We’ve all heard the phrases, “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover” and “All that glitters is not gold”. We’d be kidding ourselves if we all swore by these phrases, right? How many times a day do you find yourself making assumptions and judgments about people you don’t know? More than likely, you come across someone in an unfortunate situation and assume they made poor choices. Someone might seem to have it all and you think, “life’s been royal for them”. These days, with our entire lives shared on sites like Facebook and Twitter, we’ve put up a certain face for the world to see which is hardly authentic! More often than not, people only share the absolute best of their lives and, only on occasion, the worst. What you don’t see is the everyday ups and downs that is their reality. People put too much stock in social media and it’s proving to be unfulfilling. I recently read an article on nypost.com discussing scientific studies conducted with Facebook users.
The article stated:
“In 2013, scientists at two German universities monitored 584 Facebook users and found one out of three would feel worse after checking what their friends were up to – especially if those friends had just posted vacation photos. Overall shared content does not have to be ‘explicitly boastful’ for feelings of envy to emerge. In fact, a lonely user might envy numerous birthday wishes his more sociable peer receives on his Facebook wall. Equally, a friend’s change in the relationship status from ‘single’ to ‘in a relationship’ might cause emotional havoc for someone undergoing a breakup”
Based on these statistics, it appears that many of us are living a double life. We live our ‘real’ life along with our ‘online’ life and end up confusing the two. Either way, we should never look at someone’s life and assume we know what they are going through.
I’m definitely not claiming to be supreme. I find myself making common snap judgments and natural assumptions about others on a daily basis. However, when I meet someone new I try my best to listen to the actual person instead of what my eyes encounter. I try to stop myself from thinking negatively or positively based on what I see, and just listen. After I lost Justin I was very angry. I was jealous, bitter, envious, and YES, very judgemental. Because I had gone through such a horrific tragedy, I only saw my misery and nothing else. During this time, Facebook wasn’t very kind to me! I was breastfeeding Jax all day every day and spent a lot of time in a chair with a baby attached to me. Therefore, I was stuck with nothing to do but pick up my phone and look at social media. Boy, was this a big mistake!! At first, I was amazed that the outside world was existing in such a normal state. How could others possibly care about movies, dates, youtube videos, or even their pets? Justin had died in such a tragic way and everyone else was going on with their lives? I found myself resentful that others weren’t understanding what I was going through. I also observed the joyous occasions people were sharing. Having babies, getting engaged, married, buying houses, new jobs, and celebrating birthdays. I can’t say this wasn’t a punch to the gut. It crushed me to see others celebrating life while I was merely trying to survive. From a different angle, I also saw horrible things and this was equally as hard. Death, illness, suicide,
divorce, and miscarriage were just a few I read about and I could barely stop the tears. I then wondered, “What exactly did I want?” No matter
what I read or saw, it upset me. My mom always knew when I had looked on social media because I would sit with a blank stare while tears were streaming down my face. She’d come to me and say, “Did you go on Facebook again? Stop it!!” I decided to go with the “out of sight, out of mind” approach and delete the app off my phone. I wanted to permanently delete my page, but some said they worried about me when I deactivated it, so this seemed like my best option. Following this, I felt free from the burden of others’ happy existence. Maybe other people were having a good day but I didn’t have to know about it. Which at the time, was exactly what I needed.
These days, I can tell when I’m being labeled by people who don’t know me. They see a baby on my hip, no daddy in sight, and my mother in tow. It’s easy to assume she’s divorced, she got knocked up, she’s irresponsible, or perhaps she’s a military wife. What they never think is maybe she’s a widow. This bothers me! These days I don’t think anyone looks down on mothers in these situations, I sure don’t. It’s 2015 and we’ve been pretty accepting of most circumstances for a while now. Over 40% of our population are divorced with children and a recent study on nytimes.com stated nearly two-thirds of children in the United States born to mothers under 30 are born out of wedlock (statistics taken from divorcestatistics.org). But that wasn’t me! I had a husband, I waited ten years to have a baby, I saved up and purchased a house to raise that baby in, and I had a great job that I loved. This was what I wanted people to notice because I was proud of it. I was proud of my choices in life and I wanted to be seen in that light.
About three months had passed since Justin died and I was slowly getting my ducks in a row. Naturally, a few things had slipped through the cracks. In the midst of this, I was pulled over by a police officer while driving home from a grief counseling session when he pointed out my incorrect driver’s license address. Fast forward to the DMV (once again baby on my hip and mom in tow), the man helping me had to go through the standard questions for issuing a new driver’s license. Each question caused me to feel more panicky than the last. When he got to the final one, “Is Justin still your emergency contact?”, I simply stared at him in confusion and stumbled upon my answer of, “Uh nah nah, no”. I will never forget his expression after hearing my answer. He had a smirk plastered across his face and responded with, “So, I guess you decided to trade in Justin and the house, huh? Ha ha ha”. Need I say more? That seems about as judgemental as one can get. He assumed I was getting divorced, had moved in with my mother, and for some reason thought it was appropriate to laugh at my expense. After reacting with an evil stare, I chose to share my god-awful truth. I only hoped he might learn something from his childish behavior. Needless to say, I left the DMV in tears and was made to feel worse while facing an already tough day.
But why did I even care? I know what I’ve done with my life and what I’ve accomplished, as do the people who love and care about me. Shouldn’t that be all that really matters? However, I dread having to explain my situation and story to a complete stranger when they ask me questions. I usually try to keep it short and sour, “I’m a widow”. If they have the balls to ask me what happened I sometimes say, “I don’t feel like talking about it” or maybe I share my story. No matter what option I choose, I still feel the impending panic attack and always feel worse after I’ve been asked.
While performing with the band a few weeks back at a fancy wedding, some of the bridesmaids jumped on stage for a song. We were having so much fun when out of the blue one of them turned to me and said, “I wish I had your life”. With a glazed-over smile, I looked at her in shock. She had committed the cardinal sin of making an assumption about my life. From her perspective, I was living the dream. She saw glitz and
glamour and assumed my life was always like this. She saw a young bubbly girl singing, dancing, smiling, laughing, and entertaining hundreds of people. However, she had absolutely no clue of my daily obstacles or the darkness inside. Yes, I love what I do! I’m very blessed to have a God-given talent and the opportunity to use that talent. But even my work has difficult times. It can be emotionally and physically draining, demanding, extensive traveling, late hours, and even lonely at times. Even when I had the privilege of doing it alongside Justin, it still had major ups and downs. It almost seems comparable to the other end of the spectrum. People see me with a small child and make a different false assumption. Either way you look at it they are all judgments, and they are all false. You can never accurately pinpoint what the inside contains. Sometimes stereotypes exist for a reason, but why go there? The world is callous and we are all doing our best to make the most out of life. Some circumstances we can control and some we cannot. Assuming you know what others have been through can only result in unrealistic and incorrect conclusions. To truly accept people for who they are and to love one another means putting all judgments to rest. Why not start today!