Don't judge me
If there is one thing that nearly every client I've ever worked with has said to me, it's "please don't judge me."
I always reply in the same way. At this point I honestly don't even know how to judge.
If you have ever wondered why seeing a Counsellor is different to seeing a friend, I would say that even if you disregard everything else about it, the fact that a Counsellor won't judge you, is worth more than anything else.
Everyone judges. We all come from a lifetime of individual experiences, conversations and influences that connect together to create thoughts and opinions of our own. Whether it's the way we have been treated, the way our parents brought us up, media and news, peers or a myriad of other things. It's totally normal and in fact, is there for a good reason.
Judgements keep us safe. Walking alone in the dark and see someone up ahead with a hoody on? No, not everyone with a hoody in the dark is a dangerous person, but judging that they could be and calling for a lift or walking with someone else, may very well be the thing that stops anything happening to you the one time they are.
If judgement stopped there, it would be very useful and would cause no real problems. However, judgement is rife in all circumstances, and towards everyone.
It's ok to judge, it's a very human thing to do, and nothing to punish yourself for. It shows you care and take an interest in what's going on around you. However, perhaps when you do catch yourself doing it, you can ask yourself these two questions at the same time.
1. What is going on for them?
Once, many years ago, I started a new job during one of the most difficult periods of my life. I had severe anxiety and depression, had moved away far from home, and everything was changing. I would spend my days trying to force food into myself to stop losing weight, crying non stop and feeling like getting out of the house was nearly impossible. Suffice to say, making friends at work was a step too far when all I was doing was focusing on surviving. It took many weeks to settle, get the help I needed, start to feel better, and feel like I wasn't drowning. Over time I was finally myself at work and made some really great friends. These same friends would often joke about how they didn't like me when I first started. Apparently, my silence had been interpreted as rudeness, snobbery, nastiness... At no time during those first months had anyone approached me and asked if I was okay. They instantly formed a judgement about me that was completely wrong, and I've seen it repeated so many times with others.
We have a tendency to immediately think everything is about us. It's easy to assume someone is acting differently because they must be annoyed with us, they must not like us or think they are better than us. In reality, every single person is dealing with their own private battles. Ever hidden something from your work colleagues or friends? Trust me, they are hiding things too. No-one's life is rosy all the time. They may not want to tell you about it, but it's there. So if someone is acting oddly or differently, don't assume. First think, what is going on for them?
Is a parent screaming at their child? Giving them chocolate? Letting them run around shouting? Instead of judging them, perhaps wonder how tired they are, how difficult their child is, how embarrassed they probably already are and desperate for some peace.
Is someone never saying yes to social events? Always saying no, seeming rude or standoffish when invited, never answering your calls? Instead of judging them perhaps wonder how anxious it might be making them, how dealing with social situations may be so difficult, desperately finding excuses every time, avoiding conversations.
Has someone left a relationship and you didn't see it coming? Resigned from a job they seemed to love? Moved away when it doesn't make sense to you? You don't understand but they do, and that's all that matters.
2. Why do you even care?
Judgements usually come when someone is doing something that isn't seen as a social norm. But does following the crowd matter? Is the person doing anything to hurt someone else? No? Then why do you care what they are doing? Why feel threatened that they are living their life in a different way to yours? Why does it really matter if you disagree or would choose to do things a different way? What makes you right and them wrong? Focus on your own life and hopefully they will do the same.
Don't judge yourself...
The truth is, people have judged you and are going to judge you again. They don't deserve answers from you, they don't need explanations. You don't need their validation. If people judging you feels difficult, there is only one thing you can really do. Be happy and secure about your choices and ignore what others think about them. Above all, don't judge yourself.
We all make mistakes. We all do things which hindsight tells us weren’t right. We are humans who are led by emotion, not by logic. But if you can allow yourself to just live your life, allow yourself not to be perfect, and to see every choice you make and every action part of you and your journey, then maybe you will learn to accept it all. After all, if beating yourself up worked, it would have worked already.
Whatever you do or say, someone will judge you, even if they don't mean to. Just as you will judge others without meaning to. So if there is one person you give unconditional love, support and acceptance to, please make it yourself.