Avoid Being a Critic.

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As I struggle to understand the world around me as well as my own emotions and role, I realize how often I judge people in my mind.  You would think that the more I discover about humanity, the more I would come to dislike people who go against the grain of what I think is the right way to live.  On the contrary, it’s been quite the opposite.

I used to be haughty and swing around the opinions I’d been raised on like some kind of righteous sword without even having a cause for why I felt that way.  It was strictly due to my environment.  Moving away from home – and then eventually traveling independently – gave me the priceless ability to view myself from the outside.  And I didn’t like what I was seeing.

It’s too easy to get caught up in the toxic wave of judgment.  Someone says one thing, a few people nod in agreement, no one wants to be “that guy” who stands up and protests.  It’s important to remember people come from different backgrounds, experiences, comfort zones, and beliefs – and all of those things drastically influence their actions and choices.  Even if something seems wrong to you, that person might not be viewing it in the same way.

Let me take a very simple example:
When I was living in Ouidah, Benin in West Africa this time last year, it was perfectly ordinary to walk out onto the street from my compound to swarms of children with outstretched hands.  They would chant “Yovo!  Yovo!’ on account of me being a foreigner with lighter skin.  They would sing “Yovo, yovo, bon soir!  Ca va bien, merci!” without even knowing what they were saying.  They would then tug at my dress and beg for a “cadeau”.  The parents would chuckle and watch.  Yes, these children were taught to racially discriminate and demand money, to disregard personal space, and to taunt.  That’s at least how some people saw it and it angered them.  They’d spit out mean words and curse at the children.  I just smiled and played along, rarely given out any francs.  These kids were raised to believe this is how you treat people, this is how you survive.  And there’s nothing wrong with that because that is how they survive.  That’s how those kids get the coins they need to go to the Internet café.  Some of them probably give the change to their mom, and that’s how they have bread for dinner.  No harm done.

Probably the hardest part in avoiding being a critic, for me at least, has been realizing not everyone is so determined to live righteously.  Some people choose to just live and get by within the common rules.  They don’t strive to find some inner-peace or to travel the world or discover themselves.  They’re content like that.

I used to hate that.  I used to resent that and call it being lazy, selfish, stubborn…but really, it’s a choice.  In fact, I preach so much that morality is just a human-made concept in order to function in an optimal society – that we are really just animals.  So isn’t that perspective more animalistic?  I guess so…I just couldn’t see it before.

I think I always just wanted the best for myself, and then to see the best in others and help them bring it out.  It’s a tough line to walk, but there is a point when your suggestions should stop before intervention.  I see it between me and my peers, the ones who don’t say they’re inspired by my ambition and who continue with the same mundane life they grew up into.  The ones who don’t move or don’t try to make changes.  I’ve got to let them decide for themselves; they’ve already seen the things I have done and how those things have helped me.

So before you’re hasty at judging someone, consider why you’re doing it and why you think you’re better for what you do.  You might find you don’t have a legitimate reason after all.  You might realize you should remain a worst critic to only yourself, and I think you’ll be a better person for it.

Overthinking How Others Perceive Me.

I am so often consumed with how I come across to other people.  I was never made aware of how others might interpret my actions until a friend pointed it out to me a couple of years ago.  I was glad she did, and yet now I overthink even more than I already do.  Now I apply my internal logic for deciding how I’m going to act, but then I also contemplate how others might see me acting under different motives.

But really.  The quiet, timid Kayla of two years ago who used to walk into the locker room without looking at anyone, play a game, and walk right back out…she would do that because she didn’t think she was worth anyone’s time.  She would sit back and observe instead of talking (okay, I still do that a lot).  She would (and still does) stay far away from a physical or emotional injury because she could see someone was getting enough assistance and didn’t want to crowd them or impose herself, because, were the tables turned, that might be.  That’s why I don’t rubberneck; I sure as heck wouldn’t want anyone looking at me if I had help but was in a messy situation.

That’s when two of my newer friends at the time came up to me individually and said, “Gee, I thought you were a really mean person when we first met.  I’m so glad I got to know you because that’s not true at all!”  Then I thought, seriously?  I try so hard to be that person who stays out of the way and respects space, and now you think I’m mean?  You just can’t win…

I’m just such an over-thinker.

Seriously.

I’ll walk into a room and enter a silent state of panic.  Who’s here?  What are they talking about?  How do I look?  I don’t look like I’m trying to impress anyone though, right?  But I don’t look sloppy?  Did I walk in with an attitude?  Did I walk in unnoticed?  Do I look suspicious?  Of what?  Should I smile and say “hi” or let everyone to their own business?  (I usually choose the latter, because I hate being interrupted if I’m really engrossed in something.)

And I never want to believe people actually like me.  How could you like this?  This mess of emotion and chaos and uncertainty.

I’m so awkward around people, especially one-on-one, that I’ve been known to get up and make tea just to have something to cling on to.  I mean, they don’t know that’s why I’m doing it.  But that’s why I’m doing it.

I so easily loose hold of my composure and my normal faculties.

Intelligence and the ability to analyze a situation, it can be such a curse.