September 1, 2010 at 10:46 am 5 comments

This word has been popping up with a bit of frequency lately. I certainly toss it around, fearing it from others in my daily interactions with my children, especially lately as Echo yearns for dreadlocks. And apparently I am not the only one that feels discomfort in this department. A good part of yesterday was spent in discussion of how others feel judgement from me. So I have become curious. What is this beast we call judgement and what is so darn scary about it?

According to Wikipedia:

Judgement is the evaluation of evidence in the making of a decision. The term has three distinct uses:

  • Informal and psychological – used in reference to the quality of cognitive faculties and adjudicational capabilities of particular individuals, typically called wisdom or discernment.
  • Legal – used in the context of legal trial, to refer to a final finding, statement, or ruling, based on a considered weighing of evidence, called “adjudication“.
  • Religious – used in the concept of salvation to refer to the adjudication of God in determining Heaven or Hell for each and all human beings.

I think the part we are all afraid of is the first version. We do not like the idea that someone else is making a decision about us. What’s the phrase? Never judge a person until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes? It seems that one of our biggest fears around this idea is that someone will form a judgement of us with too scant information, without really knowing us, without actually becoming us.

But the odds of someone doing this, actually morphing into another human being before they make any decisions is highly unlikely. The truth is that we make decisions about people all the time, rapid decisions, lightning quick ones sometimes based on nothing more than a vibe. These decisions, our judgements, aren’t all bad. We use judgement to pick out boyfriends and girlfriends, later husbands and wives. We use judgement to decide wether or not a particular person is responsible enough to take care of our children. We use judgement, based on a short interview, to decide wether or not a particular person will care for our business, devote their working hours to its success.

Judgement alone can’t be the problem. We employ it everyday in healthy, helpful endeavours. Perhaps we are quite comfortable judging others but when the magnifying glass swings in our direction we get a little squirmy. But that can’t be it entirely either. We love it when the appraisal is favorable; basking in the limelight after a favorable theatrical review, waving proudly the report card that shows high marks, holding out our ring fingers to show the shiny proof of our lover’s evaluation. When we fear judgement we aren’t thinking about these forms. When the decision, that we are a great actress, a fine scholar, a true “catch”, matches our own self-evaluation we are quite thrilled.

Perhaps the judgement we really fear is the kind that results, not in accolades and diamond rings, but in turned up noses and disdain. We worry that the evidence will not be sufficient, that the resulting negative decision will be made based on a single unflattering moment, reaction, or choice. We fear we will be summed up as a bad parent, an unworthy person, or a failure due to this tiny non-representative slice of our selves. It feels unfair and unjust, we are more than just a moment, more than just a bad day, more than just a mom that lets her child’s hair dread.

We want to be liked. We enjoy it when others agree with us, hold us in high esteem, or strive to be near us. Our self-confidence soars when we are praised by passersby, or even when we are sought out by unknown virtual “friends” on Facebook. When even a hint of something else, a bit of criticism or a cold look, moves in our direction we panic.

This all makes sense, as I have experienced everything described above, but as I write it out I can’t help but wonder, SO WHAT? What if the lady at the checkout stand thinks I am an idiot? Even if she has only seen me for a moment and doesn’t have the whole picture of who I actually am? Why does it matter at all? In fact, lets say a particular person does have all the information they need and still finds me an unfit mother or a disagreeable twit, what’s to fear in that either? People have different opinions, and it might actually make my life easier if others discovered they didn’t like me right away. That way I could go my merry way with the people who do like me instead of wasting my time defending myself or campaigning for an esteem that will never arrive.

The more I look at this topic the more it slips through my hands, like trying to grab a handful of cloud. Perhaps judgement is natural and unavoidable. Perhaps fearing it from others is a waste of time. Certainly living a life in order to avoid that judgement is not only impossible but unpleasant. Perhaps we could all just embrace our discerning selves, simply accept that decisions are being made in our minds both consciously and unconsciously, while knowing that the object of our focus is much more than this moment, more and different from anything we could ever pigeonhole. Perhaps while being judged we could acknowledge that our reviewer is simply doing what comes naturally, that she is simply collecting data and sorting it into categories. She is more than this moment as well, more and different from any judgement she might pass in our direction.


Entry filed under: life lessons.

Natty Milestones

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. dig this chick  |  September 1, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    Oh how I share these thoughts. So much more since becoming a mama….seems judgement is thick and unforgiving in all things surrounding parenting. I love your analogy of trying to grab a cloud. Poof.

    While I am confident in how I parent, I am also insecure. I mean, really, I have no idea what I am doing. This is my first time! And I am learning as I go. I try to remind myself that this is the case with all humans….so why feel overly confident or overly insecure? We are all in this village together.

    ps Thanks for being my facebook friend! Ha.

  • 2. Myers  |  September 2, 2010 at 9:48 am

    I have JUST been pondering this stuff … after having had a weekend in which I met some new people and felt judged by one of them — one I didn’t even particularly LIKE — and it haunted me. And I, like you addressed in this post, kept returning … not to the fact that he judged me, but to the question of “WHY.” Why did I care that he judged me to be a certain way? Why did it bother me so much that I was getting written in his book as “Jennifer is too _________.”

    Your last paragraph felt healing to me, in answering this question, particularly this part: “… while knowing that the object of our focus is much more than this moment, more and different from anything we could ever pigeonhole.” It helps to have that overarching perspective. Life goes on — he and I both go on, we both are sorting data we gather into categories and it doesn’t DO anything or mean much beyond that.

    Your perspective allowed me to relax about this and helped give me a different view. Thank you, Natalie!

    • 3. nataliechristensen  |  September 2, 2010 at 7:49 pm

      Oh I am so glad it helped!

  • 4. Jill Dieser  |  September 6, 2010 at 5:42 pm

    Judgement is a beast most of us have to struggle with. The beast had me pinned to the floor, sqirming, while I lived in a tiny town in Northwestern Montana and worked as a public schoolteacher. The Worm Lady reminded me to not loose myself.

    In Bonner’s Ferry, Idaho, there lives a small Farmer’s Market: Chicks, rabbits, homemade doughnuts, handspun wool, yaaks, and the Worm Lady. A thin, slumped woman with a folding table set up near the rear of her station wagon. She wears the brightest, fluffiest, purple hat you’ve ever seen. On the table are different sized, reused plastic bottles filled with a brown sludge. From each bottle’s neck hangs a homemade tag. Near the center of the table is a bowl of gummi worms. This lured me.

    As I and my partner approached, we were unnoticed. The Worm Lady was busy in a conversation with the Dried Herb Lady next door. The Worm Lady’s voice crackled and squealed with excitement. Patrick and I gobbled gummi worms as we read about her worm juice fertilizer.

    “Have you ever eaten a worm?’ I popped to Patrick conversationally.

    “WOOOOOOOOOOOORRRRRRMMMMMSSSSS?” The Worm Lady squeeked in response, and ran over to us. “Of course, you can eat ’em. Won’t hurt you at all.”

    As she opened up a small container and showed us some baby worms that looked like rice floating around in flat root beer, I revelled in her BRIGHT GOLD eyeshadow and her ‘Rainbow Bright’ scarf. As Patrick and the Worm Lady sampled the living worms and called me a “wimp” for not trying them, I was surrounded by a light, wimsical feeling of happiness and contentment. I felt like I was at the top of the world, that I was walking on air. This woman, I judged, didn’t ever think about how someone else saw her. And she felt so good to be around. I was attracted to her energy. She dressed for herself. And shared her interests in life with excitement and not a second thought of what someone else would think of her. Of course, she has had a long life to get over others’ negative judgement.

    She sent us off with a free bottle of worm juice, for the plants, and an invitation to visit her home anytime to see her special black worm homes imported from some European country.

    After that day, I went home, dug out my homemade leg warmers and ten foot scarf, slapped them on, and walked my dog right through that small town. I was scared, and I knew people were thinking I looked strange, but I felt so much better about myself, knowing I was in my own style.

    I think we are all judgemental. It is a natural response, I think originally created to keep us safe. Other peoples negative and close-minded responses to their personal judgements are what keeps me from being myself. But if we, the people who want to live and dress in the ways we feel the most comfortable, let people who use judgement in bad ways influence our decisions, THEY WILL BEAT US! All those people who live in fear of differences, WILL RUN THE WORLD! So, we HAVE to represent our eccentricities, if not for ourselves, to make this world a better world. In turn, as the Worm Lady did for me, we give others the freedom and confidence to represent themselves in the way THEY want, without as much fear.

    Whenever I get insecure, Patrick always reminds me of the Worm Lady. And, I must admit, my insecurities do get the best of me sometimes. But I am happy to report, not ALL the time.

    As for Echo wanting to dread her hair…well, I know it is difficult to tell a 3/4 year old to think about consequences. But these are a few for dreads, being a former dready myself: 1) They do need to be pulled apart as they grow, and this is sometimes painful because it involves tearing. 2) As they grow, sometimes they start pulling on your scalp in unpleasant ways, which leads to more tearing. 3) Once you’ve started the dreading process, and have torn your started dreads into favorable clumps of hair, you need to rat and snarl the ends of the dreads in order for them to shrink up into nice rounded ends, otherwise you get those dreads that have tons of hair sticking out the bottoms. 4) Your hair shrinks to almost half its normal length, or more! Then, it takes years before they grow out into those beautiful dreads you can tie up on your head in beautiful ways. 5)You need to bath your dreads in apple cider vinegar water once in a while to keep the insides of them clean. 6)This might make your scalp pretty dry and mine was already itchy and dry without the vinegar bath. 7) When you’re done with the dreads, you do have to cut your hair pretty darn short. I know some people who have been able to comb some of their hair out, but those people have had thick, course hair. Dreads are definitely not LOW maintenance.

    On a brighter note: I loved having dreads. I cut mine off because they got too heavy and my neck started hating them. Maybe you can compromise. If Echo wants to have dreads, and you will probably be the one left with the maintenance, then maybe you GET to wash her face more, just to make yourself feel better too. She really is at the perfect age to do whatever she wants.

    Good luck! (If you need to know more about starting dreads, I would love to help you.) -Jill

    • 5. nataliechristensen  |  September 6, 2010 at 9:17 pm

      You’re awesome Jill. Thanks so much, for all of this.


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