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How to Stop Being Petty and Live Life Joyously

I cannot recall the last time I was overly judgmental and petty, although I know it’s happened far more times in my life than I care to admit.

I know that I was quick to criticize and complain when I was a young girl about real and/or imagined bad behavior toward me on the part of my older brother and his friends. Sometimes that got me into trouble instead of him. I remember that rankled me as unfair and I occasionally (OK, a little more often than that) wanted revenge. Still, over the ensuring years I’ve learned a lot about the value of being the best version of myself I can be. Here are some of my tips on how to stop being petty and live life joyously.

Recognize when you judge and act petty.

Do you sometimes find yourself thinking you’re better than your co-worker, neighbor, relative, friend or a certain demographic? This is both judgmental and petty and will never serve you well.

Are you peeved that the cashier didn’t give you the change in the denominations and amounts you wanted? Feeling disgruntled that someone else is wearing the same outfit as you — and they look better? Granted, these thoughts may pop into your mind, yet you needn’t allow them to remain. Acknowledge the petty and judgmental thoughts and let them go.

Practice loving kindness — including to yourself.

Being kind, doing something for another without any expectation of something in return is good for the cultivation of selflessness. It’s also good for personal well-being, both because it takes you outside your problems and focuses elsewhere and because you can practice loving kindness on yourself. If you’re over-stressed, finding it difficult to decide, haven’t gotten enough sleep or have been eating poorly, are lonely, depressed or in need of companionship, making you the recipient of loving kindness can help transform your well-being.

Nurture compassion.

Petty, judgmental people have scant compassion for others, if any. They’re too busy making everything about themselves to care about what’s going on with anyone else. Yet, a bit of self-centeredness is normal, especially if you’re in the process of healing or mourning. Even then, showing compassion helps you heal. The best takeaway is that you can nurture compassion, primarily by becoming aware that the needs of others deserve recognition and attention.

Rein in your pride.

When you’re too proud to give in, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Excessive pride is different than justifiable pride in a job well done, or the pride you take in your children, your accomplishments in life. Pride that’s detrimental is that which clouds your ability to think objectively, that deludes you into thinking that you’re better than others or more deserving. While we’ve all likely had our moments of being too prideful, by noticing when this negative trait occurs it’s possible to rein it in before it has a chance to do harm, like adding to pettiness.

Start saying no more.

Someone asks you to do something that you know you don’t have time or energy for, or perhaps tries to guilt you into accommodating their request knowing you’ll probably give in and do it. This will likely lead to hard feelings and a peevishness you can ill afford, especially if others know you’re a soft touch who lacks the ability to refuse requests. It takes backbone and practice to start saying no more, yet this is exactly what you must do to stave off inclinations to pettiness.

Be mindful when to say yes.

On the other hand, there are times when it’s not only good to acquiesce to a request from another, it’s also the right thing to do. In order to decipher the valid request from the one that’s not in your best interests, only a selfish one from another, you must be mindful. Use discretion, keep an open heart and use your thoughtful ability to determine when to say yes. You’ll know it was the right thing to do when you feel good about your actions afterward.

Remember all souls are the same in the eyes of the Creator.

No one is innately better or more superior than anyone else in the world. Each of us starts off the same in the eyes of the Creator, or Higher Power or God as we know Him/Her. Indeed, we have been bestowed incredible human gifts, the ability to think and make decisions, to act in free will, to use our talents and skills to achieve our highest potential. Whether we make use of our time on earth to maximize our potential or squander opportunities to do so is entirely up to us.

Some may have more access to opportunities than others, or be hampered by a dysfunctional childhood, live in poverty or wealth, deal with a handicap or cope with an illness or disease, while others seem to have everything going for them. Still, we are all members of humanity, and therefore are interconnected. In that, we are all the same. We would be wise to keep this in mind as it may temper some of our judgmental and petty tendencies.

Keep in mind that you only live in the present, so let go of the past.

Remembering slights and perceived wrongs of the past are not conducive to living life joyously. Not only is it impossible to go back and act differently, remaining mired in the past affects what you do in the present. It’s a lose-lose situation. Besides, when you realize that the only time you have to live is now, and that what you do today has wide-ranging effects on your ability to live a purposeful and satisfying life, you’ll be more likely to give up past grudges and forget the petty judgments you made about others that stand in your way today.

Find what interests and excites you and do that more often.

I love walking outdoors in nature, seeing and hearing the birds, noticing differences in the plants, trees and shrubs in the changing seasons. While the exercise is good for my body, it’s also beneficial for my mind. I feel more at peace and in tune with nature. If something has been troubling me, or I’ve found myself being mean-spirited, judgmental and petty, I soon let it go during my walk.

I also enjoy watching movies, particularly a good suspense or thriller, well-acted and paced appropriately. Gardening, cooking, travel and eating out at favorite restaurants are other interests.

Think big picture. What bothers you today won’t matter long.

It’s tough to see past slights and disappointments and perceived mistakes and failures today. It’s also difficult to get past overconfidence when everything is going your way. The truth is, however, that nothing lasts forever, and that includes whatever bothers you today. Keep things in perspective, meaning, think long-term instead of being fixated on yesterday. If you think you can’t do that, try remembering what it was that irked you a month ago. Most likely, whatever it was no longer matters. In the grand scheme of life, only significant moments stand out. That’s as it should be.

How to Stop Being Petty and Live Life Joyously


Suzanne Kane

Suzanne Kane is a Los Angeles-based writer, blogger and editor. Passionate about helping others live a vibrant and purposeful life, she writes daily for her website, www.suzannekane.net. She is a regular contributor to Psych Central. You can reach her at [email protected].


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APA Reference
Kane, S. (2018). How to Stop Being Petty and Live Life Joyously. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 17, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/how-to-stop-being-petty-and-live-life-joyously/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
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