The title, it doesn’t sound quite right. Judging without judging others, how is that possible, is that even possible? Sounds almost like an oxymoron.
Over the past few weeks I had been trying to figure out how to deal with a very powerful peer who happens to be a highly judgmental, self-serving, vindictive, and bitter person (this description sounds judgmental, doesn’t it?). It has gotten to the point where a conversation couldn’t be had without her tearing down other women who work in our industry. It was an earful of listening to nasty comments about how these other women dress, what their husbands look like, silly gossip, and fantasies of taking her opponents down in the cruelest manner.
If this was a friend rather than an industry peer, keeping my distance would be easy. Speaking to her about the behaviour described earlier is out of the question. I have seen firsthand what has happened to those who have dared to do so; it wasn’t pretty. Unfortunately, I live in a mid-sized city and it is difficult to entirely avoid people who are in the same career field as you. Everyone knows somebody who knows someone. In the end I decided to forfeit having her as part of my career sphere of influence.
What I have been learning is that when you are close to a peer(s) and you distance yourself from these people who are emotionally toxic yet powerful and well connected, it makes more labour for you in terms of networking, getting connected with just the right people, learning the ropes, and having your work known by others; but in the end it is worth it.
Not having that powerful and seasoned professional by your side to give you the ins and outs of a cutthroat industry makes the struggle even harder, but I was alright with this, my personal values were more important.
If your career-based circle of associates requires that you cut others down, eliminate your competition with dishonest words or actions; and your emerging business plan includes a social media smear campaign against people you (or they) don’t like; take a pass, this is necessary. Your mentors and those who are part of your career circle heavily influence your behaviour, values, and personal work ethic.
Ask yourself, “what part of who I am as a person is being sacrificed in order to stay within this career based inner circle”?
Is the sacrifice and trade-off your…?
- personal values
- unnecessary time away from your family
- money that you don’t have to spare
- integrity and honesty
- healthy character traits
- long-time friendships (healthy ones)
- your faith/religion
- keeping up shallow and superficial appearances
- constant emotional and mental fatigue that isn’t directly related to the production of your work
- abandoning your own dreams or personal goals in order to people-please
- decrease in quality of your own work
Count the costs, not just short-term, but long term as well. It can be difficult to set boundaries with people who have direct influence on your work, reputation, and income, but I encourage you to find a way to create a healthy distance between yourself and industry peers who have a spirit of spitefulness, revenge, pettiness, and exclusion. The slower path to career fulfillment will leave you with a clearer conscience knowing your achievements were obtained without having to sabotage peers, belittle the work of others, or step all over people.
When you take the more laborious and often longer path, do so because the other option was not a part of who you are as a person, nor who you aspire to become. Recognize that people who thrive from their toxic behviour are often personally scared and insecure, and might even have developed such ways of living due to past trauma. But remember, it is not your problem to deal with. Be willing to operate in a different way without seeing yourself as better than anyone else or allowing bitterness and self-doubt to permeate your mind and your work. This is how you “judge without judging”.