Ever notice a stranger looking at you a bit odd and start making up stories about what they must think about you? You glance down at what you are wearing, everything buttoned up and zipped? Toilet paper stuck to your shoe? Nope, you are good. Well, it must be something inherently wrong with the way I look or what I am buying, or they think I am a bad person…. If the thoughts get crazy out of control, we start to think they can read our minds or know our deepest secrets. Don’t believe everything you think, because this can spiral out of control. What we don’t know is the stranger is frustrated in their job, or maybe they are constipated. They may just be looking off into space but that happens to be in your direction. Now…sometimes they are judging us or because people continue to amaze me with their rudeness, they say something directly to our faces.
Earlier this week I was discussing this with one of my teen clients. I made the statement that when other people make judgments, it is 100% about them. She’s precocious and said, “How can we know something 100%?” And she’s right. Most of the time, I would avoid absolutes like this. But over the years, I have concluded that what other people think about us is all about them. I asked her if we could test it out for a second. Think about when you are in public and you notice strangers…what do you notice about them? Since I work so much with body image concerns, what shows up in my office often has to do with bodies. And honestly, I suspect most everyone, if we are honest, we might be comparing whatever body part we are most self-conscious of at the moment. Or if we are judging what a person is doing or saying, it often reflects thoughts we are struggling with, maybe even parts of us we don’t want to admit is there. I mentioned the book Judgment Detox a few weeks back, and one of the ideas that she discussed in the book is when we judge others, it comes from a place of woundedness within us.
So….my made-up percentages are as follows—if someone else thinks bad thoughts about us (or even shares them with us), it is 96.5% about something they are insecure about. The rest comes from a place of woundedness they are afraid to face and/or want so desperately to distract from. It is with a fair amount of confidence that I say 100% of the time, someone else’s thoughts about us are more about them. If they share it with us, they are actually revealing something about themselves. A take away for ourselves is to notice our own thoughts and judgments to learn about ourselves.