From some of my earliest years forward I was constantly ridiculed for being socially inept and having a slow wit. I had symptoms of racing thoughts and also thought blocking along with social anxiety that inhibited me in group situations. This lead to a lot of criticism from others. This criticism and judgment only intensified once I began developing schizoaffective disorder at age 19 while in college and continued for the next several years while experiencing the disorder to its fullest extent.
After being judged for a number of years I adopted the behaviors of others and became judgmental myself. I was extremely harsh on myself and also on others and it was an inhibiting facet of my personality. I harbored a lot of negative emotions towards all the people who had treated me poorly from middle school, high school, college, and all the way through to the end of my second episode at age 24. I felt they should have known better than to treat me the way they had. I was judgmental towards their actions and determined that they all must have been awful people in some way to have treated me the way that they did. This was the reason I fostered a great deal of anger and emotional baggage from the wrongs they had done towards me and it was also the main reason I struggled to forgive them. This resent and judgment that I held towards others was something I also held towards myself.
I realized I was treating myself the way I was treating others and it was extremely emotionally taxing. I could feel all the negativity in my heart and it made life difficult. The emotional baggage put me in a negative emotional disposition which I had to fight through every day.
Eventually I came to work on being less judgmental. A common quote I learned is “Understand, don’t Judge” (Hemingway). This was an aphorism I had been applying towards writing but not in my own life. To rid myself of my oppressive thought process I had to first ask myself what is my motivation for being judgmental.
Being judgmental was a defense mechanism in my mind which helped me to identify people who may pose problems for me. I had figured if I could pick them out then I would be prepared to deal with them. This defense mechanism had been created from having been made fun of so much. It resulted in me being constantly on guard for anyone who may make fun of me and I felt labeling people would keep me prepared to stand up for myself; mostly conversationally but in the fraternity it was also physically. I learned if I am understanding of people than I’ll get a better sense of who they are and I’ll be able to interact with them better.
Another premise of my judgment was assigning the correct meaning to actions so I first realized it’s important that I judge the action and never the person. The action will always be what it is and it’s not going to be changed. However, I also learned that one mistake or bad decision should not and does not define a human being. We are the sum of our actions therefore all the positive things we have done contribute to who we are. It also means that there are a number of times where people make bad decisions and mistakes but they are still very much worth giving a chance and spending time with. Knowing the nature of life is for all of us to make mistakes and hopefully learn from them and move on instead of holding them against each other for years on end gave me a more accurate depiction of the way that life is.
I was also judgmental as a means to create separation between myself and the people who had been doing wrong. There were times I would make a judgmental statement to express my stance on something. I realized when I’m doing this I’m only generating negativity and I’m not learning anything about the situation. For me to truly create space between myself and wrongful actions I had to understand the situation. Understanding the reasons that these people made their mistakes, willingly or blindly, gave me insight into their minds and thought processes and it allowed me to let go of my anger. I could understand why they made a mistake while simultaneously realizing it wasn’t something I was going to do because I now knew the reasons they had done it.
I felt when I had been more judgmental I expected perfection from others and also from myself. When that expectation was repeatedly disappointed I became angry at others for their mistakes and more importantly I harbored negative emotions towards myself when I messed up. I set myself up for these emotions because treating others harshly when they made mistakes gave me the expectation that they would treat me harshly for my mistakes. I learned being understanding instead of judgmental is a huge part of forgiveness and forgiveness helped me to cut the emotional baggage associated with the way I had been treated at younger ages.
Whenever I had made even the slightest of mistakes I was ridiculed, ostracized, and alienated so I had become very judgmental when it came to anyone making any sort of mistakes. I learned that I had to take the first step in pacifying my negative emotions by being understanding of the people who had wronged me. I learned that although these people seemed to have known what they were doing they truly weren’t fully aware of the consequences of their actions. I also realized for them to have treated me so poorly the must have had issues of their own which they needed to work on and resolve and unfortunately they may still be experiencing these issues.
Learning how to understand people and not judge them was extremely liberating because it allowed me to forgive many people for the years of poor treatment I had received. This helped me to almost immediately let go of the negative emotions I had been harboring for so many years and it was a great alleviation. It was an alleviation from pain, negativity, hatred, and it helped me to move forward in life and become a better person.
Photo by J Stimp