This week’s article is part of Natalie Magee’s “Baby & Beyond – What No One Else Will Tell You” column, and it’s a continuation on last week’s piece about why judging ourselves and others is a recipe for unhappiness. Time to stop judging every experience, every person, and especially everything about ourselves, and start loving. I hope you get as much out of this article as I did. And as ever, please share your tips and stories with us! We want to hear from you. Thanks, Tania
A friend a mine shared a story with me the other week about her boss who had a baby not too long after we did. She was standing in line at a popular baby chain store buying formula when the woman behind her in line commented on her purchase.
“You know formula is terrible for babies,” the stranger said. “You really should be breastfeeding your child instead of feeding that crap to your baby.”
My friend’s boss turned to the woman and said, “Yeah, I guess fuck me for having cancer in both my breasts and not being able to breastfeed my baby.”
The stranger stood there in stunned silence while my friend’s boss paid for her purchases and walked away.
At some point or another we have all been that woman who said an inappropriate remark at the store. Most of us tend to keep our judgments to ourselves, but we are silent judgers nonetheless. Last week I wrote a blog here about how we judge ourselves on a daily basis, which in turn leads to our judgment of those around us. When we feel insecure the tendency is to find a coping mechanism to make us feel better about our choices and decisions. The nameless strangers we encounter on a daily basis are usually the easiest to target.
Here’s an example of judging at its worst. I saw an acquaintance’s Facebook status update the other day about how she couldn’t believe that people with young children would be out and about. “You should be home raising your kids instead of partying,” the passive aggressive status went on to read. This woman doesn’t have children, mind you. She doesn’t know what it’s like not to be able to sleep in, attend happy hour or dance until the wee hours of the night. Perhaps seeing people who have children still enjoy their life, separate from the raising a child, is infuriating. Putting this as her status update for the entire internet to see may seem rude and unfair, but how many times have you had the same thought in your own head? Have you seen a father or mother out in public and had thoughts that they weren’t controlling their child to your standards? I know, before I had a child and I heard a screaming baby on the plane, I had all kinds of thoughts running through my head. I believed that the mother or father wasn’t doing their job at soothing their child, and should I ever have a baby I vowed I would never let the same thing happen. Now that I have a baby, I am more supportive and sympathetic because I know that sometimes babies cry for no reason. You can be the best parent in the world, and it won’t matter because someone else will find a flaw in your actions.
Our judgments are, in turn, indicative of how inadequate we feel in our own lives. It is as if we feel there is not enough happiness and success in the world to go around, and so we must bring others down in order for our light to shine brighter. That woman next to you in the gym with the great legs and toned arms? Well, she must not have a job if she’s at the gym so much. The coworker who got a promotion at work over you? They must be sleeping with the boss, because how else would that have happened? Your friend who’s single must secretly be miserable and be drinking away her sorrows, because there is just no way she is having that much fun in her life at 35. Then there’s the childless couple who always seems to be on vacation, have a stacked bank account and a West Elm furnished house – surely they can’t be that happy. The wife must be on diet pills to be so skinny.
You and I both know damn well that a candle loses nothing by lighting another candle. Friends, it’s time to start lighting other people’s candles instead of snuffing them out. Basically, judgement burns out any light.
There is enough happiness in this world to go around. There’s enough money, love, success, friendship, and opportunities for you as well. We don’t have to continually criticize the women and men around us for their lifestyle choices in order to feel validated in ours. So how do we vacate the seat of judgment of those around us when it feels so cozy to sit there? First, we have to learn to love ourselves and all the abundance the universe provides for us. Trust you have all you need when you need it. Then, we have to learn the story. Find out out their side of the story…
Knowing the story of those we judge will inevitably change our opinion of that person. The stranger I mentioned in the story earlier who criticized my friend’s boss for buying formula will hopefully learn to look at other moms in a new light. Not everyone can breastfeed and some women choose not to. Why add negativity to someone else’s day? Perhaps your friend is only eating a salad for dinner because they overcommitted that day and ate a late lunch, it has nothing to do with trying to make you feel bad for getting dessert or losing weight. Some couples out there don’t have children because they choose that for themselves, and others have tried every method, and it just didn’t work out. Learn the story so you can change the conversation in your head. If you can’t learn the story, then make up the kindest one you can think of that would excuse the person from your judgment.
In my own life I have started to release myself from the binds of judgments of myself and others. At first, it was slightly terrifying because I felt exposed and vulnerable, but then it became very freeing. When I stop judging my friends and strangers about their choices it has, in turn, allowed me to cut myself some slack. No one is perfect, and no one has it all together. We all have our stories and instead of being quick to criticize, why don’t we slow down and practice a little empathy? We fear what we do not know and do not understand, so let’s work on changing the story.
And here’s to lighting more candles and shining a little brighter!
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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.