Freedom From the Judgments of Others

Freedom From the Judgments of Others

2020-07-11 16:35:20

“We’re physically, spiritually, and emotionally hardwired for connection, love, and belonging.” -Brené Brown 

I believe as humans our desire to be part of a group, and well-liked by others, is as inherent as breathing. We are social creatures. We crave finding our people. We want to be seen, heard, and believed, and most of all, we desire to be likable. Women, especially. As women we are taught to be quiet, to stay small, not to raise our voices, not to cry, not to make a scene, not to ruffle any feathers, to not be anything or say anything that men don’t like. Our jobs are clear – be kind, tend to others, don’t cause conflict, and be pretty – but not too pretty because then you’re probably a slut.

I reject these ideas and I think a lot of us do now. It’s 2020 and we’re reading books like Untamed by Glennon Doyle which have become our anthems to staying wild, connecting with our true selves, and living our most authentic lives. The truth is humans are messy and women have voices and they’re allowed to have dissenting opinions, argue, and object to oppression. If this was a normal time in the history of the world, I’m sure the majority of people would be screaming “hell yes!” and have minor objections to this point, but the reality is we’re at a turning point as a society, especially in the U.S. 

This year alone we’ve been dealing with an incompetent and corrupt leader, a worldwide pandemic, and a serious epidemic of police brutality and racism. It’s a lot. I knew this year would be tough for me personally because it’s an election year and there is a lot at stake. But I didn’t realize so much would be happening. I didn’t realize tensions would be incredibly high for everyone and that many people would be facing personal turning points, coming to terms on their own moral battlegrounds. 

And we all know what people say. Be kind. Have friends with differing opinions. Be tolerant of all. However, these phrases ring true of the lessons we learn as women – don’t rock the boat, don’t be mean, don’t share your opinion, do it this way – not that way. It’s why we may have a hard time walking away from abusive relationships with men, or why we can’t always spot toxic behavior the first time – it’s why we want to believe everyone is nice, that they mean well, and we want to be nice back. We even feel guilty telling the guy at the gas station to fuck off while he inappropriately catcalls us! (Not anymore, you tell those assholes!) Even when people are doing things that directly, or sometimes indirectly hurt us, we still feel the need to be nice, or keep them as Facebook friends, or make excuses for their behavior. 

I know so many people have been dealing with situations like this amongst family members and friends, co-workers, and other people in their lives. I live in Southwest Florida, a very red area, in which I truly never thought my generally liberal moral values and beliefs would be considered so radical. I honestly consider myself somewhat moderate on the  liberal scale because I know so many badass far left activists, who go above and beyond, and also have more extreme views than me. But that doesn’t really matter. I know myself. I know that my morals and views are rooted in deep compassion for human beings, for basic human rights for all beings, for justice and equality and so on. 

I have always shared my views in writing and on social media. Those who do not agree, or feel extremely triggered by my calls for justice and for a safer and more loving world for all, are free to leave at any point and time, and many of them do. What I am not responsible for is how my writing, the memes I share or stories I tell, are received by everyone who might read them. Each person is coming from their own set of life experiences and trauma, and on any given day something might be interpreted in one way or trigger someone in another. 

What I do get upset about is being made to feel like I did something wrong. I get upset when I am made to feel uncomfortable in certain spaces because people are talking about me behind my back. I get upset when people take something I shared and twist it into their own narrative and use it to demonize me. Whether it’s a meme I shared or a blog I wrote. This isn’t something that is new. Years ago when I shared my abortion story online, my story was stolen by anti-choice websites, along with photos from my social media, and used without my consent to paint me as a drug-addicted baby murderer. 

I’ve had people say to me, “well if you’re going to be vocal about your beliefs and opinions you have to accept the fact that not everyone is going to like it.” To me, comments like this are intimidation to once again, keep us small. To me it implies I have to accept being disrespected just because of what I talk about and believe. I in no way expect everyone to agree with me, or even to like me, but what I do expect is common decency. 

I remind myself that I do not have to remain in environments or in friendships where I am misunderstood or gossiped about. And I also don’t need to censor myself for anyone who truly cares about me. Losing people who you thought were your friends can definitely feel painful at first, but in the long run I truly believe you won’t be the one missing out. The people that remain are people you know you can have a deep and meaningful connection with.

All this is to say, I know I am not the only one experiencing discomfort because of sharing about what’s right and wrong in the world. I’ve spent a lot of time looking within, wondering if I could have said or done something differently, or acted in a more compassionate way, but I’m done beating myself up. I know where my heart lies and what my motivations are. I also know that I will never be silent about things that matter. Life is too short and too important. I won’t be another quiet girl who says and does nothing to help those around her, the world has too many of those already.

As my husband says, let them talk. Let them think whatever they want to think. He tells me I spend too much energy worrying about what they say and think, and he’s right. Like we learn in recovery, other people’s opinions of us are none of our business. And I don’t want to waste my life convincing people they should like me. I will go on about my life doing what I came here to do and I won’t let anyone intimidate me into doing any less.

Speak about and fight for what you know in your heart to be true.

Hold your boundaries.

Shed the weight of other people’s judgments.

Stay true to you.

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