1. Truth: Once I become aware of something, I start seeing it everywhere. This phenomenon was described to me in grad school as the palladium window effect. Once you know what palladium window is, you start noticing them everywhere. This happens to me every time I get a new car. I go from never even noticing white Toyota Highlanders to suddenly seeing them everywhere. Or now that I have a Cattle Dog, I see them all over. It’s not really because there’s more, it’s just that I notice.
2. Truth: As I’ve raised my awareness about body issues, I’m suddenly seeing shaming and bullying everywhere. In the media, in advertising, in the news, in healthcare, and especially on social media. My health plan at work wants to offer me a “reward” if they can measure my height and weight, record and track it, see where I land on the BMI scale, but I know it’s only so they can start to “counsel” me about my choices, that they intend to promote a particular lifestyle as the only healthy option. My gym starts ramping up its messages about healthy eating and exercise, warning that if I’m not careful I’ll gain weight over the holidays, making it very clear I should be worried about that. On my Facebook feed, someone posts a meme of “Crispy Creme Barbie” and it breaks my heart because the woman pictured, blonde and dressed in typically Barbie clothes (short skirt, low cut top, high heels, everything bright pink) looks just like a woman who came to my yoga class that same morning. What right does anyone have to assume they understand someone’s experience or can assess someone’s health based solely on how they look?! And if the woman in my yoga class went straight from yoga to eat a donut (or more), what right does anyone else have to judge, to criticize her choice?! And how does anyone know she’s not perfectly happy and healthy — just as she is?!
3. Truth: Judgement, criticism, bullying, and shaming will never create change, it only generates more suffering. This is so clearly true, but when I speak out about the shaming I see, the pushback is often that I’m too sensitive, (or better yet that I only think that way because I’m fat). This has always been my experience with bullies — they never take responsibility for the suffering they generate. Rather, the victim is just being too sensitive, can’t take a joke, is weak, needs to toughen up, needs to drop a few pounds. Two middle schoolers in my community committed suicide this week, and at least one was the result of bullying. Someone who stands in judgement of another, who moves beyond that to direct criticism, to bullying and shaming, is practicing a particular form of aggression. If, like me, you ever find yourself thinking how much better you are than someone else, you (we) are doing it too. We are guilty. At its worst, judgment becomes violence, and even at its “best” it generates suffering — and we don’t need anymore of that.
One wish: That instead of judging, criticizing, bullying, and shaming, we extend ourselves in compassion, love, and support, that we offer our help to those who need it and keep our “help” to ourselves when it’s unwanted.