Have you ever met someone without an opinion? They have no preferences; no interest in choosing one film, book, or spouse over another? Probably not (and if you have please try to dissuade them from voting.) Part of having a functioning brain is having the ability to determine preference. There are humans, only moments old, who prefer one breast over another at mealtime. Making determinations about our preferences, sometimes very rapidly, is how we navigate this complex world. Another term for this process is “judgment.” We make judgments, as well as show good or poor judgment in our daily life. There is nothing negative about the word anymore than there is about the word “stress.” We humans are now using these words to express negativity. If we wait a few years, it will pass.
But in the meantime it’s interesting to note what is often lurking behind the cry of; “judgmental!” You’ve only to walk past a high school to hear; “Don’t judge me.” It’s right up there with “That’s so random” and “I’m stressing.” Hey teenagers cannot and should not be separated from their chosen vernacular. If nothing else these words and phrases support their sense of discovering the world anew. But what of grown people who adopt such a phrase as “Don’t judge me” or “Friends don’t judge” or any other Hallmark worthy sentiment? What are they actually saying/pleading? Is it even possible to conjure such an expression if one feels completely confident in their choices or predicament? Have you ever heard anyone say; “Don’t judge me but I’ve decided to stay in a good marriage?” or “Please don’t judge but I’m putting 10% of my income into savings?” I’m gonna go out on a limb and say you haven’t. “Don’t judge me” or “You’re judging me” is basically a daytime television way to communicate; “I am so not comfortable with what I’m saying/doing.” Not convinced? Try this little exercise.
- If I remarked; “Have you put on weight?” you would feel judged right? Well, only if you had put on unwelcome weight. If you’d been trying to gain (it happens) or in fact hadn’t gained an ounce in years, this comment would not feel judgmental. You might wonder if there was something wrong with my eyes though.
- If we were at a museum/restaurant/park and I remarked “Is that your child?” you would feel judged if you felt your child was behaving poorly or somehow wasn’t measuring up to some standard you have. But if you were happy and confident you might just answer; “yes.”
We cannot all be 100% confident of every aspect of our lives at every moment. It’s not even a healthy goal. Self doubt can be a wonderful impetus for growth and change. But self doubt is about the self not about what people may or may not be thinking about you.
This sensitivity to perceived criticism often goes hand in hand with the “ha ha who cares” attitude. This nonconformist attitude by another name is called insecurity. Defensive can be used to mask a feeling of self doubt. “I can wear whatever I want, don’t judge me!” or “I don’t care what people think of me.” Okay, let’s stop for a moment. If you really and truly feel you should be able to wear whatever you want at anytime you would be best served living in a community of like minded people. A nudist colony or commune come to mind. If you have any notion or need of venturing into the diverse and enormous populace it is hostile to not respect social custom. If you really don’t care what people think of you I would suggest you might lean towards the atypical of mental healthiness. It is a core human desire to seek and find love and connection. Does love only come to the well groomed and conventionally behaved? Of course not. But we are visual animals (those of us with vision) and we use those powers to process much information about a stranger. Whether it’s entirely accurate or not, when we see a person who has taken a moment on themselves we form an opinion about their orientation to the world. The inverse is just as true. If we do not feel connected to our physical selves we typically do not seek out people who look as if they embrace their physicality. In other words we make judgments. That is what humans (and even some animals) do. The next time you hear the word “judge” or “judgement” (in your head or in your ears) being used not in the legal sense, take a moment.The word itself could be a great internal or external conversation starter.