Caring and the impact of judgement
Jill is a parent carer from Camden and has been a member of the team at Camden Carers since 2008. Here, Jill shares her insights on judgement. Identifying when judgement is valuable, but also where it can creep into our days and sabotage them! An opportunity to take back some control in our day-to-day.
As human beings we are hard-wired to make judgements and it is a very valuable tool in our daily lives – when used appropriately.
However, we also pass judgement on others every day - at the person being too slow in the supermarket line, at other drivers on the road, at politicians on TV.
So while some judgements are valuable in our day to day lives. Other types of judgements can simply serve to make our daily lives more negative or difficult. What if we could let go of those types of judgements?
Let’s explore the difference between these two forms of judgement and why this is relevant to us as carers.
Critical or objective judgement
Critical judgement has a role in keeping us safe. For example, when driving we need to use judgement, making manoeuvres such as turning a corner or overtaking another driver.
This form of judgement is the ability to make considered decisions or come to sensible conclusions.
Another example of using judgement might be when deciding on how to approach an everyday task such as which care agency to choose.
Within the legal system there are judges whose job it is to consider the innocence or guilt of the defendant in a case – and to make a judgement on the appropriate punishment for a wrongdoer.
Critical judgements are based on objective evidence – before taking action, responding to a situation, etc, you weigh up the evidence and the pros and cons of your anticipated action.
Subconscious or subjective judgement of others
When we find ourselves judging others – for their behaviour, the way they dress, how they speak, etc – this is a subjective process of judgement, which usually comes from a place of insecurity.
We are sub-consciously measuring ourselves against others and making either a positive or negative judgement about them.
It can be tricky to recognise this process, but by becoming aware of what is going on, we can help ourselves to feel less insecure and less stressed.
Start by noticing when someone or something makes us feel uncomfortable. Those are the moments, we’re likely to be passing a subconscious or subjective judgement. We can then dig a bit deeper and work out why we’re judging someone - more on that, later.
Being on the receiving end of judgement
As much as we might be judging others, we may also be judged by them. This often also comes from insecurity on the part of the “judger”.
Many of us recognise the feeling of being judged by others – either indirectly or directly. It could be as subtle as a look or more blatant – someone might say, “You should try this diet“; “Why are you wearing that?”; “I wouldn’t have said that.”
How do we respond when we feel judged by others? How does it feel? The most common reaction is to feel the need to defend ourselves – either internally or to the person making the judgement.
The sense of insecurity that might lead to this form of judgement – both in judging and being judged – is linked to self-esteem, self-worth and confidence.
As carers, we often judge ourselves on how well we are doing in our caring role. Are we doing enough? Is there a better way to support our cared-for?
If we meet up with other carers in a group, we might find ourselves measuring how we are doing against the other carers, and even find these internal or external judgements playing out.
Here is a real example:
Mrs K cares for her young adult daughter who has learning disabilities and during a group session she meets Mrs S who cares for two of her three children who have a chronic long-term condition – one is a boy and one is a girl. When sharing their experiences, on hearing Mrs S’s struggle Mrs K says to Mrs S, somewhat bitterly – “Well at least you have a son”.
This example is interesting because when we perceive how other carers are managing with their role, we can make certain judgements.
Here we could assume (judge) that Mrs K has an ‘easier’ time, as she is caring for one, not two adult children. What we wouldn’t have known, was that she had additional external pressures on her situation.
What is true is that one carer might appear to have an easier time, but we have no way of knowing what that carer’s internal and external stressors are.
In the case of Mrs K and Mrs S – they both had external family expectations and pressures on them – Mrs K’s lack of a son weighed heavily on her; Mrs S’s family criticised her inability to produce healthy children.
How we judge ourselves
Our inner judge – which we all have – may be described as our “critical parent” or “inner critic”. Again, this is a subjective process which comes into play usually when we are feeling low in confidence or have had a series of difficult challenges in our lives and our caring role.
It can be helpful to ask yourself “Whose voice is that speaking to me?” and it may well be a significant adult from growing up – a parent, teacher, grandparent or other.
I grew up with a very critical grandmother who when I was a teenager stated that “Jill is a big disappointment to the whole family”. I measured myself for many years against this criticism, which played out as feeling I was letting others down, which led me to over-compensate in my behaviour towards them.
By raising awareness of how this was playing out in my life, I learned to quieten that critical voice. If it occasionally speaks to me now, I just brush it off as unhelpful and untrue.
As carers we are often just making our way through each day, with little guidance, training, etc, and this can undermine our confidence in what we are doing – leaving us prey to those inner critical, judging voices. The reality is that we are always doing the best we can with whatever we have at the time
A change of mindset can change how we judge ourselves and others
Subjective judgement is something that happens instinctively. Becoming aware of that process and recognising it, rather than trying to stop it from happening, can help.
If we think of subjective judgement as a form of false evidence (False Evidence Appearing Real - FEAR) – or even if you think there is a grain of truth in there – you might inwardly respond by saying “You may be right, but I know I’m doing the best I can right now.” Or “You again! You don’t bother me anymore – bye!”
Practice a change in mindset towards yourself and others by thinking of growing these qualities which we all share:
Sharing an understanding of what you and others might be going through and how that might feel; having compassion for ourselves and others can lessen the impact of their judgement on us, and our judgement on them.
Knowing in our own mind that these subjective judgements and criticisms will happen, but that we can choose how we respond to them (if at all) rather than be driven by them.
That we and others, especially carers, are all facing challenges and that we cannot know what is going on for other people, but that everyone is doing their best. Accept that we all have our limitations, that sometimes we make mistakes, or may be going through a difficult time – but that overall the only helpful judgement of ourselves and others is that everyone is doing whatever they can to get by.
A genuine sense of letting go of any present or former hurtful criticism, judgement and those critical voices from the past can lead to forgiveness and allow space for love. Realising that my grandmother’s criticism of me was a reflection of her feelings towards herself helped me to forgive her for what she had said and become free of the hold her words had on me.
So the next time someone or something is making us feel impatient, cross or uncomfortable, let's pause to consider why. It's often a reflection back at ourselves. And let's take those opportunities to simply hold back judgement and by doing so, create a more positive day for ourselves (and them).
Being aware of our judgements is another opportunity to take back some control in our lives. Control over what and how we choose to respond. Choosing a response that is beneficial to ourselves.
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About the author
As well as being a parent carer, Jill Pay is an Independent Trainer-Facilitator and Life Coach, and Breaks & Activities Service Manager at Camden Carers.