Thinking back as far as I can remember, dating back to my early childhood sitting in church with my super cool older cousins, I have placed judgments on people based on nothing but their appearance. Not that there is anything wrong with it, but I grew up in a family that placed an emphasis on being somewhat clean-cut and that first impression. Or at least that's the conclusion I came to believe. I can remember bragging to my middle school friends that I had clothes from American Eagle and had blonde highlights in my hair just like my older cousins. First impressions and appearance have been a big deal for as long as I can remember.
Here I am, 28 years old, and still find myself subconscioulsy placing those first impression judgments on the people around me.
What are you wearing?
How does your hair look?
What kind of shoes are you wearing?
Are they brand name?
Did you get off public transportation?
Or did you drive to work in your Audi?
Did you get off public transportation?
Do you have tattoos or piercings?
How much do you weigh?
Do you appear to be in shape?
Are you alone or with people?
Are you good looking?
Are you smoking? (Heaven forbid)
Does your style match mine?
Or appear to be different?
Why is your hair blue or purple?
There are a million questions that run through my head when I first meet someone. And, thanks to my upbringing, it can be difficult to interact with people. Not only do I develop a fear of those who look different than I do, I also develop a fear that I didn't measure up and people around me will instantly be judgmental of me, too. Exactly the way I do to them in return.
Being a person in recovery, as you can imagine, this has made my life unnecessarily difficult. Not only do I place judgments on the people around me, I also find myself judging myself and the person I have become. Without fault, the questions begin -
Is what I'm wearing too preppy?
Do the people around me relate to me based on their first impression of me?
Am I too shy to interact?
Will they think I'm stuck up because I'm shy
and afraid of what they might think of me?
Do I relate to you?
Are you safe?
Do you understand me?
Am I good enough to be your friend and fit in with you?
Do you like what I am wearing?
Do I look like someone who could be your friend?
If you couldn't tell already, my mind races like this 24/7.
It is exhausting.
It keeps me sick.
Over the past 9 months I have lived in six different recovery environments and here's what I learned -
Addiction does not discriminate.
Eating disorders come in all different shapes and sizes.
The label on my t-shirt means nothing.
How much money I make is irrelevant.
The family I grew up in,
no matter how perfect they might be,
can't fix my issues.
Alcoholics don't always live on the streets.
Or drink out of a brown paper bag.
Heroine addicts are some of the most beautiful people I will ever meet.
Criminals deserve love and belonging.
Age is just a number.
Felons are just like me;
trying to find their place in this world.
Trauma and abuse during childhood often leads to addiction;
But not always.
I am living proof and evidence of this.
I am a child of privilege and I'm still a person in recovery.
Every single day, multiple times a day, judgments happen. Let's be real. When was the last time you walked into a public environment or looked yourself in the mirror and didn't place a judgment? It's a difficult pill to swallow.
Subconsciously, throughout my life and recovery I have been placing these judgments. The reality is, however, they have gotten me nowhere. Here's a challenge -
Try to relate to the next person you meet without that first impression.
Try to look at yourself in the mirror tomorrow when you get ready for work
or the day and not judge your waistline in those pants.
If you are my family, try not to judge that kid based on his baseball knowledge.
After a simple conversation with my favorite dad today, I realized just how much I placed those judgments. This morning at an AA meeting I had a girl sit next to me who could have easily placed judgments on me, but decided to be welcoming instead. People are people. Not everyday is a good hair day or a best first impression. Sometimes stepping back and removing myself from judgments is hard work. But, sometimes, it is beyond worth it and I am surprised beyond belief.
Let's take a moment to really go beyond that judgment
and see people for who they are.
Let's take a moment to step outside ourselves
and understand not everyone has the same upbringing.
Let's be okay in our own skin
and be the person who we are meant to be,
addiction/eating disorder and all.