Judging others can be addictive. We vow we're going to stop. Then in our very next conversation there we are, putting down a colleague or friend behind their back, or belittling the partner we love.

What is this habit really about?

Why we judge others

Sometimes it’s a learned habit. We grew up with parents who judged everyone around them, and bonded over their shared condemnations.

Or we learned the habit as our parents judged us when we were kids. We took on board that harsh criticism is 'love'.

Often we judge others because deep down who we judge the most is ourselves. We lack confidence, have low self-esteem, and hide it by projecting all our insecurities onto others.

The reason we lack esteem might be because we had a difficult childhood, or even experienced childhood trauma. Deep down we blame ourselves for it, even if we logically know it was beyond our control.

The power of criticising others

Yes, always judging others can have some immediate benefits. We can use this habit to get attention, and to bond with others who are also judgmental. This can look like all condemning the boss together when he’s not around, or gossiping about a fellow student.

And we might even temporarily feel better about ourselves while doing so. We feel superior to the person we just judged. Or, if something like childhood abuse has left us mired in shame, putting another person down can make us feel we aren’t the most worthless person in the world. For a moment, someone else is.

With people close to us, being judgemental can mean we have the upper hand. If the other person gets too close, or upsets us? We can push them back and keep them in line with a harsh judgement.

The price of judging others

But eventually, judging others always backfires.

With peers and colleagues, the habit only leads to false bonding and not real connection. Judging others means that you won’t be trusted. How do they know you won’t judge them, too, when they aren’t around? So it creates a distance between you and others.

In this way it is the perfect way to block real intimacy in your relationships, and can sometimes be used as a defence tactic if deep down you fear intimacy. Your own children and partner can be afraid of you.

And that burst of feeling superior doesn’t last either. Most of us know, on a certain level, we are lacking in integrity. And bit by bit a constant habit of being judgemental can erode our own self-respect.

In summary, judging others might mean camaderie and quick laughs. But in the long term, being judgmental leaves you lonely and with low self-esteem. A pretty high price to pay.

How to stop judging others

Self -compassion is a great place to start.

The more we learn to like ourselves and let ourselves off the hook, the more we can let others off the hook, too.

And mindfulness can help you to gain more control over your thoughts. You can find you are more able to think before you speak, if that is part of the problem.

If your problem with being judgemental runs deep, if it’s connected to childhood, or trauma? Then it’s a very good idea to seek professional support.

Working with a counsellor or psychotherapist can help you identify and change the limiting beliefs that are driving you to defend yourself by putting others down.

What therapies can help me stop being so judgemental?

Any good talk therapy will help you recognise and troubleshoot unhelpful ways of thinking and being. You might, for example, find therapies like the following of interest:

Ready to stop judging others and start feeling better about yourself? Book a session with a therapist now.

Need an Appointment ASAP?

Here's who's next available...

See other available therapists ›
Are you a therapist?
Apply to be on the platform  ›