Judging Your Book Choices

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I was on Twitter the other day, and someone asked the question, “If you were on a first date with someone and asked them what their favorite book was, what would be a dealbreaker?”

I read through the comments, because that’s what I do. I was surprised by how judgemental people were. Some of the popular ones for women were: Infinite Jest, anything Ayn Rand, Lolita, Catcher in the Rye. For men, they were things like Eat, Pray, Love, Twilight, and 50 Shades of Gray.

When did we all become so willing to judge people based on a single metric? Like, I can understand if someone named Lolita as their favorite book, and then said, “I thought the relationship between Lolita and Hubert Humphrey was inspirational and healthy,” then okay, I can understand why you’d nope out.

But the book is considered a classic. (Full disclosure: I haven’t read it.) What if someone started talking about it being their favorite book based on literary merit? Would that change things?

I’m honestly distressed by this trend of judging people based on a single metric of opinion, and I’m really over people being judged based on their book choices.

We like what we like, and there’s a huge difference between behavior and opinion. People hold opinions for a lot of different reasons. I’m not going to judge you based on your book choices or your clothes choices or even who you voted for. I will judge you based on how you talk to the waitress who just took our order and how you treat my other friends (even if you don’t like them) and how you react when I tell you something important to me.

I’m always puzzled when I read articles talking about how most readers have a favorite book, and then a fake favorite book that they tell people about so that others judge them differently. The first time I read that, I thought, “Is this a thing? Why is this a thing?” But now I get it. If people are judging based on your reading material, then it makes sense that people might want to pretend.

I’m always curious why people love a book I hated, but I’d never judge someone for it. Tastes are different, and I like learning about other people through their entertainment choices. There are so many books out there that aren’t for me, but that doesn’t automatically make the person reading them into someone I wouldn’t like. Learn to get along with lots of different people, and I guarantee, life will be happier.

And don’t judge other people based on their choices, when those choices hurt literally no one. Just don’t.

What’s your favorite book(s)? Do you judge others based on their book choices? If so, help me understand why.

 

 

Walking That Mile

I love squirrels! Photo Credit: Doree Weller

I love squirrels!
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Not long ago, I clicked “like” on a Facebook page called Humans of New York.  Brandon decided one day to start taking pictures of people in New York, and eventually started asking them questions and including quotes and short portions of their stories.

Some of the stories are funny, some heartbreaking, some inspirational.  But it’s not the stories that really capture my attention; it’s the comments.  Most of the comments are supportive, offering love and acceptance.  The internet can be a really mean place, but it can also be a beautiful, supportive place.

The project reminds me of PostSecret, where people send in post cards anonymously with secrets written on them.

One of the themes I heard most often in therapy is that people want to make connections with other people; the problem is that they often don’t know how.  It seems like it should be easy.  After all, most of the photos on the Humans of New York Facebook page get between 80,000 and 350,000 likes.  They get tens of thousands of comments.  People want to love and support others, but I guess we don’t know how, without the distancing tool of the internet.

One woman who told her story, that she left an abusive relationship, has Hepatitis C, and wanted to place her daughter for adoption so that she’d be in a a better situation, but then couldn’t go through with it.  There was such an outpouring of love and support for her that Brandon set up an email address to try to connect her with services.

This is the truest side of mankind.  I believe that.  The truth doesn’t show up in the news with all the racial, political, sexist, hateful, violent stuff.  The truth is strangers are willing to help a woman on the other side of the world.

When we pass by homeless people asking for food or money, we look at them and see what we’ve been told to see.  Drug addicts.  Liars.  Lazy people.  The truth is much more complicated, and it’s hard to maintain that disinterest and vague feeling of being better than when we know their stories.  Because everyone has a story, and if we hear their stories, we can connect with them.

Next time you find yourself judging someone, I urge you to stop and wonder what their story is.  What would put them in the situation they’re in?  I would rather err on the side of believing a lie than judging someone too harshly.  After all, we’ve all made mistakes.  We’ve all done things we’re ashamed of.  Compassion, empathy, and love show the truest parts of who we are.

Haters Gonna Hate

Roatan, Honduras Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Roatan, Honduras
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Last week, as I’m sure everyone knows, the Supreme Court legalized marriage equality.  I saw a lot of celebration on my news feed. There was also an article shared about a pastor who stated that he would set himself on fire if gay marriage was legalized, and many of the comments I saw were things like, “Has he done it yet?” “Fire! Fire!” and so on.

I feel bad for that pastor.  How much hatred does he have to have inside him for him to threaten to light himself on fire because of something that has nothing to do with him?  How much must he hate himself to make those statements? We’re a culture that’s easily angered.  We’re intolerant of his hatred and intolerance, and our knee-jerk reaction to such stupid statements (because yes, I think it’s stupid to light yourself on fire because other people now have more rights than they did a month ago) is to bring gasoline to his fire, to jump on the hatred bandwagon.

I’m not hitching a ride.

I get why it feels good to respond to his hatred and anger in kind, but it doesn’t do any of us any good.  From the time I was little, my parents told me “Two wrongs don’t make a right,” and no matter how much we pretty it up, that’s what the sentiment boils down to.  Righteous anger might feel good, but that doesn’t make it right.

If I tried to talk to that pastor and met his hatred with more hatred, I pretty much guarantee he wouldn’t hear anything I had to say. If, however, I met his hatred with compassion, perhaps he would hear me.  Maybe not.  Maybe he would hear some part of what I had to say.  I can’t make others listen, but I’ve found that if I treat people with respect, it almost always has better results than treating them with disrespect.

There are a lot of people I don’t agree with.  There are opinions that offend me.  But if people respond to intolerance and offense with hatred, it just perpetuates more hatred.

It might be difficult, but I encourage you to remember that when someone is awful, your hatred won’t make them better, nicer, or more tolerant.  After all, nothing you can say will be worse than what they live with.  People who spread hatred have to live with themselves.  Treat them with kindness, because they’ve already sentenced themselves to life in a prison of hate.

Judgement Free Zone

There aren’t many judgement free zones these days.  Facebook has become an excuse to post all kinds of judgements that come in the form of complaining about others, commenting on articles, and other things too numerous to list.

This morning, a friend of mine posted a picture of a sports car parked in a handicapped spot, and a lot of people commented that the friend should park too close to it, that if someone can get in and out of a car like that, they don’t need a handicapped space, that the person who had that car was probably “lawsuit-happy,” and other things.

I want to encourage you to try to make your brain into a judgement free zone, free from judging yourself, and free from judging others.  I con’t know how many times I’ve heard people say some variation of “don’t judge me until you know me.”

Well, guess what?

We all have stories.

I get it; it’s easy to jump to conclusions about people.  It’s easy to say that if a person is handicapped, they shouldn’t be getting in and out of a sports car.  But there are a lot of handicaps that don’t show.  People sometimes have muscle disorders that make it difficult for them to move.  Or maybe they’re moving just fine now, but can’t predict if they’ll still be moving fine five minutes from now.

I know someone who’s had 3 or 4 cervical spine surgeries.  This person has struggled with walking.  Some days she can walk a mile.  Some days she falls a lot.  She used to have to ride a motorized cart around the grocery store, and it embarrassed her because she thought people would think she was using it because she was “fat” instead of because of medical issues.  These days, she doesn’t need the cart, but parking lots continue to be tripping hazards.  She still parks in the handicapped spots because she is handicapped, and she never knows when she’ll struggle with walking.

She’s relatively young looking, and most of the time, she walks fine.  She doesn’t limp or stumble, and you can’t see the scars on her neck because they’re covered with hair.  It would be easy to assume that she parks in the handicapped spot because of her weight or because of laziness.

Don’t judge.

If you want to make an assumption, assume that everyone has a story.  When I first started trying to change my mindset from judgement to acceptance, I found it easier to make up stories about someone.

That person who cut me off in traffic isn’t a jerk; he just got the news that his child is sick and he’s rushing home because he loves her so much.  That person who was rude to me in the grocery store was up all night caring for her mother, who has cancer.  That 20 year old who parked in the handicapped spot and appears to be in perfect health actually has multiple sclerosis.

It doesn’t matter to me if these stories are true or not.  What matters is that they could be true.  How horrible would I feel if I found out that one of those things was true, and I hadn’t responded with compassion?  I’m okay with being wrong in the opposite direction; I was compassionate and kind, but the person was really a jerk.  I can live with that.  But unkindness to someone who’s struggling with something?  Wouldn’t I want people to be a little kinder to me if I were trying to manage a heavy burden that day?

None of us is going to be perfect at this.  There are days when I just want to growl at everyone and everything.  But I would hope that on those days, someone out there who has to deal with me, thinks, “I bet she’s not always like this.  She’s probably just having a bad day, so I’ll be a little nicer.”

Kindness costs nothing, but judgement is expensive.

O is for Openness

Punta Sur, Cozumel Mexico Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Punta Sur, Cozumel Mexico
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

I try to be open to new experiences and ideas.  There was a time when I was such a know-it-all that I thought I was open minded, but I really wasn’t.  I would listen to the other person and then tell them why they were wrong.  Or, I would automatically discount something because I thought I wouldn’t like it.

As time went on, I realized that the people I admired were the ones who listened, and who would change their minds if something convinced them.  I admired the people who considered every point of view.  And I admired the people who were willing to try anything.

So, I decided to be more like them.  It’s not always easy.  There are times I find myself relapsing into my know-it-all ways.  I just try to catch myself at it, and move on.  Over time, I’ve realized that I don’t have to be right, and I certainly don’t have to have all the answers.

I feel like I keep being presented with life lessons, and I try to be open enough to learn them.  For instance, because I’m a writer, I tend to make up stories about strangers.  The problem is that there’s sometimes a fine line between “creative story exercise” and “being judgmental.”  The reason I say this is that there are times when I find myself jumping to conclusions about someone based on how they look, and then they end up proving me wrong.

I used to feel ashamed of myself for these times when I found myself being judgmental, but now I’m just glad that I’m open enough to be continually learning lessons.

Everyone has something to teach me.  It’s up to me to be open to it.

If You Do It, Someone Will Judge It

It doesn’t matter what “it” is.  If it can be done, someone will judge it.

On that note, welcome to Wellness Wednesday.  Every Wednesday, I post something related to personal wellness.

Sunglass Cat- Find her on Facebook! Austin, Texas Photo credit: RJS Photography

Sunglass Cat- Find her on Facebook!
Austin, Texas
Photo credit: RJS Photography

I recently read an article about a woman who likes to read books.  She talked about being new to reading romance books, and gave some of her recommendations for books along with stating that despite the bad reputation romance books get, some of them are more well-written than others.

Then the post got weird.

She then wrote about not being afraid to tell others that you read romance novels, that some people will judge you for it, but that talking about romance novels is the only way to find other people who read them and get recommendations.

Say what?  People will judge you for reading a book?!?

Yes, dear reader.  People will judge you for what books you read.  It doesn’t matter that they haven’t read anything other than a cereal box in 10 years; others will judge what you read.  People judge Twilight and 50 Shades of Gray without having read them.  I’m not saying they’re literature; I’m just calling shenanigans on judging them based on an article someone else wrote about them.

Look, I’m a fan of doing what makes you happy.  Those people who are judging you?  They aren’t going to be around in 10 years, 10 days, and sometimes not even in 10 minutes.  They don’t pay your bills.  They haven’t lived your life.

Not caring what people think is an art form that few master, but when I see someone who obviously doesn’t care what others think, I want to applaud.  The happiest people know that flying under the radar is overrated.  I say that as long as what you do doesn’t actively harm anyone, do what you want to do.

Some people will say that you “harm” them when they really mean “offend.”  I’ve heard people say that being gay, having tattoos, wearing things with swear words, having a certain hair color is “harmful” to morality or some nonsense.

I call shenanigans.

Harm is what you do to someone else, not what you do to yourself.  If you hit on someone who isn’t interested (after they’ve told you), that’s harm.  If you hold someone at gunpoint and force them to get tattoos, that’s harm.  If you swear in someone’s face, that’s harm.  If you throw hair dye on someone else, that’s harm.

Being you… not harmful.

So today, remember that all the things you like and dislike make you uniquely you.  They make you cool and interesting.  If someone else doesn’t like those things, then that’s cool.  It means that they’re different from you.  Maybe you can even learn things from one another.

Go forth and be uniquely you today, no matter what that means.  And don’t judge others for being who they are.  Embrace it.  Enjoy it.

Live it.

I’m Just Me

I’m the person who talks out loud during movies (not in the movie theater… just at home.  A lot).  I’m also the person who talks to Facebook, and all my friends, even when they can’t hear me.  Maybe especially when they can’t hear me.

I saw this on a friend’s Facebook page the other day:

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I wanted to yell, “No! No!  NO!  What do you mean that’s your WORST fear?  Please, stop.”

But I didn’t.  I didn’t even respond to it, because I know a lot of people feel that way.  They become afraid of showing their imperfections because someone might not love them if they show those imperfections.  Then, what happens is we all end up being the walking wounded.  We imagine that others are somehow better at life than we are.

I have to tell you a secret.  Ready?

None of us are perfect.

And you know what?

That’s okay.

Yes, she's judging you.  Orange cats do that. Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Yes, she’s judging you. Orange cats do that.
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Imperfections are what make us wonderful.  They’re what make us unique and interesting.  If you were perfect, how would you ever strive to be better?  And if you had nothing to strive for, what would be the point of doing anything?  If you were just perfect all the time, there would be no goals.  You wouldn’t need any emotions because you could be happy all the time.  Where would love songs come from?  Or those songs that make your soul ache?  Or pretty much anything by The Cure?  Where would creativity come from?

Maybe I’m missing the point.  It’s just that I think perfect is overrated.  I also happen to think it’s impossible, but I’m not one to let reality get in the way of my goals, so I certainly won’t shoot yours down by calling “reality check.”

It’s easy to believe that others are somehow doing a better job at life than I am.  It’s easy to go on Facebook or Pinterest or watch TV or look at magazines and figure that others have it all together.  Or at least more together.  But when I worked in crisis, I went into people’s homes, and the one thing I found out is that no matter how together people look, we all have secrets.  And most people believe they’re failing at something.

So, instead of holding yourself to someone else’s standard, how about you work on being the best you that you can be today?  In order to be the best you, you have to stop comparing yourself to others.  You’re just you.  I’m just me.

And that’s perfectly okay.