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Writer Anais Nin said, “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”

We see the world through our own eyes, and we frame every single life experience we’ve encountered with our own biases. To a varying degree, we are all guilty of jumping to conclusions about how things should be and how people should behave without understanding that we are all different.

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Photo by Marina Vitale on Unsplash

You may have heard of the term ‘projection’ before- it refers to when we attribute our own thoughts, emotions, and personal experiences onto someone else. Sometimes it can be harmless, such as when we attribute human emotions to our pets in order to feel closer to them. Other times, it can damage relationships, cause us to unfairly judge someone and distort our ability to see reality for what it is.

Consider the case of a girl  who had an abusive father as a child. As she grows up, her own traumatic experiences may cause her to be distrustful of men. She may even sabotage her relationships and see malice where none is intended as her instinct is to protect herself from getting hurt again.

The danger, then, is that should she ever have daughters of her own, she may raise them with the belief that “There are no good men in this world”, thinking that it would protect them. Psychological projection can sometimes create a domino effect, infecting generations with prejudices against people of certain gender, race, sexual orientation, or religious beliefs.

Even if you haven’t had a life-altering, traumatic experience, we tend to make lots of assumptions on a daily basis about other people and how they live. Just because we believe in something or have certain opinions and skill-sets, we make the mistake of judging others when they don’t conform to our idea of the world.

The things we praise and criticise most in others tells us a lot about ourselves, and here are six things your judgment reveals about you:

1. “If I can do this, others should be able to as well”

If you find yourself constantly questioning why people struggle with skills that come easily to you, or why they fail to understand things that you feel is ‘common sense’, you may be valuing competence over compassion. When you are intelligent or gifted in something, you tend to underestimate the effort that it takes for others to do what you naturally excel at.

When you have a new employee, instead of taking them by the hand and walking them through every step of what they need  to do, you may be tempted to throw them in the deep-end, assuming that they should be able to ‘figure things out themselves’. Unfortunately, this never works out well for anyone and you will end up frustrated while your staff may become demoralised.

2. If you tend to ‘see the best in others’

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Photo by Matheus Ferrero on Unsplash

You may be conflict avoidant. While it’s commonly assumed that people who see the world through rose-tinted glasses lack the ability to see malice in others, researchers have found that this is simply not true. In fact, people who naturally view the world with warmth, empathy, and kindness tend to expect those behaviour in others- they’re just less likely to show their disapproval outwardly.

Your tendency to ‘hope for the best’ may stem from your desire to avoid conflict. Afterall, if someone turns out to be as great as you paint them out to be in your head, it means there would be less likelihood of any disagreement or direct conflict for you to deal with.

3. If you dislike a co-worker

You could feel threatened by or envious of them. There are all kinds of reasons why we don’t like someone, but when the intensity with which you dislike them seems disproportionate to their offending behaviour, there may be more to your annoyance than you may care to admit. 

If you’ve been slogging hard at a project but they get all the credit even though you feel that they haven’t contributed much, it’s hard not to feel a tinge of resentment.

Studies show that when someone’s self-esteem is threatened, they are more likely to voice negative opinions about successful group members. It appears that the simple act of giving bringing someone down can help to boost our self-esteem, even if it’s a temporary fix. 

So before you write-off the success of your colleague, or the new junior staff who just joined your team, ask yourself if your own prejudice is clouding your judgment.

4. If you’re a single person who judges your attached friends for ‘settling’

You may be showing defensiveness that’s commonly found when people are uncertain about their own lifestyle. When someone has travelled a different path from us and things seem to be working out really well for them, that can threaten our own certainty and confidence in our lifestyle.

It is much easier to simply convince ourselves that our way is the right way, and that you’re not really a ‘relationship kind of person’, or to judge your friend for allowing married life or parenthood to take away their individual identity.

There’s nothing wrong with needing to feel secure about our own lives and the decisions that we personally choose to make. After all, who doesn’t want to feel good about their own life and choices? However, when we constantly turn to judging or undermining someone else just to feel better about ourselves, we are running away from facing our own fears and depriving ourselves of the opportunity for self-awareness and growth.

So the next time before you start judging someone else, consider what that reveals about you, and work on your personal growth and acceptance instead.

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