how to be less judgmental

(tldr I WISH I KNEW.)

feeling judgmental

I’m naturally a pretty judgmental person. But sometimes I hate that. I wish I were a Carefree Girl (maybe a cousin of the cool girl?):

Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl…[Cool Girl] doesn’t ever complain.

Carefree Girl Woman has windswept hair and tilts her chin to the sky to blow out a puff of weed smoke and drawls in a Matthew McConaughey surfer voice, “You do you, man! Whatevs! It’s all good!”

That is so not me.

I went to a new book club last night and met someone who raised all my stingy judgmental hackles. A huge fangirl of the chosen book and its author, she disagreed with anyone who was less than complimentary. I made a comment I thought was a neutral observation, and she took it as a criticism she had to correct (based on her assumption that she read more YA than I do). Judgy thoughts sprang up:

Ohhh, so you’re 22 and just graduated from an expensive women’s college? RIGHT. Call me when you have some actual real-life experience.

No one cares that you were there for the author’s first kiss with someone I’ve never heard of.

So just because you’re charismatic and well-spoken and clearly a star of your little high school and have a shaved head and want to be an immigration lawyer, your opinion is more valid than the rest of ours?

Bile! So much bile and vitriol! YIKES. Not a good look. I got home and felt icky inside. I want to be kind, loving, inclusive, accepting–toward myself and others. But sometimes that’s hard. Here are some semi-helpful things I told myself:

Maybe being so judgmental is actually avoiding conflict.

I’m also very conflict-averse. Is silently passing judgment on others a cowardly alternative to actually speaking up? Why didn’t I say, “That’s cool that you read so much YA, but I didn’t actually mean what I said as a criticism, just an observation”? (Hindsight.) Speaking up is scarier than stewing in the muck of judgy thoughts, but at least it means dealing with things right away, rather than letting them keep me up at night!

I don’t know how to healthily disagree.

One thing I’ve learned from examining my childhood is my parents didn’t model healthy conflict. Fighting was scary, a sign of Potential Divorce, something to be avoided at all costs. As a result, I thought (until relatively recently) that having arguments with whoever I was dating meant we were breaking up. Wrong! Mature adults disagree kindly and pick their battles and listen, not run away or blow up. I’m trying to learn how to do that, very belatedly [picture a gangly awkward pony with knobby knees trying to learn to walk](very specific, I know).

I don’t actually know what it’s like to be anyone else.

(Especially someone I just met!) I should take a deep breath and extend some grace to those who piss me off. “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle” and all that. I don’t know what’s making someone else act the way they do, or what their struggle is.

We hate the ugly parts of ourselves we see in others.

I too was an obnoxious 22-year-old once. With a single feminist-y college course under my belt, I thought I was basically the authority on feminism. I grew up. This person will too. I can have some kindness and grace for Younger Know-It-All Me and this stranger who reminds me of that.


Therapist says rather than trying to hatefully squelch and stamp out the parts of myself I don’t like, I should accept the darkness. We ALL have dark bits inside, our shadow selves, as Jung would say. So I’m judgmental. At least I’m aware of it and can try not to let it run my life. It doesn’t mean I’m a terrible person. It’s something I’m working on–it doesn’t define me!

Whew. Basically…kindness. I can do this!









  1. Great juxtaposition with the two photos.

    I also like this line from your essay: “Mature adults disagree kindly and pick their battles and listen, not run away or blow up.” Communication can get messy sometimes, especially when emotions overpower reason.

    I wrote a short essay (700 words) called “Three Traits of Judgmental People.” If you would like to read it, I am open to any feedback:

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