Recently I was speaking with someone who mentioned how judgmental he can be upon meeting someone new and how he’s trying to work on ditching that bad habit. Many of us can relate to the feeling of having immediate judgments about someone, whether those impressions are negative or positive. However, judgment can go just beyond the initial impressions of a person. You might get to know someone and continue to get close with them, but continue to judge them based on myths you believe about people. Judging people actually holds you back from having positive relationships with amazing people.
Judging others also tends to form habits of self-blame where you may even be judging yourself too harshly. What you think you know can often be far from the reality. Below are some myths that we have to stop telling ourselves about other people.
Myth 1: The people I love are perfect. When you love someone, you tend to see the best in them. It can be tough to learn that the amazing role model you have in your life handled his divorce very poorly and made terrible mistakes in the process. You may have the most amazing girlfriend but start to doubt your feelings for her when she is having a bad couple of weeks and not in her typical happy mood. You might start to second-guess your friendship with someone once he expresses that he is dealing with depression. Every human being is imperfect. Even the person who seems the most giving, can be selfish at times. The confident role model in your life has days where he feels weak, insecure and needy for attention. Everyone is flawed, and everyone is capable of making mistakes. It’s okay if you feel disappointed with the people you love or expected better of them, but remember that all of us are capable of handling a situation poorly. Accept the person as they are and love them for who they are, flaws and all.
Myth 2: People I dislike do not deserve my kindness or respect. I’d argue that it’s probably better for everyone, including yourself, to treat people you dislike with only respect and kindness. You don’t have to force a friendship or connection with that person, but everyone deserves your respect and compassion. If this person is particularly toxic, then sometimes showing kindness and respect is by simply leaving them alone and not getting involved in their life anymore. Every situation is different. Some people you may just never connect with on any level, which is fine. However, when you treat that person with kindness and respect you can still have a positive relationship with that person and not let it influence your life negatively. By showing compassion you also keep the door open for a friendship or connection in the future if a character change occurs.
Myth 3: People do not change. Everybody changes. Just think back to the past decade of your life. How have you grown? What mistakes have you made that you have learned from? Realizing and accepting that people can and do change, will help you remember that the world is not black and white. The person you didn’t really get along with in high school may become your best friend after graduating university. A co-worker you didn’t have a good working relationship with a couple of years ago, may be someone you have a better working relationship with now. The person you weren’t all that attracted to years ago may be someone you are crazy about now. Everybody is on a journey where they change, grow, mature and become a better person in the process. When you assume people never change, you may find yourself cutting off people that you knew years ago because of a belief that this person is the same exact person you knew years ago. Give people a chance, especially when a significant time has passed. You might be pleasantly surprised at the way this person has matured.
Myth 4: People are to blame for the hardships in my life. You may have gotten off to a hard start in your life. Maybe you did not get the love that every child deserves growing up. Maybe others mistreated you and hurt you. Blaming others for the current unhappiness in your life may feel easy, but truthfully you have control over your life right now. You have a choice on what you want to do right now. If you feel unhappy about something, what do you intend to do about it? Instead of spending energy blaming people and feeling like life always throws you an unlucky hand, spend that energy finding what you can do right now to move forward in your life. If you have toxic relationships with others, then work on figuring out a way to resolve the situation or make the choice to walk away. You can continue to feel bitter towards people who hurt you, or focus on forgiving them and moving on in your life. If you are unhappy in your professional or personal life, then there is no better time than today to take steps to improve your situation for yourself. You may not be able to control what other people say or do, but you have complete control over how you choose to respond to them and how you intend to live your life. You also have control over how much you choose to let other people affect your life.
Myth 5: People are wrong because they live their lives differently. The beautiful thing about life is the fact that we all have diverse attitudes, opinions and ways to achieve meaning and satisfaction within our lives. You may not understand why someone makes the choices they do or how they can find happiness by following a specific path, but that’s okay. It’s their life so give them the freedom to find contentment in whatever way they choose. Your decisions which seem so right to you, may look foreign to others. Support and encourage your loved ones, even if their choices and lifestyle is different to yours.
Myth 6: People are not trustworthy. Some people believe that the only person you can trust is yourself and that other people are selfish, only care about themselves and will hurt you to get a step ahead. There are people in the world like this, but in my experience, the large majority of people are not like this at all. If you believe people are not worthy of trust, you might be attracting people who fit that worldview. You might even be subconsciously blocking out memories where people supported you, are trustworthy and genuinely love you without seeking anything from you. There are people in the world who are not worthy of trust, but there are many, many people who are trustworthy, loving and kind. Keep an open heart and recognize when people are being generous and loving. Work on keeping a support network of people who genuinely love you and walking away from people who you feel don’t genuinely care about you. Take chances on people.
Myth 7. It’s personal when people hurt me. Not always, and truthfully, not even most of the time. Most of the time, the rude behaviour is not even about you. You have no idea what is going on in someone’s life. That person who seems irritated at you today may be having the worst week they have ever had in years. Someone who chooses to not go out of their way to talk to you may just be really shy. The woman who told you that she would like to stop dating you may be going through a very difficult time in her life right now and simply unable to handle a relationship at this point in her life. A friend you may not have heard from in months may be dealing with depression and other major life stressors right now. Not having a promotion this year may be due to budget concerns rather than your performance. Most of the time it’s not personal when people are rude or have done something that hurts you. When you stop believing that everyone’s actions are personal to you, you free yourself to focus on how you respond when people do hurt you. Be more in control of your feelings and handle these negative encounters from a positive mindset and place.
Myth 8: People are what we see on the outside. If they look happy, they must be happy. You see a person who is quiet and looks annoyed and assume this is a rude person. Your friend is always smiling and carefree so you assume she is happy even though she’s having a rough time at home. Everyone deserves your kindness and compassion. Even when someone seems happy on the outside, continue giving them kindness and not assume this person does not need your support or love. Work on listening and being there for everybody in your life, regardless of how happy or unhappy they may seem to you.
Making judgments about people can negatively impact your life. When you let go of myths about other people, you make space for more room to control your own life. Even when you are dealing with someone you just don’t get along with, try to respond from a positive place. Smile, show respect and be polite. You may never know how much someone needed your positivity that day. Remember, we can give, we can heal, we can forgive, we can change and we can understand.