Questioning Judgement: Is It Ok to Judge?


Words by Jen Woodward

Judgement is a natural response, we question whether something aligns with our values over and over again. However, it can start to become a negative force in our lives, particularly if it goes beyond judgement and becomes comparisons with others. This month we question judgement and whether it’s good for our mental health and explore some reflections on our judgemental thoughts.

We all judge others, it’s only natural, our brains were made to categorise things as either good or bad. We see someone, or perhaps a situation happening and ask ourselves whether it aligns with our values. That initial judgement is just a process happening - is that ok? Those times where we judge something as not in line with our core beliefs, we might be missing out on something. If we instantly dismiss it, we may miss out on learning something new or meeting someone who broadens our viewpoint. Also, if we adopt an “I’m right and you’re wrong attitude”, we come across as incredibly defensive and lose sight of our own responsibility in a situation.

When judgement goes further it might begin to have a negative impact on our mental health and wellbeing

Perhaps we see someone as fat or thin, we then take it one step further and compare them to ourselves. Us-versus-them thinking is destructive to both sides. If we win in this Russian Roulette of judgement, we feel temporarily great about ourselves. However, if we lose, and the comparison favours the other person, we end up feeling down about ourselves. This contributes to our lacking self-esteem and us not accepting ourselves.

Even when we seemingly judge the other person as worse than us, having that critical voice in our head only attracts negative energy. We may speak about others nastily and people will not trust us and be turned off by the negativity. 

The real cause of judgement

The real cause of judgement is a false belief that there is some kind of hierarch. Yours and others’ circumstances change all the time and actually at some point you will probably find the scales tip and you end up being at the bottom of that pecking order you’ve imagined. This self-judgement then also affects your self-esteem and climbing out of low feelings and poor self-worth is not an easy task.

It isn’t necessarily possible or positive to suppress judgement, but it’s important to notice and reflect on it. It’s coming up for a reason, and often those thoughts tell us more about ourselves than others. Judgement is usually based on our past experiences and someone or something not fitting into that story. Tuning into judgemental thoughts and being aware of them when they happen allows you to notice what in your past is being brought up, and to question the authenticity of it. It also provides the opportunity to explore the impact negative thoughts have on yourself and others. Over time, just noticing, you’ll begin to form a natural distaste for judgement.

Your judgements say more about you than you think

On a deeper level, judgement is related to self -judgement. We condemn others based on the things we fear in ourselves. Once you start noticing judgemental thoughts, ask yourself if they tend to centre around a particular thing. It could be work performance, parenting style, weight and appearance or personal taste. Then question whether those qualities are those you fear are, or could be, present in yourself. Could judging others be a way to deflect from people judging you?

Coming at things from a non-judgemental place means accepting that others see things differently, rather than assuming they are wrong. It means appreciating that others have different thoughts and opinions and acknowledging that leaning their way a little could be eye-opening and ultimately good for you. 

Yoga and meditation help us to become more self-aware - increasing our ability to notice when we fall into unhealthy thought patterns such as excessive judgement.

If you’re based in London, come and try a class at our beautiful wellbeing space and practice moving through life with awareness and compassion

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Jen Woodward is a psychodynamic therapist who works in London. You can find out more about Jen and her work over on her website.

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