A letter to the self-appointed judge

You are your judge and look at yourself and others through the same disapproving lens

Dear self-appointed judge.

First, I am dying to know who appointed you to this lifelong position you refuse to retire from. You are the mother, the sibling, the friend, the spouse, and the neighbour. You are everywhere. You leave no stone unturned to judge at any given opportunity that comes your way. You are ready to criticise, patronise, or comment whenever your solicited or unsolicited advice is sought. Sometimes you are transparent and don’t shy away from being explicitly harsh in your judgments. But mostly, you strike the gravel with a smile on your face and fool others into believing that you are understanding and empathic.

In all fairness, you are being your authentic self, aren’t you? That’s who you are. You sometimes judge others by projecting your experience onto others, whether a successful or failed one. You believe that others should endorse your life choices. Or do you use others as a punching bag for your frustrations and unmet needs and to distract yourself from your unfulfilling life? You jump to use the various cards you have to announce a harsh sentence at a whim without realising how hurtful you are.

You are the friend who cannot listen to an unhappy married friend without making her feel ashamed for wanting an out from the relationship. You are the man who believes that all progressive-thinking women are modern and untamed. You are the mother who guilt-trips the daughter for working and not being available for the children around the clock. You are the woman who believes that all men who are friendly to the opposite gender are potential cheaters in the making. You are the aunt that body shames the thin and the not-so-skinny boy or girl. You are also the stranger who looks you up and down without blinking his eyes for wearing something vulgar, in his opinion.

Everyone has a story. Why do you judge others for the chapter you started reading? You believe that you are sitting on a moral high ground that allows you to advise others on their life choices without having any or limited knowledge of their struggles, wounds, traumas, and the roads they travelled to arrive however they did before you. You cruelly and callously dismiss or don’t care to ask but assume facts about their journeys and share your words of wisdom that are laced with insensitivity and lack empathy.

Do you feel better about yourself by practicing this pejorative stance toward others? Do you believe that through humour, genuine concern, and care that you use as masks for your real critical attitude, the menacing energy of it doesn’t impact others? Have you ever thought about how it pierces through bleeding wounds, causing intolerable pain? Is it too much to step into the other’s world without remaining centred in your hypercriticism and trying to see what others go through?

The scary part is that you are everywhere, and it’s challenging to escape. What will it take to get away from your piercing eyes and disparaging words so I can breathe? What will it take for you to see me as an ordinary person struggling to survive every moment of my existence? Can you not see that this persecution, in one way or another, cuts through every cell of my body? Can’t you even try to step into my world and believe that I, like every other person, have pain known to them? Why don’t you ask yourself what not judging means to you? Is this the only way you can relate to others? Or is it, in reality, the way you relate to yourself? You are your judge and look at yourself and others through the same disapproving lens. Breathe and let me breathe, would you? Live and let me live. Stop judging and appreciate the humanness of others.

A mere mortal

Zara Maqbool

The writer is a BACP (British Association For Counselling and Psychotherapy) accredited individual and couple psychotherapist based in Islamabad. She can be reached at zaramaqbool@yahoo.com or her official website.

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