I was speaking with a friend today about image, particularly self-image and the image we project to others. One of the reasons so many famous people get backlash from fans when things come to light about them and their personal lives is because we tend to idolize the image when we don’t know the actual person. So many people vilified Tiger Woods when they found out he was cheating on his wife when it honestly had nothing to do with us. His claim to fame is golf, as a dynamic player, not as the poster boy for monogamy, but we feel we have the right to judge, as spectators to the drama. People like Lindsay Lohan are also scrutinized in our cross hairs for her questionable decision making, but which one of us hasn’t made similar decisions in our lives that we look back on and regret? Somehow, though, we believe we can be judge and jury because these people are celebrities.
So it got me thinking about regular folk, you know, the people you know and love, like family members, work “friends,” even those people we are vague acquaintances with, all people we automatically judge whether or not we even realize it. Just the other day I read this post from someone I know on Facebook and he said something in it that shocked me. It shocked me not because I thought he shared my particular views, but because he put it out there as if everyone should know everything about him, as if he were the celebrity like Lindsay or Tiger. Unlike these celebrities, though, this guy only has 200 “friends” and not one of them commented on his post. I think he learned pretty quickly that it’s not just our self-image that defines who we are, just like it’s not Britney Spears’ fault she is put under a microscope every time she goes anywhere or does anything.
What we lose sight of is that humans are just that. Human. We judge others first based on their physical appearance. Then we find a host of other criteria on which to judge: their clothing choice, their choice of friends, their hairstyle, their word choice, their knowledge of the things we like. And these judgements aren’t limited to friends on the peripheral edges of our lives. These judgements cut to the very heart of our relationships with our parents, with our partners, with our best friends even. Why do you think so many friendships come to an end? It’s because we find out something about our friends that we can’t just move past. It’s because of judgements we made before we even became friends, possible judgements that were even wrong, but we never talked about them so they stuck.
“A lot of people misunderstand me, because they don’t know me,” said Michael Jackson, one of the most judged celebrities in recent history, and he’s completely on point with this assessment. We think we know others because of the sides they show us, or because we don’t take the time to truly get to know them, or because we listen to what others say about them and we take it as the god’s honest truth. That’s the saddest one, when we mistake gossip for truth, and then we spread it, or we let it sit there and marinate inside of us, steeping and filthy inside of us. And the only way to get around it is by utilizing the thing that is most foreign to us, actually communicating. Sure, we can talk, but what do we really talk about? The most recent posts in my Facebook feed are all about image or reposting what someone else said. When we can’t even talk enough to our 200 closest “friends” what is this world coming to?
The only way to combat these image issues is not to spread what we don’t know, to get to know those people we should know, and to stop judging, because the more we judge, the more we are judged. Don’t believe me? Read what your “friends” are posting on Facebook, and tweeting on Twitter. Then come back to me and we’ll talk.