I am, by nature, a judgmental person. I believe we all are. People who claim not to be judgmental are lying (welcome to one of my many, many judgments). I've always asserted that it's a basic human survival instinct to judge, to assess the threat someone else poses to my continued existence, and act accordingly.
But I'm starting to think I've been lying to myself. Of course, if someone is charging at me with a serrated knife (and I live in East London so this is entirely possible), then it's probably a fair assessment to categorise them as a risk. But the following groups of people, whom I tend to judge in the harshest of terms, can do me no actual physical harm whatsoever:
Online business gurus who claim to have the secret to a 6, 7 or 8-figure business
People who Instagram pictures of themselves in swimwear.
Anyone on a reality TV show. Anyone.
Daily Mail readers (although I suspect a strong overlap between this group and the serrated knife-chargers).
People who have a big house in London that they haven't saved for 25 years to buy.
Anyone who claims to be 'woke'.
Here's the naked truth: judgment is the flipside of comparison. It reveals to us the things we desire, the things we feel insecure about, or the things that cause us shame. If I compare myself to someone, then it's ME who comes up lacking - 'I'm not good enough'. If I judge someone, then it's THEY who comes up lacking - 'That person there is not good enough'. But the root cause is exactly the same.
Let's look at the above judgments to see what they reveal about me:
I want to be wealthy. I want a financially successful business. (Desire)
I'm convinced people would desert Instagram in petrified droves if I posted a picture of myself in a bikini. (Insecurity)
I want to be famous. (Desire)
The Daily Mail showbiz app has been installed and deleted on my phone more times than I care to remember. (Shame)
If someone handed me the keys to a 4-bed in East London tomorrow, I'd grab them and disappear before you could say 'Bye Felicia'. (Desire)
I like to be seen as liberal and socially aware whilst deep down I know I harbour prejudices that even I'm not fully aware of. (Shame)
So what's actually the problem with judging others? It's this: when you are wholly focused on other people's choices, you cannot be present to your own experience of things. In other words, it's very difficult to stay in your own lane if you're constantly peering angrily at the driver next to you who you think is driving too slow / too fast / a pretentious Range Rover Evoque.
Now, parenting is the ultimate hotbed of judgment. It offers up the holy trinity of something you desire (to be the perfect parent and not fuck up your kids for life); insecurity ('I'm a terrible parent who is fucking up my kid for life') and shame ('I've got no idea what I'm doing and I'm doing it all wrong'). From my own experience, it is virtually impossible not to form judgments on other parents' choices, and to feel a (not-so-) tiny kernel of relief when you perceive someone to be doing a worse job than you. And that's ok. We're all human.
But, obviously, judging other people does nothing to improve our own lives. I've noticed that this week, as my 9-month son started nursery. I've been looking at the other kids and forming silent judgments about their age / behaviour / snotty noses (it really is a gross as you'd think it would be). My judgments are 100% reflections of my own insecurities about the parenting choices we've made, and do f*ck all to help me shift my focus to building a business, or to help Hudson feel more settled at nursery.
What's the answer then? What IS the antidote to judgment? The answer is simple, and yet requires a lifetime of work: we must turn our gaze inwards. Only by becoming more and more aware of our OWN experience of things, focusing on OUR choices instead of someone else's, and understanding what our judgments reveal about US, can we shush that nasty voice that says 'oh, you shouldn't do it like that'.
So next time you notice yourself going 'urgh what is that person wearing / doing / saying', try stopping for a few seconds and asking yourself the question: 'What is it about this situation that I secretly want, feel insecure about, or feel ashamed of?'. The answer might surprise you...
Unless, of course, you wish to carry on being the queen / king of judgment, in which case please join me in switching on E!, and let yourself run wild.
PS - I'm building a 3-month coaching programme to support men and women navigating early parenthood. If you want to learn more, or share your experiences with me, please feel free to sign up here!