When I first started asking women what made it hard to build community, I expected them to talk about busy schedules, about not having time to meet new people, or about the awkwardness of small talk. I didn’t expect the overwhelming response: “I’m afraid she’ll judge me.”
I was really grateful for the honesty. I’ve felt that pressure, too – pressure that I won’t fit in, that my clothes are wrong, my hair is wrong, my body is wrong. I know I’ve been judged in certain situations, and I know exactly what it feels like for a woman to look me up and down and assess.
But to shrink away from any new relationship for fear of that judgment?
I’ve thought about this question so often. When I talk to women about making friends, they share again and again how they feel like everyone is watching them, that everyone is judging them, that the women they meet give them the side eye and the cold shoulder. I know they feel these things; they’re not making it up. But I wonder if sometimes we all need to take some time to reflect on the lens, or the glasses, that we use to see the world.
Bear with me here – let’s say that the way we see the world is our “glasses.” Every time we are hurt, rejected, or disappointed, it’s like someone spatters mud on our glasses. A rude word might leave a smudge. Emotional wounds might leave scratches in the glass. Eventually, our glasses might be almost impossible to see out of – and even though someone isn’t actually judging, we still “see” it that way.
If you feel judged at every turn, or hear unkindness wherever you go, could it be that your glasses have been so damaged you can no longer see clearly?
As women, and especially as mothers, our self-care gets so often pushed to the very back shelf. But when our “glasses” become so broken and battered that we see darkness when there is sunshine, we need to take the time to do some cleansing work. That pain you have suffered is real. It is deep. The wounds you’ve sustained need healing. But they will not heal by themselves; there is work to be done. If you find yourself constantly bumping into walls, crashing into other people, and even losing your balance and falling down, it’s time to get your glasses repaired.
If you read these words and they resonate with you, take one action today. Maybe it’s checking with your insurance to see if they cover therapy. Maybe it’s buying a book to help you get started on a journey of self-discovery and healing – I love The Road Back to You by Ian Cron and Suzanne Stabile. Maybe it’s trying out a church this Sunday. Maybe it's opening up to a friend to share how you might need to start working through some old issues.
You are not alone. Being a woman is hard. Being a mother is often harder. Let's begin by working together to make sure we see each other clearly. It's the only way to start experiencing real community.