Who would I be if no one judged me?
I’ve been tossing that question around in my mind this week after reading Colleen’s piece on Judgment and Amanda’s piece on Fear and Ambition. My immediate reaction is, I would be someone more. Nothing would have held me back and I would have accomplished so much more. I think back to my piece from two weeks ago, “Hello? My Eyes are Up Here,” and I know how it feels to be judged for my “assets” and how I always have to fight to disprove the stereotype. I think back to my childhood and hear my grandmother’s voice in my head telling me I’m fat. I hear my brother’s taunt, “She’s got a nice face, but the rest is out of place.” There are thousands of examples and I can feel the weight of stones accumulating in my heart with each one.
I spent an entire day mooning over this, thinking I’d missed out on doing so much because of others’ judgments. I wrote a list of all of my accomplishments in life and then I wrote a list of all the things I’ve wanted to do, but never have. As I went through this exercise, I began to see a pattern. I am a rebel. When someone judges me or tells me I can’t do something, my automatic response is “F*ck you. Watch me!” And then I prove them wrong. I know the response is crude and quite possibly immature, but I really began to think; who would I be if no one judged me?
I wouldn’t have been a teacher, that’s for sure. I had my daughter on a Wednesday and was back in class on Monday to finish out the semester even though my advisor advised against it. Then, when my daughter was only five-weeks-old, I started student teaching. The teacher with whom I worked immediately discounted my ability to succeed, saying I should be home with my daughter rather than finishing my degree. I finished and much to her dismay, my professor gave me an “A” because I earned it.
I wouldn’t have been a writer. Before moving from my home state to North Carolina, my mother told me I was foolish to give up my teaching career to start writing. But I did it. Had I listened to her or my first critics who told me I sucked, I would never have continued to write. Now I have this blog and am a co-author to two traditionally published books, Four Doors Open and Four Feet Down and I’m pitching to an agent in a couple of weeks. Nothing may come of it, but had I not been judged, I don’t think I would have come this far. I’m not sure I would have pushed myself so hard, just as I wonder if I would ever have finished my degree if I didn’t have the nay sayers.
Would I have taken so many extra classes or earned so many endorsements if I didn’t have to fight the blonde stereotype? Without the fear of not being smart enough, I don’t know if I would have had the ambition to research areas of interest, or try to understand politics, the environment, or how to teach children with special needs. I wonder if I would work out so often or if I would have run so many miles if I hadn’t been judged for my size. Would I have chosen a sedentary life and been content with being overweight? I’ll never know, because I WAS judged.
As I look at this list of my accomplishments, I am reminded of all of the people who told me I couldn’t, or shouldn’t. I remember the put downs, the dismissals, and in some cases, the jeering. It incited me to accomplish my goal, not only because I wanted it, but to shove my success in the faces of all who judged. I know, that’s crude and possibly immature. It could be said I developed my rebellious nature because of being judged, but I’m not sure that changes anything.
Perhaps it’s the yin and yang of life. The idea that we enjoy a sunny day more after a rainy day, the kiss of a lover after a period of absence, the taste of something sweet after eating something bitter, and succeeding when everyone told us we would fail. I don’t know if I would have achieved all of my successes if I hadn’t been judged. I don’t know what more I would have done if I hadn’t been. Intellectually, I’ve learned judgments are more about the people who make them than they are about those being judged, but emotionally? I still need to prove I can.
Who would I be if no one judged me? I’ll never have the answer to that question, but I do know I like who am.
To read more of Elaina’s letters, click on Elaina!