It goes without saying that everyone of us has experienced being judged at some point in our lives. A lot of us might have even shaped our behaviors, actions, and personalities to try to ward off the harsh opinions of other people. At this point, we can say for sure that not being everyone’s cup of tea is inevitable to one’s life no matter who you are. However, despite this being a part of everyone’s lives, not everyone has a deeper understanding of what leads to these harsh words and thoughts, which shouldn’t be the case since having more knowledge on why people judge others might help individuals deal with it better. It might even help us comfort our friends and loved ones who are affected by this phenomenon. This article has been made for this very purpose. It is important to note that this tackles irrational, harmful, and unnecessary judgement, not simple differences in opinion, disagreement, or constructive criticism, as there is a fine line between these two that not everyone is able to differentiate.
1. Different Backgrounds
This is probably one of the more common reasons. It goes without saying that every one of us has been raised differently. This can become a problem since in today’s era, now more so than ever, people of different cultures and societal backgrounds constantly interact with one another. Colleges are often seen as melting pots of cultures as students from different cities, countries, and social backgrounds all come together to partake in higher education. With such a large diversity of different cultures, beliefs, and family upbringings, conflicts in perspective are bound to happen. When people think of respecting other cultures, they often think about different religions and traditions so people often respect/acknowledge this. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg. The difference in culture can also encompass behaviors, expressions, and more. One example of this is hugging friends of the opposite sex. In a lot of cultures, this is seen as quite normal and acceptable. However, there are more conservative cultures that consider this as a big deal. In a school setting, students from more conservative cultures/upbringings might view their classmate as being flirty because he/she is somewhat touchy with their friends of the opposite sex when in fact the person doing these actions might see it as a normal, everyday thing.
2. Personal Insecurity
A lot of times when other people try to bring you down, it’s not really about you, it’s more about them. Chances are you might have triggered something inside that person that he/she doesn’t want to deal with such as insecurities. You might have achievements, personal qualities, or even friends and loved ones that the person trying to bring you down might want for himself. It could make that person feel that his self-esteem is in danger. To make him feel better about himself, that person could try to downplay all the good things you’ve done or use your past actions and failures to invalidate your current success. Individuals that often talk about others in a negative manner are often the ones who are afraid of hearing bad things being said about them the most. This is supported by Sigmund Freud’s concept of projection, where a bully projects his insecurities or negative emotions on to the victim as a way to distract oneself from their own shortcomings.
3. Herd Mentality
This supports the previous paragraph’s notion that sometimes being judged by other people doesn’t really have anything to do with you, rather with the individuals who are speaking ill about you. Imagine a hypothetical situation where a group of five friends are talking negatively about you. Of those five friends, only one or two actually dislike you and the rest have no qualms about you or may even like you. However, since, you are the topic of the conversation, the rest of the group may get pressured to talk negatively about you so they can go with the flow of the group and fit in more. It may make them feel more accepted in the group or they may be able to use it as a way to get closer to them. To those people, that group of friends may be more important to them which is why they would choose to agree with those individuals to fit in with the group and speak badly about you.
4. People don’t think things through enough
A lot of times, it’s easier to be a judgemental person than be an open minded one. It might not even be entirely our fault but with with how we’re programmed. The brain is an organ that consumes a lot of energy. In order to survive, humans have developed adaptations to help conserve mental energy. Heuristics are one of these. Heuristics are mental shortcuts used for fast and energy efficient decision making. They affect how we perceive and analyze information. However, since they are mental shortcuts, they aren’t exactly rational or well thought out. Heuristics are built by how we are raised and what we are exposed to. They can be formed by the teachings of our family and friends, experiences, literature, and the media. In spite of this, because what the people around us and what the media presents us isn’t always right, heuristics can have a lot of negative effects.
Stereotyping is a very common example of heuristics being used in a negative manner
If our environment has taught us that anyone who acts in a way that defies the norm is crazy, then we might subconsciously label people who have mental illnesses as crazy.
If our environment has taught us that men who are more emotional or act in a certain way are gay, then we might stereotype them as gay.
If our environment has taught us that women who dress in clothes that show more skin are flirtatious or a tease, then we might have a heuristic that leads us to judge them as so. Heuristics can lead us to make rash judgements about things or people even if we barely know anything about the person or situation.
Take note that this article does not contain every factor that makes judgmental people so common. There are other situations that are more easily explained through other psychological concepts or those that are more specific to the individual or situation so it’s also important not to generalize. Furthermore, keep in mind that while this article can be used in order to deal with the people who have unnecessarily spoken negatively about you, it can also be used for your own self-improvement. As humans, we all have psychological biases that can lead us to making bad judgements about others. Being aware of them increases the chance that we can consciously strip ourselves of these biases in order to stop ourselves from being judgmental or toxic to other people which would lead to a better society.
Cherry, K. (2020), Heuristics and Cognitive Biases , https://medium.com/illumination/emotional-insecurity-defense-mechanisms-and-disorders-75c77aead8ed
Imtiaz, K. (2020) THE DARK SIDE OF MENTAL SHORTCUTS: HOW HEURISTICS CAN FOSTER STEREOTYPES IN THE WORKPLACE, Towson Universityhttps://www.engagetu.com/2020/01/28/heuristics-and-workplace-bias/
Alexander, E. (2020), The age of judgement: the psychology behind judgemental behaviour during the pandemic,