I am part of several online communities linked to sustainability initiatives; people get together in those virtual spaces to seek support, ask for recommendations, share useful information and so forth.
The other day, I read a comment from someone who was tired of being judged and asked people in that particular group to be less critical. Someone replied that she had recently asked a question and then she had regretted it, she was on the verge of leaving the group for that reason.
I have seen this in every single online group I’ve been part of, misunderstandings, judgements, people whinging about other people’s behaviour. Why do we get so judgemental if we are all here trying to improve and reduce our impact on the planet?
And let me tell you, I am not immune to that. So today I decided to write a bit about this topics, share my thoughts and perhaps hearing from you.
Why it doesn’t help
I always remember when I was a teenager, I hated to hear adults telling me what to do or what I wasn’t doing “right” – for some reason it happened quite often. As an adult, thanks God I am no longer bombarded with those messages (I must have learned quite a bit since then) but I still get criticism from time to time and you know what? it still sucks!
Criticism is full of blame (therefore it makes us feel bad and guilty), it implies in many cases we are not doing enough or we are doing things wrong and it doesn’t really help because often when we are criticised we get defensive, we react to the “attack”, and the focus is not about solutions and way to improve; it is about who’s right and who’s wrong.
So, Why do we keep doing it? Why do we tend to judge and criticise if we already know it doesn’t feel good? Good question for an expert, I am just going to say that it is a bad habit, just watch the news, TV ads, hear people on the radio or a conversation on the street, it is so normal. Perhaps it is an easy way to feed our ego!
And again, I am guilty of this too, I’ve been there many times, being critical and judgemental, but over time I have realised that it is not a place I want to go, and I try hard even when sometimes I still fail badly.
These are my personal reminders that help me be kinder to others in their journey.
1. Let go of assumptions and expectations
Something that I believe is quite common is that we often think other’s see the world the same way we do, we assume they reason in the same way we do. And when we realise that their behaviours don’t match what we assumed they believed, then we feel angry, disappointed, frustrated.
So we assume they know (because they should know, right?), we assume they read those reports in the news, we assume they watched that documentary, we assume they heard about this famous study, we assume they know there are other alternatives… well, (unfortunately) most likely they haven’t been part of those experiences yet.
And don’t get me wrong, there are people who indeed read the news, and heard about the famous study, and knew about the information, and still don’t behave the same way we do.
Have you ever heard the quote that says:
“Unforgiveness is like drinking poison yourself and waiting for the other person to die”- Marianne Williamson
I believe this is not that different in the context of what I am describing above, because these assumptions and expectations put a burden on us, we are the ones that get frustrated or mad, the other person doesn’t even understand or know our issue and if they do, they don’t really care because their values and life situations are very different!!!
We all come from different paths of life, we face different challenges, we cannot expect other’s people values, beliefs and experiences match our own.
And I get it, it is hard work, I’ve been there. In the blink of an eye when you read/see/hear something, it is easier to assume, expect and judge, than remind ourselves that we don’t know those people, we don’t know their story, their knowledge in a particular subject, their challenges… There are always reasons we can’t see or understand.
2. Treat others how I would like to be treated
Another aspect that I find quite useful to remember is the old saying: “Treat others how you would like to be treated“. I certainly would hate to put a question in a group and get the impression my question is silly (even if no one says it explicitly), I am not doing things right, my efforts are just not enough.
Offering genuine feedback to someone can be great as long as we are kind, we respect people, we have empathy, we offer help. There is nothing new here, right? we all know that by heart; it is the practice of that theory that gets tricky.
People often welcome suggestions and ideas, it depends on how we present them. Empathy is also very important.
I have found that the quicker I react to something I don’t believe is right (note I am saying “believe”, it doesn’t necessarily mean I am right), the less empathy I have. If I really want to reply to something, I have found it is worth taking the time to breathe in, think about it, consider other possibilities, find kind words to share my point of view without offending/blaming.
To be honest often if I don’t have anything useful to say I just ignore it, I close my phone, move one and let it flow, which is precisely the next point.
3. Let if flow
I already talked about this in my post about ways to avoid feeling overwhelmed in our green journey but given the topic, I believe it is worth mentioning again.
Once, I heard about the buffet analogy (don’t even remember when or how) and I think it is perfect to describe this point: opinions/information are abundant these days, just treat them as a buffet, take what’s right for you at that particular point in time and just ignore the rest, let it go, let it flow.
Sometimes we tend to judge things because we don’t understand them, we are not ready. Let me tell you, if you had asked me 10 years ago to even consider some of the things that I am doing today, I would have replied: Are you insane or what? Maybe I would have found a lot of ways to argue about it, to prove you were wrong, to criticise your “weird” ways of living. But you know why? Simply I wasn’t ready for all that yet.
4. She is a previous version of myself
Another thing I always keep reminding myself is the fact that several years ago I was that person too. Unless you grew up in a super eco-conscious family, most likely you found your green path later in life as an adult.
I started learning about all this many years ago, I realised that my habits were not that kind on the planet and I slowly started my journey to improve, to learn more about the environmental crisis, to be more aware, to connect with nature and the planet, to match my values with my actions, to change my habits and more.
But many years ago I was that person using tons of single-use plastic everyday, wasting food at home, buying heaps of cheap stuff I didn’t even need, generating piles of garbage every single week, that was me, I cannot have selective memory and assume it didn’t happen. And I wasn’t a bad person or stupid, I simply didn’t know any better. I didn’t know that I didn’t know.
Then who am I to judge that lady in the supermarket? she is just a previous version of myself! Will she be more aware of the environmental issues in the future? Who knows? Maybe yes, or maybe no, I have no control over that but I can only continue my journey in peace, try to raise awareness through my actions and hope more people get on board.
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle” ―
It is nice to feel we share the same values with others, to know that we are understood and that we are together fighting against the status-quo for our dear planet. I think it that’s great, but when our fight means we puts other people’s down, when our ego gets in the way, when our battle implies “I am so right and you are so wrong”, when we make a lot of assumptions and we expect perfection, then I think our fight is kind of fruitless.
We are humans, no one is “perfect”, as much as we try to live a more sustainable life, we still hurt the planet in so many ways. We do the best we can to reduce our impact, others are learning and trying, others (like me many years ago) still don’t know that they don’t know and that’s ok; many people like you and me are working to bring more awareness about these topics. Let’s just remember we are all at different stages in this journey called life.
Let me know in the comments below your thoughts about this topic. Have you feel frustrated and judgemental about other people’s behaviours? or Have you been criticised in any support group? Please share the message.
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Thanks for reading,