughts your brain fires off. You’re in the driver’s seat, even if it doesn’t feel like it.
Question your judgment - why the heck are you judging something the way you are anyway? Is it because that’s how your parents, friends, religion, society taught you to think? We think in a “hive mind” fashion in order to fit it, but challenge the confines of your thought. Do you have to be judgmental about what you’re judging? Or is it just habit? And most importantly, does judging it create a positive effect in your life?
Let it go - if you decide that you don’t want to judge something or someone that you have been, then let it go. Consciously make the decision to no longer judge it. And when judgment arises, ask the question “why am I judging this?” And if you don’t want to judge it? Say so! Tell your brain “I don’t want to judge this.” If you don’t like how a judgment makes you show up in the world, let it go.
This might sound simplistic, but it truly is this easy once you decide to start recognizing the judgments your brain creates daily. A good bellwether to determine whether a judgment is serving you is how it makes you feel. Yes, judgment can often make us feel justified, but if you dig a little deeper past the justification, you can find negative undertones.
Often, if we’re judging, it’s to try to boost up our own self worth. And self worth is always tied to a fear of not being worthy enough. So we judge to compare our worth to others. Doing this is a losing battle though, because you’ll always find someone that’s “better” than you.
So in order to get off that crazy carousel, try to release some judgment. Challenge yourself to exist in a compassionate space with others, because compassion requires moments of viewing ourselves as equals. After all, we are just human, all in this together.
Frontal Lobe - Neuroskills.com
On Making Judgments and Being Judgmental - Psychology Today
How we judge others is how we judge ourselves - Mark Manson
3 Causes for Judging People (And How to Accept Yourself) - Tinybuddha.com