Judge Me All You Want

Being judged is the worst. When it’s happening to us, there is a palpable energy to it—both leaden and jarring. When we take that in, we feel wretched.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t let it end there. After I marinate in the judger’s icky vibes, I turn the hose on them and judge right back. At nearly 53, it’s not a good look.

Judgmental roots run deep in my family. The OG was Nana—my father’s mother. Nana and my mom could not have been more different.

As a posh Jewish wife from New York City, Nana did not get Mom’s whole earth mother thing.

My mother was Nana’s polar opposite: an independent Californian who set about marriage and family with a full on DIY philosophy. My parents left San Francisco to raise their kids in a half built adobe in remote New Mexico. Mom taught herself to bake bread, make yoghurt, whip butter, and even tried her hand at gardening. When my brother had trouble with cow’s milk, Mom bought a goat. Twice a day, she sat on a little stool and milked Buttons for Matt’s bottle.


When my grandparents came to visit, Mom aimed to please. My parents even slept on the floor so Nana and Grandpa could have the only king sized bed. They got the royal treatment, including when Mom was pregnant.

Nana said very little. Except when it came to my mother’s appearance. She warned that my Dad would look elsewhere if Mom didn’t drop the baby weight. When Mom slimmed down, Nana was concerned other men would woo her away.

Beyond the premium she placed on looks, it was hard to tell what Nana really thought about anything. Her husband made the rules and she followed them without question.

During a trip out to introduce my then boyfriend Mark to Nana, I got a glimpse into what it must have been like to be her. After Grandpa died, she kept the same silent vigil around her new husband Lee. Despite her continued restraint, Nana looked happy.

“He doesn’t care about my weight,” she said with a smile. I was glad she could finally relax, but it made me sad that it seemed to be the only way in which she had permission to be herself.

All this time later, these little vignettes of Nana land differently. She was doing her best to fit into the tiny box where society had stuffed women of her generation. She endeavored to do right by being a slim, pretty, obedient wife for her husband. That’s it.

As I write, it strikes me that Nana must have felt very little agency in her own life. She was beholden to her husband in all things. Down to her ability to satiate her own physical hunger. I cannot imagine.

With a bit of compassion, I might have recognized that her judgment came from a place of concern for her son’s marriage. She worried about being rejected herself if she didn’t look a certain way. And she fretted over Mom for the same reasons. Was it right? I don’t think so but nobody asked me. It was none of my business then or now.

Looking back, it’s obvious to me that I am guilty of assuming the worst about Nana—that when she critiqued my mother, she was being snooty and shallow. I have behaved the same way that has bothered me so much when I’ve been on the receiving end of it.

So. What is my takeaway from digging down to the roots of my family judgment? It may sound bizarre, but I am going to try my hand at welcoming the judgment of others.

Why on earth would you want to do that? 

Because judging someone else for judging me just makes me feel worse. That’s a sign that what I am thinking isn’t true.* Telling someone else how they should operate, even if it is for my own self preservation, is still the fruit of the poisonous tree. I don’t have to own what anyone else thinks of me.

When I offer that grace to those who judge me, I also offer it to myself. I’ve engaged in a lifetime of unsolicited advice and judgment. The behavior originated from the same place as Nana’s—worrying about how other people are doing their life and trying to make it better. When they didn’t ask me. I have both Nana and my mother inside me.

We all just want to be seen and loved for who we are, not the version someone else would prefer. So. Before you tell someone how they should be, think about that. Be curious about what they might really want for themselves. Maybe even ask.

Okay, that is all. Happy Friday.



WRITING PROMPT: (I missed calling these writing prompts so it’s back!) What happens to you when you are feeling judgmental? Are you feeling anxiety over someone else’s choices? What helps you break the cycle?

*The Buddha said that you will know enlightenment because it always tastes of freedom, just as you know the ocean because it tastes of salt. This implies that I achieve enlightenment every time I can flow with the process of life, without feeling triggered or reactive in any way.

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