Tears. Shame. Disbelief. Embarrassment. Pain. Sadness. Judgment. I spent over ten years working with victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. The emotions I listed above, were just some of the many feelings victims had to deal with every day. In addition to dealing with all of these emotions, a lot of the women I worked with told me they felt judged by society, friends, and family members.
They would hear things like:
Why did you stay with him? Why didn't you leave? Why were you out so late? Why didn't you wear something more conservative?
Why indeed? Why would anyone in their right mind ask a victim of violence any of those questions? The questions are full of blame. It's no wonder victims of violence feel so judged by society, friends, and family members.
After years of working as a peer counselor, I’ve realized that an incredible number of people walk around with hidden traumas. And despite intense psychological injuries people tend to judge others for trivial things. It’s important to remember that we’re all human; people who are seeking love, acceptance, understanding, and are juggling incredibly complex lives.
So why is it so easy to jump on the judgment bandwagon? In many ways, it's a whole lot easier to judge others, than to take a hard look at your own life. It's the easy way out. Judging people doesn't require intense self-examination or compassion.
And where does judgment really get us? Does it make us happier or healthier? I don't think so.
Whether we like it or not, we all have biases and judgments (including me). But it is possible to overcome those biases with a lot of work and self-reflection. Below are some of the strategies I've used to overcome my own judgments and preconceived notions.
1. Make time to reflect and write.
Make a list of all your biases and judgments. Write all of it down, even the nasty ugly stuff. Then look at your list and start asking yourself hard questions, like:
- Why do I feel that way?
- Am I projecting my own viewpoint, or being compassionate?
- How can I move past this judgment, toward a behavior that is positive?
By doing this exercise, I’ve been able to identify why I’ve developed certain judgments about people over the years. Understanding why I feel a certain why has helped me change negative behavior patterns and perceptions.
2. Start practicing compassion.
This might seem silly, but remember the old adage you heard as a kid?
"Treat others like you want to be treated."
Every time old judgments start to creep up, remember that phrase. Would you want someone secretly judging your actions, before they really got to know you? Probably not.
3. Be open to alternative points of view.
When I was in college, I thought my way was the only way; especially when it came to political viewpoints. Now, I’ve changed my tune. I actually listen to my friends and family members who have different opinions from my own. By talking less and listening more, I've shoved a lot of my preconceived judgments out the door.
4. Get your volunteer groove on.
If you are a long time reader, you know that I’m a huge proponent of volunteer work. Volunteering is one way to build community, work with a broad range of people, and overcome biases and judgments.
And if you’ve downsized your life and have extra time on your hands, it’s essential to get involved in your community. Use your extra time to help organizations in need or help out friends with upcoming projects!
Make sure you set aside a block of your time every week and get your volunteer groove on.
Not sure where to volunteer? Check out Volunteer Match. It's a great place to get started.
Now it’s your turn: How do you deal with judgments and biases? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.