Managing Conflict in Relationships​

Search youtube for ‘babies dancing’ and you’ll see video after video of children moving to the music in the only way they know how: to the beat of their heart.

There’s not one child postering or monitoring his movements in the mirror. You won’t find any video’s of kids apologizing for their horrific dance moves. All you’ll see are naked souls set free by music. Souls that don’t yet know enough to be self-conscious. Souls that haven’t learned to fear judgement.

But then, something tragic happens.

At some point we become ashamed of the nakedness of our souls and so we start to cover them up.

At some point we become afraid of judgemental eyes, furtive whispers, and hostile snickers.

At some point, we lose the ability to be free in ourselves because the fear of being un-liked, unwanted, unattractive, or unworthy is too great to overcome.

We learn the rules of engagement for socialization and we start to judge and accept judgement from others. Negative judgement is a death sentence to our self-esteem. Better to be invisible than judged negatively by our peers.

You foster this fear every time you say ‘no’ when you really want to say ‘yes,’ because you don’t want to look like an idiot/a crazy person/silly/etc.

You nourish this fear by hiding who you are to avoid embarrassment.

If you’re like most people you want to be able to walk around without fearing judgement. You want to ‘not care’ what people think, but you just can’t seem to bring yourself to do it.

You don’t feel brave enough. You believe you just weren’t blessed with that kind of DNA. You think you aren’t that courageous.

It’s hard to believe, but you don’t need to be born audacious to stop fearing judgement. You don’t need to be exceptionally brave and courageous. You just need to make a few small changes in how you see the world and how you interact with others in it.

If you want to stop enabling the fear of judgement living inside of you, read on because this article is just what the doctor ordered. 

Judgements Say More About The Judge Than What’s Being Judged

We don’t see things as they are. We see things as we are. – Anais Nin

It’s never about you.

I repeat: It’s never about you.

Whatever judgement is being passed on you has nothing to do with you and everything to do with the judges opinion about what you should be like.

For example, think of the craziest most out-there outfit you’ve ever seen. The kind of outfit that makes you stare and think ‘wtf is wrong with that person?!’ Now consider for a moment that there are people in the world who think it’s the most attractive getup possible. It’s a fashion phenomenon. It’s wildly fabulous!

Your judgement has nothing to do with the individual you’re judging and everything to do with how you think that person should dress. You might not know exactly what they should be wearing, but in that moment, you know what they shouldn’t be wearing.

This is exactly what happens when others judge you.

When you succumb to judgement you’re saying that the judges opinion of you has more value than who you are as an individual. That is not a healthy message to be sending to your subconscious and self-esteem.

Being Less Judgemental Frees You From Being Judged

Every time you judge someone else you perpetuate the cycle of judgement.

Consider the example above. If you judge someone’s clothing, you’re going to expect others to be judging your clothing as well.

The best way to show how true this is, is for me to ask you if you commonly judge the state of someone’s metatarsal flexibility in their foot. I’m going to assume that you don’t.

Now ask yourself if you’ve ever been afraid of the state of your metatarsal flexibility being judged. No?

If we went and asked a ballerina if they commonly judge metatarsal flexibility in their peers, they’d probably say yes. Having a flexible foot is part of having good feet for ballet. It’s something they judge on their peers and, in turn, will fear judgement on.

You’re only afraid of being judged on the things you find yourself judging others on.

The less you judge others, the less you’ll expect to be judged by others and the freer you’ll feel.

The Difference Between Moral Judgement and Character Judgement

The principles above apply to all kinds of judgement. They apply to judging someone’s cultural beliefs and ‘norms’ as well as judging someone’s morality and ethical behavior.

While abstaining judging someone’s personal character can lead you peace, abstaining from making judgements on morals is irresponsible and cowardly.

You are no such coward. You allow people the freedom to be individuals, but you don’t allow people the freedom to do what they want regardless of the consequences to other’s. It’s within your right (and obligation), to judge stealing as wrong.

If you wanted to feel better about stealing yourself, you could refrain from judging, but that doesn’t make your actions any less wrong as well.

Replace Judgement With Curiosity

So if you’re going to stop judging people, what are you going to do when you see something out of the ordinary? Do you block the thought? Hit yourself in the face so you can’t think about it? Walk away calmly but quickly?

The best way to eliminate a habit is to replace the bad habit with a better habit.

I suggest replacing judgement with curiosity. The moment I started doing this, the moment I started choosing acceptance over rejection, is the moment I began to feel like I was free to be me.

If you think about it, what’s normal to you is really just what’s commonplace. It’s what’s expected, predictable, boring.

When you see something ‘abnormal’ or uncommon, you judge because it doesn’t fit into your view of the world. The best way to stop judging is to make it less ‘foreign’ so it can fit into your world view. The only way to do that is to learn about it, and the only way to learn is to be curious.

So next time you see someone sporting a live chicken on their head for a hat, don’t stop your thought process at ‘that’s weird.’ Continue on and marvel at how strange and new that is to you. Think about how interesting the reason behind the chicken hat must be, and vow to find out what kind of cultural norm this is. Learn about it, be curious, carve a space out in your world for this new information.

Give space to other’s to be who they are, and you will receive ample space in return.



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Marinda Reynecke

Marinda Reynecke

Counselling Psychologist

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