06/19/2013 03:03 pm ET Updated Aug 19, 2013

The Many Faces of Judgment

"When you judge someone, you don't define them. You define yourself." -- Wayne Dyer

No truer words have been spoken. I've always believed that I am one of the least judgmental people to exist on this planet; I'd swear to it in a court of law. And I know many people both personally and professionally who'd back me up on this. But alas, during a day at the beach last week with my best friends and their significant others, I saw myself in a different light.

In my circle of friends, I've become known as the one who critiques, so everyone's always presenting their best selves. And I'm not talking inwardly; I'm talking about outward appearance. I am the person who has called my friend a day after I've seen her and told her to never wear a pair of jeans again because they looked terrible. I brought another friend to my hairdresser for highlights, and even paid for them.

This became a topic of conversation during my beautiful day at the beach. As I was critiquing someone, my friend's husband called me judgmental. I was taken aback: "Not me!" But then, that funny little feeling appeared in the pit of my stomach that tells me I'm about to have an "A-ha!" moment and learn something new about myself. And in that moment, there was no denying that I was being judgmental.

For years, I told myself I behaved this way because I was helping -- wanting the best for everyone. But in a moment, I knew differently. My judgment was hidden under the guise of helping. When I went home and spent a few days meditating on it, the question I asked myself was: "What do I feel about myself that comes up when I see someone who doesn't look as good as I think they should?"

What I discovered was that for me, I equate grooming and looking your best with taking care of yourself. When I see someone who isn't doing their best, I start to feel a bit helpless, and I worry that it represents something more -- that they're not really doing well on the inside. Now, at times, this is true. But at times, this is the furthest thing from the truth.

But the deeper discovery was painful. I grew up with mental illness in the background. Both my grandmother and aunt suffered a great deal, and they always looked unkempt. Those images stayed with me, obviously for a lifetime. For me, seeing someone who didn't look their best was painful; it meant they were ill.

Now, I still believe we should be taking care of the outside -- self-care is important. However, with this discovery, I'm hoping to ease up on those around me, and also on myself. Stay tuned; I'll let you know if I'm successful!

For more by Dr. Debbie Magids, click here.

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