“Ew, why is he friends with her? She’s so cringy!” “That coat is so ugly. I can’t believe they wore that!” “Why did she get the solo? She’s not even that good.” 

Have you ever had a thought like this? I think most of us have. 

Often, we feel guilty the moment after it goes through our heads. We remind ourselves that we don’t actually know enough to judge their friendship, that their style doesn’t have to be the same as ours, or that her talent actually is pretty impressive. 

Deep down, those negative comments probably aren’t what you really think or how you really feel. More often than not, the negative judgments we put on others, verbally expressed or not, are a reflection of either society’s values being forced on us or our own insecurities being projected on someone else.

So how do we get away from those negative thoughts? Especially if they’re happening because we’ve been trained to feel that way, or we are also feeling insecure? 

My strategy has been to replace negative thoughts with positive ones. It’s been a slow process. I tried to recognize every time I thought something negative about someone and then made myself take a minute to analyze the situation. 

First, I’d figure out why I felt that way. Sometimes the answer was jealousy, sometimes it was personal insecurity, sometimes the thought wasn’t even original but was actually a comment from a friend earlier in the day that I decided was true because they said so.

Once I had an understanding of the why, I’d make myself take another minute to look at that person and I’d think of a compliment. Even if I didn’t like the person or know them personally, I could still observe that they were bold for auditioning for the solo or that their outfit was cool. This took practice. I didn’t shift my thinking overnight. 

Once I got used to these replacement thoughts, I realized I was happier. I was noticing things I liked about myself more often and I was thinking less mean things that made me uncomfortable. 

So I decided to push the thought experiment further. Every day as I walked around school, I’d make a mental note of a compliment I could give to every person I walked by. Sometimes if it was a friend, my mental compliment was more sincere like, “her laugh always makes me smile” but often just noticing a stranger had a neat backpack was something good about them. It helped me start seeing more good all around me. 


Eventually, these compliments felt natural and completely genuine so I started saying the compliments aloud. I would tell the person in the grocery store that their coat was awesome or the girl in auditions that her voice was beautiful. These little moments of compliments and connection made their day and made mine! We all have negative thoughts about others sometimes but the truth is, everyone is just trying to do the things that make them happy. If you can start seeing the little good things about others, you’ll start to feel the happiness yourself too.