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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Take Off Those Judgey-Pants and Empathize -- Contributor Post

We’ve all done this, and most of us continue to struggle with it at one time or another. Everyone compares themselves to others in their lives and makes a judgement on where they think they stand based on those comparisons.  You compare yourself to other women, other men, other parents, others in your career path, others your age. 

In the process, you not only disconnect from your empathy and judge others- you also judge yourself.  This can be hurtful to you and your relationships- it’s hard to be kind to someone that you’re constantly competing with. 

Breaking this pattern can have huge benefits- you build stronger relationships, you start making decisions based on your own wants and needs instead of trying to beat others at their own game.  You can work better with others to solve problems, and you can build a network of support that will serve you well when you need it. You can support others that need you.

Collaboration is better than competition almost every time.  But how do you stop yourself from wanting to compete with others? Especially in marginalized populations, it feels like there’s limited opportunities- how do you stop fighting for those?

It’s definitely a tough paradigm shift.  It’s a world of finite resources.  How can you convince yourself not to fight for the best bits? 

First, remember in most cases, it’s not a zero-sum game. You don’t have to “lose” in order for someone else to “win”!  Even if you don’t get the exact opportunity you wanted for yourself or your child, that doesn’t mean another one isn’t coming right along.  You can still support others while seeking better things for yourself.  You can build up those in marginalized populations, which in turn, can build you up! Supporting other marginalized groups can help open up opportunities to others as well.

As it comes to parenting- so long as parents are providing children with their needs and aren’t abusing them (and no, formula feeding is not abusing a child), all the other choices are simply that- choices.  Everyone makes different ones based on their unique history and circumstances, and they generally don’t make any one parent better than another.  You can learn a lot by talking to parents about the choices they make, when you’re not judging those choices.  Instead of whispering to someone that your neighbor has a 4 year old who isn’t potty trained, ask that neighbor how they’re doing.  You might learn something, and build a great new friendship!

When you let down your guard and stop holding your cards close to your chest, an amazing thing happens- you begin to feel solidarity with your fellow women, men, parents, and others.  Being vulnerable is tough, but it helps build trust between friends, family, and coworkers. Suddenly, you’re not alone, and you can draw on the experiences and empathy of a group as you move forward.
This is something I have to continually work on- I totally fall into the habit sometimes.

Next time you catch yourself getting out your judgey-pants and competition-face, stop yourself and think about it from another perspective that helps you feel empathy toward the person.  I’ll do the same. Maybe that co-worker was trying to get that promotion for 4 years. Maybe the dad down the street is pushing that 6 year old in a stroller because they both have a little trouble walking.  Maybe we can help and encourage our contemporaries, and get help and encouragement in return!  


When she’s not making play-doh spaceships with her two young sons, Jenny Hill, CPLP creates engaging, accessible, and effective learning experiences, so learners can reach their potential and do their most meaningful work.  You can contact her on LinkedIn at

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