It’s hard to escape a feeling of defensiveness when someone comments in surprise on your habits. Take the following example:
Yesterday I met some old school friends for lunch. We got around to discussing family dinners and the likes, and I happened to mention how – for sanity reasons – we were trying having every week be more or less the same meals: Meatballs Monday, Thursday (now moved to Wednesday), Roast on a Sunday that becomes Salad and cold meat on a Tuesday, Fish on Saturday, Falafel on Wednesday (now moved to Thursday) and one free day – which is actually a date-ish night for me and G. when we don’t eat with the children.
One of my friends commented “Oh, you eat I lot of meat.” I replied “Yes, we do.” and then proceeded to justify, though I didn’t get out half the justification I had wanted. We want to get the boys eating a more varied diet, so were trying to eat our meals together with them. But we’re also trying to repeat the same meals a lot so that they become familiar for them. Meat is quick and easy to cook, however the meat we are eating is really just us buying meat twice and using it over four meals.
I felt kind of attacked, offended and defensive. Actually I’d like to eat purely vegetarian meals more often but (a) it would be a bigger struggle to get the boys to eat it and (b) there’s an energy cost involved in those meals that just isn’t present in the dinners we’re currently focused on repeating.
Then it turned out that the friend who made that comment is able to have “different” meals because she and her husband never eat with their children, so I guess I could judge that! But no, it’s not a competition on judgement. Last year we rarely ate with the boys, and the main reason we’re pushing so hard to do it this year is to get them to eat a more varied diet, and that’s easier to do when we sit down together as a family and they are more inclined to try food they see us eating.
Hah, I guess there’s no escaping judgement around food – even when it’s not explicitly tied to weight!
Actually, I don’t think my friend was trying to come across as judgemental. I know her well for many years and she’s one of the kindest-hearted supportive people out there. She has a tendency to speak her thoughts and surprise when the world doesn’t align with the way she’s sorted it out for her own head. Amusingly, her own decisions are probably not always the most “usual” in life, and yet she continues to be surprised that other people do things differently.
So I guess the judgement is coming from me and from my own perceptions. She wasn’t judging, I was feeling judged. It was all my own construct.
It happens all the time in all areas of my life. I’m getting more and more wary when I hear the voice of my Judgemental Crow spouting acid appraisals of others (oh yeah, he does that, you know. I have a lot of judgement in me and I’m not at all proud of it), because I know that (a) he’s never looking at the whole person and understanding all the circumstances and (b) he’s a millisecond away from directing that same acid in my direction.
I’m pretty woke to Judgmental Crow’s origin story and purpose. He’s all about protecting me from the harsh glare of society’s judgement and wants to stop me making terminal mistakes that will get me kicked out of the tribe to die alone in the wilderness. Judgemental Crow is a super young part – younger even than modern humanity in lots of ways – who at his core is about survival. If we don’t fit in, we won’t have the support of the group. And without the support of the group, we die.
That’s not really so true in modern life – in a way all we need is one person now – but the same triggers are hardwired into our low-primate brain, and triggered super easily.
So what? Well, being judged and being judgey is kind of a miserable way to scowl your way through a day. I don’t appreciate it in others and I’m not going to tolerate it in myself. Again, I mean this in a kindly parental sort of a way – similar to when I won’t tolerate rudeness in my flesh-children. I still love them, but it’s important they modify that behaviour in order to grown into better, stronger people.