We are all judgmental (yes, even you!). I certainly am: I can find what’s wrong in any celebrity’s red carpet look (except Beyoncé, of course), I’ve said no to dates because the guy was wearing pants that were too baggy, and I’ve definitely said, “I would never do that with my children!” at least a couple of times (I say as a non-parent).
It’s not that being judgmental makes you bad; it’s human nature. However, I do not believe that judgments serve us all the time. In fact, they might be hurting our chance for happiness. According to Gabby Bernstein, a motivational speaker, life coach, best-selling author, and my personal Oprah (besides you know, Oprah), judgment is the #1 reason we feel lonely, sad, and disconnected. When we’re unhappy, our immediate reaction is to wallow in self-pity or feed the loneliness in quick, temporary ways like going out with friends or finding a partner we don’t really love. But if you want to be happier, get to the source and stop judging.
I’m a diehard Gabby Bernstein follower, so naturally, I consumed her book “Judgment Detox” in a day and a half. She outlines the Judgment Detox to be a six-step process with principles you can apply to your daily life, with one goal: to stop experiencing so much judgment in order to heal yourself and be happy. (FYI, she also offers a Judgment Detox Digital Course if you’re a hardo like me.)
What is “judgment?”
Judgment has a lot of different definitions. There’s the definition that means making sensible decisions or conclusions (AKA where the word “judge” comes from. Special shout out to my favorite judge, Judge Judy). There’s the darker definition of judgment referring to divine punishment (like “judgment day”). And then there’s the definition that’s most important for this article, more often understood as being judgmental, or looking down on, criticizing, and forming negative opinions about others.
Bernstein defines judgment as “a separation from love,” which is a pretty deep definition if you ask me, but it makes a lot of sense. Judgment happens when we see other people as separate from ourselves; we focus on what’s different about another person, instead of seeing what’s the same. Even though judging is human nature, the good news is that we can heal ourselves from being judgmental, and therefore be happier.
5 ways to detox from judgment
1. Notice when you’re judging
The first step to minimize judgment is to notice it. Whether it’s out loud or in your head, notice every judgment that comes to mind or try writing it down to remind yourself to be more aware. And yes, I mean every time; even when a coworker is wearing a scandalous top to the office, a friend does something that annoys you, or you’re tempted to comment your opinions on a celebrity or influencer’s Instagram. When you make the effort to notice your own judgments, you’ll realize how often you’re seeking out differences with other people, instead of searching for similarities.
2. Stop judging yourself
It’s no surprise that we’re often our toughest critics. One of the most common reasons we judge (if not the reason we judge) is to make ourselves feel better because we’re judging ourselves. When you do start noticing your judgments, be kind to yourself about them. Don’t be self-conscious or reflect on what it means about you as a person. In general, give yourself more forgiveness and talk to yourself like you would your best friend or little sister. FYI, that goes for what you think when you look in the mirror, so play some Lizzo and work on that self-love.
3. Get curious about why
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve received is that what we often don’t like in other people is what we subconsciously don’t like about ourselves. Even if that’s not the reason, your judgments can show you wounds that need healing. Are you judging what someone else is wearing because you’re insecure about how you look? Are you gossiping about someone’s career decisions because you’re feeling stuck in your own? I always say that whenever someone has commented something negative on my Instagram or a popular girl was mean to me in middle school, it shows me their wounds, not my faults.
4. Seek out the good
The trick to allowing a judgment detox to improve your happiness is not only removing judgment, but filling the space with positivity by practicing gratitude regularly. If it’s difficult to see anything positive, look for what’s the same. For example, if someone doesn’t agree with your values to the point that it’s hard for you to find any good qualities, focus on the fact that you’re both human. You both have families; maybe you both have little brothers or dogs you love. Once you see the similarities, you’ll be able to stop judging them and instead relate to them so they can better understand your perspective and you can understand theirs. Maybe the opposite of judgment is not just “positivity,” but specifically compassion.
5. Accept the way things are
Now I know what you’re thinking: there is such a thing as constructive criticism, and sometimes judging is not only productive, but necessary. Sometimes you should “judge” because it will change the outcome, like if you have an opinion on a project at work or someone you love is getting in their own way and you think your advice could help. But there’s a difference between being judgmental and being opinionated. The truth is that not every action can be categorized in “good” and “bad.” Even if you believe your opinion to be fact, it’s still just your perspective. When you categorize someone’s actions in terms of good and bad or right and wrong, you’re not judging people in order to help them; you’re judging them as a means of maintaining control or feeling better about yourself.
Instead, accept other people for who they are. Take your college roommate’s tacky bridal shower, for example. Your opinion of her papier-mâché decorations and cheesy gift bags won’t be able to change her decor decisions, and more importantly, won’t change how happy she feels in her marriage. Instead of laughing with your friends and saying, “I would never have a bridal shower like that,” focus on your friend’s happiness. Remove what you would or wouldn’t do from your mind and accept other people and their perspectives for exactly what they are.