Friday, May 2, 2014

A Foolio’s Guide to Dealing with Judgment

Man. If there’s one thing I struggle with time and time again, it’s judgment.

I wish like heck I could be the type of person who tosses aside people’s perceptions and opinions...or just punches people in the face.

It’s funny, in some situations, I’m great at this...not the punching part....the ignoring part.

Like that moron driving 25mph in the left-hand lane -  I don't care what he thinks of me when I pass on the right and then aggressively cut back into the left lane (like a boss). I could care less what the crazies at the gym think when I'm busting my butt on the elliptical, jerking all over the place, making the whole machine lift off the ground and then slam back down, causing mini-quakes under my intervals. I don't even care what other shoppers think when I put my kid in time-out in the middle of the grocery store. Don't care, people. Judge away, can't faze

But judge my struggles, ignore my trials and tribulations, or treat my efforts like they are nothing, are meager, are “less” than someone else’s, and I’ll lose it. It’s a surefire way to cut me right to my core. Game, set, match – Jen’s been serial crushed by some huge friggin’ guy.  

The first time I can recall something like this happening to me, I’d just had a baby with a man I didn't really know, a man who was serving his first tour over in Iraq. Military spouses – you will relate to this story – but civilian chicks, you keep reading too. It ends well for all! I wasn't married to the soldier yet and therefore, stayed in my own apartment, my regular civilian life, surrounded by my civilian friends and family. A number of my girlfriends were in relationships at the time, although none had kids or were dating soldiers. I was kinda on my own in that regard.

I remember getting a call one night, a few months into the deployment, from a good friend who’s significant other had to go away for a little while. She was very upset about it, missing him terribly, and decided I was the perfect person to call because she knew I would understand. Except I didn’t. She lost me in the beginning of the conversation, back when she began complaining about her boyfriend being away for a few weeks. All I could think was, how. dare. you. 

It was the first of many, many situations when someone assumed they understood what I was going through – judged my situation completely – without having any idea of what was actually going on. And it slapped me right in the face with stinging, bitter reality.

“How am I going to do this,” I remember thinking. “How can I possibly maintain relationships with people who will never truly understand what I’m going through?”

Some would just say, don’t. Don’t even try. Too much work. Not worth it. Drop 'em. 

That’s just not me. I believe relationships are work. The better the relationship, the more work you’ll find trailing behind it. Yes, there is a line in everyone’s sand, a place of no return, a moment when you realize nothing, absolutely nothing, can make a relationship work and it’s time to say goodbye…….but I've found my lines are a bit more flexible than my young, ignorant self thought they were. Years of storms and crashing waves pushed my lines in the sand much farther out than I ever imagined they would be. 

So banishing people from my life is't really an option for me – more of a “last resort.”

But you know what that means. That means dealing with the judgment.

How, you might ask? Well I am by no means an expert. As I explained earlier, people continue to shock me with their analysis of my life, my choices, and my hardships. It hurts sometimes. I am not immune. I am also not judge-free. I am just as judgmental as everyone else out there. I judge people all the time. We all do. I think it’s an inherent human quality that we actually need…a skill we’re supposed to use when making decisions….like hey, don’t follow that weird-looking man into an alley…or hey, that person doesn't have the same ideals and views as you….or wow, stripes and plaid really don’t go well together.  

So before you read any further, please realize this is the Foolio’s Guide to Dealing with Judgment. This is not a how-to on fixing your own judgmental attitude (I've got nuthin on that topic). This is more of a how-to-avoid-the-hurt that results from getting judged...that's been put together by a sometimes irrational, completely emotional, passionately transparent chick named Jen. Frau Foolio, finding some grace. 

All By Myself
The first (and sometimes hardest) step is to realize you are sometimes going to be alone. The moment you go through a life-changing event others have yet to experience, you are immediately separating yourself from the herd…whether you like it or not. Whether you want to or not. Whether you try to deny it or not. I've said it before and I’ll say it again – until you experience something firsthand, you can never truly understand what it’s like.

No More Kid Gloves
Reevaluate your sensitivity. People don’t think..this is a widely known fact of life. It takes a very special person to predict your reaction or identify your hot spots and avoid them with total accuracy. These people are rare. You’re much more likely to encounter those who don’t consider your feelings when they make jokes or comments. Sensitivity cannot always be controlled, but try. I've worked my way up from uber-crazy sensitive to very sensitive. At one point in time, I really did care what everyone, including strangers, thought of me. Now, I find myself focusing more on those I love and care about. The others are easier to ignore. Kinda.

Rainbows Need Rain
Sometimes even the closest family and friends will disappoint you. I have people in my life who refuse to validate some of the hardest things I've ever gone through. They've made up their minds about me and my hardships and there’s nothing I can do to change how they feel. Ever had someone make a comment that makes you question whether or not they've ever really listened to you? Yea. This is life. You cannot control people, their actions, or their feelings…nor would you want to.

Didja hear me? This is the biggest point I’m going to make: you don’t want to.

You don’t want to change people’s judgments or control their actions, because there’s only one way to really get them to understand. You know what it is, ya?

They've got to experience it.  

Ignorance is Bliss
I would never in a million years wish my hardships on those who've judged me. These are people I care about…why would I want them to deal with military deployments, or colicky babies, or infidelity? Why would I want to put them through terrible things just so I can say, “HA! How does it feel??” No. No way man.

Sure, it sounds like a good idea in the heat of the moment, when someone you love has hurt you. It might be real tempting to wish they could literally be in your shoes and feel what you’re feeling. But when push comes to shove, you don’t want to hurt those you love. Not really. Let them think what they want. They’re ignorant, and because you care for them, you want them to stay that way. I’ll take judgment over putting those I love through the crap that keeps me up at night.

Yes, there are exceptions to this method….like that glory-filled feeling you get when your mom finally tries riding a motorcycle and decides it’s NOT a death-rocket propelling people far into the land of hell. Or when your friends buy houses and start to understand why you love Menards so much. Or when (and this is the motherlode of all gratifying moments) someone actually says to you, “Now I understand. I’m sorry about before.” These situations deserve one heck of a fist-pump. Ha-HA - how do you like me now, suckas!!?

But those other things? Those experiences that bring you to the edge of your world and threatened to toss you out of it? The ones that push you to the ledge and whisper for you to just give up? The moments that are so terrifyingly hard, so lonely, so painful, that you never fully recover – just change?

Those are the moments people are more likely to judge….and those judgments are the ones more likely to harm you.

Oh, I get how hard that must’ve been, I lost my grandma a few years ago…..

Oh, well at least in your situation you didn't have to deal with…

Oh, you have no idea what marriage means until you experience…

Oh, it was so much worse for him because…

Oh, well you won't be healthy until you let it go…

It never fails to topple me. The assumptions hit me like a sack of bricks. Whammo. Jen toast.

My favorite way to recover from those things is to continually say to myself, like a little mantra:

They don’t understand. You don’t want them to.

Let them stay ignorant. Remember you are stronger for surviving not only your hardships, but the judgments that follow. These people can't touch you - that's how high into the realm of understanding your experiences have taken you. Don't be angry with those who can't get on your level.....pity them. My mantra doesn't eliminate the pain, but it refocuses my feelings of betrayal and helps me center myself – the only element of any interaction I can truly control.

What about you, dear readers? What’s your favorite way of dealing with judgment? Anyone ever try a 2x4 before? :) Tell me about it in the comments down below.

As always, thank you so much for reading!



  1. I get angry and don't sleep - not very healthy I know. I hate it when people pigeon me into a hole - you are like this - when I am much more than that. Or they judge - you should be more like this and your life would be better.

    1. It's prolly one of the most frustrating parts of life. I wrote a post called "Get Your Box Out of My Face" and it was my way of venting about this - all the kids VS kidless hate, working VS non-working hate, I mean it goes on and on and on. I love blogs that show me real life - not unlike the quote you shared with me. I think that's beauty...much more beautiful than a Martha Stewart kitchen scene or two well-dressed kids standing behind a picket fence. Give me real or give me death!

  2. People are so ignorant and talk off the cuff so much it drives me batty. We all have our road to bear. It is hard to not think I would have done it this way but people only see your story not the every minute blood sweat and tears. Nobody had any idea of how they would really handle the situation. So I usually get upset then I hash the words out with people I truly trust.
    I remember thinking when I was pregnant I would be this kind of Mom. And WRONG I was. Then people judged me from what I had said. But you know what I didn't know? I didn't know how having that little baby who relied on you for everything in my arms. I laugh at the things I said. I was completely Blissfully ignorant. So Yeah I judged people for how they parented.
    One day I as in the grocery store with my 20 month old and she decided she was hungry for eggs and cracked 4 eggs even tried to eat them. I was that mom. Gimping along with egg goo leaving path through the grocery store. I got into the car after apologizing to everyone and laughed so hard. Oh yes God had given me something I had judged off. I mean really keep you hungry ornery kid in line.

    1. HAHA the egg story. I love it. It's real!!! And it happens to everyone - my kid has taken to screaming, literally screaming, the Let it Go song at the top of her lungs while we walk up and down the aisles. Single people and old people are like WTF but the moms and dads get a kick out of it. You win some you lose some!!!! Thanks so much for reading sach and HAPPY SHOPPING! :) Hee hee hee

  3. I truly don't give a fart what peeps think of me, Jen and I never have. Even as a kid I went to the beat of a different drum. I laugh things off because like you so very eloquently put it, they truly have no idea what your journey is about. This is another phenomenal post, girl!

    1. That is an awesome character trait - one that I wish I had! I am so sensitive about what others think - it's ridiculous. Thanks so much for reading - you are one of my favorite readers!! I love you comments - they make my day!

  4. I think the biggest thing I struggle with in regards to judgment is how I judge myself. "You shouldn't have eaten that" "you shouldn't be so scared all the time" "you need to do better". I need to learn to be kinder to myself. Great post.

    1. Thanks Melissa :) It's true - I am my worst critic. How terrible - and I'm not going to lie, I blame a ton of my insecurities on the way TV and the media have influenced my view of beauty and balance. It's been a tough struggle paddling against the tide but I can do it - and you can too! Be nice, form your own opinions of what makes life worth living, and love yourself! Thanks for reading :)

  5. Ok - I have to share something with you I've learned: Stop taking things personally. Once you do, life becomes a lot more care-free, and you become a lot more compassionate.

    It's in the book the Four Agreements too. I am super sensitive, but have to ignore the judgments or I'll go crazy.

    Great post Jen...

    1. I would love to reach that level! I take everything personally - I'm a very sensitive person. Getting better and better each year - but it ain't easy. Thanks so much for reading!

  6. Nicely said Jen! I have Crohn's Disease and was just diagnosed with a debilitating form of arthritis. For a long time I was bothered by the fact that my friends and even some family members didn't seem to grasp what I was going through. You don't know how many times I heard, "Well, it could be worse...." I've made peace with the situation now though. I've realized that I've got to deal with certain issues on my own (All by Myself) and not everyone is going to understand or empathize (Ignorance is Bliss). Your points are spot on. Once I changed my mindset, my relationships with other became a lot easier. I hope all of that made sense. Amazing post, as usual!

    1. Yes, totally makes sense. It's crazy how hard people will push you into their own definition of "normal"....what is easy, what is nice, what is good or bad. The world isn't that black and white...but try explaining that to someone who's emotionally color blind! I'd rather be open-minded, vulnerable to constructive change, and willing to hear the other person out. I think that makes us the more colorful group....and I sure do love colors :) Thank you so much for stopping by and reading :) I feel blessed to see you commenting on my posts!!