The Judgment Zone

Posted on March 25th, 2014

Many of us spend a lot of time in the judgment zone, that mental-emotional space where we make critical judgments about other people. They’re too fat or too thin, too awkward, not smart enough, too tall or too short, too ethnic, not successful enough, say or do the wrong thing, overreaching or under-accomplished. The list of hooks for a critical judgment is endless.

When we stop to take a look at it, this is not usually something we are proud of or happy about, but the judgments roll on in our minds and out of our mouths anyway.

What’s that about?

Judgment of others is actually a reflection of self-judgment going on in us. When we end the habit of judging ourselves, judging others dissolves. It’s that simple.

Self-judgment originates from an extended experience of being judged and shamed by others—parents, teachers, friends or lovers. The result of this judging by people we are close to is that feelings of inadequacy and shame become entangled with the love and acceptance we seek from them. Just as healthy relationships lead to internalizing feelings of worthiness and self-love, being repeatedly judged by others leads to internalizing inadequacy and shame.

Once this dynamic is internalized, we play out both parts, splitting our awareness of ourselves into the judger and the judged. But of course we are still one person, and this splitting does not end our suffering. Every judgment we make about ourselves hurts us further. To avoid experiencing these painful feelings of being judged, we identify instead with the powerful judger. Then, seeking relief from our torment, we displace the target of our judging from ourselves to other people.

There is a way out of this self-perpetuating judging—to stop judging ourselves. What makes this sometimes difficult to do is that judging has been a strong link to important people in our lives. It’s part of our attachment to them. Still, judging only exists because we engage in it. When we stop doing it, it ends and leaves no residue behind.

Instead of being mired in judgment, we can learn to notice ourselves with non-judgmental love, to strengthen this capacity for love in ourselves until it is strong enough to anchor us in the world, free of judgment of ourselves and others.

Posted in Change | Individual Counseling

Please remember, this is a blog. It is not psychotherapy or treatment of any kind and is not a substitute for the individual treatment you can get from going to see a good therapist.

2 thoughts on “The Judgment Zone

  1. Mark–lovely message–I can relate to becoming less judgmental in middle age, and then experiencing an amazing new freedom! Your website is beautiful by the way. :). -Catherine