By: Jess Berger, Regular Contributor
Image from iStock
Snap judgments: we’ve all be a victim of them and yet we’ve all made them about others. Invariably we see someone across the room, decide who they are based on their looks/style/shape/accessories/etc. and mentally lock them up inside of tiny boxes with titles like “lucky bitch has my dream job” or “wish I had her legs.” Sometimes, we even go a step further and imagine what their world must be like in the land of plenty: “With a body like that her life must be perfect!” or “With that fat paycheck her life must be easy!” Although this type of thinking is incredibly common, it is also incredibly dangerous.
Every week I attend the same exercise class at my local gym, and subsequently, I have come to know everyone else in the class. A few months back, a new face popped up-- a very, very beautiful face I might add. In fact, she’s one of those people who is so damn attractive you just can’t help but stare at her! Each week, she shows up to class in skimpy outfits that accentuate her model-esque figure, seductively reveal her six-pack abs and highlight her beautifully toned arms. Her hair does that perfect “beachy wave” thing and her skin glows like the actresses in skin care commercials. As she waits for the instructor to arrive, she rocks out in her own little world, gyrating and shimmying to the music flowing through her badass pair of Beats By Dre headphones. She manages to keep up with every exercise throughout the class, all the while looking flawless and barely breaking a sweat. Essentially, she is the ultimate gym goddess.
And then there’s me: makeup-free, oily hair pulled into a pony tail, beat up running shoes, oversized t-shirt with arm pit stains, sweating like a hideous beast. Sexy, no?
Although I am keenly aware that comparing ourselves to others almost always ends in despair, I can’t help but pit myself directly against the gym goddess. And when I do, just like clockwork, the inevitable downward spiral begins. First, I convince myself that her life must be perfect because, well, she’s a goddess. Next, my own body insecurities creep up with a vengeance. Then come the fears and doubts about my future, and before I know it I’m swirling in my own vicious tornado of jealousy and self-loathing. All because I made a snap judgment.
Last week, I found out the goddess had at one time in her life weighed over 200 pounds. In fact, it was because she was suffering from a very serious illness that she gained so much weight. I also found out that she has two kids, one 5, and the other 17-years-old. And, she is single.
In a matter of minutes, my perception of the goddess and her perfect life were shattered.
Previously, I had assumed that this beautiful woman lived a carefree life of fun and fantasy. I assumed she had always had a lanky body and probably never had to work for her svelte figure. I assumed her beauty attracted men left and right, and she spent her nights being romanced and dancing out on the town. I assumed her life was easy and full of joy. Never in a million years did I consider that she might have been a teen mom. Never did I think she might be supporting two kids alone. Never did I imagine she had suffered from an illness that robbed her of control over her own body. Not once did I consider what I did not know.
Here’s the truth: We are complex beings with rich histories that make us who we are in this moment. We are quick to judge and slow to learn. We often forget that there is always more than meets the eye, and we rarely know what lies behind closed doors. When we reduce others down to nothing more than our projected fantasies, we rob them of the respect they have undoubtedly earned.
Here’s my challenge to you: Next time you find yourself making a snap judgment or comparing and despairing, check yourself. Ask yourself, what do you know to be true about the situation? Ask yourself what pieces of information you might be missing and what you might be assuming. Get curious and ask others about the truth of their reality. What you don’t know might surprise you. And when you finally do know, you might be surprised how quickly your judgment fades into compassion, both for yourself and for your goddess.
About Jess: Jess Berger is a Certified Teen Girl Life Coach who supports girls in maximizing their potential. Jess' coaching provides girls a space to deepen their self-awareness and truly value themselves as confident, powerful and insightful young women. For more info on Jess and her process, check out her website here: www.MyCoachJess.com