Growing up, I used to judge others and myself for anything and everything. It was a negative, happiness-destroying mentality that left me with low self-esteem and poor opinions of almost everyone. The thing is, I didn’t even realize it was wrong because everyone around me did the same. Soon enough, it became my default way of thinking.
Throughout my life, I’ve attended small schools, and with that came the seemingly inevitable gossip. The thing about gossip is that it’s almost always negative, and it’s used to tear people down. Since everybody constantly spoke behind each others’ backs, it became an unconscious habit, so I couldn’t even come close to stopping it.
When replacing negative mindsets with positive ones on your journey of self-improvement, it’s essential to stop judging yourself and others. This is harder than it may seem, but the effort is well worth it.
For example, I used to see someone obese and think, “Why do they eat so poorly and not exercise enough, it’s so obvious what they should be doing; I can’t believe they make such bad lifestyle and dietary choices, etc” or someone ignorant and think “why can’t they realize (something)? It’s so obvious!”
More recently I’ve been realizing many things about people and why they are the way they are, and after much thought, conversations, books, articles, etc, I have come to the conclusion that any negative judgment is inaccurate and irrelevant. Obviously, I’m not even close to perfect, as I’m still struggling with this. All I can do is keep trying, and eventually I’ll get there.
I have realized that people are the way they are because of their influences. A ridiculously ignorant or hateful person is the way they are because of the way they were raised, who they were friends with, who and what they were exposed to in their lives, etc. They did not consciously choose to be the way they are, and you have to accept them wherever they’re at in life. Of course you don’t have to agree with their beliefs or behavior, but you must completely accept the fact that these people are the way they are, and that’s not changing right away.
Full acceptance is always the first step, but you can keep going from there. Next, if you know someone who you might want to label in some negative way, you can become a positive influence in their life and help them change for the better. This must be done with as little criticism as possible, because when people feel threatened, they become unresponsive and defensive. You must help them from a place of care and love, not frustration or anger. If you respond to an angry person with anger, guess what you will get right back: more anger! Negativity always breeds negativity, and positivity always breeds positivity.
If you catch yourself judging yourself or someone else, which you will, become aware of it and consciously replace it with a positive thought about them instead. It doesn’t even have to be real. If it’s a stranger, just find something good about them, and if you can’t, just assume something positive. In the long run, your default reaction will be positive.
Another thing to keep in mind as you stop judging others is that we all essentially want the same things, and we’re all acting out of our present level of consciousness. We are all striving to fill the same basic needs. We all want love, acceptance, happiness, significance, recognition, to be part of a group or community, close friends, etc. I could go on and on.
You can’t “fix” hateful people by hating them; it just feeds their hate even more, and brings more negativity into this world. You never need to accept others’ beliefs as true or even rational, but you should respect them since it is their personal right to believe whatever they want to believe. You should fully accept them the way they are, and then go to work on influencing them by teaching them about different ways to think and live. Remember, never impose your beliefs on others; just expose them to new possibilities and ideas. Whatever they believe is always their choice.
Another way to change others is by working on yourself. By changing yourself for the better, you are changing society and humanity for the better, which will end up influencing everyone. The more people who strive to better themselves, the better we all get, as more of our collective influences will become positive instead of negative.
We often don’t like people with a different set of beliefs than us, which can make us feel superior to them. It’s important to change our mindset towards these people in order to adopt a more accepting, open-minded way of thinking. Of course, this isn’t easy. Most likely you have lived your entire life seeing people in a certain way. Looking for the good in people and finding common ground is not the easiest thing to do, but as long as you are trying, that’s all that matters. You’ll get there eventually, the point is you’re trying, and that’s all you can do.
To wrap up, remember: people are the way they are because of their influences; you must first accept them as they are. We all want the same things, and we act out of our present level of awareness to try to get those things. We can teach and influence others for the better both actively and passively. Actively, you can motivate and teach people endless things, and passively you can work on yourself, which in turn affects society (which influences everyone in it, creating a positive feedback loop).
As Ram Dass says in Be Here Now, “I can do nothing for you but work on myself, you can do nothing for me but work on yourself!”