Don’t you love it when people you don’t even know make judgments about you? Haven’t you found their unsolicited advice to be incredibly helpful and their criticisms to be surprisingly accurate?

If you answered no, no and um…no; then you’re in good company, with everyone else, ever. Because no one likes being judged, criticized or lectured, least of all by strangers. And yet somehow, everywhere you go, there are people who are doing this to you. At the grocery store, at the doctor, and while sitting in traffic. You can’t even escape it in your own home because they’re online just waiting with bated breath for you to write something sensible so they can pounce on it with misinformation and fury.

So who the heck are these people? They couldn’t possibly be you and me because we loathe people like that, right? Well, I hate to break it to ya: it is us. C’mon, admit it. You’ve cut someone off on the freeway before (oops!), I’ve told strangers online how rude, unfeeling, and hypocritical they are (yeah, I’m seeing the irony), and we’ve all thought to ourselves dang, even my kids don’t act like that (sorry!). If we’re honest with ourselves we would realize that at least some of those smug jerks out there are us. And we need to stop.

Stop criticizing:

When I’m driving, I suddenly become the biggest expert on how everyone else should drive. I’m the one riding your tail when you don’t pull over, gesturing wildly (don’t worry, no finger) when you haven’t used your blinker, and honking repeatedly when you run a red light. I’m obviously the perfect driver, so everyone else should know to stay out of my way and pull their slow butts over to the right lane so I can speed past them. It’s not until I say it out loud (or type it) that I realize how hypocritical that is.

Stop jumping to conclusions:

Once, when my daughter was in the early stages of potty training, a friend and I took our kids to the park on a sunny and cold, but not freezing day. I had an extra pair of Dora the Explorer undies for her in my purse but hadn’t thought to bring a pair of pants because she always ALWAYS wore a dress. Except for that day. She, of course, wet her pants and after much useless lamenting over the fact that she had no pants to wear, we decided to leave. It was quite a walk back to the car and since the walk ran right along the edge of the lake, the children felt the need to stop every 10 feet to look at the ducks and yank plants out of the planters. We prodded them along like cattle, and all the while I could feel the stares of all the people along the way. I just knew they were thinking that no adequate mother would ever let her child romp around in naught but her skivvies at any time let alone in public on a chilly day. I wanted so badly to be able to explain the extenuating circumstances to those strangers that day, to stop them from judging me. But I realize now that it wasn’t fair for me to assume that any strangers even cared at all. Sure, I was embarrassed, but nobody even said anything to me. Maybe they took one look at our little entourage and knew exactly what was going on and I was the one jumping to conclusions.

Stop having a blindspot:

The other day at the store I heard a mom snap really loudly at her kid. My immediate thought was Geez, what a mean mother. If she acts like that in public, I wonder how bad she is at home. But I’ve yelled at my kids in public before, and I’m not mean. I try to be really level with my kids but sometimes, especially when you’ve been out running errands for three hours and the kids are playing hide-and-go-seek in the aisles, and you feel the stares and judgements of everyone around you, something in you snaps. And then you snap at your kids. Let’s not think it only happens to other people. It happens to us too.

We all deserve a little slack. Most people aren’t as bad as they seem when they’re running through Costco, un-showered, wearing socks with sandals, and trying to get the eggs, milk, and toddler through the checkout and into the pickup line at the school (true story). And if I want people to give me the benefit of the doubt, I definitely should do the same for them.

Crystal Hill

I've been a mom by profession for the past 17 years. My qualifications are: raising 5 kids and having a degree in Marriage, Family and Human Development from BYU (yes, that's a real degree). I'm particularly experienced in the areas of carpooling and diaper changing. My hobbies include watching crime dramas and absurd comedies when I have the time, reading when I have the attention span, and running when I'm not too fat. I'm also really good at oversharing and cracking myself up, usually at the same time.