Why Do We Judge Others?

by Erika Torres

Judging people has become a social taboo.

It’s supposed to be bad to judge other people, and we often hear the catchphrase “Don’t Judge.”

But I judge people all the time. And I’m sure you do too–even though we have to lie about it, because if we tell people we judge people, they’ll start to wonder if we’re judging them, and then we probably won’t have very many friends left anymore.

So I think that’s why we lie about judging others.

But I do judge people. I judge people who wear high-waters…like this guy.


I judge people who kill other people. I judge people who are bad tippers. I judge vegans. I judge people who lie about judging other people.

Hello, my name is Erika and I am a judger. Sue me.

As politically incorrect as it is to admit that we judge people, the fact is we do it all the time. That’s how we decide who we choose to marry, who we choose to be friends with–I mean, I don’t know, I wouldn’t choose to be friends with a meth addict who sells her body to support her habit, would you? Isn’t that me passing judgement on her?

So now that we’ve answered the question that yes, we are all judgers and sinners, I wanted to ask: Why do we judge?

And the only reasonable answers I could come up with are: fear and jealousy.

We judge others out of fear that their choices are better than our choices. Take child rearing for example. How people parent their children is one of the biggest controversies and one of the easiest way to judge others. There are so many experts out there telling you the correct way to raise your child, and if you aren’t doing it their way, you’re doing it wrong.

When one parent rears their child differently than you, there is automatic judgement. They’re doing it wrong. They’re hurting their child. That choice will come back to haunt them. And we do this out of fear–fear that what we’re doing is wrong. As if there can only be a right and wrong way to do something, because obviously if you are doing something a certain way, it’s because you think that’s the right way. Maybe we judge others because we fear that if they’re doing something a certain way, then what we are doing is wrong.

I don’t know why I got all philosophical all of a sudden–I think it was spurred by a scene in Silver Linings Playbook (which I really liked, btw). But it made me think of why I judge others and their choices.

I know that sometimes I have judged others on their financial situation–without even knowing all the details– because I want to feel better about our own financial situation. I judge based on fear and jealousy. Are we doing it right? Are we doing it wrong? How come we can’t afford to do that? They can only afford to do that because their parents are helping them; I would never take money from my parents as an adult (which is a total lie, I would totally take advantage money from my parents. Heck, my grandma still slips me a $20 every now and then).

Why do you think we judge others? And what have you judged others for?


WILD about Finance February 25, 2013 - 6:11 am

Unfortunately I think we’re just wired this way. Its not the most attarctive part of the human races makeup, but unfortunately its instilled in us all. I wish i didn’t do it though.

Holly@ClubThrifty February 24, 2013 - 11:54 am

I used to be more judgemental in the past but I have tried hard in the past year to overcome it. Really, I’ve found that there are a lot of *right* ways to do things. But it’s hard to see other’s point of view sometimes and it’s very easy to sit in judgement.

Sarah Park February 24, 2013 - 12:48 am

No matter how hard we try not to, there are really times when we tend to judge people. This seems a habit that we should try to avoid and teach our children not to.

Elizabeth @ Broke Professionals February 23, 2013 - 4:57 pm

One of the elements of the Atlantic article I told you about says that the only way for women to really succeed in the workplace is for us to stop judging one another. I know I am far harsher in my criticisms of other women than I am when it comes to judging men.

Jon February 22, 2013 - 7:12 am

I’ve come to judge a lot more as I get older because I have been duped before believing peoplewere one way and found they were tottal opposite.

Brick By Brick Investing | Marvin February 22, 2013 - 5:28 am

I try my hardest not to judge others but you are right I am guilty sometimes. I judge people when it comes to laziness, I absolutely can’t stand it and am automatically turned off by it.

Lea February 21, 2013 - 11:34 am

I agree with some others who commented – for me I usually judge if I’m either a) arrogant, or b) jealous. A friend of mine married a guy who comes from a fairly well-off family (not stinkin’ rich, but they definitely have money). Her MIL often buys them stupid stuff, like, oh, you need a new dress for so-and-so’s wedding and she buys it for my friend. Or they dig them out of a crisis when it comes to their house (like paying for repairs when their furnace went) and essentially act like their emergency fund. Part of me is incredibly jealous (why aren’t my in-law’s wealthier/more free with their money) and the other part of me is arrogant that we can make it on our own and we don’t need someone else to help us in an emergency.

Kristin February 21, 2013 - 10:02 am

I loved SLP. A lot of life lessons in that movie…

I think I judge people who have, like, 3 kids before the age of 25 simply because I wonder if we did it wrong to wait. At 27, we have no children and perhaps I wonder if we’re doing something wrong. I suppose that’s where my “You have HOW many kids?!” judginess comes from.

Super post!

KendraD February 21, 2013 - 6:56 am

I think it’s important to differentiate between judgement and discernment. Discernment is what we use to cipher through potential friends, mates, business partners, schools for our children, neighborhoods to live in and the like. Judgement is our thoughts on other peoples’ choices.

I think judgement stems from baseline insecurity like you were saying. If I’m not comfortable with my choices, than I’m more likely to judge the choices of others. This might sound bad and will be long, but the best example I have is my wedding band.

When I got engaged I picked out a half carat diamond solitaire for my engagement band with my husband. I didn’t want anything too big. But that was because I wanted a flashier wedding band in the form of a guard or wrap to go along with it. When we eloped just a week after purchasing my ring, we elected to put off buying my wedding band for a few months since we had a big move with a lot of unknown costs. My MIL freaked out at the idea of me not having a wedding band and called my husband 2-3 times a day about the issue. To soothe her we ran out and bought a sixty dollar place holder band. Two and a half years later, I’m still wearing that band.

And it grates on me. So I judge others for their engagement rings/wedding bands and think thoughts like being glad we didn’t spend that kind of money or enumerate the trips we took that they won’t be able to because of the disparate cost of our rings. When really, it all comes from the insecurity of not liking my wedding band and needing to make myself feel better about that. It’s not a pretty trait and is one that I work on all the time.

pen|| new york nonsense February 20, 2013 - 5:36 pm

I am such a judger. I can’t even lie. It doesn’t mean I won’t be nice to said person I’m judging or like them overall in a broader sense, but I will judge you for “XYZ”. Lol. Human nature…

Jennelle @ Bella Ballroom February 20, 2013 - 4:27 pm

I think judgements can sometimes be OK. It can help us to make decisions about what we want out of life, our goals, and what we believe in. However, judging others can quickly go to a negative place. I am guilty of negatively judging others all the time–I find though, that when I’m happy and secure in my own life and fulfilling my dreams, I seem to judge others a lot less. I’m WAY more relaxed about what other people do–it’s kind of funny how much these two things are tied together for me.

David Leonhardt February 20, 2013 - 12:38 pm

We judge people. We judge places. We judge TV shows. We judge food and books and movies and everything. This is how we make decisions on how to spend our very limited resources, mostly of time, money and attention. If we did not judge, if we did not discriminate, if we did not choose, we would explode in under 3.5 seconds.

Mo' Money Mo' Houses February 20, 2013 - 12:27 pm

I think that’s the big reason people judge, fear and jealousy. I know that’s usually why I do it, even if I don’t think so, when I look back that’s exactly where those feelings stemmed from.

Kathleen, Frugal Portland February 20, 2013 - 11:37 am

If we didn’t judge, there wouldn’t be shows on TV like “The Bachelor” and I for one love that we have that show. JUST LOVE it.

krantcents February 20, 2013 - 10:43 am

Judging others is not always bad! I made a judgment about a woman I met when I was in college. I thought she was cute and wanted to meet her. She made one about me when she said yes, when I asked her out. I make judgments all the time. I see someone on the street and determine if they are scary or not. Judgments are not always bad.

Tina @ My Shiny Pennies February 20, 2013 - 10:40 am

I have a colleague who’s in her 30s and lives rent free with her parents. I make up stories in my head like, “Of course she goes to the mall all the time. She doesn’t have to pay rent!” In this instance, I judge out of jealousy and resentment.

CeCe @Frugalista Married February 20, 2013 - 8:27 am

As much as I don’t like to admit it I have! I can’t think of any particular situation off hand but it’s almost like a 2nd nature to have a passing “judging” thought. I will say that I may judge and have an opinion but I don’t think I necessarily look down on someone or not like them for their situation or whatever it is. Unless you are a murderer. Then, I’m surely not gonna like you.

Kasey February 20, 2013 - 6:46 am

I don’t have a problem if people judge me it’s when their actions towards me change as a result of their judgment. Just because people do things differently than me it does not mean I will treat them badly. My boyfriend’s sister has been judging me and our relationship and because of that he is no longer speaking to her because of her actions towards us. It really is a pity as I have no ill feelings towards her.

Michelle February 20, 2013 - 6:32 am

I’m with Well Heeled on this one. I wouldn’t say I’m too too judge-y, but I do get jealous.

Budget & the Beach February 20, 2013 - 6:31 am

I think another reason is arrogance, even though it doesn’t come off in the traditional way. For instance I get judgy at the grocery store when I see some of the crap that people put in their carts, especially when they start counting the money to make sure they have enough. Really? And you’re STILL going to buy the Oreos and white bread??

I feel bad that my brain just does that but it does, and I’m not sure why. Who am I to say my shopping choices are Soooooo much better than theirs. So, I guess arrogance.

Well Heeled Blog February 20, 2013 - 6:16 am

I don’t judge so much as I get a case of the green-eyed monster…. and I’m trying hard not to compare myself to others in life. Because that makes for a miserable life.

444 February 20, 2013 - 6:15 am

I don’t know if it’s fear and envy as much as being a critical thinker. I think we are all interested in analyzing what others do so we can compare and contrast to our own actions and possibly even learn something new that we would like to try. In other words, I don’t think judging has to be negative (people oftentimes imply negativity with the word, but can’t it have a positive connotation? Judging someone to be a good parent? Or a good money manager? Or something else)

Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies February 20, 2013 - 5:43 am

I think sometimes we judge to make ourselves feel okay about our own situation. Post school when I was living in a crappier apartment than a friend – I told myself that was okay because my rent wasn’t subsidized by my parents.
But there’s a balance, too. I think judging too much can make us unhappy by making it seem like there is only one right way to do things.


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