If you’ve ever watched an old person and a baby you might have noticed some commonalities. Some are bald and, depending on how old the person is, both the baby and the adult may wear diapers. But the quality about babies and old people that stands out to me the most is their ability to be themselves without any pretenses. The baby is this way because she doesn’t know how to be anything else. She hasn’t been tainted by societal demands, peer pressure, or the impossible Hollywood standards of beauty – she is a “tabula rasa”, a blank slate. The old person is comfortable in her skin because she has been tainted by the pressures and troubles of life and survived it all. Her life experiences allowed her to learn what the young people need to know, which is: all you can be is yourself, so just be it and stop worrying about what everyone else thinks.
Political leader and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt said, “You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.” It seems so simple; 18 words that, if people believed, could liberate so many. So if no one cares about what we do, why do we care so much? Is the pressure to behave or believe a certain way real, or is it something that we have conjured up in our minds? Perhaps during Mrs. Roosevelt’s day people didn’t bother scrutinizing the lives of others, but today there are websites dedicated specifically to judging others. Think about it – how many bloggers and talk show hosts have made a name for themselves by putting others on Front Street? We live in an extremely judgmental society and technology makes it convenient to be our hypercritical selves. I can take a picture of someone shopping at Wal-Mart, include a caption, and send it to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and a host of other social network sites with the push of a button. Within 5 minutes I’d have 10 comments of people spewing their opinions about the person in the picture.
I think about this quite a bit because I am a mother and I want to pass on wisdom and positivity to my daughter. I want to teach her to be open to people, to accept them, and to love them unless they prove themselves unworthy. My challenge is that I suffer from both sides of the judgmental coin – I will judge a person in a hot second, but at the same time I’ve always worried about others judging me. I have been working through this issue in therapy (yes therapy black people…another day, another post!) because I understand that by judging and worrying about being judged I am closing myself off to experiences that might benefit me. If I am to teach my daughter to be open, I first have to learn it. So lately I’ve been doing a few things to help shut down my judgmental and worrisome spirit:
- The moment I think a critical thought of someone, I strike it down with a positive thought about that person
- I give out compliments, even if I don’t feel like it – I target one person per day and bless them with kind words
- I suffer from a touch of perfectionism, but lately I have given myself a time limit to do anything that I would normally obsess over; when the time is up, I move on even if it’s imperfect
- I speak these affirmations to myself quietly and aloud all day, “I am humble. I am kind. I am beautiful. I am enough.”
Since I’ve begun this I am re-discovering my Zen. I am calmer and I seem to be settling into my own skin for the first time in my life. The mind is the most powerful instrument on earth, it can convince us that people are watching and judging us or it can allow us to relax like the baby and the old person, and be ourselves regardless of other’s opinions. In the grand scheme of things the only opinions that should matter in your life are those of your God and yourself right?
Here is something I say to myself frequently: “My ultimate goal in life is to get to a point where I can just be, unapologetically me.” Is anyone there yet? I’d love to hear how you arrived.