Why does everyone else suck?

judge everyone

Why you judge everyone negatively and hate yourself for it

Forget the Golden Rule; most of us walk around constantly judging everyone and everything around us. That uncontrollable voice has an opinion about everything. We often feel guilty wondering how we can be so shallow and “say” these things in our minds. 

I know. I used to do this far more than I do today and was not proud of it. I was constantly scanning for failures of my fellow co-workers and friends, eager to find evidence of my own superiority. I felt bad about this habit and knew it couldn’t be good, but I still did it to make myself feel better about my own insecurities. I can see this all clearly now and how it got in the way of relationships and even career success. The only solace I can take now is that I was not alone. Most human beings suffer from this same ugly cycle of reactions.

There is an evolutionary reason for this. Early man was born and lived in a dangerous time. Every rock might hide a tiger. Every person might be a cannibal. Every berry might be a poison. 

We look for what doesn’t fit and what doesn’t meet our lofty requirements:

  • “Why is she wearing that dress?”  
  • “Doesn’t he know his belt doesn’t match his shoes?” 
  • “How can anyone stand listening to that woman laugh?” 
  • “Wasn’t that thing he just said a bit inappropriate?” 

These inner judgments range from the petty to the actually valuable like in these examples: 

  • “That guy in the Toyota is driving like a crazy man. I better not pass him.” 
  • “This chicken smells funky. Maybe it’s better to toss it.”
  • “That water looks deep, but there may be rocks underneath. I better not dive in.”

In coaching, we call the second group of examples, “blameless discernment.” There is enough that is rational and reasonable for you to listen carefully to the voice in your head. It is telling you something that might save your life or help you avoid pain. 

However, in the first set of examples, lies experience that disconnects us from the things and people around us. 

We as a species categorize all the time. That’s what the brain does. Everything provokes a response. Every repeated stimulus becomes a meme. By five years of age we have everything sorted out. We judge quickly and without a lot of thinking. When the sorting and naming becomes negative it is a sign that our own judge is hurting us and the people around us. 

Imagine that you have a meeting today. You arrive three minutes late and almost everyone is already there. You’re actually happy when a co-worker arrives five minutes late and you’re able to say to yourself, “Jim must be pretty disorganized. He’s always late.” 

Or you go to a party. Everyone is having a good time. You go to grab a beer and the only beer available is a domestic beer you haven’t had since college. You don’t have any parties of your own, but you’re amazed that someone would hold a party without buying better beer. 

Or in a common situation, you curse at the driver going slowly while looking for a parking space, perhaps even honking or tailgating, only to replicate exactly the same behavior when looking for your own space just five minutes later.

The comedian George Carlin used to have a bit called “Idiots and maniacs.” His observation was that if you were behind a too-slow-moving car, the other driver was an “idiot.” If, on the other hand, someone was behind you wanting to go faster, they were an “maniac.” The name for the other person was dependent on your perspective. And of course, the “you” in the story was never either the idiot or the maniac.

When we continuously judge others, it’s because we need to counterbalance what our own judge is saying about our own dreams and failures. Everyone else sucks because our own voices really feel that we suck. In the worst version of this some of us walk around literally sickened by the humanity we see, all in an attempt to keep the inner critic from pointing the spotlight on our own faults. Can you imagine the sad, lonely life of the person unable to positively interact with a human being for fear of letting the critic change its target?

Luckily, there is a cure. 

The cure is empathy. 

It starts with empathy for yourself. If, through therapy or coaching, you can find acceptance and love for yourself with all your torments and frailties, you can stop the constant judging of others. 

When I lead my Positive Intelligence groups, we learn first how to be aware of the Judge. While we all have this judging presence some of us live with it constantly chattering the background with very little distinction between what is “me” versus what is the Judge voice. It helps to name it and learn how to recognize it. The Judge is not you, but it is inside you. 

Once we quickly train ourselves to be aware of that voice, the kinder, gentler process of forgiveness can begin. We learn practical ways to stop the Judge from overwhelming us with self-criticism and go back to its evolutionary role of protecting us from real physical or emotional danger. 

If you’re curious about how Positive Intelligence coaching might help you and advance your projects, schedule a 30 minute discovery session (no charge). If you follow the steps in the program, I guarantee you will have a fundamental change in your perspective or I will happily refund your investment. I offer traditional coaching sessions as well and you can book a discovery session (no charge) at that same link. 

Empathy is your greatest parenting tool

As a coach working mostly with dads, I spend a lot of time listening to fathers talk about frustrations with their kids. As a dad of two myself, I can relate. Those kids, who once were so hard to bathe, dress, and corral were at least easy to understand. Their needs were simple and for the most part, they did as they were told. Of course, most of what they had to do wasn’t very unpleasurable or complicated, so that made it easier for them.

As they grew into tweens and teens, things changed. Simple requests turned into negotiations. Negotiations turned into outright refusals and the possibility of full-on rebellion was often in the air. If you were lucky, these tense episodes didn’t last more than a few minutes. 

My now 21-year-old daughter attributes that to empathy. At every stage of their development, we tried hard to remember what it was like to be at their age. I guess we got right often enough that she remembers us at least having a little bit of a clue about what it’s like to grow up in the 21st century.

If you go through the Positive Intelligence course with me, we use a very powerful exercise to try to awaken your most important “sage” power, that of empathy.  The exercise involves finding a picture of yourself at a young age, say four or six-years-old. In a guided reflection, we ask you to look hard at that child’s picture and see the small person in all of his or her innocence, energy, and wonder. At this age, you likely had not yet experienced regret or disappointment. You were still your true full essence.  

Falling in love with this small child is central to first having empathy for yourself. If you can’t learn to forgive your own shortcomings and failures and love yourself at the end of the day, you can’t begin to push away the saboteurs that are the source of fear, anger, regret, disappointment, resentment and ultimately unhappiness. 

This exercise is one of the strongest in the program because it puts my clients into a non-judgmental frame of mind that only looks at the beauty of this small being. Once you can look at yourself this way, it makes it easier to look at others with a similar eye. 

For example, instead of seeing your arch enemy at work as a manipulative weasel, you can see them for what they are: a five-year-old with a beautiful, lively essence struggling with his or her own demons that are amplified when you fight them with your own.

This technique can be easier, more fun, and more effective when it comes to dealing with your own kids. 

Let’s say you have 12-year-old and a 14-year-old, classic ages for the onset of discord in the house. Suddenly, they are in their rooms all the time. What we call “disrespect” sometimes creeps into comments. They spend a lot of time on the couch, or scrolling on their phones. Do you wonder if they will ever get jobs? Or even remember to make their beds when they get older? 

You decide your kids are lazy. Or selfish. Or complain of as laziness or talking back as a lack of gratitude. Does that sound familiar?

Now, get out old family pictures of yourself at those ages.  What do you see? Do you see a fully formed 45-year-old dressed in the clothing of the 80s or 90s? More likely than not, those images conjure up memories of your own struggles as a tween or teen. You may remember the crushing boredom of middle school science class or the torment of the school bully. You probably remember feeling like your parents didn’t or couldn’t understand what your life was like. You might recall the panic of Sunday evenings trying to finish projects you clearly should have done earlier in the semester. 

Looking at these pictures, how does your perspective shift? Can you still be angry at your son for not taking out the trash? Can you see why your comments about your daughter’s clothing might be driving her crazy? Are you as worried that your kids don’t appreciate all that they’ve been given?

I’m not saying that taking a look at family photos means you absolve your kids of all responsibility and never ask them again to clean up their rooms. That’s not the point. But when you try to imagine what it is to be them at their ages, how can you not want to give them a big hug, like you probably would like to give nine- or twelve-year-old self.