Judging: It's a Four-Letter Word in My Book

By , SparkPeople Blogger
The informal definition of judge is to form an opinion or evaluation, or to act or decide as a judge.  Why is this on my bad word for the day list?  I’m tired of people judging, including myself as always, because when we judge we’re forming an opinion with very little evidence to go on.  Case in point at the gym recently:

Last year I was a regular at a Zumba class at my gym.  I loved and still love Zumba, but I had to take a long break due to shoulder surgery.  There was a woman in this class at the time, who just like me, was working on getting healthy, toning up, and losing weight. (Notice how I put losing weight after getting healthy?)  Anyone at the time could have judged us both as overweight, and in my case, slightly uncoordinated at dancing. 

Now fast forward to last night – I was at the gym doing my leg weights as assigned by Mr. Squat Police, my demanding yet gentle trainer.  I was using the Roman Chair that I fondly refer to as the chair of torture, which happened to be right in front of the glass window to the aerobics room.  Zumba class was in session, and guess who is teaching?  You guessed it, the lady I talked about above.  Weight down, toned up, and instructing others on how to have some fun while burning calories.  You should have seen how happy she was to be teaching.  I actually crept into the back of her class for a little more than 10 minutes just to dance and enjoy the experience.  Her enthusiasm made me genuinely happy.

My story since last year’s classes is that I’m fully rehabilitated from major shoulder surgery, now an ACE Certified personal trainer and still maintaining a 90+ pound weight loss despite surgery.  A year ago people probably wouldn’t have written that future out for me while they watched me doing the cha-cha. I was writing that future out for me in my thoughts, and making plans to execute it. 

Cue up the third person in the story, a friend who was in that same class.  She lost quite a bit of weight but then dropped out of the picture for awhile.  She got busy with her family, a new job, etc., and I just didn’t see her for awhile.  She was in class last night, up in front, working hard with everyone else.  That also made me genuinely happy.  She took a detour but got back on track and that is refreshing.

I joked around with my husband about going to the gym and battling it out for a chance to use equipment with the New Year’s Revolutionists, but this year I felt different about it.  I walked around and tried to say hello to people I knew weren’t regulars.  I hoped as I watched that they wouldn’t quit.  That they would see and write a new future for themselves, instead of falling prey to hopelessness and defeat once again.  I thought about when I joined the gym three years ago – would anyone have guessed my fitness future?  Why should I presume then to judge anyone else’s chances?  When people met me when I was 50 pounds down, because they didn’t know me, would probably judge and say "geez, woman, lose some weight."  So this goes through my mind when I see people now.  I don’t know this person or their journey.  Encourage them where they are at and see a better future for them that you can share if they give you the chance.

So my point is stop judging others about where they are in their fitness journey.  Unless I missed the memo, there is no one currently living in the world that is perfect.  (P.S. that includes you and me.)  How about we spend that time and energy encouraging someone we see that needs it?  I think I’ve probably freaked a few people out at the gym actually.  I’ve been known to walk up to a woman who is walking in my old shoes and introduce myself out of the blue.  I generally start with "Hi, my name is Michelene, and I want to encourage you.  I’ve lost xxx amount of weight and I’ve got this great free resource that you can use at www.sparkpeople.com.  Have you heard of it?"

As usual, send me a message @michelenecleary on Twitter and tell me how you tried to #EncourageSomeone today.

So my challenge for you today is to look in the mirror and ask yourself, do I encourage people or do I inappropriately judge others?  Is there someone in my life that needs my encouragement instead of my judgment?  Do I judge myself in a negative fashion?  Do I need to let that go and encourage myself?

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People need to be more encouraging! Report
WOW!!! I really loved this story, how encouraging and motivating. I especially loved when you said that when you see people in the gym, you don't know where they are in their journey and wherever they are encourage them.
Thanks for sharing Report
You are correct. Judge is a four letter word (even though it is not really).
I have started passing that along also. I was shopping and these really "cute and fit" sales people were there. I told them you may look at me like I need to loose some weight but you really don't know where I am on my journey. I have lost 45 pounds so far and I am proud of it.
So when you look at someone before you think- gosh he/she needs to loose some lbs know that you don't know where they are at on their life journey and maybe they are doing just that. Report
Such an inspiring and mindful blog! Thank you for sharing! I go to a gym where I don't seem to feel out of place although I have about 120 lbs to lose. I have gotten encouraging remarks after training sessions from some women who saw what I was able to withstand from my petite yet powerful former trainer. It felt great to have these women who I didn't know give me a pat on the back, sometimes I wonder if they too had the same battle?? Report
Loved your blog and your enthusiasm. It's contagious. A few weeks ago, I noticed someone whom I had sparked had lost weight. I greeted him with "hey! lookin good, how much have you lost?" We talked a little bit, and he thanked me for hooking him up with sparkpeople. I just suggested he pass on the good news. He's lost a little over 10 pounds and just recently lost a niece to a stroke. He is motivated and spoke of modifying traditional family recipes. I'm so proud of him.
What an inspiration you are to others!! Keep up the great work. I am on a mission to help people get started in a journey no matter their weight or health. But the point is that everyone has to start somewhere, and if people keep judging them they just won't do it. Thanks for the great reminder to Love everyone as God created them and do NOT judge because we have no idea what they are going through. Keep up your great work!!
I too talk to people I don't know at the gym. Even just smile to them when the first come in or say hi when they get on the machine beside me. Since I am there about the same time every day, I know most of the people there, but I always smile and say hi to new faces. Some don't react, some become chatty. Like you, I've been in their shoes and want to be welcoming. Good blog. Report
Thank you! I don't know why I picked this blog out to read, but I am so glad I did. You mde me realize something. I had stopped going to the gym. I hd hundred's of reason to not go and my membership is now up. You just made me realize the I need to re-join and throw the excuses out the window and get back to the gym . My mobility is actually limited and there is a lot that I honestly cannot do--at least yet but there are things I can do and felt better for doing them. Thank you! Report
So wonderful to read this! I have learned to break the judging habit but I still have moments of it, usually during a really "down time" for me. I have learned to recognize when I am being judgmental and the steps I need to take to stop, like when you tell new people at the gym encouraging words. I also have to see where I feel I have failed, listen to my self-talk and be gentle with myself. I have learned the difference between assessment and judgement. One keeps me safe and one is condescending. Thanks for the blog! (a gym is 5 hour trip nowadays, so I am glad you go and remind me I use to enjoy going and I met nice folks there.) Report
Great article. I've been overweight all of my life. I'm still dealing with that issue. I have been judged many times, some well-meaning, other times not so much. In high, the popular kids and cheerleaders made fun of my size and made me the butt of their jokes. I wish that other people won't be so quick to judge other people. Same thing goes for myself, I tend to judge myself badly. That negativity often times leads to depression. Report
I say... Amen! and thanks for the reminder. Report
Wonderful reminder to us all to "not judge a book by it's cover" . Report
This is a really great blog today, Michelene. And you know what? I do judge myself negatively! (And I just got that revelation...like, 30 seconds ago!) Last week I was so down on myself because I had such a small weight loss. I know that any weight lost is good...in my head I knew that...but it didn't feel like it. I think I do it when I work out sometimes, too. When I'm on the treadmill, just trucking away, I think I'm working hard...then I look at those stupid numbers (and the teeny-boppers jogging next to me) and I start to get down on myself, thinking I could work harder or do better. But you know what?

I AM working harder! This is the first time I've put effort into exercising on a regular basis in about 2 years!

I AM doing better! Not only am I moving more, but I much more diligent (without being overly strict) about what I eat.

Thanks for the reminder to be kinder...to myself and to others! Report
Thanks for the inspiration and insight. Keep on SPARKing! Report
LOVED your blog!!! It is SO TRUE!!! Sometimes we judge ourselves the harshest - we should instead be mindful and treat ourselves like our own 'best friend'. It's true that if you judge yourself harshly you tend to see others the same way - we have to learn to relax and be happy with ourselves and the 'place' we are at the moment -we are all on a journey of some kind - it is so much easier to see the joy & happiness in simple things like physical activity when we relax our judgements -the people around you respond to that positive energy - and it makes the whole 'gym' experience (and our individual journey) so much more productive and meaningful! Thanks for sharing! Report
What a beautiful, generous, and compassionate spirit you've got, Michelene! Yes, those of us who've managed to get to our goal weight and stay there (so far...) always do well to remember what a struggle it was, and just how much hard work went into the process of losing weight and getting as healthy as we were able to. Congratulations on your success, and may we all continue to trudge this path of happy destiny! Report
Thanks for this. My judgment that was against myself. I saw a beautiful woman a Pilates class. I think unintentionally took her spot. I was feeling self conscious because I thought I was in the middle and turned out to be in the front of the class. She came up to me after class and told me "You are going to be so sore." Inside I thought yikes she hates me. She went on to tell me her story and she had lost over 100 pounds. I have felt so encouaged by her sharing. It is good that you share the positives with others. Keep it up. Great Blog. Report
I would like to add another perspective. As a person with several serious medical conditions that are causing me to currently be underweight and severely ill, barely able to walk, and barely able to eat anything, I ask that people don't judge anyone for anything. I can't say how often people judge me as being anorexic or joke about how I must live in the gym and only eat 'rabbit food'. In reality I'm being starved by my own body and hearing awful comments from people who are overweight about how I'm doing it to myself or looking for attention or even that I'm 'lucky' makes me sick.
Prejudice literally means 'pre-judging' someone about something without knowing the circumstances. Everyone does it at some point in their life - even unintentionally - and that's why it is important for EVERYONE to pay attention to their words and thoughts and actively seek out their own prejudices to reverse them. Report
Thank you Report
Loved your story. It would be so great to have someone at the gym who would welcome and make you feel like you "deserve" to be there. I do not and will not go to the gym due to past experiences!!! Report
It would create such a welcoming atmosphere in the gym (or anywhere else for that matter), if everyone had that attitude. Report
Great blog! There is always someone ahead of us, who's been in our shoes, and someone behind us who wants to be in ours. Makes the whole place an even playing field. Report
I just got home from the gym parking lot where I sat for 2 hours! I did not go in at all today. Just sat outside and took a nap. So what a surprise to come home and read this blog today! Tomorrow, I will just get myself in there real fast before I have time to lose my nerve! Report
Very inspiring!! Someone was a motivator to me to get my weight loss journey started and I couldn't think of a better way to pay it forward than to be that for someone else. You go girl!!!! Report
A very inspiring and touching blog. I would have guess that that is why most of us avoid gyms. Including me! Everyone has a different journey and how they got to where they are is not the point, what they are doing about it is the point and I commend everyone who is working towards a goal that fits them, not me nor anyone else. Report
Thanks for sharing with alll of us on here, was great to read and inspiring. Report
Wow! When they say everything happens for a reason...it really does! I keep letting work and weather stop me in my tracks when it comes to getting healthy. I really needed to read your blog to get me back on track! Thank you for writing it :) Report
Thanks for writing this great blog. I can understand why it was featured today. Report
Great story!! Report
Whenever I see any heavier person out exercising I always give them a "you go girl/guy!" and I imagine the people passing me when I am out running saying that to me and it always inspires me! We are in this together as a country, the whole country is battling obesity and we have to support each other if we want our next generation to be healthy and happy. Great article! Report
great message and a great reminder to encourage myself too. i frequently encourage others, but tend to leave myself out of the picture. it's great you make a difference with other people by introducing yourself. fantastic! Report
Thank you you have encouraged me to be more of an encourager. Report
Great info, great attitude, great story. Thanks! Report
Thank you for this Blog!! The right message at the right time. I try not to judge others, but I often judge myself harshly. Report
I like it when people say hi to me at the gym but most times I like going to the gym to do my aquafit class and swim laps. I don't like it when people get too chatty and have too much to say because I really don't want their advice or opinions. If what they have to say is encouraging, then OK, but to come up to me and say hi I am so and so and then proceed to talk to me about how to lose weight would rub me the wrong way and I would find it offensive and discouraging. That's where I am at right now. Thanks for listening. Report
I've found that how you look at others is a true reflection of how you look at yourself. If you are judging them unfairly chances are you are hating yourself. But if you love yourself, you see others in a more positive light, too. Report
Thanks, this was an awesome blog... just what I needed to hear! Report
People comment on how skinny I am now. I hate it. It is a judgement word just like fat Report
Your words are filled with encouragement. To just be getting my day started at work and open my email and find this amazing story, put a smile on my face. I too am a large lady and you are right going to the gym is hard, especially when there isn't anyone like you there to give hope. However, after reading this I am going to stop feeling sorry for myself and be possitive and head to the gym! Thank you! Report
What a great "pay it forward" to share with the world. Report
You know, judgment isn't just an individual issue, because we are living bathed in a culture of judgment, blame and fear these days. Our society is overwhelmed by with so much information (just what is poort health) and so many predictions (the likely consequences) and with worry (who is going to pay for all that?). But there's an antidote to that fear culture, which is love, compassion, humor, and support. Thank goodness for positive spaces, communities, and individuals, where we find them!
Thanks, I enjoyed this blog. I hate our cultures emphasis on weight. I, too, have lost weight and then regained it and now am losing it again at a much slower pace. I am super uncomfortable with the comments that acquaintences make. Report
Good thoughts. Thank you.
Martha Report
Thanks to your words and thoughts, I can see things in a different perspective for myself as well as other. You're a blessing. Report
Thank you!!! So much insight. Excellent and well, well written. Report
Your amazing! Report
You are such a great inspiration. Thank you for sharing your story. Report
I can see why you are in my Spark Mail this morning! Just a GREAT blog! Enjoyed reading, and I believe Judge Judy would even like this one!!! Report
Thank you. As someone who quit the gym (not sure if I will ever go back) because the "regulars" were inhospitable (I'm being kind), it's nice to know that somewhere out there is someone like you who encourages rather than discourages. Report
Thanks for the reminder. And congrats on losing and maintaining a 90 lb loss! Report