“People take different roads seeking fulfilment and happiness. Just because they’re not on your road doesn’t mean they’ve gotten lost.” ― Dalai Lama
When I fell pregnant at 19 I knew that it would come with a huge amount of challenges, but I wasn’t prepared for the brutal amount of judging that would come from complete strangers. As well as being a young I looked (and still do) younger than I am which back then I felt was a curse (now I’m so grateful for my genes.) I remember walking around with my pregnant belly and seeing people stare or shake their head at me and would always feel like I was being talked about. When I was heavily pregnant I went for one of my last check-ups in hospital with a new doctor I hadn’t met. When he asked me how I was feeling I told him that my back was causing me a lot of pain and he responded by rolling his eyes and told me “well then you should have used a condom.” I get it, of course his response was true to a certain extent, but I bet he wouldn’t have given that same response to a 30-year-old suffering with back pain from pregnancy.
The little comments, head shakes, stares and judgements got under my skin for years and I would dwell on every interaction. I would spend so much time on trying to find ways to make myself look older and wishing that people would just get to know me before assuming the worst but it was exhausting. I finally accepted that I can’t change what people think of me, but I can change what I think of others and more importantly how I make others feel.
This is what I have learnt
- We are all different – Just because you have been taught to do something one way or have been brought up to live with a set of values it doesn’t mean this is the right way or the only way. Educate yourself in the area you are about to make an assumption about as knowledge is power.
- Appearances can be deceiving – The person wearing scruffy clothes doesn’t necessarily have less money than the person wearing a suit. Too often we are quick to judge a book by its cover and their cover isn’t necessarily their real or whole self. This is similar to how we judge someone who has a disability, unless we can physically see it we assume the person is lying. We tend to believe what we see; and if it can’t be seen, it simply doesn’t exist.”
- Give the person the benefit of the doubt – I learnt from working in retail that sometimes people’s actions don’t reflect who they are. I have been yelled at more times than I can remember but there was a particular time where I had a very irate customer come into store yelling at me about something that was out of my control. I instinctively judged him as being a bit of an ass hole but I did my best to help and once the customer had calmed down he apologised and explained that his wife had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and he needed to rush back to the hospital. Of course, it doesn’t make his actions right, but it did teach me to be mindful that we don’t know what battle others are fighting or what their situation is.
- Be mindful – It’s hard to not react instinctively when it comes to our judgment so its important to practice pausing before reacting. Think about the consequences your words and actions may have and if you know they have the potential to do harm, then think of a way to make your response or positive one or at the very lease a neutral one.
- Focus on personal growth – Be yourself, improve yourself where you can, and accept the parts of yourself that you can’t change. When you become happy internally it changes the way you see things externally and you’ll notice you’ll instinctively see more of the positives rather than the negatives in others.
“When you judge others, you aren’t defining them, you define yourself.”