“I feel like when people judge me they’re not judging me, because they don’t know who I am. It’s about them, not me!” – King Ayles, author
“I am so tired of people judging me!”
Naomi was a thirty eight year old stay at home Mom with three stepchildren. Her husband, Bill, ran his own small business which took a lot of his time. She was very devoted to her family and worked hard at being available to each of them in special ways. All of the kids were in middle school. So, Naomi was busy! She was not a tall person, probably about five foot two. She had a friendly and engaging smile but, an air of uneasiness and insecurity. Naomi probably weighed over 300 pounds. As she struggled to ease herself into the chair in my office I asked her how I could serve her.
She paused briefly to settle herself and then said, with a hint of sarcasm, “You can’t guess?”
I smiled briefly and replied, “Naomi, I’ve learned the three most insulting words in any language are: ‘I know you!’, because no one really knows anyone else. So, at this point, I will need your help. What’s on your mind today?”
“It’s what is on my mind most of the time…my size! I’m tired of being looked upon as weak and out of control. I’m tired of being labelled as fat, obese, overweight, gross, pathetic, and so on!” She said this with a strong undercurrent in her voice of frustration and anger.
“So you want to avoid being labelled…is that what brought you here today?” I asked.
“Exactly! I am so tired of people judging me!” she replied.
“It is simply an important learning tool for us!”
“Naomi, that is like asking someone not to breathe…it is impossible for humans not to judge each other. But, do you want to know why we judge each other?” I asked her.
“Yes I would because I work really hard at not judging others!” she replied angrily.
“Naomi, I attended the wake of a friend who had lung cancer. I judged him to have died early from his smoking. In making this judgement of him I was reminded I was fortunate to be alive and fortunate to be very health conscious. So, in judging him, I alerted myself to two important things while affect my future well being. Naomi, it is the same for everyone…every time you judge someone you learn. Judging others is simply an important learning tool for we humans!”
“I can understand that…but, my obesity is so obvious, it seems very mean to judge me…they don’t have any idea how hard I work at being healthy!” she said in frustration, tears welling up in her eyes.
I was quiet for a moment while she regained her composure.
“Naomi, I know you work very hard at your life…at being healthy. Can I offer you another idea which you might find useful?” I asked.
“Sure! I need all the help I can get!” she replied.
“I can’t go anywhere without someone judging me.”
Britney Spears – musician
“…but they don’t sound so bad compared to mine!”
“Do you realize everyone has every trait in some form..so, everyone display’s their own obesity to the rest of the world?”
Naomi looked bewildered. She did a double take which involved a flash of her eyes and a shift off her shoulders.
Then, she said, “Ken, you look about average in height, and I bet you don’t weigh more than 150 pounds, soaking wet…are you telling me you display your obesity to the world?”
“I sure do! Naomi, there are many forms of obesity and everyone has, at least, one form of it. Some have several forms of obesity…like me! I am obese about my work, spending too much time at it; I’m obese about my health, spending too much time and money on it; I’m obese about books, spending too much time and money on them…and I could go on and on!”
“Yes, I see your point…but they don’t sound so bad compared to mine!”
“Naomi, it will depend on who you ask. For example, if you ask my family… several of them would tell you my obesity costs them a lot. They would probably also say it is damaging to them right now, and also, in the past. It really depends who you ask!”
“…how you have handled being judged as obese has got you to be here…”
“Well, that may be so Ken, but I don’t like being judged as fat or obese or gross…it’s hurtful to me!” she replied challenging the idea.
“Naomi, I can see it is hurtful to you!” I said, pausing…to honour her feelings. Then I added, “But, how is it also helpful to you?”
“Helpful…how can it be helpful? That’s absurd, Ken!”
“Let me offer you the idea another way, to see if will make more sense to you! Since you are here today…alive and well…this means every decision you have made in your past has been the right one to enable you to learn and survive! Your presence here proves that! With me so far?” I asked.
“I think so! You’re saying the choices I have made so far in my life have ensured I have survived to today…is that it?”
“Yes, exactly! That means how you have handled being judged as obese in oyur past has got you to be here right now…correct?”
“Yes, I suppose so!” she said skeptically.
“Naomi give me an example of one of those moments when you felt you were being judged as obese. Tell me what happened and what you did to deal with it, at the very same moment.”
“I was hurt and humiliated…how could it have a benefit for me?”
“Well, just the other day, I was in my kitchen standing at the stove, cooking supper for my family when Bill, my husband, walked in from work. He looked over at me, scowled and said, ‘You look fat today! Did you do your walk?’ I was devastated!”
“Naomi, what did you do at that moment?” I asked.
“I was so angry…I turned toward him; gave him ‘the finger’ and said, F _ _ _ OFF!”
“So, at that moment, given what you did, how did it serve you…how did it benefit you in some important way?”
“Ken, I don’t see it, I was hurt and humiliated…how could it have a benefit for me?”
“Well, it sounds like you stood up for yourself…is that not true?” I asked.
“I suppose that’s true…but I shouldn’t have to do that with my husband…should I?” she said with a hesitation in her voice.
“I’m trying to get a thicker skin. I like to be aware of people’s perceptions of me, but when you put it as a priority, as a means to judging your worth, that’s when it can be dangerous.” – Fergie, musician
“…we must continually pay for our self esteem and self confidence…”
“Naomi, have you been believing you won’t have to protect your own spirit from those you love; did you think you don’t have to pay for your personal value, of being respected; did you think you wouldn’t have to set clear boundaries in your marriage and other relationships?” I asked.
“Ken, are you telling me these are the benefits I get from being insulted and disrespected?” she said with both surprise and shock spreading across her face.
“I sure am! You probably know, there are no free lunches in life…everything must be paid for…you must continually pay for your self esteem and self confidence throughout your life! You will be continually challenged to believe in yourself and to value yourself.” I added.
“I never thought about it that way before. It kind of makes sense…in a way!”
“It is actually even more profound…I suspect this is not a new challenge for you! My best guess is, you have had a number of similar incidents in the past where you needed to stand up for yourself, to protect yourself in some way! And, this incident is just a more recent one. Does that reflect your past, Naomi?”
“Wow! Does it ever Ken! I often feel like I’m forever trying to be me…to honour my own values and my own dreams!” she replied.
“I realize Bill was trying to ignore his own obesity…”
“So, can you see now being judged for anything provides you (any everyone else) with an opportunity to honour your own values, live your own life and remind others, you have a right to do so?”
“I’m starting to see it now…but I never noticed it before. It sure puts a different twist on being judged, eh?”
“Naomi, can you now see, as well, those who judge you as obese are denying their own forms of obesity and, denying how it serves them, as well! So, they are just on a learning journey towards more self awareness and self appreciation…just like you and me and everyone else!”
“When I think of it that way, I realize, Bill was trying to ignore his own obesity, like his long hours of work, his excessive beer consumption and so on… yes, this is starting to make a lot of sense, Ken!”
Namoi went on to explore other memories she had of being judged. She was soon able to see the same pattern, again and again, in various parts of her life. As she progressed, she realized when people judge her about anything, it wasn’t really about her at all. Instead, it was about one of their own blind spots in their perception of themselves and she was just a tool for their learning.
“…I don’t go around making fun of other people’s weight or appearance. We’re hard on each other because we’re using each other as a launching pad out of our own perceived deficiency.” – Brene Brown, author
Until Next time…
So, remember, when people judge you, it is not about you at all, it’s about them learning to grow their self awareness…and, it serves both of you!
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