I like to think of myself as a non-judgemental person. I am a very accepting and open person. I feel that I am pretty empathetic and can easily put myself in others shoes or at the very least try to see things from their perspective. Imagine my surprise then when I realized I judge people constantly. Allow me to explain.
This past week I have read a couple of blog posts that really made me think of how I make snap judgments whenever I pass someone on the street. The first post was sent to me by husband, and it was about how poor people grocery shop. After reading this, I thought about how many times I have been shopping at the grocery store and seen someone else loading up on junk or unhealthy food. I have always thought to myself, “There are so many better options, I wish I/someone could teach them how to be healthier.” In my mind I felt that thinking that was not very judgmental, but that post made me realize it really is. I have no idea where this other person is in their life. I have no idea about their life story. I have no idea what has led them to this place/time/moment. How unfair of me to condemn their eating habits without knowing the full details. One of my main goals is to help people find their healthiest self, no matter what may be going on in their lives. There is no way I can do that by making snap judgments in the grocery store check-out line.
The second post that got me thinking about how judgmental I am was this one by OliveToRun. She talks about another runner she passed a couple of times on her long run and how later she thought about how she would have never guessed he was a runner by the way he looked. Thinking about this, I realized I do the exact same thing. Maybe it’s because I am a runner, whenever I pass people while running I sub-consciously think to myself, “Runner, runner, not a runner, could be a runner, nope, runner, runner….” I never really pay attention to this habit, but boy, what an awful habit. I hate it when people look at me and decide what I can or can’t do based on my appearance. “Well she is tiny, she probably can’t lift very much weight” or “Obviously she is a runner, look at her legs”. These things have been said to my face or in my general vicinity and they always irk me. Since when has the way someone looks contributed to what they are able to accomplish? Yet here I am doing the same thing to other people. It may not be out loud or to their face, but I am still not giving them the benefit of the doubt and judging them on what I think they can do based purely on appearances. When I first started running, I in no way looked like a “typical” runner. I was slow, I could barely huff and puff my way through one mile, and I am sure other people would never have guessed that I was training for a 5K. In my heart and mind though I was still a runner, I was logging the miles and doing the work and I counted myself in the community of runners. Everyone out there pounding the pavement, no matter what they look like, deserves that honor.
Let’s face it, we all are judgmental sometimes. Whether we like to admit it or not, we make snap judgments and place people into categories. In 2001, the International Journal of Obesity published a study about how the weight of a patient significantly affected the attitude of the physician attending. They found that while physicians would order more health tests for overweight patients, they would spend significantly less time with them and they viewed them more negatively than normal weight patients. This is one of the reasons why obesity is such a huge problem. We are quick to judge overweight or obese people and blame them for their problems and we don’t try to offer help or find out what is really going on. How can we expect to help them when doctors’ spend less time with them and view them in a negative light? Who are they suppose to look to for help when people passing them look down on them because of their weight without knowing the full breadth of the issue? Will the AMA recognition that obesity is a disease help or hurt this issue? Only time will tell on that one, but I remain hopeful that we can step out of our judgmental boxes and start to turn things around.
I know that this problem will never be fully fixed; there will always be people out there that will judge others no matter what. I know that I can start to work on myself and learn to look past a person’s food decisions or appearance. If I want to help others reach their optimum health, I have to meet them where they are and work with them and not against them. I really disliked when people made judgments at the beginning of my journey to better health and I dislike when people make comments about my abilities based on what I look like now. I do not want anyone to feel that way, and I really do not want them to feel that way because of my thoughts, words or actions. Instead, we should all work a little harder every day to give people the help and care they deserve and not pass judgments based on appearances.