We are all individuals. Each one of us is prone to experience love, desire, hate, jealously, immense joy, and soul-crushing pain—all of which makes us inescapably human. We’ve all heard it before, but no one is perfect. There is not one person who has lived who has not made a mistake. Whether your misstep has been as small as failing a test, cursing someone out, or flipping the bird, or as big as sleeping with the wrong person, getting arrested, or cheating on your mate—we’ve all fucked up one time or another.
Given our humanness and the high probability we’ll have to utter the words, “my bad,” it’s amazing just how judgmental some of us can be.
The examples are infinite. One look at any popular website’s comment section and you’ll quickly find people not only sharing their opinion about the topic, but also making very broad judgments about either the article or (and this is most often the case) other readers on the site.
A few weeks ago, our sister site Coco + Crème published an article discussing Black women and plastic surgery. Although women of all nationalities have gone under the knife, when Black women undergo cosmetic procedures, we (black folks) seem to have the most to say about it.
The article aimed to illicit our views on cosmetic surgery, and from the looks of the comments, we have a lot to say. Some commenters called women who have cosmetic surgery lazy and questioned their self-esteem, while other readers didn’t see a problem with a little enhancement. Instead of just agreeing to disagree, many comments turned into personal attacks and eventually, the Coco + Crème team closed the comments and issued a statement reminding readers to be respectful.
As a writer, I have (almost) gotten used to people taking personal shots at me simply for the things I write. But it hasn’t been easy. Recently, when I wrote an article asking if we’re over the Chris Brown incident, one reader took particular offence and called me everything from “pathetic” to a “bitch” and said I needed prayer simply because I mentioned being suspicious of the sincerity of Brown’s apologies. For some reason, this reader had a difficult time separating the article from the person who wrote it, and decided to make judgments about my character simply because we had different opinions.
Don’t get me wrong, I love opinions. Prompting a sincere discussion about a topic is one of the reasons I love to write. There is nothing more fulfilling than learning something new from a reader (or anyone) who took the time to share their point of view. So opinions are not the enemy, we are all entitled to our own. But when expressing our opinions on a particular subject devolves into name-calling and irrational curse-outs, there’s something definitely wrong.
Every time I see someone defending a celebrity or their own decisions by asserting, “Only God can judge,” then proceeding to call someone who disagrees with them an idiot or delusional, or question their intelligence, I wonder why some of us feel so comfortable dishing out judgments as if we are the Divine.
Last summer I began seeing a therapist. I stepped out on faith (and even went against the beliefs of some of my family and friends) because I no longer wanted to walk around pretending to be superwoman. When I began my sessions one of my goals was to shake my need to be so guarded. I’m a fairly private person and some things (i.e. the complicated nature of my relationship, or how much I wanted to pursue a different career) I tend to keep to myself. The downside of such privacy, however, is that I felt I was always holding something back from my crew and that few people actually knew me. Even though my friends and family have my back, in the corner of my mind I still kept things to myself because I didn’t want them to judge me. I didn’t want them to see me differently just because I wasn’t as strong, or as unflinching, or as together as I seemed to be.
As I worked through my fear of being vulnerable with the ones I love, my therapist reminded me that people tend to judge others because it’s easier to recognize a fault in someone else than deal with it in their own life.
For instance, it’s easy for us to tell our girl to leave that no good, trifling man alone even though we have our own questionable partner at home. While we can rattle off 99 reasons why we stay with someone others may hate (I love him, we’ve been through a lot, he was there for me when…), we can’t seem to understand why another woman would subject herself to a dysfunctional relationship and are quick to label her as “weak” or perhaps even “stupid” for not leaving.
The more vulnerable I have become—both publically through my work and privately with my fam—the more I have learned that no matter what you do, people will judge you. And instead of getting bent out of shape about other people’s misinformed views of you, it’s best to just leave it be. Yes, your first inclination may be to clap back and prove that you are not what they think you are, but really…who cares? As long as you are confident in yourself and your decisions, nothing else really matters.