As I walked on the treadmill, I could see her again. I had started working out Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and was at the end of the second week in the gym. She’d been there every single day and I was amazed at her laser focus as she worked her way through the gym. She was ridiculously in shape. Not overly skinny, but her body was well toned, and she was just a beautiful girl. I so wished my rear end looked that good in a pair of workout pants!
I’m an observer. I notice people and I’m usually a pretty good judge of character. But where I get thrown off is when I allow comparison to step in. In my mind I’m wondering if she judges me when she sees me plodding along on the treadmill. I do that a lot and it’s something that has kept me out of gyms much more than I’d care to admit. If I get it into my mind, “That person is judging me and laughing at me in their head because I’m so overweight that it’s a joke I’m even here,” then I’m very likely to imagine their personality is a snobby, rude, judgmental personality.
Realistically, though, it’s the complete opposite. In truth, I’m the one being judgmental, snobby, and rude. I’m assigning traits to their personality simply based on my own insecurities and shortcomings. 2 Corinthians says this, “Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.”
Earlier in this passage, Paul is talking about judging on appearances. I realized that morning I was judging by appearances by imagining someone else was judging me by appearances. And I began to think more about judgment. Here’s a few things that I’ve learned about judgment as I’ve wrestled with it.
1. You have no idea what someone else’s life is truly like.
I don’t mean that a few people can’t know you supremely well. But when I see a friend from grade school with what looks like a picture perfect life on Facebook, I don’t know what life is really like because honestly we haven’t talked in close to 20 years. That person at work who is constantly snappy…what pain is in their past? That kid who bullies all the other kids? Where do you think they learned it? As I thought about that beautiful girl at the gym and my desires to look like that, I stopped and thought, “She’s just a girl who comes to the gym and works out. Also, maybe if I keep coming regularly, my rear end WILL look that good in a pair of workout pants.
2. Comparison comes from a place of fear and insecurity.
When I worry about what others think about me at the gym or feel jealous because someone else is getting something that I so desired, it’s not coming from a healthy place. It’s coming from places where I’ve given the enemy ground and he’s taking the opportunity to feed me lies. Comparison says more about the insecurity of the person doing the comparing than it does about the person with the (imagined) shortcomings. One of the worst things about Facebook is the people who feel the need to judge and compare from behind an anonymous screen. But when we do that in our own heads, we’re training our brains to automatically judge without truly getting to know the person, the situation, or anything based in fact. In fact, if you’re constantly finding fault with everyone you encounter, there’s only one common denominator: You.
3. People are judging you a lot less than you might think.
Last May, I was struggling. I was exhausted, overworked, underpaid, and had two kids who kept me busy the rest of the day. I had forgotten to put boundaries and margin into my life. I attended a women’s event and we watched the movie Moms Night Out. At the end, I was in tears because I was truly feeling the way the main character felt and I didn’t know which end was up anymore. I mentioned it to a friend, and she responded, “Really? I always thought of you as, like, supermom.”
Since then, I’ve made it a point to try to say yes to the things I’m supposed to say yes to and no to what I’m not to avoid burnout. I’ve learned to stop and take a few minutes for me even if that means hiring a babysitter for a few hours. I’ve started to post both the highs and the lows of my life on social media because you never know who needs to know that you don’t have it all together. I even didn’t give my kids baths right before going to my mom’s house last week…for years I’ve made sure they had a bath just before we went to avoid judgment, even if they had just bathed the day before. This time they both did kind of need it, but it had been a busy day and there just wasn’t time if we were going to even make it up to my parents’ house that day. It was an enjoyable day for all and my children were both bathed the following morning when we had a day with more time in it.
God’s judgment is the only one we should really be concerned with. Our spouse and our closest confidants who know the whole story will come alongside of us and let us know when we maybe have gotten off track. But the rest of the world? Don’t let their comparisons tear you down. I’d like to leave you with my favorite song from The Greatest Showman, This Is Me. Not to say that our ‘me’ can’t be worked on and improved, but learn to love yourself as you work on yourself.