You’re being judged.
Judged by yourself.
And, judged my others.
Judged by people you know, love, and trust.
And, judged by strangers.
We know it.
We feel it.
We judge others.
And, we judge ourselves.
The other day I was fishing, across the lake from me was a man fishing. I realized a woman was in the truck on the side of the road close to him. I would see him catch and fish and then show her and then release the fish. When I heard her say “I thought we were having fish for supper?,” I immediately judged her. I thought: ‘Ugh… lazy…. It’s a beautiful day out, why aren’t you out here fishing? Why are you making him do the work? Why are you being greedy? And, ...at this lake?... Come on lady, this isn't a fishery.’
These judgements stuck with me. Why did I judge her so harshly?
I know nothing about her. Maybe she underwent surgery recently, or is following her doctor’s orders, or is getting over an illness, or has a disability, and she cannot easily get out of the vehicle? Maybe she wants badly to be by his side fishing and for some reason - is unable to. Maybe they are living paycheck-to-paycheck and they do not have the liberty to purchase clean protein for their dinner.
I'll offer another story:
When I was living in Philly, I worked from home (which was an apartment) and I would go for walks around my building during the day. I got to know many of the people in my building, staff, and folks that well… just kind of hung around that building (I lived right were South Philly begins).
There was a man that would often be around the building - nice as can be and we would make small talk and chat from time to time. He would walk with me for a block or two perhaps and then we would part ways. I’d say this man was likely in his late 40s.
Over time, I learned that he had a disability and many employers would not hire him due to his disability. When he could find work, it did not pay well. I am not sure where he lived exactly, but it wasn’t my building. I learned he had a son and paid for his college - even when he could not feed himself properly. He wanted to eat healthy and would comment on my green juice and he said that he would go down to the Italian Market and buy produce for cheap.
One day, I was walking and bumped into him and saw that he was crying. I put my arm through his and asked him to walk with me. He told me about some troubles. Something was happening with his house and something also happened with his son and his wallet was now empty. This was not a cry for help but a cry for someone to simply listen. But, I knew that in order for me to sleep that night, I had to try and do something to alleviate some of his pain. I asked him to come with me and I went to the ATM and pulled out some cash. I can’t remember how much it was but I do know that at this time in my life I was living nearly paycheck-to-paycheck. I knew that for the next week or two, I would have to eliminate some luxuries like green juice… coffee out… lunch out for the money that I was about to give him. I was more than OK with this. He started to cry more when I gave him the money. He looked at me in disbelief. He said that it wasn't why he told me those things. I insisted that he take the money. He told me that he wasn’t sure when he would able to pay me back - or if he could. I told him that I did not want him to pay me back and told him to go buy himself some food right away before he did anything else. He had a huge smile on his face and his eyes lit up.
If I knew nothing about this man - had never seen him before and saw him crying on the side of an apartment building, I would have felt a sadness. But I know I wouldn’t have talked to him about his troubles or helped him in any way. I likely would have been frightened of him and judged him… maybe he is on drugs… or an alcoholic (mind you this was not the case with this man), or maybe he beat his wife and they divorced and she got the house and now he is on the streets.
Why would those judgements come to my mind?
The stories we tell ourselves about other people often have zero basis. They are distorted and toxic. For our close friends and family; we may know some - or a lot about them but we still don’t know what exactly has shaped them or who they will be tomorrow. When it comes to people whom we’ve never met or just met; the raw truth is that we have no idea what they have been through in their life - or what they are going through right now. We don’t know if they have had multiple neck surgeries, or battled cancer, or lost their parent(s) in an accident, or fought in a war and saw their friends die, or that they've been sexually abused, or lost their home in a fire, or a multitude of real life things that we like to think only happens to us or our family or that those types of extraordinary circumstances are only for the movies. Where do we think the ideas for movies come from?
Why do we tell ourselves negative stories and illusions about others?
Why do we assume the woman sitting alone at a bar is cheating on her husband and not that she is taking a break while traveling and it’s less lonely to sit up at the bar than a table by yourself and she’s having soda water with lemon - not a cocktail - oh, and she is texting her kids and husband - not the made up man who will be meeting her - and cheating on his wife.
Why do we assume the couple next to us in a car are having a horrible fight because of their facial expressions and gestures and not talking about a movie that they saw last night?
Why do we think the older man working as a waiter at a restaurant didn’t go to college? Or, has limited options? Perhaps he was in finance and discovered it really wasn’t for him and is now taking night classes at a Culinary Institute. Perhaps his son fell ill and he dropped everything he was doing to cover for him so that his son didn’t lose his job. Or, perhaps, he is the owner.
Why do we look at an overweight man and assume that he is lazy, doesn’t work out, and doesn’t eat well rather than considering that perhaps he has a medical condition - or two - mixed with some genes that cause him to predisposed to obesity. Maybe he is extremely active, does workout, and eats well. Maybe he tries. Maybe he tries more than anyone you know to be fit and thin. Maybe he has tried every diet in the book. Maybe he has even had gastric bypass surgery. Maybe not. Maybe… this is simply the way he was born. Maybe… he is happy with his body.
Why do we look at a skinny woman and tell ourselves that she is probably anorexic - or addicted to exercise or drugs and hates her life and family. Or, all of the above. Oh, she is probably a bitch too and has no life other than avoiding food and exercising. Instead of thinking that maybe… maybe she was born with a wicked high metabolism. Perhaps she doesn’t even work out regularly and eats like a french woman. Maybe, she is super self-conscious of the fact that she is not as curvy as some of her friends. Maybe she is ill. Maybe, she has tried to gain weight. Maybe, she has tried to gain weight because of the judgements that she has received.
Why don’t we think about the fact that everyone has real world shit going on in their life just like we do? People’s loved ones die. And so, they don’t care when they run to the grocery store in their wear-at-home-only sweatpants and should-be-thrown-away flip flops to pick up a few things because what they really care about is making sure their brother’s will is honored.
Everyone has drama and trauma. People get into accidents. They fall ill. They lose jobs, relationships, homes, and cars. They have hardships. They have others around them that have hardships - which can in turn become a hardship for them.
I've never met anyone who was on Cloud 9 all of the time. I chat with my dearest friends and I love hearing about their joys, loves, and excitements but inevitably there are hardships, quarrels, questions, and all of the other life stressors that happen. To all of us. No one escapes stress. Stress does not discriminate. Yes, some may have it seemingly more or worse than others - but it's present. For everyone. Every single day. Most of us experience days where feel amazing, days where we’re on a high, smiling, walking with a bounce in our stride, other days where we cruise neutral, and others where the day is massively challenging… hard… dark… days where we feel despair.
And what about those days or moments where we do feel like we are on Cloud 9? Do we really care about what others around us think about what we are doing, saying, or wearing?
When I'm on Cloud 9, I'm not thinking about the possibility of judgements. I'll swing at the playground and laugh and run around and not care that I am a grown adult playing like a child. When I'm on Cloud 9, I'm not worried about if people are judging me at Whole Foods when my boyfriend and I are acting totally silly. When I'm on Cloud 9, I couldn't care less if my clothes match when I run to the store after a long and glorious day on the lake - kissed by the sun and high on life.
Yet, I'm certain that in those circumstances - when I'm on Cloud 9, others do judge me. And, I'm certain that I have judged them.
So, we can't be happy and on Cloud 9 or in despair or anything in between without being judged.
To try and make sense of this dynamic, I can't help but think that protection plays a fundamental role in the incessant need to judge. Judging others to make ourselves feel better about ourself isn't what I'm talking about here. It's a true protection mechanism within us. If something is marked red it likely means stop. If something is steaming -it's likely hot. If there is lightening then static electricity is likely high. If the wind is whipping and there are white caps then we likely won't put the boat out on the water. We've learned to judge situations throughout our entire lives. We judge situations. We make judgement calls. Usually we do this to protect ourselves. To literally keep ourselves safe.
So, do we judge other people as we do situations? Do we judge other people for our own livelihood?
Our brains seemed to have missed the fact that people are not situations. One cannot simply look at a person and know who they are and what they are about. We are each made up of approximately 37.2 trillion cells. This, is a commonality amongst a trillion other differences. There is much to learn about each-other.
So keep your circle small if you must (I do) but may we all know that red does not always mean stop.