Most children are raised to have a conscience. To grow into upstanding citizens who care about the Earth, their neighbors, the less-privileged, and those in need. We’re encouraged to expand our horizons and test our boundaries. To seek a higher education and to join the work force in an effort to contribute to the goodness of mankind. We’re told to develop our own perspectives, opinions, and tastes, and to have the strength to stand by them when faced with adversity. We should be kind and giving, humble, and forgiving, but also tough and independent, intelligent, and curious.
And when our tongue feels like dancing or our hands raise to whisper, we’re reminded secrets don’t make friends and we can’t judge someone because we’re not them. You can’t understand a stranger and at times, you can’t even understand the person you think you know the best -so judge them not.
Like all of the lessons that are important to learn, being completely non-judgmental is a not so easy task. As much as I pride myself on being an open-minded, understanding, and rather gracious person – I know I’m guilty of thinking less of others. I’ve walked on the opposite side of the street because I felt unsafe due to a person dancing wildly and it made me uncomfortable. Was he threatening? No. Was he sober? Probably not. Did he say anything to me? Nope. But still, I felt the need to distance myself.
When a young woman in the laundry mat with a wide-eyed baby talks to me about how she hates the food stamps she’s on and how she wishes she could go to NYU like some of the other 18-year-olds she knows, I have to make an effort not to wonder about her parent’s influence or cursing them if they don’t help her. Do I know her background or will I ask? No, but I still find myself blaming her upbringing for her current circumstance. Maybe its nature vs. nurture or debating the idea that we are where we come from or we make our way as we go. Nevertheless, the judge in me I wish I didn’t have, always seems to find its way out.
Or at the bar when I rounded the dating circles, I was quick to rule out any guy who I wasn’t instantly attracted to, who wasn’t over 6’0″, who didn’t strike me as engaging or funny, or who was obviously and sloppily intoxicated. I’d judge them by characteristics they can’t change, like their height, and for being shy or difficult to talk to, when their reasons for being reserved may be due to something that happened or just the result of an off-day. How many men have I passed up because I just didn’t meet them at the right time on the right night? Or because I was only noticing their wrongs, instead of their opportunities to be right.
I’ve had to remind myself I don’t know the life of every person who walks this city or this planet, and without having a scope into their life, I can’t make an assumption or develop an opinion on who they are or why they do the things they do.
But then again, do I even know why I do the things I do? If I stop looking outside to see where I’m being judgmental and beating myself up for being even the slightest pigheaded, and look inside, I see that the person I’m the most critical of is myself.
Yesterday morning, going through my weekend errands of laundry, running, grocery shopping, and making a pit stop to measure my new room in my soon-to-be apartment, I caught myself breathing an air of negativity. Not only was I down on myself for a random breakout cluster that I don’t find attractive, but I was disappointed at my running time, crunching the numbers of my checking account, and realizing how unprepared I am to move and for Mr. Possibility‘s return this week. While I had accomplished many of the tasks I needed to this weekend, it somehow still didn’t feel like it was enough. There is always more I can do, more effort I can put in, more money I could save, more people I could meet, more care I could take, and more life I could have lived.
Why am I so careful not to judge anyone else and yet so easily judge myself continuously?
Is it because I compare myself to others? To the girls with the legs and the clear skin, with the fancy job titles and the bank accounts I can’t imagine yet. The ones who wear designer clothes and have countless men waiting in line to be their soulmate. The ones who have it all, though all I know is very surface-level and based on first impressions, not conversations. Or is it because I know I’m judged by others? Because I can feel when someone is sizing me up in the subway, in jealously or because they don’t like what I wear or where I decide to stand. Or because I hear or I can read those who judge me by what I write about – who consider me less intelligent or immature because of the content of my blog. Though they forget (and maybe at times, I do too) a blog or a job do not define a person. Or those who make assumptions based on things they don’t know or things they don’t ask.
But judge me, judge me not – it doesn’t matter. The only critic I should be concerned with is the one I see staring back at me. And maybe that’s why being our own greatest fan is a lifetime task, a journey that will never end. Because while we walk past people on the street, developing conclusions we can’t support, and wondering if they are making calls about us we’d never claim, when the public is gone, the private begins.
And it is there, in those private moments, standing carelessly on one-leg, hair tossed messily on top of my head, applying mascara carefully while wearing a make-up stained towel, that I come face-to-face with the judge I am. The person who sees the flaws daily, who makes an effort to be a better person or be better looking with each service paid or mile ran. The person who notices the signs of stress and result of nights with too little sleep, wearing on my face that’s far too young to be wrinkled.
The person looking into the mirror, mirror on the wall, has to decide that it is me who is the fairest of all. Because without justice for myself, how can I be just to anyone else?
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