The judgement trap

Judging others keeps us at a distance from people. It affects our ability to build and keep friendships, maintain close relationships with our children and to become intimate with a romantic partner. But you can overcome this harmful tendency

The judgement trap

Every human being has a strong need to be accepted for who he or she is. Unfortunately few people ever experience this. Most of us are judged on the way we look, the way we act and the things we say. Because we are aware of being judged, we tend to feel self-conscious and can even shut down emotionally in order to protect ourselves from the judgments and criticisms of others. Other people’s judgments can have a profound effect on our self-image and our self-esteem.

Because it is so painful to experience the judgements of others, you would think that we would not be judgmental ourselves. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. In fact, the more we are judged, especially as children and adolescents, the more we tend to judge others too.

Criticism—a family value

I was raised in a family of people who habitually judged and criticised others. They considered themselves experts on any given subject and were the first to state their opinion, to give advice, and to tell everyone and anyone what they should do to change.

In fact, I was so judged and criticised when growing up that I learned to become an expert at it myself. I learned to judge others before they had a chance to judge me. This is a common defensive strategy that far too many of us take on.

I became the expert, the authority, the person who looked down pompously at other people. I was wiser, more capable, more ‘right’ than anyone I knew. Few people argued with me and those who did had a major fight on their hands.

I believe we were all put on this earth to learn certain lessons and we are constantly being presented with opportunities to learn our lessons. When we don’t learn our lesson in one situation we can be assured that we will be presented another opportunity to learn it—and then another and another—until we finally learn it.

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Adapted with permission from The Power of Apology: Healing Steps to Transform All Your Relationships written by Beverly Engel and published by Wiley.

This was first published in the June 2015 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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