I visit the grocery store Aldi on a regular basis. Usually, I go there in sweat pants and a t-shirt. (If I’m feeling fancy, I may even wear jeans, and shoes that are not crocs.) I think the same is true of most people just trying to cross everything off of their list and get their stuff home. I don’t think anyone likes grocery shopping enough to make an event of it, which is probably why it’s so common to be sporting the “I don’t care what I look like” outfit during this activity that is basically a chore, but one you get to do outside of the home (or have to do outside of home).
Most people I saw out grocery shopping confirmed this thought I had. Until recently, when I noticed a woman pushing a cart, while wearing high heeled shoes (the long, sharp, you-could-kill-someone-with-a-well-placed-kick, type of heels), fresh run-free tights, a mini skirt, a super tight, lacy blouse over what seemed to be a push-up bra, and perfect hair and makeup.
Without any conscious effort, I heard my brain immediately jump to “Who does that lady think she is, getting all dressed up for Aldi? Does she have something to prove?”
Before you worry, let me tell you that the above is not the kind of judgement I’m encouraging.
The kind I’m claiming “you absolutely should” do is this:
- “I wonder if that lady just came from work, perhaps a workplace with a really extreme dress code, and has a long drive to get home, so she stopped for groceries in her work clothes.”
- “Maybe she’s on her way to a date, or a party, forgot some stuff, didn’t have enough time to turn around, and had to stop here to buy that stuff on the way.”
- “That lady might be suffering from depression, or having a bad day, and getting dressed up in clothes that make her feel hot is a perfectly valid coping mechanism.”
- “What if all that lady’s other clothes are dirty, and she’s out of laundry soap, so she came here in her very last clean outfit to buy laundry soap, and that outfit happened to be it?”
Lately, I’ve been actively trying to come up with stories/theories in my head to explain things about other people that I’d otherwise be judging. That may not seem like the best use of mental energy, especially since it is still technically “judging” (just using positive/justifying judgments instead of negative/angry ones), but I find that it’s a good way to replace the initial reaction I have.
Usually, I’ve been noticing those initial thoughts I have in response to others’ behaviors, almost always sound like scoffing angrily, but it also somehow feels involuntary. I don’t want to think negatively toward everyone, but I catch myself doing it, regardless of whether the other person hurt me, merely inconvenienced me mildly, or even just did something I thought was strange or unnecessary. Honestly, some of the snap judgments and conclusions my brain jumps to would be absolutely mortifying if the target heard my thoughts, yet I don’t feel control over it.
Is it human nature to be this irritable and judgmental?
Or is it actually just a habit that is so ingrained from years of looking at people bitterly? (I really hope you can relate, so I’m not sounding like a total psychopath right now.)
Either way, it’s an impulse that I was finding impossible to fight whenever I would go on one of my flowery “let’s stop judging each other and just be loving” kicks.
So, what I started doing to combat this negativity was this:
As soon as I notice myself thinking those impulsive, judgmental thoughts about someone, I acknowledge the thought without judging myself for it (or at least I try not to… ironic, I know), and then immediately start theorizing in my head, all the possibilities I can think of that would justify the other person’s behavior.
This may sound like I’m spending a lot of time guessing, or trying to mind-read, but I’m not doing this with the intent to be right. It’s more of a mental exercise that reminds me that everyone I see is experiencing their own struggles, and that they all have a reason for what they’re doing.
You may have noticed that that’s what my other post, “Road Rage” was about. (In fact, I originally sat down to write this post, but ended up publishing Road Rage instead that week, simply because so many examples of these snap judgments I was trying to describe were related to driving! I considered putting those stories into this post, but it got way too long, so I kept them separate.
(In case you missed that post, here’s a link: https://loveandlogicandlunacy.wordpress.com/2019/02/15/road-rage)
Anyway, the point is that everyone who does something that either makes us angry, or even that we just find strange, had their reasons. Trying to spin those judgments into possible explanations helps chase out a lot of that internal negativity.
Another side-effect of this habit I’m building is that I now spend a lot of time looking at, watching, and thinking about people from a place of genuine curiosity, which seems to be making my own emotional state feel healthier.
Because the only ones we really hurt with those negative thoughts are ourselves!
Sorry for getting a little woo-woo at the end there, almost like an advertisement for one of those meditation apps I’ve been seeing pop up everywhere… But this is my truth, and I wanted to make sure any readers who are as bitter as I am know how beneficial I’ve been finding this practice.
I have some questions for you:
- Do you have any good “lady-in-heels-at-Aldi” stories? (It doesn’t have to be that specific)
– Bonus points if something you judged someone for eventually happened to you, and you explain what and why! (Give me material for my imaginary “why they did the thing” stories! Was it the laundry day theory?)
- Have you found any strategies that help you stop / slow down the judging? If so, please tell in the comments! (Or write your own post on it, if you’d prefer, and tag me or drop a link, so I can see. I’m always looking for hacks to help me become a better person!)
- Am I actually a psychopath for needing any strategy at all to keep myself from being so judgmental?
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