I’m not really one for newspapers, but last week I caught a glimpse of one, and of a story in it.
Apparently women across the world were sharing photos of themselves six hours after giving birth, in comparison to pictures of the Duchess of Cambridge leaving the hospital after the new prince was born.
Now, I could understand that in itself – giving birth is a pretty flipping big deal and why in the hell wouldn’t you be sharing your photos out of pride?
Except that the point of this article – and a lot of the photo sharing – wasn’t about pride but about comparing and, in doing so, sneakily criticising.
The story mocked Kate for her perfect hair and beautiful clothes and used quotes that seemed to speak of nothing but how ridiculous it was for Kate to look so damned good so soon after giving birth.
You know, she did look perfect. And maybe with every stroke of the hairdresser’s brush Kate was thanking her lucky stars that she was in a position to have so much help in making sure that when she stepped out in front of the world’s media she looked bloody amazing.
Or maybe she was stood next to her husband on those hospital steps – new baby in hands and designer heels on her feet – thinking how much she wished she could be climbing into the car in her yoga pants with no need to see anyone but her own little family for at least the rest of the day. We’ll never know, and frankly we don’t need to.
I’m not asking for sympathy here – when Kate married Prince William she knew what she was getting into – but that doesn’t mean she can’t get tired from time to time. Especially after giving birth. But I am asking for acceptance… and for us to stop bloody judging each other for our choices and the consequences those have.
Because while Kate Middleton may be very much in the public eye and part of an institution many people will always criticise, let’s be honest in saying that she’s not the only one who gets this sort of judgment.
Because the head shakes and mockery of her post-labour outfit is no different to those “how I laugh when I hear my childless friends say they’re tired” memes, the raised eyebrows and “there’s no way I’d wear that if I were her size” comments over particular ladies’ outfit choices, the way we pity single women, criticise promiscuous women, call assertive women bitchy and bossy, etc etc etc.
I wrote a post recently on the power of sisterhood, but let me sum the whole essence of what that means up in one easy sentence.
Sisterhood 101: Stop bloody criticising each others’ choices.
Theodore Roosevelt once said that comparison is the thief of joy.
If I’m honest I’m not completely convinced on that. After all, sometimes stopping to compare in the right way is an opportunity to understand where you do and don’t want to be can be really useful.
But I think Teddy’s words stopped too soon. After all it’s not comparison that’s the thief of joy, it’s the judgement that so often goes with that comparison.
I don’t claim to be perfect at this; that witch wound I’ve written about before has spent years convincing us to criticise one another and stay divided, so it’s no surprise that we all have moments of subconscious judgement and criticism.
But the key is in what we do next… Instead of ranting, criticising, laughing at or bitching, it’s about stepping back and asking why.
Why do we feel the need to judge? What is it about this person, their choices or behaviour that makes us so uncomfortable?
Is it that we’re jealous? After all, how many of those mothers in the newspaper article wish they’d had hair and makeup artists on hand the first time they’d had to face people after giving birth? (Although am I alone in hoping that somewhere William has a photo of Kate in those precious seconds after Louis was born with a giant grin on her sweaty, worn out face as she held her unwashed baby? Those photos are always my favourite!)
Is it that we’re uncomfortable because we feel threatened in some way? Maybe the person we’re criticising is doing something we really want to, and we panic that there’s not enough room out there for the both of us. (Spoiler: There is – the world is a bloody big place).
Is it that they’re doing something we genuinely believe is a bad idea? In that case we don’t necessarily have to support their choice (believe me, I know how hard it is to try and do that when you don’t feel it), but that doesn’t mean we can or should criticise it.
Whatever the reason for our initial judgement and criticism, it almost always comes from a place of fear within ourselves. So if we can stop in the first moment it hits, and take a second to understand the root of our judgement… well then we can stop criticising and start supporting – not necessarily all of the choices that are being made, but certainly the people making those choices and their right to choose as they wish.
And with that comes healing – for the bad experiences we’ve had in the past, for the relationships we have with the people around us, and for the lives of those that are still to come; and also power – because the power that comes when we’re all together and supporting each other is SO much greater than when we’re divided and attacking one another, honestly.
So whether it’s a new mother, a bikini clad celeb in a beach shot, the woman kicking ass in your work place or your best friend in the world I’m encouraging you to take those moments of judgement and using them as opportunities to investigate, to heal, and to spread a little love and compassion for the fact that the person you’re judging is only human too.