Yesterday I was leaving an office building on a busy street just outside of the downtown core of Vancouver. It was evening and the rush hour traffic had calmed. People were strolling, some with purpose, some not so much in the nice evening sun. Across the street, a couple caught my eye. They were an older couple and wearing matching shirts. The shirts were a mix of bright colors, so they really caught my eye. My first thought was, I never want to be one of “those” couples that wears matching cloths. In an instant, I thought, that was quite judgmental and I may not want to be one of those couples, but good for these two to obviously share such a close bond and be comfortable enough with each other that the rest of the world didn’t matter.
As I started walking to catch my bus home, I noticed a group of young people in the same shirts the couple had been in. Now I thought maybe it was some sort of group fitness class that had just let out. My judgement on this was not as harsh towards them but more directed at myself. Maybe I should sign up for a fitness class and get in better shape. I don’t look nearly as athletic as these young people. Maybe their class wouldn’t be right for me, but I am sure I could find a class that is.
Now I am at the bus stop and actually notice that a large percentage of the people on the street are in these shirts or similar colored shirts and look, there is a guy with a US flag painted on his chest. Then it hits me, there is a large FIFA soccer tournament in town. There must be or had been a game this evening. These colors represent the country the fans are cheering for. I am not a big sports fan and soccer was not even on my radar. I had no clue until this moment that there was a big game that evening.
Self-awareness is something that is still really new to me and it is very fascinating for me. It amazed me how I could see the same situation in three different ways with just a little more information. The information I had did not change anyone else’s reality except mine. I was also able to take these situations and learn a little more about myself. I am glad I am learning to do this, it is changing my perceptions of the world around me little by little. I learned that I can be quick to judge but also compassionate enough with myself to not be harsh and gently correct myself. I learned that no matter what my reality is and no matter what I want for my life, those people had a different perspective and because of that can be quite happy doing something that would not make me happy.
I am much more complex than my outer appearance would suggest. People that get to know me can see this. It is true for all of us. If someone judges me because of my pink toenails (or whatever color they are this week) chances are they are not coming to the right conclusions about me. I judged these people based solely on outer appearance, without asking them why they wore matching shirts. I drew my conclusions based on my life experience, not theirs. The shirts do not change their essential self, just like my toes do not change my essential self. If someone would disregard everything else they know about me and reject me because I don’t follow traditional gender norms, that comes from their experiences and their perception, not mine. I have more work to do within myself but I think awareness coupled with compassion is one of the keys for me. It can change how I experience the world and therefore it can change my perception of the world around me and allow me to see it in a less judgmental light. I am thankful for that and that is why this is such an amazing journey for me.