Thursday, 22 December 2016

On being judgmental: a note on understanding oneself

I started drafting this a while back. It started out being a list of observations that I made recently from the stories that I’ve been told, and this list has been growing. None of these concerns me other than the mere fact that the people who are closest and dearest to me are affected by these, in one way or another. 

This list, summarised, would read: why people are so mean.

Like seriously.

This is the kind of mean-ness that spans beyond the type that's done borderlining sarcasms and jovial teasing, you know the kind that makes you wonder like, did you really just say that. but you don't really want to say it out loud because you wonder if it is you who's being overly sensitive. occasionally, you get to the point of saying 'why are you so mean' and call it a day because holy fuck, you just cannot stand to stay quiet any longer. not because the said person hurts you, but because the said person is coming across as one mean, nasty individual.

and then something that's truly nasty happens, or rather, you heard of a story of something real nasty, and you're reminded of what the true meaning of the word is. Some people are mean and nasty beyond words. I am talking about the people who derive feeling good out of making other feel shit. You know, the kind that engages in levelling - either they set themselves as persons of equal stature to a person in authority, and/or they try to equate their own character and values with someone else's who is more mature and/or superior in character. 

I get that this life is hard and everyone is struggling one way or another. I get that everyone is trying their best. But does that really grant them the excuse to make other people feel like shit when they feel like shit? Does it really grant them the licence to manipulate others to get what they want? I mean really, that's an excuse at best, a childish emotional response in truth. Maybe I shouldn't have said that last bit because I am not a trained psychologist. (That said, I do have an issue with those who regularly diagnose people from a distance, and yes, that includes you people who are reading this blog and then making assertions about knowing me and psychological well being. thank you for your concern; I guess you are so concerned about me that you forget to be polite.)

So, why are people so mean?

There is no easy answer to this question. And I am not going to attempt to answer this. Because I think this answer carries different meanings to the person who tries to answer. Something along the lines of what's true from one's perspective does not make it the ultimate truth. We can only deduce base on our own experiences. I am guilty of a lot of inherent biases. I realise this. Often times, I know that I am being biased as it happens. I also don't think I will ever be bias free. And sometimes, I think I am way to opinionated for my own good. But that's another story altogether.

It is common to regard the judgments we make are actually a reflection of our own struggles. They are our battles that are hiding the lessons that we are yet to learn. And these hidden lessons are frightening because they are yet to be known, they are the lies that you told yourself, if you were to be completely honest with yourself. I am a major proponent for honesty, but being honest with myself is a completely different ball game altogether. Because it's fucking hard. I lost so many times. I started with the best of intentions and it almost always peaked into one of the harshest outbursts that are blown out of proportion. These moments used to make me feel human. These days, they make me feel small. Really small.

If there's anything I learn in the past two years, then that would be to speak my truth with more grace and kindness. And to keep it as simple as I possibly can. I learn that to successfully focus on the important things requires me to firstly work out what those important things are. And I realise that most of the things that I thought were important turn out to be not as important as they used to be. Either I imagined their importance in my life, or I perceived them to be more important than they actually are for all the wrong reasons. I learn to be more intimate with my thoughts, particularly my judgments, because I think these judgments are really directed towards aspects of myself that I have been unhappy about for the longest time (and deny this fact all throughout).

Like for example. I have loved and lost like a million times in this life (exaggeration). I still quite vividly remember what it felt like to have my heart shattered into pieces. Not because it's not resilient but because there were certain people who had the ability to do so at that point in time. In every relationship, we tried to do the best we can. We tried to love the best we can. We tried to be the best partner we can be, we try to do the right thing all the time. And truth is that we don't do the right things all the time. We are not the best partners all the time. We get tired. We get irritable. We get impatient. We get insecure. We get jealous. We get angry. We have all the best intentions in the world and we don't always get to execute them the way we'd like to. We are not perfect. We are still human after all.

A dear friend and I got to swap notes on relationships recently. It was a blunt discussion of what we thought about anything and everything and we were absolutely judgmental in that conversation. We discovered that we were more willing to be kind when it came to the struggles of our closest friends, but we might not exercise the same degree of kindness when someone else not close to us experienced similar issues. We were quick to judge. And we were quick to deny that we were quick to judge. We like to think that we exercise the same degree of kindness to everyone we encounter, yet truth is that most of the time, despite the best of intentions, things just haven't turned out the exact way we wanted. It took sometime for us to come to the realisation that all of our judgments are actually directed at ourselves, and that we are better off using these as our mirrors to understand what's truly bothering us on a subconscious level.

Another dear friend, who is stunningly gorgeous btw, discussed, amongst many things, why people are so quick to give 'advice' as to what we should do when faced with uncomfortable circumstances. I am all in for asking for advice and giving advice where appropriate. The key words are "where appropriate" because that's exactly the point: what is appropriate given the circumstances, given the particular point in time? And to add to the confusion, despite the similarities in circumstances, what I deem appropriate for me might not be appropriate for someone else. It is, after all, a point of view at best. A single fucking opinion. Yet why do we often regard this as the ultimate truth? 

When it comes to other people's advice, we have no choice but to be discerning. Being responsible in decision-making means considering all viable options and considering the different point of views, in particular those that are entirely different from yours. This is crucially important if your decision is going to have implications for people who have no final say on the matter. The onus is on us, the ultimate decision maker, to ask this one vital question: what are the net, net consequences of my decision?

I take the ultimate responsibility for making the decision and implementing the said decision in my life. This is because i am the one who gets to live my life. I cannot (and will not) blindly follow everyone's advice, even when they are done in good faith. If I am not emotional comfortable with something, I bet this emotional vibration will somehow manifest within my behaviour and through my lens of judgment. So really, I am better off doing giving it its rightful space the first time. No pressure ;)

Most of the time though, people mean well. They are only concerned about you, and they often want the best for you. They want you to be the best version of yourself. They won't put you into awkward positions, or subject you to emotional manipulation because they are genuinely concerned about your well-being. Most of the time, people will empathise with you sans judgments. They will sit with you and offer a listening heart and as much time as they can possible afford to give. Because these people believe in preserving humanity.

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