Lately I’ve noticed an increasing trend in ‘Keyboard Warriors’ and the ‘Perfect People’ mindset. No-one can express an opinion or share a thought, no matter how innocent or well-intentioned, without people jumping on it, picking it apart and making the person wish they had never said anything, myself included.
If you’ve ever been a member of a Parenting Group on Facebook, then I’m sure you’ll be well-aware of all the ‘Perfect Parents’ out there that will jump on every little thing you say and do to tell you how you’re doing it all wrong and they’re doing it all right. People like this have always existed. I remember back when I was pregnant with my eldest, 18 years ago, a co-worker telling me I had to breastfeed and had to use reusable nappies, and another expectant Mum at the Midwives Office telling everyone how her baby was going to be a genius because she listened to Classical Music everyday and we should all do that too. But back then you could just smile and nod and walk away, carry on doing what suits you, probably never seeing those people again to ‘judge’ you. If you did see them again, or did challenge their opinions, most would just agree each to their own, or you would just agree to disagree. But in today’s Social Media Society, people can hide behind the relative anonymity of their screens and keyboards, and keep pushing their thoughts and opinions, no matter how hurtful or disrespectful they may be.
This week alone, I have witnessed conversation threads where people have reached out asking for help and advice;
on parenting issues – only to be criticised for their parenting and told they’re doing everything wrong;
on saving money on laundry costs – only to be criticised for how much laundry they do and called a liar and stupid because ‘they must not know how to dose detergent properly’;
on shopping on a tight budget – to be criticised for ‘feeding their children rubbish’ and called a liar because people ‘can’t understand how they can spend that little because they could never do it’.
While there are people out there that will genuinely answer these appeals for help with good advice and kind words, there are far too many that will jump on them and make them feel worse. It’s this reaction that sees people suffering in silence, never admitting that they’re struggling for fear of being criticised for it.
Nobody knows what could be going on in another person’s life. Even people you know well could be fighting battles you know nothing about.
That woman you criticised for wanting advice about formula and tell she’s a bad mother for not breastfeeding, could already feel like a failure for not being able to breastfeed, could be unable to breastfeed, may be fostering or adopting or have a child that’s lactose-intolerant.
That person asking the cheapest place to buy a pack of sausages to feed their kids, that you criticised for ‘feeding their children rubbish’ could have recently lost their job and be struggling to put food on the table at all.
That person walking down the street that you laughed at and called fat, could have recently gone through chemotherapy, have a disability or an eating disorder. Getting out of the house at all could have been a huge accomplishment for them.
And your hurtful comments and harsh words could put them off ever reaching out for help again, they could put them off trying to better themselves, or make them feel like giving up entirely.
I was always taught to treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself.
So before you start to criticise another’s choices, just stop for a second and think how you would feel in their situation. Would someone criticising you and making you feel bad about your choices help you in any way? No? Then don’t behave that way towards them. If someone reaches out asking for help and advice, give it to them. It’s as simple as that.
We’re all fighting our own battles, we all have our own problems, we all have our own opinions. No one person’s are bigger than another’s. it may feel like your problem is bigger than theirs, but to them their problem will feel bigger, because it’s theirs. There is no right or wrong, just different.
Be kind. Always.