I’ll say this right up front, if you have arrived, this post isn’t for you. If you have transcended to a place beyond judgement and into the beautiful bliss of perfect love of self and others this post will be redundant. But please, stick around and leave some comments on your process! If however, you are like me and sometimes find yourself with critical thoughts about others in your life you might find this one interesting. For anyone who has wanted to be a bit less critical of themselves, feel personal failures a bit less painfully, or learn to deal gracefully with others, here’s a bit of knowledge I recently picked up about the judgement process.
In this world we’re all looking for context, a way to categorize and compare. Blame it on the mind, because that’s really where it starts. The less processing of extra information the big computer in your head has to do, the happier it is. When it lumps people and things and feelings into broad, sweeping categories it liberates itself to focus on stuff like particle physics, romance and keeping you alive. The problem with this simplification is this: if we are not aware of this process and actively working to keep it in check, our brains will categorize everything in our lives. Friend/enemy. Love/hate. Fat/thin. Shades of grey and nuance are lost to The Need To Sort.
Ever caught yourself looking at someone and thinking “Dang. I wish I could eat like her and be that fit”, “Whew, I’m glad my thighs don’t look fat like that from behind”, or “That guy’s got it all together, the jerk”? Your big ol’ brain took its classification a bit far and minimized people into easier to manage little labels. That person? Chubby. Guy over there? Ugly nose, looks like a cartoon. Woman in front of you in line ordering a cookie and a hot chocolate yet standing there thin, tan and gorgeous? Unfair freak of nature.
There are many problems with letting your mind have free rein in this way, and I want to talk about a few.
The biggest issue is the perspective we gain when we see people as merely a total of their various parts, scored based on our own wacky rubric of “attractive” and “not-attractive”. I’m really sad when I think back on the times that I let my judgement of someone keep me from interacting with them in a positive and loving way. If you’ve worn leggings and crocs to the grocery store at any point, chances are good that I rolled my eyes at you on my way past…
First impressions are often the thing upon which we base the remainder of our interactions with someone. For any of us with functional eyes, the first impression we usually have of the people we meet is their appearance. When we allow our mental classifications to mold that impression we are neglecting the most important part of a person, their soul. Deciding that a body that is heavier than our standard cannot possibly house a beautiful and worthy soul is a great injustice, to the person we judge, and to ourselves.
Our language about others informs our language about ourselves.
Our judgmental treatment of other people is egregious enough, but physical classification and judgement is insidious. When we allow our minds to judge others on their physical appearance we infuse our thoughts with the same criteria for ourselves. Our rulings about the physical flaws of others create impossible standards for ourselves. As you see others’ bodies with displeasure the same thoughts will fill your self examination. The more arms you see as too fat, the thinner your arms need to be to meet your standards.
I recently learned the antidote to all this judgement. It’s love. Pure, honest love and acceptance and understanding. By reminding myself that everyone I meet has a unique story, and their body is a small representation of that, I have found my mindset changing. I’d like to think I’m heading back to the little kid I used to be. The one who found strangers funny and interesting and shiny and adorable and magical, not overweight, unhealthy, fitness obsessed, slutty and garish. I dare you to start to think of other people as more than their bodies. Challenge your mind when it starts to categorize people’s parts into “good” and “bad”. That lady is not her large legs, she’s a daughter to a mother who died too young. He isn’t that horrible haircut. He’s a busy single dad who let the daughter in cosmetology school try a new style on him. The couple buying snacks at the grocery store aren’t “overweight and unhealthy”, they’re kids on a first date. People are not their bodies, folks. I forgot it for a while, or maybe just lost it in all the clutter and distraction and talk about health, but I remember. I challenge you to do the same!
*This phrase is shamelessly stolen from Taryn Brumfitt, whose content you should 100% check out. See her documentary about body image HERE (available on Netflix in the US), her website HERE and her shiny Instagram page HERE (some posts are NSFW).
Here’s the full version of the photo above.