A friend recently asked Alex how I deal with judgement.
Listening to him explain it from the outside was interesting. I guess that what it looks like is a bit different from what it feels.
He described a woman who decided that judgement didn’t necessarily matter and that wasn’t going to let it get in her way. I guess the whole “dance like no one is watching” thing.
In reality I decided that judgement didn’t change anything. I surrendered while choosing to stay true to myself.
Breastfeeding in public, for example.
Yes. I understand that if I nurse my infant in public some people will stare. Some people will be uncomfortable. Some people will want me to cover up. Some people will want me to go nurse in the bathroom. Some people will think I should just stay home. Some people will think that I should pump and use a bottle. Some people will smile. Some people will grin. Some people will give me a thumbs up. Some people won’t notice. Some will feel a sadness because it was something that they never got to experience. Most people won’t care. Somewhere in there a random pervert may pop up who finds breastfeeding erotic because he hasn’t been exposed to it the way he would have been if we lived in a society that treated breastfeeding like the normal every day part of life that it is.
I accept all of that. The choice that I make is made for many reasons. Not many people that pass through my life in those tiny moments that overlap… No. Wait. NONE of those people… Would sit down and say “Hey, I noticed that you’re nursing in public. I’m really curious about that because…” There’s no discussion. They have their feelings without any understanding. And the feelings of each person passing by covers a whole big spectrum of things.
I feel all of it, too. I feel creeped out when I see someone staring with a particular type of stare. I feel happy when someone smiles. I feel that sharp jab of shame and embarrassment when someone stares at me with a wilting glare. The one time I was told that I could not nurse in public I felt confused and singled out.
Or public tantrums. Some say you should spank your child out of those. Some say that you should ignore them. Some say you should just give in and give the child the candy or the toy and get out of the store as quickly as you can. Some say that you should always leave the second your child starts to cry. I feel deep down that a parents primary responsibility is to their child. So how I handle tantrums reflects that. I will try to bring my child off to the side to help them calm down. I will be there with empathy and with love. If my child needs to leave the store because it is overwhelming for my child, then we will leave. If my child is able to process things and continue shopping then I will try to do that.
I feel all of it. I feel the people that are staring with annoyed expressions on their face because the quiet calm of a grocery store is momentarily disrupted. I know that some people feel that I should pick my child up and storm out to teach a lesson. I know that some people are sympathetic but would make a different choice. And I know some people are in awe of my calm and patience.
I feel all of those things. And I push them as far away as I can because I want to focus on the children that are there with me.
It’s not that I don’t mind judgement. I’m riddled with anxiety over it, actually. It feels sad and bad and it makes me mad. (And all sorts of other things that don’t rhyme, too.) So how do I deal? I decided that judgement didn’t need to change how I did things. The choices that I make and the things that I do are well thought out and backed by many many good reasons.
I don’t dance like no one is watching. I dance with the knowledge that I cannot control the eyes that are viewing me. I can dance with shame and sadness. I can dance only hidden away. Or I can dance with the belief that I, as a human being, deserve the joy of dancing even if I can’t dance along the standards of someone else. Even if I can’t dance to all of the different tunes that someone might prefer, in the way that they would dance.
I have decided that I have the right to my own existence.
I will go out in public with frizzy hair if my hair is frizzy that day. I will nurse in public. I will crouch down with my child as they throw a tantrum, and I will be as compassionate as I darned well please. I know that of all the eyes that watch me there are so many opinions washing over me at any given moment.
I will be judged.
I’d rather be judged based on the choices that I have made out of love. I would rather be consistent with my children no matter who is watching or not watching.
It’s not that I don’t care about judgement. It’s that I allow myself to be judged. I let it wash over me. Later I may cry. But in those moments throughout my days I will be proud of myself for staying true to the things that I believe in and for living my life as though it is my own.
Yes. “As though” it is my own. This is MY life. Mine.
These children are my children. My family.
And these are my choices.
I own my choices.
No one else has my permission to make them for me.