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Judging People – Why We Do it and the Price We Pay

by Andrea M. Darcy

You can tell yourself it’s only something you do with close friends. It’s just a bit of humour, or ‘you don’t really mean it’.

But deep down, most of us know that judging people isn’t a good idea. It’s as if something inside of us feels not quite right with each snide remark that leaves our mouth.

So why, then, can judging others feel so hard to stop?

Why we judge people 

A basic premise of personal coaching is that if we can’t stop a habit, it’s because we aren’t acknowledging what it actually gives us that we want.

See if the following unconscious reasons for judging others feel familiar.

1. It brings you attention.

Judging others when they aren’t around can make people laugh. Of course it’s not a positive form of attention. But if something in you craves attention, then judging can be your way to get it.

2. It helps you feel accepted.

Dropping judgements behind someone’s back tends to be something we do with people we expect to agree with us. In this way it acts as a form of bonding. You are seeking connection, and judgement might be the only way you know how to get it.

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3. It gives you control.

What about judging people to their face, however hidden in ‘jokes’ or ‘feedback’  it may be? This can be a way to feel in control. It puts the other person in his or her place and asserts your power.

4. It stops intimacy.

Of course asserting your feelings of authority via judging others means the other person will close down to you in order to protect themselves. So if something in you is afraid of intimacy, then judgements might be your secret way of keeping everyone at arm’s length.

5. It helps you feel better about yourself.

Judgements are often projections – things we secretly worry are true about ourselves that we then dump onto another person. This can create momentary relief, as you can convince yourself the thing you find so unsavoury is nothing to do with you.

The Price We Pay for Judging Others

The above reasons for judging others might make it clear to you what you are actually losing out on with your habit. But let’s review:

  • You gain attention, but you lose out on respect from others
  • You gain acceptance from a group, but you lose out on trust by members of that group (if you judge others, why not them, too, when they aren’t around?)
  • You gain control over others, but you lose out on again trust, and also mutual support
  • You gain freedom from intimacy, but you miss out on real connection
  • You gain temporary relief from self-judgement, but lose out on truly knowing yourself and having real self-esteem.

In summary, the price we pay for judging others is that we are secretly very lonely, and feel misunderstood. Often we don’t even like ourselves anymore. So it turns out that judging others has a very high price indeed. 

But why do I judge in the first place?

Before you get angry at yourself for being so judgemental, consider that self-judgement isn’t so great either. You weren’t born judging others. It’s not who you are. It’s a habit you have. So what would help is trying to understand yourself and your habit.

How did you end up someone who judges?

1. Judging others can be a learned habit.

You might have grown up in a really negative household, with one parent always coming down hard on the other, or on you and your siblings. Or perhaps you were sent to a boarding school with very critical teachers who encouraged students to criticise each other.

2. Judging others can be a defence mechanism you developed because  of childhood trauma.

If we experience something like neglect, poverty, abuse, or abandonment, we can feel so vulnerable and scared we decide nothing will get to us again. Judging others can be your unconscious way to create a barrier around yourself to keep people at bay.

3. Judging others can also be a way to hide really low self-esteem.

Many people who are always tossing out criticism, blame and judgement secretly don’t like themselves. Their inability to show compassion for themselves sees them not able to show compassion for others. It becomes a vicious circle. The more they judge and upset others, the lonelier they feel, the less they like themselves, the more they judge themselves, the more they lash out judgements at others.

So as you can see, we often end up judging others because we have had some difficult experiences. We are not a bad, terrible person. We are someone who is secretly hurting ourselves. Unfortunately, we are hiding all of it behind hurting others.

So what do I do if my habit of judging other is out of control?

If you feel really out of control with your habit of judging others, if you feel you have a lot of anger inside of you, or you find it hard to like yourself, do consider seeking some professional support.

Yes, it can feel scary to go talk to a counsellor or psychotherapist about angry thoughts and hidden emotions.

But here’s something about therapists – they don’t judge at all. They understand how you got to where you are, and see you and your potential behind all your learned habits. And with time and commitment, they can help you see that potential, too, and to start to live from that, instead of a space of feeling flawed or not good enough.

Would you like to see a counsellor or therapist to break your habit of judging people once and for all? Harley Therapy now connects you with registered and experienced therapists right across the UK. 

Andrea M. Darcy health and wellbeing expert writerAndrea M. Darcy is a health and wellbeing expert, who has done some training in person-centred counselling and coaching. She often writes about trauma, relationships, and ADHD, and advises people on how to plan their therapy journey. Find her on Instagram @am_darcy


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Blog Topics: Relationships, Self Esteem

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