Dear 100 Hour Board,
I need some advice on how to stop judging people!
I'm in a situation that I've never really encountered before. I'm overweight and have usually been the biggest person among my groups of friends/roommates/coworkers. Now, however, I have somehow ended up living with people who are all bigger than me, and it is bringing out kind of ugly thoughts that I'm not used to dealing with. Before, I was always comparing myself to others, but from the point of view of the bigger person, so I often felt more insecure about my body. But now, I've realized that I am that person that I was always afraid of--I find myself internally judging the other people I live with almost constantly about their weight, and I know it needs to stop. I'll find myself thinking things like, "Wow, she's not even trying to dress in a way that's flattering, that looks awful" or "I can't believe she's eating so much junk food, that's disgusting, doesn't she know that it's bad for her?" or "I'm glad that I carry my weight better than she does," etc. Just generally awful judgy things.
I feel like I should know better, because of course I would hate it if people thought those things about me, but it's been hard for me to find a way to stop doing this. Any advice would be much appreciated! How do you guys stop yourselves from comparing/judging others?
-Oh how the tables have turned
Ahh, that good old internalized fatphobia. Been there, girl. And it's the worst, because you don't want to be the person thinking the same thoughts that you're afraid that others would possibly think about you, just like you said.
This is something that I also have been working on for some time. Part of this for me is the kind of body positivity stuff that I've mentioned in other answers, slowly learning to accept and love my own body. The other big part for me in working on this is to consciously counter the unkind/fatphobic thoughts. For example, after your brain automatically says, "Wow, she's not even trying to dress in a way that's flattering, that looks awful", follow it up by thinking something like "What she's wearing looks really comfy and I bet she really loves it. Good for her for not letting other's perceptions of what's 'flattering' affect what she wants to wear." Especially in terms of the second thought about "junk food", it has helped me to consider whether I would see anything wrong with what the person is eating if they were skinny. Healthy does not always equal thin, but we often police what fat people eat as "unhealthy" even if we wouldn't give it a second thought if a skinny person's diet was exactly the same. Challenge those thoughts and remind yourself that they have the agency to decide to eat what they want and so do you.
Finally, a big part of my (continuing) journey to rid myself of fatphobia and prejudices as well as bring me toward body positivity was to join a fat positive Facebook group. Having a community of people to discuss this kind of stuff with that knows exactly what you're talking about has been invaluable to me. Plus, they have given me amazing recommendations about where to find jeans that don't wear out in the thighs as quickly :D.
Lately when I've had the stray judgmental thought, something really strange has happened. I felt the weight of my thought so incredibly deeply as though I were the person whom it was directed at, and was completely horrified at how I could possibly think ill of a fellow child of God. Except I don't really know why I felt this way, or how to purposefully replicate the sensation. It was definitely effective at halting my judgmental thoughts, though.
As far as other advice goes, I think it helps to think of how pretty the other person looks. Make finding something positive about the people around you a conscious effort. Hopefully the focus on the good will naturally decrease the thoughts of the bad.
Dear Turn Tables,
When I first scanned this question in the inbox, I thought you were asking for advice on how to stop juggling people. This seems to happen to me fairly often (like the time I was walking quickly through the JFSB and thought I saw a flyer for the Obama Club and was halfway into a long reflection on how successful that club could be at BYU when I realized it was actually some sort of Drama Club).
But! I can relate, in my own way. I get really uncomfortable around people that are socially awkward. Now, you may think that people, generally, are uncomfortable around socially awkward folks, but this is a feeling that cuts deep for me. For a while when I was growing up, I would try to talk in a way that I thought made me sound cool and different and sophisticated and whatever. In my later teenage years, I realized that this wasn't the case, but to my frustration, it took a long time to grow out of that phase. In the meantime, I was stuck in this stress-inducing limbo where I would routinely blurt out things that made me cringe approximately one millisecond after they left my mouth. To this day, I can remember certain interactions I had with other people that fill me with a deep sense of shame and remorse (and, to be honest, while I've mostly grown out of the habit through conscious effort, it still happens from time to time that I'll try to say something clever in a group setting and end up completely mortified).
So, with that background, it made it hard for me to study around some of the other physics majors in my cohort, because they would say things that were awkward and would make me cringe and dredge up lots of unwelcome memories. And, here's the thing: it's not that they were even saying anything bad. Nothing they were saying was rude or offensive or hurtful to anyone else; it was just a little bit oblivious to social norms concerning conversation and whatnot. So it was basically just a bunch of college students joking around, bonding with each other, and having a good time, with me gritting my teeth in the corner for essentially no reason.
It changed my perception of those people, and my resulting thoughts were not always very kind toward them. I recognized that these thoughts were wrong, but I'll be darned if it wasn't hard to stop thinking them. How did I overcome this problem?
I stopped studying in that area and then graduated from BYU.
Now, before you get the wrong idea: I'm not saying you should run away from the people in your situation. I am pointing out that I actually didn't solve my issue in a healthy way, and I missed out on opportunities to connect with other people and support them and learn something from them, too.
So I guess I don't have a sure-fire solution for you, Turny, but I can relate. And, I can also say that for me, if I'm dealing with unwanted thoughts about any number of topics (stress, anxiety, self-doubt, judgment, etc.), it helps if I just stop what I'm doing and point out to myself that what I'm thinking is wrong. Sometimes, if I'm concerned enough, I'll say a quick prayer and ask for help in stopping these thoughts. And it helps to talk to someone about it, too, which you've already done a little bit by asking us here.
Good luck, friend! I'm sure you'll figure it out, and you'll be a better person for doing so.