The other day I was having a conversation with someone about something topical which has been in the news a lot lately, something which has split society a little bit, and I dared to brave an opinion which supported the under-dog. Had it been misheard, I could have sounded like an awful person. Thankfully though, this person was open-minded and didn't judge me for seeing things a little differently to the majority. Since then, I have been thinking about all the ways in which we judge each other. ALL THE TIME. It's awful isn't it?
Its is so easy to judge others. If someone is different to us, makes different choices or just point blank disagrees, it is very easy for us to then judge them based on that. We all do it, all the time, and even in this open-minded 2014, birds of a feather most certainly stick together. The effects of this are huge, and the judgement of others can dictate our lives. As I grow-up I become increasingly aware that my decisions are a constant battle between what I want for me, and what others want to see me say, do or be. And it takes serious confidence to just be yourself anyway, a confidence not many people have.
I am guilty of judging others too, assuming something about them because of their lifestyle, or just putting them in a the "weird" box because it is just easier than confronting the fact that actually unfamiliarity just makes us uneasy, and it takes more effort to relate to someone with whom maybe we don't have much common ground.
At school there was a girl who's family didn't have a TV. So they just didn't watch TV. EVER. My 10 year old self just thought that was, like, seriously weird, and assumed the entirely family were nuts and raving hippies. Now, I realise they just didn't feel the need to adopt social norms which would otherwise have been forced upon them. Now, I just think "go you, family without a TV, well bloody done!" I bet their evenings were far more productive and varied than mine ever were at that age.
On the flip side, sometimes we live a certain way because that's what is perceived to be "normal", and we don't even realise that it might not be making us happy. Social norms are thrown at us from the day we are born, and sometimes it isn't clear whether we are living the way society wants us to, or the way we really truly would if there had been no-one before us.
I try to be very aware of that these days, and make sure all my decisions are actually making me happy, but this hasn't always been the case. I definitely lived out social norms for a while that were making me quite miserable, I just didn't know it at the time because when something is considered "normal" you don't question whether or not you should do it. I would say my choices and my happiness are more reconciled today than they have ever been, and that's because I eat what makes me feel good, I don't drink if I don't want to drink, I go to bed when I am tired (usually heinously early) and I don't do something if it is solely to please someone else.
I also try to recognise that my normal isn't the same as everybody else's normal, and that doesn't make me any better or worse than them, or more importantly any more right than them. We are learning as a society not to judge other cultures, but have we learnt not to judge each other full stop? I think for a lot of us, there is still a very long way to go. I definitely still have times when once I get to know someone, I feel pleasantly surprised when they turn out not be how I assumed, and I must have judged them (and wrongly) to begin with.
The way I look at it, you don't know someone's life, you don't know what their world looks or feels like to them, and so you can't judge them or their choices unless they give you good reason to. If someone is rude or mean, then I give myself license to judge a little bit, and bitch a little bit, but even then I try to look past it and understand why they are being that way. Thinking that way allows me to rise above it, and ultimately means their attitude has no bearing on how I feel about myself. It's a good skill to have!
Sometimes I feel inspired to explain my decisions when they are perhaps a little off the beaten track, or tell people my life story out of some need for them to understand. The more judged I feel, the more I feel this deep need to explain myself. Then I catch myself, and I remember I don't have to explain my history to people. If they are choosing to judge me, that's with them, not me.
Unless you wear a periwig, when you judge, the only person who loses is you. It isn't a happy colour on anyone, it makes us look ugly, and ultimately we could be losing out on getting to know someone who'll change our lives for the better, because we have judged them before we know what they could be for us.
The way I see it, if someone is nice, friendly and positive towards me, it doesn't matter what their lifestyle is like, I will always feel inspired to give them a chance and get to know them. Life is hard, sometimes it is really hard, and it is certainly hard enough to do the right thing without the extra pressure of pleasing those around us. Sometimes we do the wrong thing, and even when we do, it is really bloody nice when we don't have someone judging us for it, but actually understanding.