You can’t be my friend because your shoes are ugly

There comes a point, ladies, when we must stop comparing ourselves to one another. This line ought to have been drawn when High School ended, but unfortunately, for most of us, we still struggle with the same quick-draw judgments that only serve to alienate us from real, meaningful relationships.

I am not sure when exactly, but recently, something clicked in me and I began – even just slightly – to see my environment differently. The shift has remained imperceptible outside of my thoughts, until right now; I feel I have given this enough thought to finally share what I have noticed.

Friends, family, strangers… We are not nice to each other. Have you noticed that? The truth is, if you are honest about your feelings/thoughts/opinions of women around you – how could you not notice it?

We judge. CONSTANTLY.

Whether it is simply the way the woman at the cash register seems disheveled and hurries your groceries along without making eye contact, or perhaps the smell of a passerby at the gym. The cashier most probably is not college educated and is on welfare, otherwise, why wouldn’t she be smart enough to get a better job – treat her appearance as something she is proud of? The jogger at the gym is obviously rude, doesn’t she know proper working-out etiquette, hello – have you ever heard of deodorant?

Perhaps, our judgments appear shallow and without thinking you criticize a fashion choice (OMG what is she wearing?), or a haircut (she must be a dike), and maybe even something like this… A beautiful woman gets out of a Mercedes, dressed in designer labels, when you look at her, what do you see? (She must have married rich…)

Worst still, do we dare convince ourselves we know the heart of a stranger? Snapping off cheap, hurtful thoughts in our heads at people we do not even know – what does it matter, nobody will know what you’re thinking, right?

It is true – we have not yet invented the technology to read minds, but if you had to guess what the woman beside you is thinking, would it really be so hard? As ill-fate would have it, we have all been victim to the tendency to judge and compare ourselves to our female counterparts. So, could you not surmise that, perhaps, she hates your purse and thinks you talk too loudly on the phone?

What got to me the other day, and sparked this thought-shift, was an afternoon at my daughter’s gymnastics class. For the hour we wait while she practices, we sit in the upstairs balcony, partitioned by a glass window. Most of the women there – mothers, just like me – avoid idle conversation and instead mess around on a smartphone. As I sat there, doing my best to stay off my phone, I began looking around me.

Initially, I did not even notice I was doing it. I would never wear that shirt… I wish my hair was just like hers, but I am sure that would be too expensive… Oh. My. GOD look at the size of that DIAMOND!… So on and so forth, until eventually, I had all but minimized nearly every other woman in that room into a pile of possessions that I either pitied or envied.

It occurred to me, call it a moment of clarity, that I was NO better than any of them. Moreso, that just because she wears all designer labels and I am in Target clothes SHE is no better than me. Just because that woman sends her kids to a public school, and the woman over there obviously has a nanny run her house because she doesn’t have the time – it does not mean these women are bad, wrong, or worse/better than me… In fact, because I was being honest, in that moment, I considered us more connected than we allow ourselves to realize. . .

Because, we label one another – constantly. We compare ourselves – constantly.

Someone else always has it better – or obviously worse – we minimize each other’s accomplishments and say “she probably didn’t deserve that promotion but got it because she looks like that,” Or worse, “She works at McDonalds because she must be stupid, man, I feel sorry for her kids to have a mother like that!”

What we fail to realize when we do this, more than isolating each other from fellowship with each other, I that we isolate OURSELVES from true happiness. True contentment. True joy.

Who cares what car your neighbor drives – maybe she grew up dirt poor and had to walk everywhere so now she cares a lot about having reliable transportation. Who CARES how much money your friend spent on her purse – SHE paid for it, not you, so what the hell does it matter? Who cares what kind of food she packs in her children’s lunch box – at least she took the time to ensure her child would not be hungry, and besides, maybe her son will ONLY eat chicken nuggets this month (I have a daughter on an oatmeal kick myself)…

The point is, the scenarios are endless, because the judgments just never seem to stop. The comparisons are a dime a dozen.

The problem isn’t her, it’s you. It is me. It is ALL OF US. And if you say this does not apply to you, well, I do not feel like that is honest – we all do it to varying degrees, some of us are either just better at hiding it or are really delusional about how the world works.

How about, instead, we propose a favor – for all of us.

Stop.

Just stop.

You will notice yourself doing it. I promise. And I promise it’ll sting a little when you realize how much it happens.

Sometimes, I might add, the judgments do not even come out as criticism against the proverbial “her”, but are insights into how you view YOURSELF: “She is way prettier than me – I feel fat… Her kids don’t throw tantrums like mine do – I must be a horrible mother… I wish I could wear that dress – I wish I made more money…” We like to point to what other people have and use THAT as leverage to make ourselves feel badly about OUR life. This happens as much, if not more in some cases, than does the cruel judgments of others. Watch for that, too.

Just stop.

Because we are all valuable, amazing, beautiful, smart, and worthy women.

YOU are a great mother – even if your child only eats chicken nuggets. YOU are successful – even if you work at McDonalds, because at least you wake up every day and get your job done. YOU are smart – even if you never finished college and got that dream job. YOU are beautiful – from a size 0 to whatever…

To the mothers at my daughter’s gymnastics – I am sorry, but thank you. For whatever reason, that day, I stopped.

I stopped judging you long enough to see that it was my snap criticism that kept us from getting to know each other. We could have been friends, I am sure. I was wrong, and I hope you forgive me. Next Wednesday, I will bring a smile and an open ear, and most of all, a clear, quiet and open mind.

We owe it to each other to try. And keep trying.

Relationships are hard to forge through a veil of self-protection masked as judgment. We hurt each other, and we hurt ourselves. I just don’t feel like doing that anymore. I am sorry that I spent 29 years thinking this was just the way things are – that treating others, and myself, like an item to be appraised and discarded meant I was doing things normally.

The truth is, we are all beautiful but we won’t see that until we stop. I am sure the woman next to you would love to talk about life, parenting, marriage, traffic. Just to have a reason to put her cell phone down. A reason to stop pretending she does not need a friend like you. She needs a friend, but I denied her that when I criticized her unkempt hair and dirty shoes – because I thought I was better. She needs a friend, but she looked at me and thought, what could we possibly have in common?

I have been there – so have you. Can we stop the old way and start here?

 

2 thoughts on “You can’t be my friend because your shoes are ugly

  1. Great post! I’ve been noticing this a lot, too. Pretty sure I read somewhere that people formulate opinions/judgements of others within a second of looking at them. It’s almost like a reflex. But, yeah, it’s bad that these split second judgements tend to be negative or detrimental to the other person and/or to the one doing the judging. I’ve been trying to keep my first thoughts positive (or at least neutral/open)

  2. I guess I am odd, because all my life I have never judged anyone by the way they looked or what they wore, I never felt better than anyone else. Probably because I never had much in the way of clothes growing up or lot’s of shoes or the newest popular outfits. I loved all people for who they were not how they looked. This is the way I was brought up, and I instilled this in all my children too. I did enjoy this story and yes we all need to start the new way of thinking.

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