What if we weren't afraid to judge people?

I got annoyed with my husband the other day for the way he stirred his breakfast cereal. 

I didn't say anything out loud, but internally my little judgment toward him triggered a chain reaction of anxiety.

If you've seen the movie Inside Out, perhaps you can picture Fear saying something like this: "Oh no! That's a negative thought! Negative thoughts are bad... That must mean I am bad! But I can't be bad. People won't love me any more! I need to fix that thought so I can be good again!"

I wasn't aware of any words, of course. All I "knew" was that something was wrong with what I was experiencing, and that I needed to do something about it.

At first, I tried to replace the "bad" thought about my husband with gratitude for all his wonderful characteristics, but it felt forced and inauthentic. After all, this wasn't even really about him.

Finally, I realized the source of the fear was the belief that I was a bad person for having petty, judgmental thoughts.

Which is ridiculous.

I started to talk myself down: People have petty, judgmental thoughts all the time, Annie, but that doesn't mean they are, at their core, petty, judgmental people. And neither are you. Your thoughts are just thoughts! They are not your identify, they are not the truth, and they don't need to be in control. They don't mean anything about you at all. They are just your brain doing what it does, trying to keep you safe. And your brain doesn't always get it right. Don't worry, you are okay. Breathe.

In that moment of giving myself a little love and attention, not only did my anxiety get released, but the judgment toward my husband went away too. Win-win!  I'd also like to think that it helped re-wire my brain a little, so that the next time I experienced a judgmental thought, it didn't throw me so far off-balance.

Now, you may or may not share my particular hangup about being judgmental, but I expect I'm not the only one who gets anxious about having "unacceptable" thoughts, or judges other people for having them.  

No one wants to be petty, selfish, fearful, judgmental, vindictive, lazy, or [fill in the blank for you], but the truth is we all have thoughts like that from time to time. And it is so easy to confuse those thoughts with our identityI thought/felt "x"; therefore I'm bad. They thought/felt "y"; therefore they are bad. And people who are bad need to be fixed, punished....

It's just not true.

Your thoughts are not your identity. They don't mean anything about your worth or goodness or lovability. They just mean that you're human, with a brain that has a tendency to feel threatened.

If you are someone who can relate to feeling guilty or anxious about the thoughts in your head, I invite you to take it easy on yourself in this moment -- and in as many other moments as possible. The world doesn't benefit from any of us going around beating ourselves up.