Ok. I have to admit one of my most horrible traits is that I can be very judgemental. I tend to meet a person and make my mind up about them quick smart. And let me tell you that at least 50% of the time I am dead wrong. Yes you read that right. My judgements can be wrong.
So I’ve spent the last few years of my life trying to treat this affliction as I would any of my other less attractive tendencies, with a solid action plan not unlike any sold in every bookshop self-help section. You know, the kind with titles that scream “3 steps to your first million” or “quit sugar in 5 days” or even “7 habits of people who effectively work in a dead end job every day without losing their minds” (although I think I would buy that last one myself…..)
Generally I have found that these kinds of books all start with the same premise. If you have something you’re not happy with – you need to admit there’s a problem. So that’s exactly what I did. It worked for me when I quit smoking so I figured I’d give it a red hot go with this personality flaw.
I started actually saying out loud to anyone and everyone that I was an extremely judgemental person. I would follow that up by adding this was not something I was very proud of and even invited some of my nearest and dearest to point it out to me when I was wallowing in my judgementalness (I know it’s not a real word but I like it). I tried to own my shortcoming as much as possible. I had a problem and it needed addressing. Let me tell you though, it’s hard to fight something that you have had for so long that it seems embedded into your actual genetic makeup.
Then two things took me by surprise.
Firstly, I noticed that people were a bit confronted by my openness and admissions at first and felt a need to cancel it out by pointing out what they considered my good points were. Like my friendliness and how nice I was to everyone. It was almost as though my family and friends felt they were letting me down if they agreed that I had a flaw that could use some improving.
It really is just political correctness gone wild. I mean seriously, people need to start acknowledging others’ admissions and supporting them instead of thinking that we’re looking for an ego stroke. That’s not always a person’s motivation when they admit to some form of shortcoming. Sometimes we just need to keep ourselves accountable and on track. So in the spirit of keeping me accountable my dear friends, don’t try to make me feel better by pointing out my good traits, perhaps try encouraging me to keep on my path towards becoming a better person. After all no-one encouraged me to just have another cigarette because I was such a nice person so why is this any different?
The second thing I noticed was that a lot of the time the person I had so quickly and harshly judged wasn’t actually that bad at all on closer inspection. In fact some of the people who are my nearest and dearest in my life had been completely written off on my first inspection of them. Turns out if I hadn’t given them a second shot I would have missed out on so much.
Now I’m the kind of person who HATES to admit that I am wrong. Mostly because I’m usually right (OK I obviously still have a long way to go!). But I found myself surprisingly OK with being wrong about this.
I’ve realised that people put on their social “fronts” for exactly the same reason I can be so quick to judge. Self-preservation. I am by nature an introvert and find it very hard to trust people and let them into my life. It’s just my nature. So I tend to judge people and write them off as too risky to have in my world. Then the other side is that sometimes people are not as self-assured and try to portray themselves in their most positive light which is the only impression I can judge. This is completely natural and we all do it. We all find it so very hard to be ourselves and yet that’s the most important thing to be. I was, unfortunately, writing people off before they’d even begun to show me their real selves. Shame on me.
So that’s my lot in life. I’m going to work hard at being less judgemental and more open to people. Fundamentally I find people intriguing and I don’t want to keep missing out on possible life-long connections. But you’ll all have to bear with me. I know there will be times that I will fail and fall into old habits.
I am, after all, only human and so very flawed.