If there was a subtitle for this it could be ‘and that is totally okay!’ I feel like we’re living in a time where there is more pressure to do things in exactly one way. Maybe it’s always been that way the pressure just came from different places. But right now there are so many pressures to do so many things perfectly and that is so often one way. I’m talking about the big stuff and the little stuff too. I also think that this works both ways in the sense that we should all have license to make the right choices for ourselves but also be kind to others when they make choices that are different than ours. I’m not really sure why I’m thinking about this now exactly but I am. So here goes.
The source of the pressure
I don’t think we can exactly point to the exact single source of the problem and I do think it’s always been there. But the things we feel the need to be a certain way are endless. How you look, how much you weigh, your bank account balance, your address, your job, your car and how you raise your kids are definitely all pressure points. We could certainly point to the perfect life social media mask as part of the problem but I think that’s a bit of a cop out. I think a deeper point on this is how willing we are to compare ourselves and each other. It’s human nature to contextualize things we see through our own eyes but I think we’re all doing that too much.
That all leads to a lot of judgement swirling around and just like anyone else I’m guilty of that too. When we judge someone negatively we do for a moment feel just a little better about ourselves. I would argue that harshly judging some one else is a lot like a drug. It’s one thing to hear about someone’s parenting style and think ‘I’m not interested in any of that,’ and ‘no wonder her kids act the way they do!’ That little pick me up we get from judging someone else’s choice makes us feel a little better but it doesn’t really make anything in our lives any better. So we do it again and are more apt to be harsher in the next moment.
We know all that judgement is floating around out there so we take that in and moderate our actions and world views. When we judge others ironically that makes us feel judgment ourselves. Over time we can feel like we’re just going through the motions and even being inauthentic in our own lives.
How to judge less harshly
There’s a proverb on this issue ‘a fool learns from their own mistakes but a wise man learns from the mistakes of others’. We all need to look out into the world less harshly so that we can be more truthful with ourselves. I don’t think you need to fully embrace every person’s choice because that’s just not how the world works. We all need to temper our tone outwardly and inwardly when dealing with others. We need to replace phrases like “she’s nuts,” “I would die if I lived like that,” and “who would live there!” from our vocabularies.
Instead we can realize that someone else is making a choice we’re pretty sure wouldn’t work for us or recognize that we might not have all the personal facts that led someone else to make that choice. Even if we are absolutely certain that someone is doing something we consider wrong like skydiving or camping we could contemplate if that might actually be a problem on our part that makes us think that way. For example I have made the choice not to drink or have kids and boy do I have good reasons for that (in my mind at least). When I’m looking at someone choosing to have a 4th that does seem like a foreign choice to me. Those are two very different world views and sets of values after all. But really both choices are totally fine just totally opposite.
It’s an overlooked fact that the choices others are making will almost never be right for you. Whether that’s how you choose to make money, spend it, how you live, how you spend your time or the people in your life. We can recognize that at first and just leave it at “that’s probably not for me.” I have made some unorthodox choices and have some outlier type behaviors and just because I choose those things doesn’t mean anyone else has to. For example I have chosen not to drink and that having a perfect home isn’t ever going to be a top priority for me. On a sunny weekend afternoon going for a run or playing with RC’s is always going to win at out house and I like that! Occasionally when my choice doesn’t line up with someone else’s I can feel judged for it pretty harshly. When it comes to the drinking thing lots of times people tell me all about it.
I’m not immune either, probably most often I hear about the details of someone else’s relationship and think why are they doing this to themselves? If something isn’t changing in the short or medium term, no matter how much they trash talk I just have to decide that they are making a choice that works for them. You might be surprised what happens to you when you start to respect other’s choices more.
Respecting other’s choices leads to respecting your own
So far I’ve only rambled on about accepting other’s choices and judging others less. How does that have anything to do with self care? Well we are often hardest on ourselves and we realistically need to practice being gentle with others before we can be gentle on ourselves. If you have a part of your life that seems out of step with other’s expectations then sure think about it for a bit. If after that you’re fine with it that that’s cool.
When it comes to feeling that pressure to do your best or be a certain way just acknowledge it and move past it. Remember that there are certain things that person does that probably don’t vibe with your personal values. It might even be something you feel strongly about. Keep in mind when dealing with others and yourself that two people that love and respect each other can even have vast moral differences. For example I’m a vegetarian, atheist person who cares quite deeply about the environment. Those are all pretty strong beliefs of mine but I don’t think the have to put me at odds with anyone. I also don’t think anyone else even should make those choices if they feel differently about something than I do.
I say that because once you realize that everyone is basically living a life that on some level works for them it gets a whole lot easier to just be. I want to take a moment to note that people who live on the margins don’t often have that luxury and you never really know what’s going on in someone else’s life. If anythin that’s just reason to give everyone a little more kindness. Just because someone lives differently than you or you live differently then them doesn’t mean anyone is doing anything wrong. These things are just the day to day stuff instead judge the company you keep by the strength of their character.
It does sound a bit off center that in order to embrace your own life you might have to accept other’s choices first. It might not be the only way but it will get you there. Once again I hope that these ideas help get you to thinking. I also hope it encourages you to go easier on yourself. If that’s true for others in your life all the better! How do you know when you’re making the right choice just for you? Leave it in the comments below!