I tried not to judge for a day and failed

Dear reader,

It has been a while! Life happens. Naturally, I have been sitting on this one since late summer. This entire blog like many of my others is as much for myself as anyone else. As always, I hope you enjoy and relate. My inbox is always open to feedback.

The Challenge

In the summer, I picked up my Five-Minute Journal again. It had been a couple months since I last used it. For those who have not picked up one of these popular mindfulness tools, it is a journal that prompts you to list three things you are grateful for, three goals for the day, and an affirmation. At the end of the day, you list three good things that happened and something that you could have done better. The Five-Minute Journal also has daily quotes and occasionally a challenge for the week. This was one:

Weekly Challenge: No complaining or judging for the whole day.

Not to my surprise, this was an impossible feat for me. I walked into work and every few minutes, I judged, or I complained. Whether my internal dialogue or venting to a friend, it was persistent in my day.

I like to believe that I am not the only person that would find this prompt challenging. However, I am sure there are many enlightened folk out there who spend much less of their headspace in a state of judgement.

Initially, I did not think there was any huge impact that judgement can have on our day-to-day life. Of course, I knew it was not “nice” to judge others but did not recognize the profound effect it can have otherwise.

A short video I watched on judgement by Yasmene Badereldin changed my perception completely. Judgement can be quite destructive.

Everyday Moments of Judgement

I debated not writing on this topic altogether because I felt like I would have to expose myself. Revealing to you the judgmental and downright mean spaces of my mind is a trying exercise in vulnerability.

I judge people every day. Humans are judgemental.

The Five-Minute journal prompt primed me to notice times that I judge someone else. I have been making mental notes of them:

I have judged people when they walk too slow. Or worse, when they are walking with their eyes glued to their phone.

I have judged people when they barge in 5 minutes late to a workout class.

I have judged someone for asking a question I think should be easy for them to find the answer.

Heck, I have judged the caption people choose to us on a social media photo.

More malignant is my tendency to judge people when they make decisions that I would not have. I forget the values and experiences that prompt others to choose differently than me. Instead, I expect others to conform. My mind forgets that something that makes me feel a certain way will not make every other person feel the same.

Yet, I also mentally noted moments where

I was tired after a long shift and I walked slowly on the sidewalk.

I wanted to quickly text a friend back and was glued to my phone while walking.

I lost track of time and ended up a bit late to a workout class.

I had a never-ending to-do list and just needed someone else to quickly answer a question I could find the answer to myself if I tried.

Or I posted a photo with a cheesy caption.

In as many moments as I noticed I judged; I noticed the imperfect moments where I did the very thing I judge someone else for. And I realized I judge myself in those moments as well. On good days, I cut myself slack and give myself the grace I won’t always give others. However often, I speak to myself as harshly as I think of others.

And herein lies our problem:

The Vicious Cycle of Judgement and Low Self-esteem

Judgement is not benign. The greatest example I have found of this in my own life has been at work.

I graduated medical school in May and started residency in July. The first few weeks of working had a steep learning curve. The challenge of starting this was only made worse by my own internal dialogue.

I was frustrated with myself when I missed something at work. I berated myself for not being able to do a particular skill. Questioning my ability to be able to master certain elements of my job cycled through my thoughts.

Iku on the job!

One large factor of my self-doubt early in residency was my perception that others were judging me as harshly as I was judging myself. And honestly, as harshly as I may judge others at work when they slip up or miss something important.

I realized the intimidating headspace I created for myself was the headspace I assumed others lived in. It was liberating to recognize that for one, many people do not exist in that state of mind. And for those that do, how they may think of me does not have any direct impact on my worth, abilities, or trajectory to become great at my job.

For the longest time, the most judgmental and unsafe place for me to be was in my own head. This judgement of myself translated into judgement of others. This is just one vicious cycle judgement creates.

The way we create a world without judgement – the way we make safe spaces to learn and grow – is through ourselves first.

The Vicious Cycle of Judgement and Envy

I recently finished reading When You’re Ready, This Is How You Heal by Brianna Wiest. In one of her essays, she describes letting go of judgement by giving others approval in order to find contentment:

“When you judge other people (which everyone does) you essentially set up a rule for yourself. If you see a successful person, grow envious of them, and then say to yourself, well, they aren’t that great, you’ve set the standard that you must now achieve more than them to be good enough.

Instead, if you start supporting, appreciating, and validating people for what they are, how they look, and what they are doing, that grace will naturally extend back to your own life.”

Brianna Weist, When You’re Ready, This Is How You Heal

The second vicious cycle I realized is linked to judgement is envy. I have seen endless times that “comparison is the thief of joy”. Well, comparison’s cousin and partner-in-crime is judgement. The twist with judgement is that we often validate ourselves in the act. We tell ourselves the judgement is warranted, we say, “Look at the heinous act of this other human!!!”

In reality, when I judge, often there is something in that other person that I want. Whether it is an element of their success or their character, I desire it. If I cannot have my desire or if it seems out of reach, then the next easiest thing is to judge them for it.

Conclusion & Action Items

Unlike a fitness goal or even a reading goal, addressing an aspect of thought like judgement demands a different approach? How can you reduce the amount you judge in your daily life?

Inner work is essential for a goal that revolves around changing thought patterns in your mind. The trifecta of inner work are meditation, journalling, and connection. I’m not perfect with these. I certainly still judge. But these practices still make a difference I can feel when done consistently.

1. Meditate for at least 3-5 minutes in the morning:

There are innumerable benefits to having a meditation practice. If reducing the amount you judge is something you would like to strive towards. Implementing meditation alone could be a helpful action item to start with. Why? One of the tenets of meditation is to observe your mind. Becoming more skilled at this will allow you to notice judgemental thoughts in your day-to-day life.

Only once you notice these thoughts can you question them. You can then ask yourself where these thoughts are originating from: negative self-talk, envy, discontentment, etc.

Inner Critic Meditation (Ten Percent Happier)

Free Range/Walking/Working/Everyday Activity Meditation (Ten Percent Happier)

Simple Breath-focussed Meditation (Ten Percent Happier)

Simple Body-focussed Meditation (Ten Percent Happier)

2. Journal at least 1 time per week:

(Note: a traditional journal, not The Five Minute Journal!)

There are many times where I pick up my journal after weeks, thinking I do not have that much to note down and proceed to word dump for 4 or 5 pages. Journalling, like many other practices I discuss on my blog, is something that you will not feel the benefits of until during or after. So you’ll just have to trust me.

Journalling can be a live form of meditation. My journal is a place where I can tangibly put down the thoughts I have been noticing or cycling through and see them in front of me, reading them back to myself. Often, this primes me to ask the right questions of them, realize what my judgements are telling me about myself, and note all of this down in real time. I am biased, I evidently find writing quite rewarding but I think you might as well.

3. Connection:

Simple but sweet – tell someone the judgemental thoughts you are having and work through them together. Therapy can be great for this but a close friend, family member, significant other – any mature person that you trust in your life can be great for this.

Some find a therapist best as it can be embarrassing to share the depths of your judgements to people you know personally but someone who knows you well can be just as helpful.

Sometimes all it takes is another perspective to break a thought cycle and introduce us to a viewpoint that we otherwise would not have found ourselves.

That’s all folks! Thank you for reading. Reminder to take a screen break if you need.


If you liked this blog post, you may also like – Recognizing if you have “Imposter Syndrome” or Friendships As An Adult

Journal – The Five Minute Journal

Book – When You’re Ready, This Is How You Heal – Brianna Wiest

Short Video – A Self-Serving Reason to STOP Judging Others – Yasmene Badreldin

Meditations – Ten Percent Happier Podcast or their App

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