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Judgement comes in many forms – a sideways glance, a disapproving look, a direct comment (or comments), “helpful” advice, talking behind our backs, veiled comments, a change in tone, or even a very telling silence.
There’s a lot of talk about mums judging each other, but of course judgement can come from anyone, including our parents, other family members, friends, neighbours and strangers. It comes from people who have kids, people who don’t have kids and people of all ages!
There are endless areas of motherhood to judge; parenting style, how we gave birth, breastfeeding (or not, and how long), sleeping arrangements, whether or not we work, the “status” of our jobs, our bodies and appearance, vaccinations, what and how we feed our kids, how we dress them, screen time, the types and amount of toys they have, the amount of activities they do, which school they go to and when they start, academic or other achievements, how involved you are at their school and so on and so on and so on.
In reality, we all make judgements all the time. Positive, neutral and negative. Conscious and subconscious. It’s necessary for living life.
However, when people make unfair, hurtful or unnecessary judgements about others, based on little or no evidence, it’s unhelpful and can contribute to stress, self-doubt and shame.
Feeling judged can lead to mothers feeling insecure, unworthy, not good enough, alone or rejected. Sometimes, as a result, mums choose to hide parts of themselves and their lives. They may find it much more difficult to be vulnerable and authentic in relationships. Research has also shown that experiencing judgement can change our parenting behaviour, for example, disciplining children differently in public compared to at home.
No one deserves to feel like that.
You can’t control whether people will judge.
But, lovely mum, you CAN control how you respond and how it affects you.
Don’t let someone else’s misunderstanding of your situation and who you are, bring you down and steal your confidence as a mum and woman. There’s a better option.
7 things to do when you feel judged
Here are 7 things you can do when you feel judged, to help you move past them, and stay strong. If you can practice these things, they will become more and more automatic, and you may even find that you don’t notice the judgements as much anymore.
1. Acknowledge how it makes you feel
Judgements don’t make us feel good. That’s perfectly normal and ok. Your feelings are valid and they don’t have to last forever. You can choose whether to ruminate on them, or process them and let them go. First, identify and acknowledge how you feel.
Does the judgement make you feel sad, angry, misunderstood, rejected, inadequate, ashamed, unsafe or something else?
Do you feel like retaliating by criticising and judging them back? (This is a common response which creates a cycle of judgement).
Are you also judging yourself in this situation?
We’re our own worst critics and sometimes we assume that others are judging us about the things we judge ourselves for. Or, if we’re being judged for something we are already sensitive about, our response is intensified. For example, if you’re already feeling guilty for giving your child your iPad when you’re out running errands, you may be extra sensitive to any sideways glances, and will interpret them as criticism. They reinforce the story you’re already telling yourself about how you’re a terrible mother because you give them too much screen time.
2. Know that you are the only one who knows the full truth about your life
If you thought “but you don’t even know me” or “you don’t understand”, you’re right!
Only you know the full details of your situation and life.
No one else knows what’s going on inside your head, or your child’s head. They don’t know how much you slept (or didn’t sleep) last night, or for the last 6 years. They don’t know how your health is, or if your kids are scared, starving or exhausted, They don’t know how much support you have or how your relationship with your partner is going. They don’t know what’s going on for you at work, or that you haven’t had a moment to yourself for so long.
They just don’t know the full picture. So, it’s impossible for them to truly appreciate and understand your decisions and actions.
3. Choose to accept and love yourself as you are
Don’t let judgements about one aspect of your personality or life, effect your entire self-concept and self-worth.
Rather than descending into self-judgement and criticism, extend yourself some self-compassion and choose to accept yourself as you are.
Kristin Neff, researcher and leading expert on self-compassion, explains that self-compassion has 3 elements:
a) Self-kindness – refraining from criticising yourself.
b) Recognising your own humanity – we are all imperfect and experience pain.
c) Mindfulness – being aware of our pain as it is, rather than ignoring or exaggerating it.
If you’d like to learn more about self-compassion, check out this article.
We all make mistakes, and we all have bad days. You are doing the best job you know how to do. You can accept and love yourself, as you are (including your imperfections), regardless of what others might think.
4. Remember that the opinions of most people don’t matter at all
I always come back to the fact, that if someone isn’t impacted by my decision or action, then their opinion doesn’t really matter. This doesn’t mean that I won’t take advice from others. I’m certainly very curious and open to learning from anyone, however, I am responsible for deciding what is useful and relevant to my life.
Does it really matter what the lady behind you in the supermarket queue thinks about your parenting? Is it important to have every school mum approve of your work choices?
Not at all.
You might find this more challenging in relation to certain people. For example, I always find it hard to let go of judgements from my own parents. Of course, I want them to be proud of me and how I raise my family. But the reality is that we are different people, in different times, with different children. And with complete respect, I can say that my day to day decisions and actions about my immediate family do not impact them.
We don’t need to be people pleasers. It’s impossible to please everyone anyway. We just need to make the best decisions for us and our families.
5. Focus on compassion
I’ve already covered self-compassion. This compassion is for the person who judged you.
You see, the judgement isn’t really about you. It’s about them.
People often judge others because they themselves feel unloved, inadequate or unhappy in some way. They may feel scared (of being rejected, of not being good enough, of failing) or may feel threatened. They project this onto others and for a short time, judging others makes them feel better about themselves.
As mums, our self-esteem can be significantly impacted by how well we think we’re doing at motherhood. When we see someone else doing really well or doing something differently, it can make us doubt ourselves and feel threatened. We judge others when we are insecure and not confident in our decisions. In fact, I’m pretty sure we’ve all judged another mum at some point, even if we generally don’t judge. We may not have vocalised it, it may have been just a fleeting thought, but it was there.
When you think about judgement this way, you can see that it deserves compassion. Forgive the person for judging you and acknowledge that the judgement could in fact be a result of their own struggles, even if they weren’t aware of it.
6. Choose to let the judgement go
Your energy flows where your attention goes. Whatever you focus on grows. This means, if you keep ruminating on the judgement, it will seem more and more accurate and important. It’s impact on you will be magnified.
Instead of giving the judgement power, focus on what you know to be true and important.
If someone is constantly judging you and you feel worse about yourself after being with them, it could be time to re-evaluate the relationship. Try explaining how you feel and ask for their support and encouragement. If it looks unlikely that the relationship will improve, consider spending less time with the person or respectfully letting the relationship go. If the judgement is happening via social media, stop reading the comments, delete them and / or take a break.
7. Make someone else feel loved
Gabby Bernstein, author of Judgement Detox, suggests that when you feel judged, you should immediately do something to make someone else feel loved. It doesn’t have to be the person who judged you. It can be anyone!
While being judged creates feelings of inadequacy, this approach creates the opposite effect. It makes someone feel valued, worthy and good enough. It breaks the judgement cycle and will make you feel better straight away.
So, lovely mum, when judgement comes your way, try these steps to help you stay strong and confident in yourself.
Learning to deal with judgement in a productive way is such a critical skill for our own wellbeing and you are also showing your children how to deal with something they will undoubtedly encounter in their own lives.
Which of these 7 things will you try first?
If you’ve been judged recently, then start practicing now! Work through each of the 7 steps and let me know how you found them.
Don’t let judgements keep you down. You’re amazing!