By Jimmy Warden
Our mind is the most powerful tool that we possess. It helps us figure out challenging problems, it helps us make decisions, and it allows us to learn. Many great experiences manifest into our lives as a result. We wouldn’t enjoy those experiences as much if it weren’t for our minds. More specifically, the judging mind.
How the judging mind works
Let’s use strawberries as an example. When we find them in the supermarket, our minds make judgments about them. We look at the fruit, and the gears of our minds start turning, consciously and subconsciously. Subconsciously, we’re calculating all of the previous experiences we’ve had with the triangular red berries to determine whether or not they’re relevant to us. If we’ve never enjoyed strawberries in the past, the decision to buy them ends after our subconscious tells us they’re not needed. If we are fans of strawberries, the subconscious transfers decision-making responsibilities to the conscious. Consciously, we look at the berries and ask: “What’s the due date on these?”, “Are they ripe enough to eat?”, “Will they taste good?”. We contemplate those questions to make an informed decision about whether or not to buy them.
This process occurs when we make more important choices too. When we decide whether or not to go to a dinner party, attend a wedding, see our family, purchase something expensive, or enroll in a class. The judging mind is there to weigh out the plusses and delta.
The judging mind is responsible for interpreting what we like or don’t like. When we have a positive experience, it’s because the judge interprets it as such, and that interpretation makes us want to experience more of that in the future. Therefore, everything that we enjoy develops from our judging minds.
When we understand what we like and what we don’t like, we can develop a lifestyle of pursuing what we like to do and avoiding what we don’t like to do. Living this way will increase joy and life satisfaction. Sure, there are always going to be things in life that we don’t want to do and have to do anyway, but imagine if we all made an effort to do more of what we enjoy. What might that feel like?
Having that relationship with ourselves develops self-awareness. To get to know ourselves, we have to make judgments about ourselves. We need to make judgments about what we like and don’t like. Thinking about what we like or don’t like will create clarity of what we want in a lot of areas of life: personal development, relationships, passions, careers, how to spend our free time, etcetera. The more self-awareness we have, the more we can cultivate an enjoyable, meaningful life.
Another way the judging mind can benefit us is in our relationships with others. Regardless of the relationship we have with someone, there are behaviors that we want to see from them. If someone we’ve associated with (or just met) starts acting in a strange manner that rubs us the wrong way, that’s a surefire sign that our judging mind is sending us a message to steer clear from that person.
These are some of the positive traits of the judging mind. With that, there are also some negative qualities of it.
Our mental judge can also be our worst enemy. When we overthink decisions and contemplate all of the possible outcomes – both realistic and unrealistic – it puts our minds in a challenging situation because there is too much information to consider. Then, no outcome seems like a good one. Rationality also gets thrown out the window when our mental judge is working overtime.
Overthinking in that manner is one way that anxiety manifests. It puts our thinking in a tug-of-war, and the ideas in our brains are battling for superiority. The longer we contemplate, the longer the tug-of-war lasts, and we stay at odds with our decisions. Dragging out these decisions increases our anxiety which manifests physically in many ways: increased heart rate, increased breathing rate, sweating, stomach aches, and loss of appetite to name several. Over time, this method of thinking can become habitual and become our norm. When that is our norm, so is anxiety.
When anxiety is our norm, so is our inner critic. Our inner critic is responsible for our negative self-talk and lack of confidence, both of which are essential for becoming our best selves. When we talk down to ourselves, we believe less in our abilities and develop negative core beliefs. This is a recipe for disaster if we ever want to genuinely feel proud of our accomplishments.
Striking a Balance
Even though the judging mind can be helpful and burdensome, we must strike a balance with that dynamic.
There are times in life when we need to pay attention to the tug-of-war contemplations. When the decision is challenging, it’s essential to listen to the possibilities to make the right choice at that moment. If the decision is wrong in hindsight, we don’t need to listen to our inner critic because we were simply doing the best with the information we had at the time of the decision. That’s one opportunity when we can strike a balance.
Other opportunities are found in interactions with others. Sometimes, people sing our praises, but we don’t agree with what they said because our inner critic is the louder, more convincing voice. We can strike a balance here by citing someone’s praise as evidence that we’re doing something well and accepting that as fact. When we do that at a higher frequency, we’re able to build our confidence authentically. Sure, we can still listen to our inner critic to sharpen our skills, but criticism doesn’t mean we don’t possess skills in the first place.
Lastly, rationality is a guide that helps us determine whether the judgments we’re making are helpful or hurtful. Rationality isn’t always achievable, especially in a state of anxiety, but a little bit of it can go a long way in the mind.
So try to notice your train of thought next time you’re making judgments about something or someone. You just may learn a thing or two about yourself!