You’re out somewhere. Maybe you took yourself out to lunch. Maybe you’re on the subway going to work. Maybe you’re at a work meeting.
And you find yourself feeling judged by the people around you.
You feel like people are thinking negative things about you. You feel pretty sure that at lunch, the lady at the table next to you was thinking you shouldn’t be eating whatever you’re eating. On the subway, you’re pretty sure that guy who kept looking at you was thinking something negative about the way your body takes up more space than some other bodies on the train. In that meeting, you’re pretty clear that your boss didn’t like the way you handled that agenda item that you wish you handled differently.
Here’s the thing. I can’t promise you that these people who you feel are judging you aren’t judging you. I really have no idea.
But neither do you.
And even though you have no absolute proof that these people are judging you in that moment, you still may change your actions to appease them. Maybe you order something different at lunch just so people won’t judge you. Maybe you choose to stand on the subway so that you won’t have to squish yourself into a seat, even though you really want that seat. Maybe you’ll defer to someone else on that agenda item at the meeting even though you know that you have the best answer to that particular problem.
In other words, when you find yourself judged, you make yourself smaller and more invisible to deal with the judgment. And that never feels very good.
Over 10 years ago, a friend of mine told me to get a copy of The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. I hadn’t looked at that book in years, but I came across it again as I was preparing classes for my body image/writing workshop (some of which will definitely be part of my workshops at Abundia).
Anyway, I found myself drawn into the book once again, particularly to his “third agreement” which is “Don’t Make Assumptions.”
This concept of not making assumptions can factor in to a lot of aspects of your life, from how you communicate to what you believe about yourself and your abilities.
And I started thinking that feeling judged by others really is an assumption. We really can’t know what people are thinking unless they tell us. And even if someone has judged you in the past for something, you can’t really know if they’re actively judging you right now.
And even if you’re right that they are judging you, so what? Why do their judgments get to change your behavior?
So my advice on this topic is to not make assumptions. However, in reality, I think that’s easier said than done. I know that my mind does a lot better when I tell it to do something rather than not to do something. So, if you’re like me, I want to encourage you to make assumptions. Just allow your assumptions to be positive.
How does this work in practice?
It’s deceptively simple. If you’re at lunch and you assume the woman next to you is judging you for what you’re eating, assume, instead, that she wishes she had ordered it herself. On the subway, assume that guy who you thought was judging you for taking up too much space is actually thinking your cute, or at the very least, is staring at you because he’s thinking about something totally unrelated. In your meeting, assume your boss is thinking you’re doing a great job.
This may sound silly but it’s an incredibly powerful practice. If you think about it, most people spend the day thinking about themselves, not judging you, and most of the time you can’t really know what someone else is thinking. And even if they are judging you, who really cares? Who gave them the right to make you feel bad or ruin your day?
I love this practice of making good assumptions. Let me know how it goes in the comments section below!
Golda is a certified holistic health counselor and founder of Body Love Wellness, a program designed for plus-sized women who are fed up with dieting and want support to stop obsessing about food and weight. To learn more about Golda and her work, click here.
(Listen to this post here, or subscribe on itunes.)