The latest from Natalie Magee’s column Baby & Beyond, What No One Else Will Tell You tackles something that we all deal with, men, women, the child-free, the working and stay-at-home moms… how we judge ourselves all day, and how that makes us feel. We’re all judgy judges, aren’t we? And we’re hardest on ourselves. Natalie will be writing several pieces about judgement in her column. Let us know what you think and how being judged or judging others makes you feel. We want to hear from you! Thanks, Tania
I came to a realization today as I was doing some housekeeping that I have eight mirrors in my house. Eight mirrors, not counting the tiny compacts I keep in my makeup bag. That seems a bit excessive for someone who really doesn’t like to look in the mirror. When I do have to look in the mirror to do my makeup or blow dry my hair I try to lessen the impact by turning the lights off. Ask my husband, it’s a quirk of mine that drives him nuts. He asks, “but, how can you see yourself without the lights on?” My answer is, “I don’t want too!”
This may come to a shock to some of my friends out there. Yes, I like to have a mirror view in yoga class. When most people see me my hair is usually done, and I think for the most part, it doesn’t look like I did my makeup in the dark. (Please tell me, friends, if it does!) Overall, however, I don’t like looking in the mirror too closely because when I do I always find a flaw.
In high school I tweezed my eyebrows to excess and the consequence was more horrifying than the few stray hairs. I have created scars on my skin from blemishes that were barely visible to anyone else’s naked eye. What stares back at me in the mirror, especially when I first wake up in the morning, has been a cause for obsession, concern, tears and surrender. What I’ve seen has sent me running to the hair dresser for a root touch up or rushing to the drug store to purchase teeth whitening strips. The mirror is the frenemy that tells you exactly what you don’t want to hear. It’s how I judge myself. It’s probably how you judge yourself too from sunup to sundown.
We must stop with the judgment. Stop judging ourselves and then stop judging everyone around us. As your best friend who tells you what no one else will, I’m going to suggest to you, in a two part piece for my column, how to stop judging yourself so that in turn you can understand why you judge others. My hope is that you will stop being so harsh to yourself. This often leads us to taking our anger, fear, and self-loathing out on everyone around us, right?
Where to begin?
Well, taking all the mirrors out of your house won’t help. It wouldn’t stop me from judging myself harshly! There are enough reflective surfaces outside of your house to make this attempt futile. How we think we look (or should look) is only the tip of the passing judgment iceberg we run our ships into every day. How many of you have stood in line at the grocery store unloading your cart onto the conveyer belt taking stock of your purchases as they pass through the cashiers hands? Personally when I’m at Whole Foods buying the latest in organic fare I feel good about myself, smug even.
Imaginary conversation in my head: “Hey cashier lady, check out all that coconut water and kale I’m buying. Look at my bag of chia seeds and my cruelty free range eggs. I’m eating healthy over here, and I care about the environment!”
Yet when I’m at Walgreen’s, buying baby formula for supplementation, candy bars, and Dr. Pepper I’m thinking, “don’t judge me cashier dude or people behind me in line! I primarily breast feed my baby. And, well, I just need a quick sugar fix, and I NEVER drink soda but that Dr. Pepper was screaming my name!”
We are our own worst critics. In truth, no one cares what you are buying or where you buy it or even what you are wearing and what you look like when you buy it. Yet, we are so quick to judge others around us and make assumptions, this toxic way of thinking naturally seeps into our own every day lives. We become paranoid at what others may think about us. Because all this judgement has given us low self esteem. We beat ourselves up all day long and then we’re surprised that we feel bad about ourselves! By holding that mirror up to ourselves (and flipping on the light switch so we can SEE the mirror) and accepting what we see, we allow ourselves to live our lives with more confidence.
We need to stop judging so we can start living. Really living.
Stop picking at the microscopic things that no one else can see and ruining your complexion. You may think judging yourself is only hurting you but believe me it’s not. I’ll give you an example. My husband made a comment the other day about how I wouldn’t get much quality time with my daughter that evening because of my work schedule. I internalized this as “you are a bad mom who doesn’t feel guilty enough when you spend time away from your daughter.” My defense mode kicked in, and we started down the road to argument city. Finally my husband said, “if you think you are a bad mom, that’s just YOU thinking that. I don’t think that. That’s YOU.” A hard truth for me to swallow but my husband was right. I judge myself so often for being a bad mother that I will use any outside excuse to confirm this. Who doesn’t like to be right? I’ll take any stray comment given innocently to validate my insecurity and my feelings.
As women we do this more than we’d like to admit. If you believe you have an issue with your weight and someone remarks that you look slender you might internalize this as, “I guess I was fat before because no one ever told me I looked good until now.”
When you feel run down and a friend says that you look tired, what firestorm of emotions does that set off when you are in a place of judging yourself?
In a way, we women enjoy judging ourselves. Men, you’ll notice, hardly ever do this. If you don’t believe me then tell me how many Mr. America pageants there Men’s Hawaiian Tropic Thong contests there are. As women we love to validate our feelings and opinions of ourselves, whether good or bad, and some of us will go to great lengths to seek this validation. When an outside source, whether that be a potential mate, coworker, husband, friend or family member, has an opinion of us that aligns with our judgments we feel a grim satisfaction or a sense of validation depending on our personal judgment.
It’s time to start thinking more of ourselves. Look in the mirror at the big picture and be satisfied at what you see. Healthy and whole. Watch your thoughts and try not to let the negative ones become action. This is not an easy thing to do, by any means, and it’s a minute by minute, hour by hour, day to day way of life you have to practice. Once we stop picking on ourselves then we can start to practice not picking on others.
Because admit it, as much as we judge ourselves – it’s the judging of others that really makes us feel “good.” Trust me, though, there’s nothing good about any of this. It’s time we loved ourselves. And by loving ourselves, we can extend that love to everyone in our circle.
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About the Author: Natalie Magee writes a regular column for Happiness Series about what motherhood and beyond - from prenatal to postpartum. Her intention with her column, "Baby & Beyond - What No One Else Will Tell You" is to give practical advice and tips to the busy mom and mom-to-be. She also shares her experiences good, bad and ugly as a woman, wife, mom, flight attendant and fitness instructor. Natalie is also a regular fitness contributor on Happiness Series. She will continue to create great, effective workouts for anyone - including the busy moms out there - who wants to get fit and stay in shape.