How we view the world
I’m Xenia and I’m starting my first real blog here on QRI. I can’t promise regular entries, since living with two small children can make your life take funny turns, but I’m going to try to write on a monthly basis.
My first topic is one that kind of leaped into my face a few weeks ago, when summer finally decided to show up. Suddenly FB was swamped with statements that everybody should be allowed to wear what they want and need to feel comfortable during the hot season. To be honest, I was shocked that many people with bodies that don’t fit the society-approved norm felt the need to make a preemptive strike. I thought the times of body-shaming among decent folk were over. Boy, was I mistaken! When I read some of the acidic and down-right mean comments, I couldn’t believe it.
The longer I thought about it, though, the more obvious it became that probably nobody refrains from judging others, almost always in a negative way. It’s what we do as human beings. I discussed it with my husband and he said it was once a matter of life and death to decide on first glimpse whether another person was a threat, a potential sex partner, or a friend. This habit of putting others in groups we either relate to, admire, or look down on is like a reflex and comes to us as naturally as breathing. We look at other people and thoughts about their clothing style, their hair, their jewelry, their car, the way they talk, walk, or act, flit through our mind. We compare them to ourselves, and either feel intimidated, because we sense they are somehow better than we are, drawn to them because we recognize a kindred soul, or we loathe them, because, obviously, they do things the wrong way.
And because we constantly judge others, even if we don’t want to, even if we view ourselves as tolerant, liberal persons, we also judge ourselves. We always measure our own lives against those of the others and that makes for a very stressful existence.
I’m not saying judging others is a bad thing per se. It does well to steer clear of people we think are a threat to our lives, because there are dangers out there and our instincts are not completely superfluous. The problem is how we still allow them to rule over us in normal situations. It’s a difference if I think a tall man with a hoodie who follows me around after nightfall poses a threat to me (he could be perfectly harmless, of course, but chances are, he isn’t), or if I talk bad about somebody because I think the way they dress insults my sense of fashion.
Most of us know where to draw the line. We realize it’s one thing to bitch about a person’s body among friends and telling that person to the face. Most of us are also, sometimes dimly, aware that a man in biker clothes is not necessarily evil incarnated (the same goes for women with ‘slutty’ clothes, men with fabulous make-up, people with multi-colored hair or tattoos, or, or, or… you know what I mean).
The real problem are the people who have forgotten where the line is. People who don’t give a damn about being decent or polite. People who are so unhappy with their own lives, they have to constantly talk others down in order to justify themselves.
I know, nothing really new about those insights. But here’s the good news. Neuroscience has found out that the way we view the world, the way we view ourselves, shapes who we are more distinctly than scientists ever thought possible.
The next time you feel the need to think something mean about another person (we all do, usually multiple times a day, depending on our mood, it’s natural) try to rein your thoughts in and find something positive instead. So that woman does have a few pounds too many, but her hair is beautiful and she’s wearing a stunning tunic. So that man has crooked teeth and with his leather jacket, he looks like a member of the Hell’s Angels, but his bike is really cool and he just bought a stuffed toy. These are, of course, the usual examples, but I’m sure we all have encountered all kinds of different, yet similar, situations. I tried to get a grip on my inner bitch and though it doesn’t always work and there are times when I gladly let her out to wreak some havoc, I also noticed that trying to be positive about others has made me more positive about myself. I don’t reflexively assume the worst when somebody talks behind my back anymore, because I’m trying not to talk bad about others as well, which makes me less suspicious. And that is a great relief.
If you like my blog, or want to add your own opinion, I’m always happy to hear from you! You can also visit me on www.facebook.com/XeniaMelzer