Judge not, unless you want to be shocked…
September 28, 2009 4 Comments
This weekend I was blessed with the opportunity to spend time with some of my great aunts and cousins. These are family members who all live in other states and were gathered this weekend to celebrate my great aunt and uncle’s 25th wedding anniversary. I wanted to go, I needed to go, but my anxiety reared its head and almost convinced me to skip it, by giving me these kinds of thoughts –These people are the exact opposite of everything I am – they are career driven, rich, and never make mistakes or say the wrong thing. We have nothing in common, so why should I go?
I forced myself to get dressed and the hubby and I drove over. During the drive, I felt like I was walking the Green Mile and was full of anxiety. When we first got there, everyone was in the back yard, sitting around chatting and drinking and eating, having a generally good time. I was uncomfortable at first but gradually I relaxed, by cracking some jokes and telling myself that they liked me no matter what. We had a great time. So great, in fact, that when everyone else got tired and went home, the two of us and my mother stayed to spend some quality time with my deceased grandmother’s sisters, Aunt M and Aunt J. Eventually they began to ask questions about my past, and my anxiety went through the roof. How were they going to react to hearing that I’d spent years as a pot smoking drunk just to avoid my anxiety, which I was sure neither of them even had?
“Mom and I had a huge fight and I ran away when I was sixteen.” (Let’s gloss over the unimportant details.) “I moved in with my boyfriend who was really into drugs.” (Let’s not tell precisely which drugs he used. That’s not important. Keep as much dignity here as you can.) “I started this cycle of waking up and getting drunk and staying that way all day. I spent four years like that. I couldn’t function without alcohol running through my veins.”
I was expecting to see looks of horror or disbelief on their faces; instead, they were both nodding in understanding, prompting me to go on, listening attentively. When I started telling them about my panic attacks, which began when my daughter was six months old, and the continuing rise of my anxiety, they were both on board, non judgmental, not disappointed…it was astonishing. It was amazing, honestly.
And then, they started telling their own stories. And believe me, they had them.
I was stunned beyond belief. If you would have put a group of people in a room and asked me to pick out which ones suffered with any kind of emotional illness, these two would have been the ones that I pointed at and said, “I know for sure it’s not them.” It really rocked some of my most basic beliefs about the people in my life to see that my great aunts had been there and felt what I felt and suffered the same way. It also made me realize how secretive those of us with these kinds of issues can be.
I realized that I have been every bit as judgmental as I was terrified others would be of me. I am so busy keeping my secrets that I convince myself no one else has any of their own to guard. I don’t expect anyone to be perfect, but I was so busy yelling at myself that they are all better than I am, that I put them up on a pedestal and expected perfection from them. Of course I am afraid of being judged – if everyone is perfect, and I am scum of the earth, they aren’t going to love me or respect me, right?
That night taught me a lot, both about my family, and about my own perceptions and how I add to my anxiety in ways I haven’t been aware of until now. It’s time to step back and look at my own judgmental thoughts when I am in a social situation of any kind; be open and honest with the ideas I am having about others. Evaluate the chances that I am giving them the job of being perfect while demeaning my own worth, and feeling judged because I am judging them as well.
What about you? Are there people in your life whom you’ve given misplaced perfection to? Are there people who you are avoiding, or extremely uncomfortable around, because of what they might think of you? How much of that feeling is honestly true? What can you do to change your thinking about the situation?
Lesson for the day – change your mental tape, even the parts of it you are sure are set in stone. Change your thoughts and let the power of reality help you find balance in your thinking!