Don’t Judge a Dog by His/Her Bark

“Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.” ~Alan Alda

Hi all! I hope everyone is having a splendid week. I figured this was a more creative title than the usual “don’t judge a book by its cover.” Also, I am really craving some time with a puppy. Anyway, there were several instances this week that led me to think about this topic. The first:

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Isn’t it interesting that most of us would see her on the street and form opinions, judgments, thoughts about who or what we thought she was, without recognizing we were even doing it? Who would have guessed she was in the plumbing industry? I will be the first to admit that I would have never thought that.

Second, during The Moth podcast, where various intriguing people tell narrations of their lives, a woman in her mid-50’s was discussing her current profession – she’s a librarian. And she was explaining to the audience that years ago, she was standing naked in the middle of a hippie dance circle, high on life. Who would have thunk it?

I cannot remember the first time someone in my life taught me to make assumptions or judgments about others. I’m sure it started off innocently enough, but then these mental voices build and build, and suddenly you may be in a place where you decide you don’t need to get to know others anymore because you assume their whole life story, personality, and being. This holds you back from being present and in the moment with the other person; you may find yourself not listening to what they are saying because you assume you already know it.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I work in the mental health field and am constantly having to reassess any stereotypes or judgments that are really engrained into me. Mental illness does not discriminate, and people of all shapes, sizes, races, religions, economic statuses can being struggling with hard times that no one else knows about. Families that seem incredibly put together and white picket fence picture perfect can have domestic violence going on. Happy-go-lucky friends you see at your Wednesday morning gym class could have a history of being neglected.  This job is definitely helping me examine my own assumptions of who these negative experiences affect.

Once you realize that you may make presumptions about others and are ready to challenge this, it’s time to unlearn stereotypes and assumptions that you were raised knowing as truth.  Doing this means catching yourself in the moment, and reminding yourself that not everyone fits the mold that society may have created for you.  Letting go of these judgments allows for you to start fresh with another person, and get to know them without expecting anything of them; you can both be present and on equal playing fields.

Another layer onto this is once you notice that you make judgments about others, you also notice that you make judgments and assumptions about others’ actions. And this is how doing this really negatively impacts us. When we think we know someone and understand their intentions behind what they say and do, it can lead to us feeling really hurt and isolated. For example, you assume you know your co-worker really well, you both work at the same place, you eat lunch together once a week, you know she has a dog. What more is there to it? She comes in and says that she needs to talk to you later, and automatically your mind starts racing. You make assumptions based on her words, that you are in trouble, did something wrong. However, it turns out she just wanted to talk to you about how stressed out she’s been and asking if you had any suggestions. Sigh of relief, but those mental gymnastics could have been prevented (somewhat) by reminding yourself that each person is a blank slate; you don’t know what they’re going to say or do!

Moral of the story: treat yourself kindly and gently , also remember to do the same to others because you never know their story until you ask. Happy weekend everyone!

How can you promote a judgment-free zone in your own life?



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