Not only have I usually been my toughest critic, I have also been one of those women who has been equally critical of other women. After reading some of the negative movie reviews of Eat, Pray, Love, I find there is no shortage of women who are harshly critical of other women.
I decided some time ago that I didn’t want to be this kind of woman anymore. And I wish more women would make the same decision.
The most common criticism of the movie and book heroine is that she whines too much or she is too self-absorbed. Some assert that she has no reason to be unhappy.
The book, Eat, Pray, Love, is not fiction. It is one woman’s real life journey to find herself. It could also be called a journey of self-healing or the quest to find balance in life and love.
I think the story resonated with me because of my own feelings that there must be more to life than what it has been so far. It’s not that I’ve been unhappy. For one thing, I’ve been very happily married for almost thirty years. But there have been career choices that I have regrets about. And now that I’m in my 50’s, I’m rather consumed with the desire to experience and see all the things that have been put off for someday in the future.
I was impressed by the courage and audacity of the author to set out on a journey to find answers to some of the same questions I have. I was a cheerleader in her corner as I read her book and was excited to follow her example as I watched the movie version of her story.
There are no villains in her journey, other than her own potential to self-destruct. I’ve been disturbed by those who have ridiculed her honest and sincere desire to be happy with her life with a fuller understanding of its purpose, potential and possibilities. I don’t understand why some have seen this as something worthy of ridicule.
Yet, I know I’ve done the same in the past. And in my case, I finally concluded that such behavior was narrow-minded and self-righteous. And I no longer wanted to be a woman who was holier-than-thou and smugly virtuous in my judgments of others. And believe me — sadly — this does describe some of my past judgments!
And like I said, I believe women are often women’s worst critics. We have a tendency to be intolerant of the opinions and behavior of other women.
We need more empathy, my friends!
It’s no easy undertaking to put oneself into another’s situation or position in an effort to better understand. In fact, it may be pretty much impossible to do that. And this point is probably something that women critical of other women should consider — or at least recognize.
We don’t know the whole story of our fellow women. All we know is what they tell us and what is in our sight. We do not know every detail of their situations or the depth of their feelings.
So when I say we need more empathy, dear women, this means we need to give more respect to other women. We need an appreciation of and compassion for their lives.
It doesn’t matter whether or not we think we agree with them or think we would never do the same. We don’t even have to agree to disagree.
Why do we feel the need to have any opinion about another’s life?
I admit it is a tall order to stop judging others. I have not mastered this desire entirely myself. But that doesn’t make my desire less sincere and genuine.
Jesus explained it best. "Do not judge others, and you will not be judged." In other words, "Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults — unless, you want the same treatment. Don’t condemn those who are down; that hardness can boomerang. Be easy on people; you’ll find life a lot easier." (Luke 6:37)
And that is the truest fact of all. The less I judge, I find that life is not only easier, but happier and more satisfying.
We’re all on a life-long journey to discover ourselves. Undoubtedly, we have much to learn. My hope is that we can eat, pray and love without criticism of ourselves or of others. This is going to require a lot more loving and a lot less judging!
Annette Bridges is a freelance writer who lives on a north Texas ranch with her husband, John. A mother and former public and homeschool teacher, she doesn’t think her insights are any more special than yours. But she believes we need to share what we’re learning with one another, and we need especially to share our insights with our children! First published by the Dallas Morning News after becoming an empty nester when her daughter left for college in 2001, she has since written weekly columns for numerous websites, newspapers and magazines. Visit her website and participate in her blog at http://www.annettebridges.com