I’ve recognised a trait in myself that I don’t like: judgement is my brain’s default mode.
Looking back, I grew up in a time when people unabashedly judged others and it’s a hard habit to break.
But it’s ugly and I want it to stop.
When I was young, in Thatcher’s Britain, the unemployed were told to ‘get on their bikes’ and it was illegal to talk positively about homosexuality in a classroom. Illegal.
On a provincial level, families were often dubbed common if they swore or dropped their h’s, and eyebrows were raised at biracial couples. The class system went unquestioned in the town where I was born. It was an unwritten rule that you could feel superior to anyone who wasn’t on the same social strata as the one you slotted into by accident of birth.
Is it any surprise that my generation is what my kids term judgy?
Well, no more. I want to be down with the cool kids (You’re judging me now, aren’t you? Stop it).
The younger generation are the opposite of judgy. They’re accepty. The only thing they won’t accept is prejudice. Faced with racism, sexism or homophobia, my kids breathe fire. Victim-shamers and fat-shamers should roll up their sleeves and get ready to fight.
I want to be more teenage. They can keep the acne and angst, but I would like some of that good, accepty stuff.
But it’s not that easy to shed embedded habits, is it?
One example of my judginess is that I don’t want my seventeen-year-old to get a tattoo. She’s studying film and media: a creative soul who’s found her own style since leaving the confines of traditional education. We’ve progressed through hair dye, numerous piercings and when she’s eighteen, she wants body art.
And I don’t like it.
My attitude doesn’t make any sense. She was born with extensive birthmarks which I encouraged her to have removed by laser treatment. She refused. She likes being pink and it’s her body.
She’s correct to ask why I think society has the right to judge her if tattoos are her chosen form of self-expression? As with birthmarks, or racial heritage, if anyone judges her because of her skin, surely that’s their issue?
Any argument I have about how she’ll regret it when she’s older can easily be parried by ‘then I’ll get it lasered off.’ She reminds me I used to be a huge advocate of laser treatment. What changed? (Who taught these kids to talk?)
I’ve lost the argument and rightly so, but I still have a discordant feeling about it. I know any future employer who discriminates against her would be wrong, but I’ve heard the term ‘tramp stamp’ too often to not want it imposed on my little girl. Still, I must become an advocate for the rights of the individual to get inked.
Accepty. That’s me.
Only it isn’t, not yet, because, ridiculously, it’s hard to accept elements of myself. I look in the mirror and find fault. I used to feed myself on a diet of gossip magazines where women’s bodies are scrutinised, found imperfect, and sneered at.
With that kind of diet, you’re going to get sick.
When was it ever acceptable to take a photograph of someone without their consent, publish it nationally and judge it like a dog at Crufts? (Oh God. Now I think I’m anti-Crufts. Is showing dogs morally reprehensible too? I’ll give it some thought).
My kids are far happier with their bodies than I have ever been. I can’t take any credit for that (and I know it’s not something I can be complacent about either). I’m weaning myself off looking for faults with my perfectly acceptable body, and I am trying to be kinder to myself.
I’m trying to make my internal voice kinder too. I’m learning to shift my thoughts in different directions, admiring other women’s body confidence and wishing I had the same, instead of focussing on anything which doesn’t fit society’s invented notion of perfection.
I shouldn’t even be thinking about what someone else looks like, though. It’s irrelevant and none of my business.
When someone holds a view that clashes with mine, I’m trying to accept their right to think differently and to understand that everyone experiences life in a unique way. What makes my view more valuable than theirs? (Unless theirs is prejudiced, then I’m allowed to judge and attack, right?)
It’s a long road from judgy, through thought-shifty, to the prized position of accepty, but it’s a destination I intend to arrive at one day.
I don’t have enough years left to re-route all my messed-up neural pathways, but I am giving conscious thought to how and why I judge other people and myself. I’m lucky to be learning from kids who are inexplicably better at this than I am, despite their tender years.
I try to live by the overarching rule: Don’t be a dick. But I’m adding an extra word to remind myself of my goal: Don’t be a judgy dick.
It’s got a nice ring to it, hasn’t it?
Should I get it as a tattoo?
(Image by dazzleology on PX)