Sticks and Stones

I have an internal conflict that I need to settle, and what better place than this blog to hash it out?  The question that is on my mind and in my heart today is:  how does one appropriately handle negative judgment from others?

First, let me clarify what I mean by negative judgment.  Once upon a time, negative judgment could have been just about anything.  I believe I have come a long way in this department, but it’s clear to me that I have quite a bit further to go, because it is a topic with which I am struggling.  In the past, an unreturned phone call, a strange look on someone’s face, a car passing me on a freeway could have all constituted negative judgment.  Because, in my paranoid heyday, I could spin tales in my head that the dog walking down the street was thinking negatively of me.

I have come miles and miles from that starting point, and I believe my recovery plays a huge role in this progress.  I am definitely more at peace with myself, much, much better at catching myself when projecting thoughts and feelings onto others, and even realizing that the opinions and feelings of others do not have to affect my opinions and feelings.

But, still, there are times…

Judgment can take so many different forms, and the struggles with judgment are certainly not the sole property of alcoholics and addicts.  But, to give a few examples of what I mean, I’ll start with recovery.  There are those who don’t understand recovery and will wonder aloud, “why can’t you just have one?”  Or, “you’ve been doing this for a while now, do you still need to go to meetings?”  Or, judgment can take the opposite approach:  “it seems like you are not as involved in your 12-step program as you once were, are you sure you’re still doing it right?”

Judgment can affect any other part of my life.  I once had a very close family member actually utter the following words to me, as we were talking about my decision to stay home and raise my children:  “Don’t you feel like you’re wasting your education?”  Yikes.

Hopefully I have illustrated my point on negative judgments.   So the question on the table is how to handle when I am feeling judged.  And when I say handle, I mean both internally and externally.

Currently, my external approach will vary depending upon who is “launching the attack,” and how sensitive I feel about the subject matter.  Internally, my approach is the same:  I feel crushed, defeated, which usually quickly translates into anger and resentment that I am feeling attacked.

Since I’ve come far enough along to know that I alone am in control of my thoughts and feelings, I realize that I need to make changes within myself to make this recurring problem go away.  But I’ve got to say, as far along as I’ve come, I’m not there yet.  If someone accuses me of something, even if my logical mind knows that it is untrue, and probably has more to do with their own problems and insecurities, I still haven’t been able to fully internalize that their shit doesn’t have to become my shit (excuse the vulgarity, it is just the best word I can come up with!).

So the next way I can figure to solve this problem is to look at the alternatives.  If I am feeling judged, and obviously for the sake of this discussion the judgment is unfair, then what are my options?  As I see it, there are a few:

  1. I can argue ad infinitum to convince the person that he or she is wrong in this judgment.  People reading this who know me personally are laughing right now, because that has been my modus operandi for as long as I can remember.  I can say, from repeated personal experience, this option almost never works.  I am rarely able to get a concession that satisfies me, and usually I wind up feeling aggravated on top of everything else.
  2. I can walk away.  This alternative can work in some situations, but not all.  Certainly not in cases where you live with the “judge,” or where there are actual issues involved that need to be resolved.  Walking away has never really sat well with me (see #1 above for more on that), as I usually wind up walking away, stewing about it, and thinking of all the different ways I can return to the scene of the crime and argue my point.
  3. I can retaliate.  I can give as good as I get.  If someone is questioning my character, I can fire off similar questions about theirs.  This is the option that is almost irresistible when I am in the middle of a skirmish.  The problem with this option is that the thrill is very short-lived, and is followed by a lot of guilt and remorse (sounds a lot like addiction, doesn’t it?).  Also, as a person in recovery, I am trained to avoid situations where I will have to go back and make amends, so my minds puts a warning signal out the minute I start crafting my zingers.
  4. This fourth option should be the most well-balanced and reasonable approach, but I’m not sure I’ve got it.  Certainly the external would be to avoid options 1, 2 and 3, respond reasonably to whatever needs a response, and possibly to communicate that I am feeling hurt by my perceived judgment.  Internally, I guess the best approach is to let it go.  Just as my feelings aren’t facts, neither are anyone else’s, so if I am good with myself, then it shouldn’t matter what anyone else thinks.  If I’m being honest, that sounds like a pipe dream to me.

But maybe this is one of those things in life that I have to work towards a perceived ideal, while realizing that I will never fully attain it?  I don’t know, but I do know this… just writing this out has helped center me, so I appreciate you giving me the opportunity to feel better!

Today’s Miracle:

Reading back through this post, the miracle today is recognizing the progress I’ve made on this issue.  I may have a ways to go, but I’ve come a long way, baby!

Posted on September 19, 2013, in Recovery and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. Ah judgement! My old weapon and foe. Grandiosity and anger and low self-esteem and ego all wrapped up in one lovely package. I was able to dish it out ,but hated when I was the “dishee”. What a mess. But I totally understand where you are coming from, Josie. I too would speak until hoarse of throat and flustered of face and still it was like moving a mountain with a squeegee. I played into a lot of people’s hands reacting the way I did and it got me quite angry. I think judgement digs into the self-doubt that we still tend to carry and it makes us immediately want to defend – an old pattern.

    For me, I have found that the more I am centered in my own self and body and mind, the less the judgements stick to me. Doesn’t mean I don’t get rattled now and then – of course I do. But it’s been more of a natural course taken, rather than a lot of how-to’s. The more I get to know myself, my true self, my core, and the stronger a connection I have with the Creator, and the more I realize that I am unique yet part of the same, the less I am affected by other people’s harsh words. I will just say that I am sorry they feel that way, or a “what makes you say that?” (in a gentle, inquisitive way) – it takes the heat off of me, and yet I am not arguing or battling back. The fact remains that I will always be judged…either to my face or not. I can’t change what others think of me, but I can change how I think of myself, and how I think of others. And lately I have noticed that when I approach both with a level of love and compassion, I am less wounded by other people’s words. I know it sounds a bit airy-fairy and all Chicken Soup for The Soul kind of stuff, but that has been my experience. It kind of freaks me out at times when I react calmly and I know in the past I would have blown a gasket.

    And like you said, it’s a hard path from knowing intellectually and getting it in the heart. I still have that struggle with many things 😉

    Wonderful post, as usual 🙂



    • PAUL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      It’s great to “see” you again, you have been missed! Hope the bike repair went well, and can’t wait to read about it!

      Thanks for this comment, it may sound airy fairy, but that doesn’t make it any less true, so thanks for the reminder. And when I apply what you wrote to my own life, I can absolutely see progress. For me, the trick is… the closer I am to the person, the harder it is to stay centered in myself.

      But, progress not perfection, right? I never get tired of that AA-ism! I really, REALLY appreciate your comment!


  2. You really have come a long way. Your journey has both informed and inspired me in more ways than you know. Thank you for sharing your recovery story. Take Care, Thea


    • Thea, it is always nice to hear from you, and I truly appreciate the positive feedback! It warms my heart.. hokey, but true!

      I am getting ready for a neighborhood yard sale (I broke down and decided to do it), and so I think of you very, very often as I purge my basement. And, believe you me, a blog post will come out of this experience!!


  3. My own judgements of other people always seem to revolve around some fear I have. I project them onto someone else or I am afraid the other person will do something to hurt me or upset me somehow. The judgement itself would seem to have little to do with the person I’m having it against.

    When I’m feeling judged, it feels impossible in that moment to just let it go because it feels too much about me. Lately I’ve found myself sitting with it and wallowing a little, not so much because I think it’s healthy but because I give up trying to change another person. Sometimes sitting with the discomfort feels right in a way that is hard to describe. Sometimes I wonder “why does this bother me so much? Why are they saying it in the first place – what is really going on?” That’s probably what makes me feel better – seeing it from another, less personal angle. If I can make it about the person judging me, I can let go of it a little more…sometimes.

    I love watching you work through issues in your writing. It feels very therapeutic to witness.


    • Oh my goodness, you just described perfectly something I have been doing as well, and why I do it, in a way I don’t even think I’ve articulated to myself! Thanks, Kristen, that really helped me, and I do agree… sitting with the discomfort is progress, because it’s a step up from believing we are going to change the other person.

      Seriously, thanks for this… you just gave me an a-ha moment!


  4. Ahhh…. I can so relate! And yes you have definitely come a long way. Judgement is hard, it’s hard in so many levels – who it came from, what it is about and how I react to it, all play a role! Yes some judgement is ill intended, but some may not be, it just may come across to us that way. What always helps me are these two lines: It is a spiritual axiom that every time we are disturbed, no matter what the cause, there is something wrong with us. And the other is: What other people think of me is none of my business. Now they sound like complete opposites and well, they are, so trying to figure out which to use when is still work in progress for me. But it allows me to take a look at what is being said and see if it acctually applies to me, and if it doesn’t it gets dismissed! Of course this requires the ability to be opne enough to see what applies! Oh, goodness, I hope this makes senes. It’s hard to explain. But hang in there! And thanks for bringing this topic up, it is not easy to admit that we are bothered with it, and I can definitely relate, I too swore that the dog was judging me! Lol!


    • Maggie, you are like my Yoda of the blogging world! Seriously, your advice is so spot on, so practical, and so ready-to-use, it always, ALWAYS helps me! Thank you for this, I am going to take those two lines with me, and pull them out every time I need them. You explained it perfectly, and it really helped, thank you so much!


  5. When others judge me, both positively and negatively, i tend to laugh and agree…with their perception. Something along the lines of “Yeah, i guess i do come off as an ass / cool / intelligent / stupid…” and then try to let it go. i do my best to avoid defining myself through someone else’s eyes, but it’s not always easy!


    • How did I miss responding to this, what with the awesome advice! I promise you, Al, right now, I am going to do my best to try this exact advice the next time the situation warrants. I cannot promise I will have the success you seem to have, but it makes a lot of sense to me in theory, and what can I lose?

      I really, really appreciate this feedback!


  6. Author Catherine Townsend-Lyon

    I agree with PAUL! AAAWW that LOVELY WORD “Judgement!…..In my own recovery, and as a Christian, I have been taught to not JUDGE others because it’s NOT my JOB…..It’s WAY above my pay grade. That’s the Lords Jobs, and I’M NOT MESSIN WITH THE LORDS JOB…..LOL…
    I truly feel in long term recovery, I’ve learned that it DOESN’T really matter what people THINK of ME….WHY?…..Because I have NO control over People, Places, or Things. LIFE is to SHORT to worry about others who have NO compassion, or understanding about Addiction & Recovery, and the people, like us, who have been touched and live in it, experienced it.

    I’m a firm BELIEVER that my Higher Power had a hand in the Choice’s and Path I have traveled, as to LEARN from it, and then, SHARE HOPE with others who still suffer, and to Educate the public about what we learn in Recovery, and for my addiction….The Dangers of how easy others are becoming Addicted to Compulsive Gambling, and many other types of Addiction as well.
    That’s the only thing I CARE ABOUT when it comes to others who may Judge me. That’s also because OUR PAST does not define who we are today in Recovery! Thanks for a Open & Honest sharing of your feelings! I always learn from you! 🙂 *Catherine*


  1. Pingback: Judging others based upon our Pre-programmed Biases

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