We have a hard time taking things at face value. We pile on secondary stories and create so much meaning about things, behaviors, and choices. We forget that each of us comes from a different place and perspective in life, and that we are each fighting our own battles that are not visible to others. We forget that we each have different priorities and capabilities. We assume everyone else views the world from the same lens as the one we look through. Two recent conversations with two very capable, amazing human beings keep ricocheting through my head.
One friend spoke about her anxiety of planning her toddler’s birthday party. She was essentially worried about “getting it right.” We’ve all been there. Do the other children’s parents stay or drop off? Will the parents bring siblings, and if so, is she prepared with enough food and age-appropriate activities? I of course, think that if you have such questions, you may want to use your words and ask the other parents, or tell the other parents what the expectation is. But here’s where the anxiety lies–you can’t win. Because someone will not be happy about your decision. “I can’t believe they didn’t allow siblings to attend–don’t they know how difficult it is to tote two small children around?” or “I can’t believe they allowed all the siblings to come–the age ranges were too varied and it was way too crowded.”
The anxiety arises because we’ve all heard these judgmental conversations, and we don’t want to be judged. We don’t want our decisions to be a direct reflection on our character. We don’t want to look like the foolish parent, or the lazy mom, or the unorganized woman, or the incompetent human being, or, or or…We don’t want to be that person.
Another friend works hard to make sure everyone’s clothes are crisply ironed when they walk out of the house. No matter how many other tasks are at hand, no matter how tired she is. She makes sure everyone is neat and well groomed. Because she believes it’s a direct reflection on her quality of being a good mother and good wife. She’s not alone in her belief. Even my mother, for God’s sake, tells me how I need to do a better job with ironing the children’s clothes, making them wear collared shirts more often, and getting them shorter haircuts because otherwise, we look underprivileged and well, just embarrassing. Like I don’t care about them and love them enough. I tell her the only thing I lack in the “enough” category is time. She tells me it should be part of my definition of being a good mother. I tell her…well, never mind, that’s for another post…
Seems we all have the Judgy McJudge gene encoded in our DNA. But it’s not like the short gene, or the green-eye gene. This proclivity can be changed. I am not a cruel or lazy or bad human being because my children wander through the world in wrinkled khakis. I am not incompetent or crazy or stupid because I hosted a cozy birthday party with too many guests.
It doesn’t have to be this way–of automatic assumptions throwing us into a world of questioning the characters of our very beings. We do not have to choose to accept this judgment cast upon us. The only thing wrinkled khakis means is that they were not ironed. There is no other direct correlation. It does not mean I’m a good mother or bad mother. It does not mean I love anyone less. It does not mean I am a wretched soul with no morals. Unless I choose to create or accept that direct correlation and live under the weight of such judgments.
Wrinkled clothes may however mean the family couldn’t pay their electric bill that month, or their mother’s cancer is a priority over ironing. We’ll never know the rationales or back stories or hidden struggles. So please, put the judgments down.
Yes, the world will cast stones and judgments. People will whisper and gather in corners and talk about you. People will roll their eyes and throw backhanded compliments. We cannot control those people, their thoughts, those variables. We can however control how we gauge our personal value and worth–am I enough regardless of what other people may think? Am I worthy?
We need to change our internal dialogues. But we also need to change the external ones too. We need to talk with each other, out loud, “You know what? Come on over to my house–I am tired and overwhelmed so the floors aren’t swept and the clutter isn’t hidden. But I welcome you into my home with a warm heart and lots of love.” I’m not an asshole because we’re wrinkled and my house has stacks of papers on the counter and toys spilling out of bins, while I’m hosting the birthday party in the middle of all this. I may be an asshole for a lot of others reasons, but not those.