It’s not me. It’s you.
I’m going to stray a little bit from the topic of running today. The reason is because I’ve been doing some thinking, and we all know what that means…
Time to write.
Don’t be mistaken by the title. This is the one time I am OK with passing the buck.
I want to talk about relationships. I’m not talking about the love kind. I’m not even talking about the friend kind. I’m talking about relationships with people we don’t know. Total strangers.
I am no scientist. I have not spent my life conducting studies and gathering data. I am about as far from being an authority on the subject of the human condition as I can get. What I do know is what I observe; and what I observe is that we humans do things with far too much concern with how we’re perceived.
I know. We’ve heard it before. “Stop caring what others think of you.” It’s the cliché statement of the century (usually typed in italics, serif font over a serene image of clouds on our Facebook news feeds). But we see these words so often that they have become less meaningful to us.
Last week, a friend of mine called me to ask me what I was wearing to go to dinner. I thought, why does she need to know what I am wearing in order to dress herself? Was she afraid to look out-of-place? Would she not wear a dress that she loved because I wanted to wear jeans? The answer is yes. She would. As would many of us.
That moment right there is where my thinking began. I started to consider all of the situations in which we, as human beings, hold back what we desire out of fear of judgment. And I realized that the more we fear judgment, the more stifled we are in our lives. This is just a small example of it.
I, myself, have fallen victim many times. Just a few weeks ago, I was asked what I do for a living; I was afraid to answer. Because I went to Carnegie Mellon, people automatically assume that I am an engineer, an architect or a computer scientist. So when I utter the words “I am a singer,” the world comes to a halt. Zombies appear through faraway mist. Meteors fall and the earth begins to implode… or at least that’s what you’d think was happening based on the reactions I get. I began to feel ashamed to tell people that I am a professional singer because I thought that by admission, I would be considered dumb, silly and even useless (the word has, in fact, been used to describe my music degree by someone I know). When I was told that my degree was useless, it took me a while to admit: It’s the judge-er with the issue. Not me.
And there you have it. Judgment is not our problem. It’s THEIRS. You want to wear a cocktail dress to a casual event and someone mocks you? It’s not your problem. It’s theirs. You want to pursue something totally out of the box in college and someone calls you silly or unrealistic? It’s not your problem. It’s theirs. You want to ‘like’ a political figure, a TV show, a movie or newspaper article on Facebook but don’t want people to judge you? It’s not your problem. It’s theirs.
We encounter judgment all the time. But we should not let someone else’s problem stifle US.
Instead, I propose we make more of an effort to focus on how WE perceive OTHERS. Realize that the security guard in your building with ill-fitted pants is a man who works 3 jobs to support his family. Know that the woman carrying that fake designer handbag on the train was given it as a gift from her children who can’t quite afford the real thing. Understand that the guy who went to community college did so not because he is dumb but because that was what he could afford.
The relationships we have with people we DON’T know matter far more in the long run because those are the relationships, those silent conversations with passers-by, that define us. Let’s, instead, define ourselves by not fearing the haters but by being the lovers.