Judgments. Such a common part of life! We all use them and most of the time aren't even aware of it:
- "That is so unfair!"
- "I can't believe they made the wrong decision. They should have listened to me!"
- "I wish I wasn't so ugly."
- "That person is so smart and pretty. Why can't I be more like her?"
Using judgment words (as bolded above) is often easier than describing the facts. The problem is that, because we use judgments regularly, we often mistake them for facts. We get stuck in these opinions and accept things as they are.
We all do this, but judgments can be especially detrimental to the developing teen. As they begin to pull away from parents and search for their identity in their peers and in society, their judgments about others and the world impact their worldview and their self-worth. They begin to believe their opinions (judgments) are facts, and it shapes their sense of self. How many times have you heard your teen use a statement like the ones above? And for the teen that continually judges someone as better/prettier/more popular than they are, that becomes their "truth." Knowing all of this, it's no wonder that self-esteem peaks at age 9!
The good news is that DBT skills can help! There's a skill called non-judgmental stance, which means focusing on the facts. We do this by identifying our emotions and opinions in order to differentiate them from the facts. Since judgment increases anxiety, depression, and negative thoughts, this is one of the first foundational skills my groups learn.
Let's use this example. Emily is a teen girl who just failed her math test. Her first thought is "I'm so stupid. I can't believe I failed!" This is highly emotional AND judgmental. I'm sure you can imagine how detrimental these thoughts can be, especially to teens.
A replacement statement might be: "I'm frustrated that I got a lower grade than I was hoping for. Next time I know that I need to spend more time preparing." This statement has no judgment, and allows Emily to acknowledge her true feelings behind the low grade, validate them, and decide how to do it differently in the future.
Practicing a non-judgmental stance is really hard, and nobody is ever perfect at it. But if you are able to start challenging some of the judgments - both yours and your teen's - you will find positive results. As nonjudgmental thoughts increase, depression/anxiety/negative self thoughts decrease.
Could your teen benefit from practicing non-judgmental thoughts?
Click here to see if DBT might be the right fit.