I’ve been fighting a cold the last week—a generous gift from my toddler. I’ve had to go into work (masked and protected, wielding sanitizer and cough syrup) because one of my departments only has one person and she’s been off. So…I’ve been feeling pretty beat. My hours weren’t really forgiving to begin with so extra responsibility in this moment wore me down faster than normal. I did have the opportunity to work from home for an afternoon but my energy just wasn’t there. But perform I did. I did the work and exhausted myself. I took time away from my healing for someone else’s pleasure.
I took a business meeting for myself hoping it may lead me somewhere and the woman told me I looked good. She said, “I wouldn’t even think you’re sick until you coughed.” She meant nothing malicious by it, but it really got me thinking about how we value appearance and our expectation on performance. I may have looked fine, but I had put in a 14 hour day by the time I spoke with her and I was exhausted. My appearance meant nothing—I KNOW what I felt. How we misinterpret the innocuous. Like sustaining that type of work all while being sick is some badge of honor. Now, I won’t get too martyr-ish because I know we’re talking about a cold here, but the point remains the same. We expect people to perform unless they are on death’s door. I shouldn’t have to prove how sick I am with how I look.
I know we talk about not judging at first glance all the time but we have to recondition the human mind. Fast judgement is a primal instinct and it keeps us safe, letting us know what is harmful or not with a quick look. We still try to preserve our safety by appearing healthy and strong even when we are not and we still judge people by their appearance. The point is you never know what someone is going through. My piddly cold won’t impact the world, but if something that small can be misjudged, then we need to examine what we do to each other on a daily basis.
We look for equilibrium, the known, the regular and we trust our basic instincts to tell us what is what—that we won’t change. But I encourage people to take a step back and pause before you say anything really. This isn’t about being offensive or soft, it’s about the fact that we have to retrain ourselves because we are quite simply wrong more often than not. It’s not a criticism, it’s a fact that we need to accept. And I’m learning acceptance, acceptance, acceptance. So…maybe I should accept that we are judgey. Ah, it’s a vicious cycle. But the point remains—try to not jump the gun and leave space for people. We are all going through something.