On judging and being judged

Judgement (Image Credits: thetarotdieter.blogspot.com)

(Image Credits: thetarotdieter.blogspot.com)

I’ve spent a large portion of my adolescence watching and discovering other people. I think one of the sole reasons that I am an extrovert is that I tend to absorb a lot of the world that is around me, visually and aurally. Given my compulsion to over-analyze details about my life and a pseudo-flimsy self-esteem, I think this bad habit was something I indulged in with unhealthy frequency.

It’s odd how I suppress all these internal realizations as I am a very transparent extrovert. I have difficulties lying or deceiving. This is not due to some obligatory moral ethos holding me back. I am simply unable to fake it. It can be construed as a good or a bad thing. Good in that, I am intrinsically honest. Bad, in that, it allows other people to manipulate me rather easily. One of the easiest ways I used to get embroiled in high-school battles was because someone would approach me, pretend to care about me, tell me of their emotional problems and expect me to agree with them. I’ll admit that I gave in to that all too easily. Empathy seemed like the only route for friendship to a lonely person.

Despite all my transparency, I could not openly express anger or spite as well I needed to. Through some force of personal grooming, I would isolate myself and let the negativity fester inside me till it had permanently stained the memory of that event.

For all my aggression, I mutely accepted the world’s rubbish by excusing them as immaturities. It dawned on me that at some level this was intentional. People did want to hurt me for no fault of my own. Or perhaps some perceived fault of my own. But despite that, I tried not to let these instances cloud my general opinion about that person. I make mistakes, too. It’s only right that I forgive someone else’s.

Except that’s not how the world always works. Positive slogans that claim, “Treat others as you would like to be treated” are not often followed by people. You do not get treated by others the way you treat them. Some will treat you like princesses even on the days when life seems gloomy. Some will spite you no matter what. Some will merely smile back politely and make small talk as you wait next to them in the elevator. I learned that everyone, under the external layer of politeness, was judging me, evaluating me, closing off parts of themselves to me, categorizing me into some stereotype or niche in their head. For some people, this first impression process is cast in stone, with others, the labels change with time.

I’m not going to be very self-righteous and say that I don’t judge people, because I do. There used to be a point when I wanted to make friends with everyone so badly that I didn’t set up any stereotypes in my head at all. I wanted to know people for the actual real people they are, not what they represent. This liberal outlook was rewarded with coming across some very unhappy people all the more willing to siphon off their negativity onto me. But, like chasing all the good things of life, I persisted.

I am lucky that this trait has survived with me. In some way, how a person presents themselves to another person does influence my understanding of them somewhat. One of my prime judgmental criteria lies in how people talk about things around them. Are you constantly complaining? Are you using way too many superlative objects for mundane things about life? What are you passionate about? Those are the things that I will notice about you. If you show passion and dedication, or appear knowledgeable about a subject of your choice, you have endeared yourself to me. I may not necessarily agree with your opinion, but I will appreciate the loyalty with which you stick to it.

After high school, as I started meeting more of the world, I realized that there were other criteria as well. People liked me because I was skinny. People did not like me that I wasn’t pretty enough for their attention. People did not like me because I wasn’t fair enough or something. I still don’t quite understand how you can judge a human being based on their physical appearance, because I don’t they can help it. You are born and have grown the way your genetic structure and health habits have led you to. But pessimism, optimism, sarcasm and the like are all cultivated, by the person’s own choice, so everything about that is under their control.

I got into an argument with a friend once. She claimed that she would date only guys who fulfilled a certain physical criteria, as in tall, well-built, fit, etc. It sounded (and still sounds) rather shallow to me. She justified by saying that a well-maintained body shows some dedication and passion. Her stance was that a guy who knows how to look after himself is equally well capable of looking after her, if she should choose to be in a relationship with him. Physical maintenance seemed to be a way of showing how much a guy was willing to invest into well-being. While I cannot disagree that health is important, I still cannot reconcile that to the idea that all fit people must “look” a certain way. You can be fit and not be skinny. You can be fit and not have a six-pack.More so, she then turned the argument and asked me whether I didn’t estimate the dating potential of a guy through his looks. I didn’t and I’m proud to say that I still don’t. I may casually notice aesthetics, but even that is at an arm’s length. I start observing about you the instant you start talking. That tells me not just of a guy’s dating potential, but also of his friend potential.

The reason why I was compelled to write this rather rant-like post is because I have this acquaintance, who judges people and proclaims it proudly. We call each other our friends, but more often that not, he is brusque and nasty. More so, he isn’t afraid of dealing it out to me. Through the last few months, when my self-esteem was convalescing, I’ve shrugged it off. But now I have this instinct to hand my opinion of him on a platter. I try to tell myself that I am more mature than he is and that I shouldn’t let it bother me so much. He is not necessarily a bad person, and maybe I’m simply overreacting to his twisted humor, but somehow, I don’t think that I should accept his bad treatment. Pardon me, I seem to be reverting back to the behavioral cycle I referred to in the beginning. I think I’m just going to avoid him, minimize contact so I don’t have to invest mental energy in worrying about whether I have evaded his scathing criticisms.

Which brings me back to judging. Why should you judge someone? After all, do they not deserve an opportunity to feel special in their own right? Some people say that judging is a defense mechanism. Somehow by categorizing someone else in their head as something demeaning, awful or caricatured, people try to boost their own self-esteem. Blame it on my naiveté, but I honestly didn’t know that could be true. Until I heard a story from another friend who told me that the guy she liked rejected her because she was “too chubby” and then went on to gloat about it. I’m not here to evaluate whether or not my friend is chubby or isn’t or maybe she has self-esteem issues or whatever. But I do blame this guy for having such a shallow criterion. Are you really going to abandon a girl, walk out of her life, break her heart into possibly irretrievable pieces the day her clothing size grows by one unit? I realize I may come across as slightly sexist with the number of male antagonists in this piece, but I know that this sort of opinion is not just limited to gender, age, shape or any demographic.

There are many ways to shrug off the feeling of being judged. Usually, the most effective method is to ignore. I’m sure there are several others, but learning to ignore is the most effective tool I’ve cultivated thus far. Don’t worry future self (and readers), someday, we’re gonna be above these nagging doubts that keep trying to claw us down.

Judgmental

The eyes of the world are watching us all.  Image credits: The Eyerth by Tanya Shatseva at http://tanyashatseva.deviantart.com/art/The-Eyerth-393216721

The eyes of the world are watching us all.
Image credits: The Eyerth by Tanya Shatseva at http://tanyashatseva.deviantart.com/art/The-Eyerth-393216721

I’ve spent a large portion of my adolescence watching and discovering other people. I think one of the sole reasons that I am an extrovert is that I tend to absorb a lot of the world that is around me, visually and aurally. Given my compulsion to over-analyze details about my life and a pseudo-flimsy self-esteem, I think this bad habit was something I indulged in with unhealthy frequency.
It’s odd how I suppress all these internal realizations as I am a very transparent extrovert. I have difficulties lying or deceiving. This is not due to some obligatory moral ethos holding me back. I am simply unable to fake it. It can be construed as a good or a bad thing. Good in that, I am intrinsically honest. Bad, in that, it allows other people to manipulate me rather easily. One of the easiest ways I used to get embroiled in high-school battles was because someone would approach me, pretend to care about me, tell me of their emotional problems and expect me to agree with them. I’ll admit that I gave in to that all too easily. Empathy seemed like the only route for friendship to a lonely person.
Despite all my transparency, I could not openly express anger or spite as well I needed to. Through some force of personal grooming, I would isolate myself and let the negativity fester inside me till it had permanently stained the memory of that event.
For all my aggression, I mutely accepted the world’s rubbish by excusing them as immaturity. It dawned on me that at some level this was intentional. People wanted to hurt me for no fault of my own. Or perhaps some perceived fault of my own. But despite that, I tried not to let these instances cloud my general opinion about that person. I make mistakes, too. It’s only right that I forgive someone else’s.
Except that’s not how the world always works. Positive slogans that claim, “Treat others as you would like to be treated” are not often followed by people. You do not get treated by others the way you treat them. Some will treat you like princesses even on the days when life seems gloomy. Some will spite you no matter what. Some will merely smile back politely and make small talk as you wait next to them in the elevator. I learned that everyone, under the external layer of politeness, was judging me, evaluating me, closing off parts of themselves to me, categorizing me into some stereotype or niche in their head. For some people, this first impression process is cast in stone, with others, the labels change with time.
I’m not going to be very self-righteous and say that I don’t judge people, because at some level I guess I do. I wanted to make friends with everyone so badly that I didn’t set up any stereotypes in my head at all. I wanted to know people for the actual real people they are, not what they represent. This liberal outlook was rewarded with encounters with some very unhappy people, all the more willing to siphon off their negativity onto me. But, like all good things, I persisted.

I am lucky that this trait has survived with me. In some way, how a person presents themselves to another person does influence my understanding of them somewhat. One of my prime judgmental criteria lies in how people talk about things around them. Are you constantly complaining? Are you using way too many superlative objects for mundane things about life? What are you passionate about? Those are the things that I will notice about you. If you show passion and dedication, or appear knowledgeable about a subject of your choice, you have endeared yourself to me. I may not necessarily agree with your opinion, but I will appreciate the loyalty with which you stick to it.

After high school, as I started meeting more of the world, I realized that there were other criteria as well. People liked me because I was skinny. People did not like me that I wasn’t pretty enough for their attention. People did not like me because I wasn’t fair enough or something. I still don’t quite understand how you can judge a human being based on their physical appearance, because, to a large extent, they can’t help it. You are born and have grown the way your genetic structure and health habits have led you to. But pessimism, optimism, sarcasm and the like are all cultivated, by the person’s own choice.

I got into an argument with a friend once. She claimed that she would date only guys who fulfilled a certain physical criteria, as in tall, well-built, fit, etc. It sounded (and still sounds) rather shallow to me. She justified by saying that a well-maintained body shows some dedication and passion. Her stance was that a guy who knows how to look after himself is equally well capable of looking after her, if she should choose to be in a relationship with him. Physical maintenance seemed to be a way of showing how much a guy was willing to invest into well-being. While I cannot disagree that health is important, I still cannot reconcile that to the idea that all fit people must “look” a certain way. You can be fit and not be skinny. You can be fit and not have a six-pack.More so, she then turned the argument and asked me whether I didn’t estimate the dating potential of a guy through his looks. I didn’t and I’m proud to say that I still don’t. I may casually notice aesthetics, but even that is at an arm’s length. I start observing about you the instant you start talking. That tells me not just of a guy’s dating potential, but  more importantly also of his friend potential.

The reason why I was compelled to write this rather rant-like post (I’m sorry, they appear to be proliferating) is because I have this acquaintance, who judges people and proclaims it proudly. We call each other our friends, but more often that not, he is brusque and nasty. More so, he isn’t afraid of dealing it out to me. Through the last few months, when my self-esteem was convalescing, I’ve shrugged it off. But now I have this instinct to hand my opinion of him on a platter. I try to tell myself that I am more mature than he is and that I shouldn’t let it bother me so much. He is not necessarily a bad person, and maybe I’m simply overreacting to his twisted humor, but somehow, I don’t think that I should accept his bad treatment. Pardon me, I seem to be reverting back to the behavioral cycle I referred to in the beginning. I think I’m just going to avoid him, minimize contact so I don’t have to invest mental energy in worrying about whether I have evaded his scathing criticisms.

Which brings me back to judging. Why should you judge someone? After all, do they not deserve an opportunity to feel special in their own right? Some people say that judging is a defense mechanism. Somehow by categorizing someone else in their head as something demeaning, awful or caricatured, people try to boost their own self-esteem. Blame it on my naiveté, but I honestly didn’t know that could be true. Until I heard a story from another friend who told me that the guy she liked rejected her because she was “too chubby” and then went on to gloat about it. I’m not here to evaluate whether or not my friend is chubby or isn’t or maybe she has self-esteem issues or whatever. But I do blame this guy for having such a shallow criterion. Are you really going to abandon a girl, walk out of her life, break her heart into possibly irretrievable pieces the day her jeans size grows by one unit? I realize I may come across as slightly sexist with the number of male antagonists in this piece, but I know that this sort of opinion is not just limited to gender, age, shape or any demographic.

There are many ways to shrug off the feeling of being judged. Usually, the most effective method is to ignore. I’m sure there are several others, but learning to ignore is the most effective tool I’ve cultivated thus far. Don’t worry future self (and readers), someday, we’re gonna be above these nagging doubts that keep trying to claw us down.

Envy

Jealousy_by_chpsauce (1)

Image Credits:  Jealousy by chpsauce at http://chpsauce.deviantart.com/art/Jealousy-122103700

It was the same old day in school. She was radiant, brilliant and amazing. But I sat and sulked in the corner, because I thought nobody liked me because of her. It was childish in retrospect, but I wanted to be popular and loved. As the only child who never really had to compete for parental affection, it took me a long time to realize that there were only some people in the world who would accept me for me. For the rest, I had to either serve their needs to keep up an appearance of doing so. Even then, it didn’t quite help me get over being jealous.

Strangely enough, I think one of the reasons I liked her was also because she was funny and charming and so amiable. It was really impossible to hate her, but I did and yet she was one of the few people who still cares about me. Looking back at it, I park those days under the list of things I’m really ashamed of myself for. More than the sentiment, it was perhaps my methods of dealing with it which make me cringe even more so. One of the things that truly rankled me about her was how people let her get away with almost everything because she could be so charming. I felt it was unfair how the world expected me to be good and righteous and serious all the time, but she could goof off and nobody complained. In the beginning I used to preach to her, until one day she confessed to me that despite my earnest and “well-meaning” admonitions, she really couldn’t help being carefree. People accused me of being overbearing and attempting to change her into another version of me. I was appalled, because I self-righteously thought I was doing the right thing. But now I realize they were right. I was trying to pull her down into some level of being equated to me, even though we were two different people.

Then, it came to a point where I had to learn to deal with being in the shadows. I didn’t mind it too much, I suppose, but I still couldn’t help begrudging her. Often, I would throw temper tantrums at her and walk away, but she, the amazing person that she is, would come back after me, apologize for some fault that wasn’t even hers and employ her charm in winning me back. True to its reputation, it worked. This left me feeling even more confused than ever How could she be so nice to me when I hated myself? I’m really glad that she chose to forgive me, and we are still good friends, albeit a lot far away than we used to be. Sometimes, it made me wonder why she chose to forgive me and I promised to be patient for her sake, in some sort of tribute to the beautiful person that she was.

Unfortunately, I wish I could say that my annoying propensity to be jealous had a short life-span. For almost years that nagging little voice kept complaining in my head, “Look at him/her. They’re so awesome / brilliant / accomplished / attractive. Look at your puny self. What are you?” Compelled by some self-fulfilling prophecy I would then despise myself and then attempt to resolve the cognitive dissonance by projecting my hate on them, citing them as the source of my weaknesses. Through the progression of time, it grew into a multifaceted mutant. It wasn’t just collective appreciation I was looking for. It was now appreciation from a very specific person that I was seeking and which I was denied. “What is it about her that makes her appealing?” was the fundamental premise of that argument. In my mind, I would try to reconstruct these people as objects of affection and then evaluate them against some set criteria dictated by society. There were times when I took a malicious delight in discovering their not-so-apparent flaws. But more so, I often discovered what made these people truly special. In being jealous, I had learned to appreciate them.

Another step in silencing that voice came from the idea of being myself. I was tired of being unique and different and being cast aside. But then, I realized that the very thing I was trying to push away was actually an integral part of my identity. I was not them. I was never going to be them. But hey, I was me, so I had to make the best of it since that was the only thing I could be. To my surprise, as I started wearing my own skin better, I realized that I had people who liked and admired me too. I didn’t have to force myself to be someone else, and in doing so I discovered my own potential to be something more. This may sound weird, but I’m grateful for all those times I forced myself to be someone else. It made me realize just how different other people and personas can be. More so, there is nothing as refreshing as rediscovering yourself.

Weird outcast

One of the hardest things I had to deal with was my self-image. Since I was an extrovert, constantly seeking the opinions and validations of others, it was hard for me to have a constant opinion about myself. In the quest for an identity, I was looking to be part of a larger, more well-known group. In a nutshell, I wanted to be popular, and recognized and have lots of friends and be admired. It’s a human need, so I didn’t think it was unfair of me to ask for it. However, my definitions of what it means to be admired and popular and respected changed with maturity and time.

To be honest, there was a while when I was scared of being alone. I just did not want to be left out of anything. This anxiety translated itself into a supremely inconvenient habit of being too curious, asking too many questions and not being discrete/tactful enough. In the process of wanting to be included so badly, I was alienating people away from me and thus left with deep insecurities about whether I would belong anywhere. I was trying too hard to belong. Of course, they would try to be as nice to me as they could, but I could see them slowly backing away from me. To my face they told me I was “unique”. It took some level of cringe-worthy snooping to realize that behind my back I popularly known as a “weird freak”.

It was a devastating discovery, and my parents still remember all those days I would come back from school crying and wondering what I wasn’t doing right. Self-delusional, I thought that if I walked away from them, pretended that I didn’t need them, they would probably come for me. I was the only one who was further hurt by the discovery that they didn’t. Nobody seemed to need me as much as I seemed to need them. Again, I was alone and anxious.

Between my transitions from groups, I slowly learned that adjusting into some groups was easier than others. In my school, this group sub-culture was the norm. Everyone was identified as part of a network, and without that you were literally nobody. As the cliched stereotype of high school dramas have established, they were undoubtedly pretty and/or affluent and/or seemed to know everyone. Clearly, as I was still a loner, they didn’t know me. So, I had to publicize myself by displaying behavior that would make them take note of me. I carefully observed the mannerisms and behavior of the cool girls’ gang in my school. It wasn’t too hard to locate the common factors that endeared them all to each other. The only problem was that I didn’t seem to have some of the native attributes to belong to that group. If I tried hard enough, I could replicate the same behavior and belong with them. Maybe they would even appreciate my effort.

I used to get sad and angry over the fact that reality continued to prove me wrong. I had the arrogance to assume that I knew enough about human behavior to be able to safely tell how a group of adjusting teenagers would behave. Strangely enough, I was actually an integral part of this group for a while. I cannot tell you how happy the fourteen/fifteen year old me was to actually find people whom I could talk to, who trusted me, who confided in me. However, my behavior had changed. Within the group I was trying to be the nicest person possible to everyone else. But beyond that, I had acquired a snooty attitude (a symbol of my new social status?) that served to only repel more people away from me than before. It dawned on me that the people who were nice to me even when I was a loner now avoided me. I tried to justify their behavior as jealousy. They weren’t part of the cool gang and I was. I tried to pretend that I didn’t care. But instinctively, I knew that something was not right.

That’s when our differences began to show, and I began to grow increasingly disillusioned with my new status. Maintaining it seemed to involve telling many lies, being two-faced and more so, keeping up a physical appearance that had to meet some expected standards, all of which I was terrible at. It was too much effort to keep up so many concurrent charades. I longed for the quiet of having my own thoughts for company. I longed for a conversation that did not involve demeaning someone else for no fault of theirs, or for something that did not involve the opposite sex, or something that wasn’t even emotionally demanding. It was a huge transformation that I was now actually running back to the solitude and silence which I had so abhorred. With a pang of regret, I chose to leave.

Back in my self-imposed exile, I welcomed the emptiness at first. I told myself that I was better off and I even tried very hard to believe it. But I still felt like I didn’t belong anywhere, that I was an outcast and maybe I just didn’t have what was necessary to belong to any group. I managed to make new friends, find some old ones, but even then it wasn’t a group. It was more like a community of misfits who hadn’t been completely accepted anywhere, each one scared of being hurt again by another, reserved and guarded and sort of unfriendly.

I grew to learn to respect this community. They were friendly enough for the short duration we spent together, which was a very pleasant replacement for adhering to a group protocol. They kept their conversation to non-private topics, so I didn’t have to be emotionally burdened with anyone’s secrets. I learned what it meant to respect someone’s space, what the difference was between being eager and being too eager, what it meant to not fit a generic mold. I was influenced by their fierce pride in their diversity. So I was weird, according to those not in the group. By categorizing me, they made their labels their problem. Not mine. I was still me.

A year or so later, everyone was suddenly filled with affection as we would be graduating from school. All these petty groups would now be dispersed into the big wide world, where we wouldn’t be sheltered any more. More so, all these differences and squabbles seemed so much smaller in light of what awaited us beyond the school’s comforting archways. As a final form of seeking redemption, I tried one last time to look actively for friends. To my immense surprise, people had evolved to a level of greater tolerance. The very distinct boundaries between groups blurred as graduation approached nearer. “Everyone is my friend now, because these are the people I grew up with” was the general slogan. I was relatively more social once again.

In retrospect, I remain close friends with those other misfits who endured me for the longest. They were the few who didn’t chose to categorize me as weird. They didn’t even call themselves as outcasts. Admission into this group was much more easier and welcoming. But the learning experience left some lasting memories. I had learned to become comfortable with myself. The solitude forced me to forge my own identity. While the experience was rough, I remain sincerely grateful to them. Thank you for teaching me what it means to be unique and proud of it.