Who am I to Judge?
It’s funny that as you get older, you start to care less and less about what people think of you.
I say this as I sit in an Irish airport, having just ordered an exceptionally large glass of wine on a Wednesday morning (well it’s 11am, so that’s basically the afternoon, right?).
There would have been a time in which I wouldn’t have ordered this mediocre sauvignon blanc, even though it’s what I really want. I would have been too scared of what people would think of me: ‘What an irresponsible adult! Doesn’t she know what time it is? She’s an alcoholic! Alert the Church elders!’
Perhaps my highly self-conscious self from the past would have been so consumed with the worry of what others think of her, she would have ordered a coffee (with cow’s milk, not oat, because Irish people have strong opinions about milk alternatives and God forbid they should judge me).
However, I seem to have reached a magical, revitalising conclusion in recent months: people can think what they want about me, but that shouldn’t have any impact on what I do or how I feel.
They may be looking at me and thinking I’m an alcoholic, or they may be looking at me with respect, or envy, or sheer delight. Let’s be honest, the Irish typically promote and spur on day-drinking rather than look at it with judgment. Sláinte everybody!
So, why was I, like so many people, so fearful of the judgment of others? Of people I don’t even know and may never even see again? So many sentences I have started with the phrase: ‘Don’t judge me, but…’
I remember one particular experience where the judgment of my peers was visceral.
I was on a school trip to Manchester (God knows why). We were staying in a hotel and every morning they had one of my favourite things on offer: a breakfast buffet. At this buffet they served chips. Chips! My 11 year old eyes nearly popped out of my head. I, being the chip fanatic that was (and still am), piled my plate and cheerfully marched to my table of friends, excited to show them the absolute treasure trove I had uncovered. Were they on my wavelength? Nope! I had every side eye, eye roll and shocked hand over mouth imaginable. You would have thought I’d brought a honey-roasted pigeon back to the table. I ate my chips, but sadly not with the vigour and happiness I had felt before, but with shame and embarrassment.
I look back and feel so sorry for little pre-pubescent Anna, who just wanted to rejoice in the fact that she was eating chips at 9am on a Tuesday in Manchester.
This experience taught me a lot: firstly, that chips at any time of day is always a good idea. Secondly, if you go against the grain even slightly, people will have something to say about it. It is therefore our job, our obligation, to not get soaked in their shower of judgment. You have to accept the fact that if you are thinking outside of the box and you need to be okay with people having an opinion on it, whether positive or negative (most likely negative, sorry to say).
Often when you are a child you unashamedly do what you want, oblivious to the opinions of those around you. This sense of self-consciousness arrives later on. I blame this over-awareness of other’s opinions on the same thing I blame a lot of my problems on: school. (Slightly ironinc that school was such a traumatic place for me, yet I chose to be a teacher – really didn’t think that one through at all).
Being accepted by those around you goes back to the beginning of time, when the wheel was a new and revolutionary concept. You crave the approval of your tribe, your crew, your posse. This seeking of approval and wanting to fit in has been unwavering throughout generations. I’m sure my own grandmother once sat in an airport craving a white wine before her flight, yet chose a pot of tea instead because Betty or Gladys was at the table opposite her and the side eye that would have been thrown would have been debilitating.
We shouldn’t be fearful of people’s opinions. They are simply informative, perhaps inspiring, but should wash off us like water on a duck’s back. They shouldn’t pierce into us and make us question the choices we make. We are autonomous beings, free to make whatever choices we desire.
You want to eat ice cream for breakfast? You’re an adult, go for it. Want to stay up all night playing Sims? Fantastic – just be prepared to be tired in the morning. You want to sell all your worldly possessions and go live in a yurt? Why not, I’m sure you’ll have a great time. Want to do another degree at the age of 80? People may think you’re mad, but really, you’re an inspiration.
We have the right to do whatever we want (excluding illegal activities, of course). As long as what we are doing is not harming anyone or anything, or causing negativity, we should be allowed to do it.
People can judge you, they are entitled to their own judgments, but ultimately the choices in your daily life are yours to make. You can’t, you shouldn’t, live your life based off other people’s thoughts, opinions and ideals. You are your own human with a brain, so for the love of God use it.
Now, I don’t want to go all ‘YOLO,’ because that is very 2012, but the idea remains the same: you probably have this one life, and the reality is that you’ll end up regretting the things you didn’t do more than the things you did do. Stop worrying and just do what you want to do. Surprise everyone around you all of the time and be a big, controversial topic in conversation. Be a trailblazer and stir confusion and curiosity amongst those around you. Who wants to be boring anyway?
And remember, it’s always 5 o’clock somewhere! Cheers my dears!