We tend to think of “judgment” as an extreme; something overt that is impossible not to notice, usually because it's offensive and based on stereotypes. We all know these mainstream stereotypes. Because of this, judgment has such a negative connotation that most people would not want to identify themselves as "judgmental." We even judge people we believe are judgmental for being judgmental.
In reality, we all are judgmental on a daily, even hourly basis. Let me explain. Our minds like to compartmentalize (put into understandable categories) things, people and experiences…basically everything. It probably goes back to survival (i.e. wild bear = bad = danger = run). And we are still doing this today with "good" and "bad" at the most basic level (i.e., I got laid off from my job today = bad = spiral into all kinds of negative emotions/assumptions and projections on the future = depression).
But what if getting laid off wasn't "bad?” What if it was in fact "good?" What if you hated that job and were miserable, but would never have left it otherwise? What if it becomes an opportunity to pursue your true passion?
I realize this sounds like overly positive thinking and maybe even denying sadness or other emotions that are still there, but my point is that getting laid off may not necessarily be good or bad. Neither one has any truth to it except what you place on it.
This is why our perceptions of our experiences, not our experiences, dictate our internal state (contentment or lack of it). But let's get back to the main topic of judgment and how it relates to the idea that experiences are not inherently good or bad, only your mind sees them as such. When placed upon people, judgment can wreak so much havoc. When our mind puts people into categories, or groups of people into categories, we feel much safer. We think we know what to expect from them, and then how to act in response to protect ourselves. This can be anything from clutching your purse tighter when walking by a homeless man, or guarding your heart when the attractive, charming person at the party is flirting with you, it's all judgment (and possibly some fear and insecurity, but for now let's focus on judgment).
In that moment at the party you are judging that person, putting him or her into your mind's category for an attractive/ confident/charming person. We then make assumptions based on what we've seen, heard, been taught, and sometimes personally experienced in the past. Perhaps for you, attractive person = player/liar/cheater/insincere/ promiscuous = stop all vulnerability = put my guard up = act disinterested. Now, of course, this is all happening in our minds so fast it is out of conscious awareness; and yet these thoughts make us act accordingly. And guess what, that same attractive person who constantly experiences the people he or she approaches as cold and disinterested is forming his or her own judgments; maybe that women are stuck up or men are rude, which is now reinforced by you from misunderstanding the fact that you are actually not disinterested, you are just guarding your heart.
Remember, assumptions are true only within thoughts. But, it is possible to become more aware of aspects of yourself that are complicating your life when they are not understood. Awareness changes everything.
Just as getting laid off is not good or bad, that attractive person hitting on you is not an insincere liar, until he or she proves it.
Start to observe throughout the day how many judgments you walk around placing on everything and everyone. Joe came to work late again = bad/he’s lazy, my neighbor baked me cookies = good/ she’s genrous. WHY? The automatic judgments are hard to stop, but try asking yourself “why?” How do you know? When we can stop judging people, situations and things, our minds can live in the gray area. This is a freer more open space where things just are and people just are whoever they are, as you get to know them. A person can even be all the "good" you always saw in them, AND do something you consider "bad." We are human after all, and no one is all good or all bad. This "open mindedness" allows for creativity to flow and new ideas to form. It also promotes compassion. When you are not in a constant state of protection from your judgments of others, and from others judging you and treating you accordingly, you are free to be your authentic, kind, self in the world.
If you would like help with understanding these concepts on a deeper level, please contact me at email@example.com.