This quote is problematic. I don’t think it’s true and I do think it’s true. Read my friend’s story below then let us know what you think.
I Am Good
I have a friend who has worked REALLY hard to get in shape over the years. She has lost a fair amount of weight, is running and doing cross training and is eating better than she used to. Her body reflects that. She has every reason to be proud of her efforts and her results, and she is. She not only is fit herself but she works hard to encourage others to be fit and healthy as well. I would say she is a good person.
I Am Bad
Recently she told myself and another friend that she had gone to a public pool. She said it was the best she had felt in many, many years. She said it was an incredible feeling. Then she said this:
“I am a terrible person”
Needless to say we were a bit confused. “What do you mean, you are a terrible person?” we asked.
She said, “I am a terrible person because I kept looking at all the other women at the pool and was so happy I looked better than they did. I judged them.” She judged their lack of taste and self-awareness in their choice of bathing suit. She judged their shape. She judged their lack of fitness. All the while she was gaining more and more pride in herself. Her bathing suit was a great choice because it showed off her body so well. Her fitness level was obvious. Her tan and hair were awesome. In other words, she was better than they were. And she felt that judgment made her a terrible person.
We bantered back and forth about about this, part of me trying to make her feel better about herself, persuading her that she wasn’t a terrible person. And she isn’t.
What Sort of Judgment?
But her day at the pool illustrates something we all can do so easily, and that is to render terrible judgments. She was immediately aware of herself doing this, even while at the pool and explained why this is so. She said it’s a terrible judgment because it is both ignorant and driven by ego insecurity.
First, she said it is ignorant; she does NOT know these other women. She doesn’t know if the women with the too revealing bikini that is also too tight is broke and is wearing the only hand me down bathing suit she has had in the past five years. She doesn’t know if the woman who is too skinny perhaps has a glandular or hormonal problem. She doesn’t know if the woman with the fake breasts had breast cancer or had been teased all her life for being a double A cup.
Second, she said it is driven by ego insecurity. She felt good about her body one minute and then started speaking in her head something along the lines of, ’What if that woman over there thinks I am too thin?’ ’What if that other woman thinks I am slutty for having on this small of a bikini?’ To defend against that imagined judgment she preemptively judges them. ” Who are they to judge me?” or “I have better abs than she does”, or “Look at what a terrible example she is to her child being overweight like that” and other self-righteous internal mind retorts.
What she said she realized during the time at the pool and after, as she looked inward and didn’t like her judging others, was that she can just enjoy her own positive judgment of herself and her efforts while saying no to cutting down others. SHE likes her body. SHE feels good about how her bathing suit looks on her. SHE is proud of the work she as done. That is a done deal, no need to judge others to get there for herself.
She can also imagine the lives of these other women in new ways. She can have creative empathy with them. She might not ever get to know them, but that doesn’t matter. If she can imagine they are lazy, then she can also imagine they are hard working. If she can imagine they are slutty, then she can also imagine they are recovering. If she can imagine they are trying too hard, then she can imagine they are doing their best.
What I loved about the story she told was her openness about her day and the self-awareness about her thought process. She was doing the hard mental and emotional work of transforming her thoughts and her heart in equal measure to her hard work of transforming her body.
And that makes her a very good person in my book. Thanks A for letting me tell your story.
What are your thoughts about the quote and the story? Have you had personal experiences with this? Can you relate? Chime in in the comments!
Drawing and commentary by Marty Coleman
Quote by Helen Rowland, 1875-1950, American Humorist and Journalist
Did you read my recent Travel series? I went to St. John in the Virgin Islands, had some amazing adventures, and drew and photographed most everything. Check it out. An Island Cottage Adventure.