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. Thank you for writing this. I get more, and more exhausted reading snarky comments under the guise of being funny, witty, or harmless fun. Most of the time it is just mean instead.

    Lately, I’ve been steering away from internet sites that let snarkyness be the standard. I’d rather spend my internet time with sites that are supportive, intelligent, and thought provoking rather than feeling like I’m back in high school where being one of the “cool kids” means picking on others because it is supposedly funny.

  2. Thank you Ariel, I needed this post badly. It’s a true wake up call for me right now. I hate being nasty and I recently have been. I’ll use your advice to change my life. I’m fed up with mine and other people’s negativity (as is my FH). So now I have the chance to act!

  3. Love this! I am in the midst of planning our crazy low budget, pagans on a farm, November wedding. And throughout it all I have been struggling with the emotions that have been brought to light by my two cousins recent catholic church, open bar over the top weddings by comparison. Thanks for the reality check!

  4. Hmmm. really we are still in the what if thinking about stuff stage. We’ve picked a theme and such. This is so helpful to help guide us to the things that we value, and what we want to do to celebrate our union. Thank you for pointing this out and giving it direction.

  5. Wow, I felt such deja vu reading this! I have been thinking about this issue for weeks, and not necessarily in a wedding context, and I feel like I’ve crossed a huge bridge in the way I think about others.

    I know a girl who is The Exact Opposite of OBB – cookie cutter in every imaginable way. She’s beyond stereotypically girly, just pure pink and cheesy romance and cutesy hair bows. On top of that, she conforms to every beauty standard the rest of us are trying to escape from: she’s tanned, has enormous curly hair and long legs, and always waxes everything and dresses up in doll-like dresses before she sees her boyfriend. She’s like if Disneyland was a person.

    And it pisses me off!! Every time she says something narrow-minded about gender, or buys another pair of pale pink lace stilettos, or pins a Big Cheesy Rom Com wedding picture on Pinterest, I get really visceral feelings about her. It got to the point where I felt angry if she repinned anything of mine, or commented on any photo – no matter what the content was. Just her presence was enough to get my hackles up.

    Recently I decided that rather than getting so angry over tiny things, I should figure out WHY I was feeling like that. And I realised exactly what you said above – I was cross because her tastes and values conflicted with my feminist, sexuality-tolerant values. Her frightening levels of conformity really grated, because I’ve always felt so judged by ‘more stereotypical’ girls for NOT conforming.

    To be honest, realising that didn’t make me like her. In fact it probably made me dislike her even more. But the important lesson was that I should be THANKFUL to her, and other girls like that, because they’re a constant reminder that I’m NOT a pink powder-puff, and that I don’t want to conform to these stupid ‘girl’ standards. Knowing that my judgey feelings come from the values I DO want to represent makes it easier to live and let live, too. Because after all, she does have a right to be a powder-puff, even if I think she’s submitting to the patriarchy 😉

  6. I really love this article! I would also love to see suggestions on how to handle judgey comments from others, especially at wedding where it feels like a necessity that drama not make it back to the bridge and groom. I don’t know why, but I seem to be in the middle of comments that make me feel VERY uncomfortable lately. And while with my own friends and family, I would without hesitation tell them to “shut the f*** up” just that way, not ever sure how to handle these situations when they are made by people that are loved by friends or family of mine. Some examples: 1) Wedding last year, bride’s sister said “I hope they never have kids” during the first dance. Along with several other terrible comments ranging from judging the wedding decor/venue/dress to going “mean girls” on one of the bride’s bfs and constantly talking shit. 2) FH friend referring to his step-nephew (a 9 year old) as a B word (not female dog, the other Jon Snow version) in a very public setting, 3) FH family saying sexist/stalkerish/slut shaming comments.

    Never sure what to do if the consequences could make things bad for people I love instead of 100% of the consequences landing on me and/or the moron misunderstood or misguided person that is saying such awful things. I’m not interested in starting a fight, but some comments are so over the line I feel like something needs to be said as well.

  7. THANK YOU! This blog is a) great, and b) I love the book NonViolent Communication. I read it a few months ago and since then have been trying to get everyone in my life to read it. Perspective changing!

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