Judgement: Judgement (or judgment) is the evaluation of evidence to make a decision.
I’ve been meaning to write this blog post for a couple of weeks now, but it hasn’t been proving easy. I mean, how do you write about people judging other people whilst taking a good long hard look at yourself and realising that maybe you do it too. I umm-ed and ahh-ed about publishing this post for fear of people judging me for judging, actively, all the time and then I decided to do it anyway. Honest as always and besides, it provokes a good healthy discussion!
Those of you that follow me on twitter would recently have seen my outrage at a young teen girl loudly judging my twelve year old daughter in public. For those of you that don’t follow me, I shall recap. We were off to the theatre for a girly night out with my best friend and my daughter’s Godmother (you’ve heard me mention ‘Cynthia’ before right?!) We’d been shopping during the day and hadn’t left long enough to get ready and have dinner so after we’d dressed up for the theatre we dropped into a local supermarket to pick up some sandwiches. (we’d had a big lunch) (see how I felt the need to tell you that for fear of you judging me for not feeding my daughter properly!) Now, my daughter is 12 years old and is, quite rightly in my opinion, starting to take a pride in her appearance. Not in a pressured by her peers or people she sees kind of way, just in a ‘I’m going somewhere nice so I should make and effort and look nice’ kind of way. And this I encourage. So yes on that night out I let her wear her wedge heeled shoes, and yes I let her wear her leather jacket, and yes I let her wear make-up…well I say make up, it was actually just mascara if I’m honest. She looked beautiful.
In the shop she nipped in front of me to get a thank you card for the boy’s pre-school staff, and as she disappeared around the corner I heard someone very loudly tut before saying ‘that girl is wearing far too much make up and is far too fashionable for someone her age.’ I turned around quickly and saw a teenage girl who couldn’t been no more than fourteen (yes, I judged her age) with her father. (yes I judged that too, could’ve been her Uncle, or brother I guess) I don’t know whether it was the way in which she said it, the look on her face when she said it or the fact that she was commenting on my daughter’s appearance and judging her that made me snap, but I walked up, looked her in the eye and said ‘please keep your opinions to yourself in future…alright’ in rather an unpleasant tone. My daughter had heard the exchange and instantly became paranoid that she was wearing the wrong thing. Her body language changed and the previous confident walk became a hunched shuffle. And it made me upset. It was another moment in her life when she had to become a little less naive and a little more street wise and know a bit more about how us humans work. How we (rightly or wrongly) judge others, sometimes because it makes us feel better about ourselves and sometimes just because (more on this in a bit). And this conversation with my daughter got me thinking…is it right to think things about other people as long as they don’t hear you? Is the quote ‘What other people think of you is none of your business.’ actually true? We all try not too, but is it fair to say we all judge people all of the time…sometimes without even realising that that is precisely what we are doing? And that we just don’t say anything because we’re too polite? How many times have you wondered if someone is fat or pregnant? If the woman he’s with is his daughter or lover? Or thought ‘oh that haircut is not good’ ?? (be honest!) But is even thinking these things ok? And do we ever have enough evidence to make informed judgements?
As humans I think we are programmed to analyse situations and people. Many, many years ago our ancestors had to judge everything. Whether noises were a sign of impending danger or harmless; a polar bear coming to attack our family or just the wind. Whether the caveman next door was a good neighbour or one who would steal your gathered food when your back was turned. Now of course we don’t face any of these dangers, but we still have our primitive brains in our heads. The brain that only functions through fear, anger and depression and to where we all retreat occasionally. (well I know I do) The brain that controls the fight or flight response, making us analyse every situation and trust our instincts. Sadly as we’ve evolved maybe our primitive judgemental brains have had to channel their focus elsewhere, as for the most part the dangers that were ever present then are not now.
Now I’m not saying judging someone for the way they are bringing up their children is ever right or a natural chemical reaction in the brain. And I’m not saying that a lack of empathy and understanding as to why a person is dressed, behaving or living in a way they are is a good thing either. There are many reasons why a mum might be shouting and losing her temper, or why someone is behaving in an arrogant or shy manner or a child is appearing to have a tantrum. And I’m not saying all judgements are negative ones…some may be very flattering indeed, like when you spot a lovely skirt someone has on or notice a good looking man walking past you. But what I am saying is that we all do it. We all size up situations, people, places and sometimes make snap judgements based on what we encounter. I’m currently sat on my own writing this blog post in a coffee shop and people are probably looking at me thinking I’m a billy no mates. And does it bother me? Before all of the above happened or when I was in my twenties then yes, it probably would have. I for one am generally very sensitive as to how people perceive me and can at times be super paranoid about what people think about me. But I’m learning to care a little less and have more faith in myself and those around me (not literally around me now, I mean around me in everyday life!) who I know think I’m actually alright. I’m learning not to get wound up about people’s judgements of me and take it personally because it sure as heck isn’t winding the person up who’s doing the judging. If someone is misreading me or a situation I’m in then maybe that is more a reflection on them and what is happening their life than it is mine. I think I need to learn to accept that it happens, that people judge me, and be safe in the knowledge that only those close to me know the truth about me and my life and that’s all that matters.
And then of course there is my impressionable daughter. Well…she decided to focus on the words ‘too fashionable’ from the judgemental teen’s outburst, and has taken it as a compliment that she was very well dressed. Clever girl 😉