An Ode to Judgement
“Well, who am I to judge?”—a phrase exclusively used after a scathing hour-long rant ripping apart the very soul and being of someone. A phrase we use to attempt to soften the devastating verbal blows we hand out and selfishly absolve us of our guilt for the harm our criticisms may cause. But it’s time we stop pretending that our modern culture is one that doesn’t thrive on judgment. Because the honest answer to this nonsensical rhetorical question is: you.
Our town is probably the crucifix of judgment itself. There is not one person who dares walk any of three streets in pajamas, and any fourth year would rather be caught dead than at the Union on a night out. And there’s only one reason for it, we care deeply about how others perceive us. We scour the different pages of Overheard St Andrews, St Fessdrews, and the various lesser accounts, to giggle at the flawed judgments around town.
Personally, mine are quite surface level, and I have no shame proclaiming them. I judge the people who chat a whole bunch of nothing in class, I judge ranch-eaters, I judge croc-wearers, I judge anyone who rides an electric scooter and most importantly I judge all the insane undergrads who have been forming a line outside the library to get in (its week two for crying out loud, what could you possibly be doing in there).
I’m no psychologist (as my therapist repeatedly tells me), yet I’m sure that in some subconscious way, humans judge each other to avoid confronting our own sentiments of inferiority. But even if the leading studies of psychology are true, I say: so what? Judgment gives us validation and certainty that no matter how badly we are doing, we are doing better than the creepy old man at the pub drinking before nine AM on a Tuesday.
Personal validation aside, morality in our society is built upon what we deem as “right”, and these rules of society such as “you shouldn’t murder” and “ketchup on pasta is a crime”, keep us from deferring to absolute anarchy. Our judicial systems, differing and flawed, amount to a select group of individuals—sometimes in fun wigs—deciding who in our society is guilty or not. Whatever the crime, we leave it in their hands to keep our society ‘safe’ and in check.
However, the average citizen plays judge, jury, and executioner on the daily, in deciding friendships, plans, and futures. We psychoanalyze the outfits people wear, the drunken mistakes they make, or even the pitches of people’s voices. We assess our friend’s bland or crazy boyfriends, screenshot and laugh at our peer’s social media, and judge the parents who give their four year old demon-child an iPad.
Generally, humans can make more informed decisions when they’ve had the opportunity to gather opinions through thorough, critical, deductions. Not prejudiced judgment, but judgment of a less harmful kind. Such as why someone would order a glass of the house wine at Molly’s. More seriously, judgements can be important in enforcing good etiquette for our society. Judging people who treat hospitality workers poorly, who walk around with arrogance, who lack empathy or cancel last minute, can all contribute to creating a society with little tolerance for harmful practices.
The issue isn’t with judgment, it’s with caring about other people’s opinions of you. If you can let go of that fear, you’ve reached the peak of self-love, confidence, and acceptance. If you’re brave enough, learning and acknowledging what you are judged for can help you become a better version of yourself. Maybe that sweater the barista physically cringed at is gross and you should give it away. Perhaps bragging about your family’s chalet in Chamonix is arrogant and you should shut up. A culture of judgment can uncloud the narcissism shrouding our flaws, allowing us to take internal accountability (or not) for our lower moments. The social contract of judgment is one we should all happily sign onto, one of accepting that others may criticize what we do, as long as we get to do the same - preferably as loudly as possible over brunch.
Photo by Wikimedia Commons