Chances are you were taught as a child to never judge others. Parents and teachers likely repeatedly said, “Don’t judge a book by its cover!” And yet, despite our best efforts (sometimes), many of us fall into the trap over and over again. In today’s polarizing world it seems like this is more evident than ever.

Someone cuts you off on the road: “What an a**hole!”

Our friend makes a questionable decision by reuniting with an ex who mistreated her: “Well that’s stupid. What’s wrong with her?”

Someone posts something online you disagree with: “This person is a complete #$%!”

Let’s face it, we all do it. So why do we do it?

Here are four common reasons that explain the particularly bad habit of judging other people. 

It Helps Us Feel Superior

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Judging others often makes us feel superior.

Tearing other people down is one the most common ways people prop themselves up. By judging others harshly, we compare ourselves to them and feel superior. Compared to their lives, their behavior, they’re physique, we look pretty good! But this kind of comparison is false and unhealthy. Instead of finding faults in others, we could do much better to focus on how we can become our best selves. Try asking yourself, “Is what I’m thinking/doing helping me move toward the life I want?”

It Helps Us Recognize Our Goals

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Sometimes judging others helps us realize our goals.

Judging is also a way for us to perceive the world and figure out where exactly we fit in. When we formed opinions of others, we are able to recognize what we like and aspire to be, as well as what we don’t like and want to avoid. While many may see this as a positive thing, the problem lies in the comparison. Routinely comparing ourselves to others leads to a lack of self-confidence, self-worth and an inability to find enjoyment in most situations.

It Uncovers Our Own Faults

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We judge in others what we don’t like in ourselves.

More often than not, we are bothered by the qualities of others that we choose not to see in ourselves. We ridicule, judge and shame another’s habits, appearance or lifestyle choices because they are the very ones we dislike in ourselves. For those lacking in self-awareness and insight, they don’t even realize this is the case.

It Makes Us Feel Part of a Group

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Judging others helps feel like part of the group.

Occasionally, judging can make us feel part of the club. We’ve all been there; it’s the first day of work or school and then someone complains about something, and then another person agrees, and then another and another. Before you know it, a group has formed around negativity. Sound familiar? At times this negativity can be funny and based around a silly situation, but often the negativity can be at the expense of another. Furthermore, this type of situation usually evolves into a regular pattern of behavior because there is usually a sense of connection developed among people.

How to Break the Judgement Habit

If you’ve recognized your tendency toward judgment, here are a few tips to break the habit:

  1. Take a moment to understand where other person is coming from, and why they may look or behave the way they do. No matter what they may look, sound, or act like, everyone is struggling with something.
  2. Try to recognize your own insecurities, and work on building yourself up instead of tearing others down. Does their behavior mirror your own? You can start by learning how to create more self-awareness.
  3. Examine your friendships and associations. Are they based on positivity or demeaning others? If the latter, disassociate yourself and focus on building connections based on positivity and mutual respect. As the saying goes, misery loves company.

Life is too short to spend it uncomfortable in your own skin. If you’re struggling with negative self-beliefs and a disconnect within, find an awesome therapist you like and trust to help you create and be the best version of yourself – not someone else, or someone you think you should be.


James Killian, LPC is the Principal Therapist & Owner of Arcadian Counseling in New Haven, CT where they specialize in helping over-thinkers, high achievers, and perfectionists take control and move From Surviving to Thriving.