The Sh*ttyness of Shouldn’t

None of us are free from judging. It’s a central part of human nature. And thank God it is or we would be in a world of hurt. (Should I get into this car? Should I accept this drink? Should I pet this dog that’s frothing at the mouth?) But that’s protective judging- preservative judging that keeps us safe and whole.

I’m talking about judging simply for the sake of having an opinion- being critical in a completely unproductive way. And the older I get, the more I have become exhausted by it.

So many opinions- Their house is unnecessarily big. Her purse is unnecessarily expensive. Those tattoos are tacky. Those piercings are obnoxious. He is too old to be doing that. She shouldn’t be wearing that.

I’m tired of people shouldn’ting all over each other.

I’ve had the benefit of teaching in a wide array of places with many different types of people. Every day I am blown away by their life circumstances and the things they’ve overcome. It’s given me a better understanding as to why people are motivated to do different things, make different life choices, and take different paths. I think this has attributed to my disdain for judgeyness. I’ve seen so many different lifestyles and have made connections with so many different types of people that it is impossible to think there is a blueprint for how things should be. So when people become so bothered by other people’s decisions, I have a really hard time understanding it.

With the era of social media, we are now more subject to judgment than ever. We put much of our lives out there, online, for everyone to see. This is a conscious decision, so I realize many people feel that in and of itself opens you up to criticism and judgment. Sure. I get it. We’ve all seen a cringey post before and wondered why someone would ever post that.

But why do some things stick with us more than other things? Why do we get so irked by other people’s decisions that have nothing to do with us?

A few years ago, a very fit mom of three posted a photo on her blog posing in a revealing workout outfit surrounded by her young three kids with the caption, “What’s your excuse?” Soon after, there was a media sh*tstorm and moms across the nation were infuriated. I was one of them.

(Photo courtesy of, photography by Mike Byerly)

I remember a friend sending me the photo and simply saying, “Thoughts?” I think I sent a 5-paragraph angry response as to all the things that were wrong with this in addition to all of my excuses for why I wasn’t in great shape and getting in a daily workout even though my son was older than her youngest baby.

But the reality is, I wasn’t happy with my body. I wasn’t making workouts a priority and if I had been, I probably would’ve just responded to my friend, “Good for her,” and went about my busy day. And the ironic part is, I probably could’ve gotten a good workout in during the time that I spent writing an angry email response.

Being judgey is basically holding up an ugly mirror. There is something lurking there that we aren’t happy with about ourselves and rather than work on the real issue, we lash out at people who bring attention to our discomfort.

Simply put, if you’re happy with your situation, you’re more apt to be happy for others. (Social media is a good experiment for that, isn’t it?)

But envy is only a part of where judgment stems from. Sometimes we are judgey just because we don’t get it. We criticize what we don’t understand.

The thing is, we don’t have to understand something to accept it.

Another person’s choice may not be something we would’ve chosen, but for whatever reason, that person feels that choice suits them. So unless it is hurting someone or themselves, what does it matter?

One of my best friends once told me “I love your marriage, but I would get bored in it.” She needs more push and pull in a relationship and anything else feels stale to her. I loved her comment. She totally gets it.

Being able to appreciate something knowing that it is simply not for you is a remarkable thing.

The myriad of parenting styles is also a testament to this. In my group of friends, we have all kinds of different methods, from attachment parenting to detachment parenting and everything in between. What works for one mom would drive another mom nuts. But we all do what makes sense for us, and what I see when we all get together is a lot of happy, well-adjusted kids, all getting there their own way.

I think one of the reasons why judgment bothers me so much is because it keeps all of us from being who we really are. All too often we stop ourselves from being ourselves solely based on the fear of what others would think. I almost didn’t title this post this title for the sole reason that it included (gasp) a swear word, (albeit bleeped out). But in the spirit of letting go of judgment, I decided to keep it. Plus, I love alliteration. 

On the surface, fearing judgment can stop us from doing fun things. I have a friend who wanted to buy this purse. It was gorgeous, OTT, and spendy. I, of course, encouraged her to do it. YOLO. She vacillated for a long time and finally chose not to for the fear of what people might say. On a deeper level, fearing judgment stops us from doing all kinds of big life decisions that can completely shift where we are headed. And if we participate in the judgment of others, we are only affirming to ourselves our worst fear: that people are consistently judgey.

Honestly, we are all just trying to figure it out. No one has all the answers. I’ve found that the ones that do have the most insight, though, are not the ones sitting back and pointing fingers. They are the listeners, the doers, the givers, and they learn more from the people they interact with than anything else. And the biggest difference?

They ask questions.

People who don’t understand something but ask questions and join the conversation are the ones who are able to move past judgment. This is how we’ve been able to create movements in Civil Rights, help break down homophobia and chip away at the glass ceiling for women. Asking questions gives way to understanding which helps eliminate judgmental opinions. So at the very least, we can start with more questions.

And it’s easy to sit back on your computer or scroll through your phone on your couch and scoff at something someone posted. But even if it’s not for you, someone else is likely connecting to it. Someone else might have been looking for that product, might have needed the TMI post for a good laugh, and might get inspired by a gym selfie. So scroll on by knowing if it isn’t for you, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t right for someone else.

Ask more questions. Celebrate differences. Let go of the fear of what people ‘might’ be thinking.

And for Godsakes buy that purse that is ridiculously extra.

Just make sure you let me borrow it. 

And here are some books on my reading list you could also check out:
The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck

You Are A Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living An Awesome Life