When we judge others, we judge ourselves

A great way to get a better understanding of ourselves is to ask the right questions. These can stimulate our self-awareness and are powerful enough to change our mind-sets and provide us with new insights. A subject I would like to discuss is judgement. More so, the way we judge others and how we perceive the judgement from others.

In this blog I give my own perspective on what judgement actually tells us, how it is formed by our current beliefs, and how we can best interpret judgement. The point I strive to make is that when we give our judgement we are saying more about ourselves than about the person we ‘judge’.

‘When you judge others, you do not define them, you define yourself’
– Earl Nightingale

Most of the time when we judge others, we do so by placing ourselves in their situation and reason what we would do. We live life through our perspective and sometimes it can be quite the challenge to let go of this in order to give a proper judgement of a person.

If someone tells you that they want to travel the world and take a break from their studies, you might think that they are irresponsible and do not know what they want out of life. You probably do not see yourself capable of doing it, hence why should the other person be? On the other hand, you might think that it is a wonderful idea and that you think everybody should have the experience of travelling. Again, this would be a judgment from your perspective regarding what you would do in their situation.

If we would break down judgement, we would see that our judgements are formed by our beliefs. A belief is something we consider to be a fact, and is not required to rely on proof. The beliefs we have are a mix made out of the knowledge we have obtained and experiences we have lived. Our beliefs are not set in stone, meaning that with new knowledge and new experiences we can change our beliefs.

People form judgement from their beliefs. If we think about this, it is actually quite interesting. I believe that we will never know everything that there is to know about life, the world, or the universe. Growth is an infinite progress, because change is infinite, and we are as well. We will never be done learning, growing, evolving. If we want proof, we can think back to our beliefs were 5, 10, or maybe even 20 years ago. We might still hold some general beliefs, however, I am certain that they have been modified somehow.

‘I am the wisest man alive, I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing’
– Socrates

If we can agree that our current beliefs are not going to remain the same forever, we can agree that our current judgements are not necessarily stable as well. Then why do we rely on our judgements? What is it that our judgements provide for us? Can we still make use of them and trust in their worth?

A psychological theory called the Social Comparison Theory, argues that we determine our self-worth by comparing ourselves with others. Most of the time we compare ourselves with people who are somewhat similar. If we want to feel better about ourselves, we can compare us with someone who is less equipped at something than we are. This makes us feel better about ourselves, because it gives us the feeling that we are good at what we do. If we are looking to improve ourselves, we can compare us with someone who is better at the skill we want to improve in. This way we can see how to improve and it can motivate us in doing so.

Let us say you are at school and a professor asks for someone to join them on the stage for a demonstration. Nobody raises their hand. Yet the professor decides to wait, and now one girl raises her hand and walks up front. You might hear different reactions around you. One might say (or think) ‘wow she has the courage to go up there and be vulnerable’. Another might say (or think) ‘she just wants to have attention’.

There are many more judgements that can be given regarding the two situations I just described, however, for the sake of the statement I want to make I will just use these two. The person who is in awe by the acts of the girl deciding to help the professor, might wanted to raise their hand themselves, but they could not find the courage to do so. Showing admiration for the girl is a form of upward comparison, and this is done in order for them to maybe find a way for motivation and improvement. If the girl can do it, so can I.

‘Often those that criticise others reveal what he himself lacks’
– Shannon L. Alder

The other person who thought the action to be a claim of attention, might want to defend themselves from their own judgement and the judgement then serves as a measure to protect themselves. By downgrading the girl, they do not accept their own judgement of letting them believe they are less capable then the girl. Therefore, their self-worth is protected or even elevated.

We can see again that the judgements, no matter how different, tell us more about the person making the judgement than about the one being judged. We actually know nothing about the girl who raised her hand. We can only assume we know and provide reasons for her actions through our own perspective and beliefs. If we listen carefully to our own judgements, we can learn things from ourselves that might otherwise remain unseen.

2 gedachten over “When we judge others, we judge ourselves

  1. Yes, I agree to a major extent, however it is not the complete picture I presume;
    In an HR type job you might have to judge applicants for a specific job, hence those job requirements will be the base of judgement and your own perception plays a minor role,.
    Another possibility is that you select a standard (religious for example) considerd far above your own to judge in certain situations. Of course your own decision to use that standard opens an insight in your own judgement. You are than more or less captive of that choice.


    1. Thank you for your response!

      I agree with you that it is not the complete picture of how judgements are made and what they mean. To respond to your example:

      If we would have to judge someone based on agreed upon job requirements, we have already made a choice beforehand. What I am suggesting is, that I believe that we have already judged with our own perspective to determine what is necessary for a certain job. When the applicant arrives, it is not a matter of judging the person, but more of fitting the person with our previous judgement. Do you agree?

      In response to your argument of the judgement standard: If one makes use of a belief in order to form a judgement, what does this judgement say about the person making the judgement?


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