Win the Judgey Olympics: transform your petty wedding snarks into personal growth

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Who in their right mind would drape mis-matched plastic picnic tables in bedsheets from Goodwill?! Oh wait: I totally did. This is a picture from my wedding. Oh and PS: what, pray tell, is that fucking hose doing there? TACKY.
Friends, pull up a chair, because we have something we need to talk about today: JUDGEY-NESS.

You know what I'm talking about: that smirky, snarky, eye-rolly feeling that comes up. There you are, attending a friend's wedding. Or even more likely, there you are: looking at pictures on the internet.

And suddenly, what's that? TUT-TUT, did she REALLY!? Oh my lands, SHE DID. Can you beLIEVE? I would never! It blows my mind that anyone could possibly think this was a good idea.


You can swap in your own judgment triggers: aesthetic choices (SO UGLY!), budget decisions (in these parts, judgments of OMG SO CHEAP! are just as common as OMG SO WASTEFUL), political/cultural statements (TACTLESS! OFFENSIVE!), and relationship choices (I CAN'T BELIEVE THESE TWO ARE GETTING MARRIED) are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the judgments around weddings that come up for folks.

Here on Offbeat Bride, of course, we're all about being supportive and constructive and cheerleader-y, but let's be honest: Of course judgments come up. They do for me as the publisher, they do for all my editors, and they do for every single reader.

As I said on Offbeat Mama last year:

For me, the goal is not to kill the judgment (impossible! irrational!) but to observe which issues make it flare up. I think there's a lot to be learned from observing one's judgments, and “Wow, I'm a judgmental bitch. Maybe I should work on that…” is just the first and most obvious lesson.

When I feel judgment flare up, I use it as a tool to examine my own motives and values. That judgey feeling tells me, “Uh, clearly this is a topic I have some strong emotions about…why?” I try to ask myself why I care — what are the ramifications of someone doing something differently than me? What can I do in my own life to ensure that I'm living with integrity on this issue? What are my personal experiences with this issue that make it so important to me?

My goal is not to find consensus. (Impossible!) Nor is my goal to eliminate all judgement. (Although I do eliminate judgmental comments.) My goal is to expose readers to as many perspectives as possible, so that we can examine our own beliefs, learn from our judgments, and gain greater insight into our OWN values.

I've been thinking about this issue more as I'm reading this book about non-violent communication, which talks about the difference between value judgments and moralistic judgments:

All of us make value judgments as to the qualities we value in life; for example, we might value honestly, freedom, or peace. Value judgments reflect our beliefs of how life can best be served. We make moralistic judgments of people and behaviors that fail to support our value judgments.
(From Non-Violent Communication by Marshall B. Rosenberg)

In other words: your core values of wedding planning are awesome, whatever they may be. Rather than judge others for not matching your values, find ways to learn from those judgments to help you better understand what's important to you.

For instance, when you look at someone's wedding and think to yourself, say, “I can't believe they went so low-rent on the food like that… that's so cheap and tacky,” what you're really saying is something more like, “Serving my loved ones food of high quality is part of how I show them that I care about them. Serving food like this would make me feel like I wasn't taking care of my guests in the ways that feel important to me.”

Judgments are really just your own values bumping up against someone who has different values.

Judgments are really just your own values bumping up against someone who has different values. It's not about them sucking — it's just about different values. Rather than simply acknowledging the difference, and exploring what it says about your own priorities and decisions, it's easy to get caught up in projecting your moralistic judgement onto this person with different values.

More than just easy, it can be fun. Judging can become an epic sort of sport, the Olympics of Snark where you run the gauntlet with your burning bitching torch of hilarious snide commentary. You quip and blast better than all of them, passing the finish line first and humbly accepting your gold medal of Taste Arbitration. As they play the national anthem, you put your hand over your heart and think to yourself, “I'm so much better than all those fuckers.”

I'm all for the occasional, self-contained Judgey Olympics. Keep it quiet, and no one gets hurt. Or rather, no one gets hurt but you… because you missed an opportunity for personal growth, opting instead to gloat in empty, petty, superficial superiority. (No shame, guys. I totally do it, too — and I enjoy it!) But every judgment is an opportunity to actually learn something significant about yourself.

When you view even the most petty of judgments this way, they can be used to help you better clarify your values and what's important. Rather than indulge in it (OMG DID YOU SEE THIS FUCKING SHIT!?) or beat yourself up (GOD, WHY AM I SUCH A BITCH), instead you can flip it over and welcome the flare of judgment as an opportunity for some introspection and reality checking.

What can this judgment tell you about decisions that YOU need to make?

So, when you're confronted with your own judgey-ness, instead of indulging the bitchery OR flogging yourself for being critical, consider whether you've got the time and the bravery instead to examine what the judgments say about your values, your fears, your priorities. What can this judgment tell you about decisions that you need to make? Remember: demolition is always easier than construction. It's taking the next step that's hard, so don't let yourself get trapped in the judgments. See if you can determine what the judgments say about your values, and how you can pro-actively make decisions that help you live out your own ideal.

Comments on Win the Judgey Olympics: transform your petty wedding snarks into personal growth

  1. Seriously, did you write this for me? I have been slipping down this slope all too often lately (wedding-related and in the rest of life), and even when it is only in my own head and not vocalized, I know it plays a part in my interactions with people. When I find out that everyone thinks I’m angry or sad that day and I’m just overworked and overstressed – I guess people can read on my face what’s going on in my head.

    I’m going to work harder on this. I consider myself called out and I will keep trying to be better. It’s the most we can do. Thanks for this post!

  2. This is a great read – and a good way to examine judgements we make about the choices of others. Thanks for posting this!

  3. I love that way of thinking!
    I don’t like this, why not? What does it mean about what I DO want for my wedding?
    Way better than just snarky snark bitching, my wedding will be better than theirs!

    This can totally be related to all other aspects of life other than just wedding planning

  4. I so needed this. I’m in the early stages of a photography career, and it is so important to learn and grow instead of just judging people. Thank you, Empress!

  5. I judge that this post completely and totally rocks! I’ll try to keep it in mind next time the Academy Awards roll around and I get the urge to tear apart the red carpet styles (and anyway, there are bloggers out there who can serve up the snark far more entertainingly than I ever will). Definitely a good bit of consciousness to have around OPW (other people’s weddings).

    • True story: a few years before I launched Offbeat Bride, I used to write a celebrity fashion police column for called “Carpet Burn.” So, I totally get the impulse to snark… it is what it is, but there’s a lot more to be gained from introspection.

  6. Although my roommate and I never really put a name to it, this is pretty much what we do while talking. We laugh at our own judgement, and we try to find the bright side of the other person’s opinion. Still, even we’re not totally understanding, and that’s okay.

  7. Really nice post, Ariel. I think it addresses something that’s just reality, tastes/values/customs/whatever differ so vastly. And, yes, anywhere I look at wedding stuff (in particular, and other stuff in general) there are times that my judgey-snark comes leaping to mind. I think one of the most awesome things about OBB and OBT is that the rules of engagement here push this kind of introspection and the ability to embrace that what brings somebody else immense joy doesn’t get the same reaction from me. The Offbeat emphasis on being supportive and constructive in comments really fosters this. Somebody has an idea and throws out “what do you think” and my gut may be “oh, good grief, are you kidding?!?” but then I stop and actually think about it (not that I would voice my snark, anyway). It may be subjective taste, in which case the mouth and fingers stay shut, but there also may be a reason behind that reaction that warrants mentioning. “I had an experience like that and, as a guest, this is how it felt for me,” or “have you considered factors X, Y, and Z and how that might impact the overall vision you’re trying to create.” And this post is another good reminder of the values we’ve agreed to embrace in this community, and I think these values are what really make OBB and OBT special.

  8. I’ve always noticed that the things i’m most judgemental in others are the areas of life where i personally get stuck. It’s tempting to point my finger and declare what i don’t like or don’t respect. Generally, it’s attributes that i want to put energy into changing about myself but haven’t gotten around to yet. It seems that finger pointing is so much easier than the hard work of introspection and self-motivated change. As for weddings, i don’t think i’ve ever felt judgemental about someone else’s choices. How they choose to get married is about THEM….the couple…not me. As long as they give me some food and don’t throw rocks at me, i’m good.

  9. I’m just excited that you spell “judgment” properly without an E. I try not to be judgey of people’s grammar, but I work as an editor/proofreader – that part of my brain never shuts off. 🙂

    In all seriousness, this is a good way to turn our internet-national-pastime of snark into something more productive, and I appreciate that!

    • Fellow word-nerd here! Bit of trivia – while judgment is standard American English, standard British English accepts judgement with an e as a variant (and is the historically older spelling, interestingly.)

      Yes, I am excited about your excitement about spelling!

      • I’m English and would never spell it without the e! I think, if in doubt, us Brits usually have the extra letter when Americans don’t (e.g. colour)!

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