When it comes to dissecting your personality, there are a few traits that you hope desperately not to find there.
Even though you’re passionate and supportive and kind and loyal, you probably know, in your heart, that you’re also likely to be harbouring some less than favourable traits too: arrogance maybe, selfishness, meanness, thoughtlessness or being prone to being a bit judgemental, are all things that, try as we might to quash and ignore, are the parts integral to making us, us.
I like to spend most of my life pretending that I am all that it says in my CV; hard working, thoughtful and passionate with a clean driving licence and being guilty only of not know when to stop. Alas, even a quick examination of my innermost workings would reveal a series of shittities, loitering just beneath my glossy (but a little bit dry at this time of year) veneer.
Knowing this, I suspect, is what stops most of us from even beginning the dissection at all, for fear of what we find. To acknowledge any of these traits is, after all, to admit to yourself that your behaviour is not always admirable; that you’re letting yourself down and failing as the person that you want to be. To acknowledge these traits is to concede that you’re not always that nice.
And that’s a fucker of a pill to swallow.
In part because we are, generally speaking, pathetically reliant on the validation that comes from being liked and these traits do nothing to aid the popularity contest that is life. And also, rather less cynically, because at the core of it all, most of just want to be nice and these miserable traits, in part just a byproduct of the human condition and in part the teaching of a fairly shitty society, are preventing us from doing that.
But here I am regardless, guilty probably of all of those things listed above from time to time, and willing to admit, not just to myself, but to the internet at large, that I am sometimes (a lot of the time) way too judgemental.
Truthfully, this is a bit of a nightmare for me, since so much of me; my work, my book, my life is about not just encouraging, but living without judgement and in a kind and supportive way. I live and breathe positivity in one sense. It is at the core of all that I do. And yet there is this side of me. This beast, deep within, rooted, no doubt in archaic insecurities, but reeking havoc on the behaviour of a person who would love, so much, to be free from it.
When I was younger, I often mistook my ‘judgemental’ tendencies for being nothing more than my strong sense of justice. When I saw people doing things that I didn’t like, when I looked down on a person for a decision that I deemed wrong, I would judge them, but I would do it under the guise, basically, of thinking that it was OK, because I knew what was best.
I probably fancied myself as a bit of a characteristic-Robin-Hood. Rewarding good decisions with my approval and punishing moronic ones by allowing my disapproval to be evident by the ‘I just sucked a lemon’ face that I’d do little to try to hide.
(I think we might need to add heightened-sense-of-self to the personality traits to be ashamed of list too, eh?.)
Truthfully, I think I thought I was quite a good lawyer in the making; I had, I still have, a very strong sense of right and of wrong. I thought as I grew this sense, and the subsequent judgement, merely a byproduct of my so-thought fair mindedness, would permit me a lucrative career in an industry based on fighting for justice. It’s only been in recent years that I’ve realised that in order to have done that, I’d have had to at least been able to feign a smidge of impartiality… and that would have been impossible for me.
Chances are too, that I’d have been be forced, at some point, to defend someone I knew to be wrong, to be guilty. And my “sense of justice” (my judgemental-ness) simply wouldn’t allowed for that.
I’d also have needed better exam results, by the way, but that’s neither here nor there.
So instead of being a lawyer I created a career for myself which, at it’s heart, is dedicated to being nice and positive and kind. Of preaching love and support and speaking out on what is right. My ‘judgemental nature’ could not be less on-brand if it tried. And yet, still it exists.
Judgement seeps out of my pores like butter through a crumpet.
Things that aren’t my business. That aren’t mine to control. That aren’t even for me to be thinking about: I will judge them. The people, the actions, you name it, I’ll have an instant and unstoppable thought on it.
I do it even as I feel myself squirm. I do it as I will myself not to. And, because I’m quite clearly crippling self aware, I’ve found myself wondering a lot lately, what that says about me.
In one sense, being judgemental is an integral part of the work that I do. To make a judgement on something is, in a sense, nothing more than a gut reaction. It’s an instinctual thought, a decisive and passionate response to something. It’s an opinion and opinions are integral to change.
Without people there to pass judgement on decisions and behaviours, society would be deprived entirely of progress; if no one had had any particularly strong feelings about the patriarchy, for example, there’s every chance I wouldn’t have a vote or a job or the right to choose what happens to my body.
Judgement, in one way, is indicative of passion and passion, in abundance, is marvellous.
But in so many other ways, being judgemental is utterly grim.
Because passing judgement; well it’s rarely a positive affair.
Particularly in the society that I grew up in. Because the things that I find myself judging people for; well they’re often things that I don’t even really think. Or think I think, at any rate.
Making judgements about what people eat, look like, wear, do, say, act, show an interest in, these are, more often than not, taught reactions. Although they feel instinctive to me, I don’t think I was born to look less favourably on people that wore yellow; I think, rather, I formed an opinion based on those of the people surrounding me. I grew up attune to a society that spoke of fat people in a certain way, of religious groups, of politicians, of men and women, of different areas of the UK differently and it made me judgemental.
You couple that with the fact that, to a degree, passing judgement is a part of the human condition and it’s small wonder that I am the way I am. It’s small wonder any of us are the way we are.
I would love to live and let live. To watch others’ behaviour with the bemused disinterest I am so envious of so many of my friends for possessing. I wish I could butt out, not care, not think. I wish I hadn’t been conditioned to judge and to revel in the power it gave me for so many years. I wish too I’d recognised what a toxic characteristic it was sooner, so I could have begun the unlearning process before I did.
Alas. I didn’t.
And still now, despite the fact I am utterly riddled with the self awareness, my right eyebrow still soars up to the heavens when it meets a thing it deems not right. The real disadvantage of having a face like play-doh, by the way, is a complete inability to ever hide what you’re feeling.
Instinctively I am judgemental. I suspect we all are. But in myself particularly, I really don’t like it. The speed at which I judge a thing often means I’ve made up my mind before I’ve even allowed an attempt at understanding.
A snap judgement is done without any consideration for anything other than what’s right in front of you; it excludes circumstance, mitigating evidence, compassion, humanity.
So I’m dedicating a lot of time to unlearning this trait.
I’m slowing down and thinking more; I’m clinging onto my right eyebrow for dear life and allowing my rational brain a chance to kick in before my judgemental one gets the chance. I’m spending more time in other people’s shoes, acknowledging my privilege, and crucially, I am fully appreciating, for the first time, how completely and utterly irrelevant my opinion is to most people.