It’s of utmost importance that I be transparent with you all right now, and not just about the pair of parachute pants I still own from 1987.
No, the truth you should know is this:
If there was one thing I would want to change in this world, it would be the “food wars” we wage against each other. In fact, this might be my new mission in life: To join the human race in one connecting truth. The truth that we’re all doing the best we can with what we believe in any given moment of our lives in order to nourish ourselves and our families.
The truth that there is no “one right way” for every single person in the world. The truth that diversity (in our beliefs AND in the way we eat and take care of our bodies) is what keeps us learning and growing, and is something to be celebrated – not ridiculed (yes, even in the case of processed foods, which we’ll talk more about in a minute).
The truth that we are ALL in this together. All of us. You and me. Us.
And that’s why I think “Cart Anxiety” is an important place to start, because it starts in the open. It starts in a place where we’re the most vulnerable. In public, where everyone can see our vices, our unmentionables, our triumphs and our weakest moments.
So while I know we won’t solve this crisis of you’re-bad-and-killing-yourself-with-your-personal-choices shaming in one fell swoop, one silly little blog post, all I ask is that you begin considering the concept of being gentle with yourself and with other people and their choices.
Let’s talk specifically about Cart Anxiety right now, though.
No One Can Make You Stop Judging – Even You
If you spend any amount of time on message boards, Facebook, or blogs (and I’m assuming you do – hello!), you probably know by now that the judging other people for their personal health choices is an epidemic.
I mean, people are effing mean about it. Nasty. And it solves zero problems; it only leads to more irrational internet arguments and horrid feelings.
But herein lies the rub: You can no more make yourself stop judging other people than you can make yourself stop eating completely. And, goodness knows, there’s nothing in the world I’m going to be able to say to you to convince you to just stop cold turkey. (But that won’t stop me from trying to nudge your thoughts in a more loving direction.)
I’m going to propose three potential truths, however, that you can just keep in mind (or discard if you’d like, it’s up to you):
- Judging and criticizing people doesn’t help them; it hurts you.
- No one thing (diet, personal care, or otherwise) is perfect for everyone in the world.
- If everyone lived like you, believed like you, and behaved like you, the world would be a terribly droll, dull, and lifeless place. Contrast is what brings our world to life – this is as true in nature as it is in our thoughts.
None of these truths are set in stone; they’re just possibilities to consider when you have a negative thought about someone else and their choices.
So when you find yourself judging someone else based on the contents of their cart (or based on a moment on the internet), what can you do about it?
First, you can ask yourself about your thoughts and whether or not they’re true. I mean this. Talk to yourself (it’s amazing how your thoughts work themselves out when you bring questions to them).
So, for example, you see a woman with children and a cart full of sugary breakfast cereal. You think, “What a terrible mother; she’s killing her kids.” Ask yourself: “Can I absolutely know for a fact that this woman is a terrible mother, or that she’s killing her kids? Absolutely, completely, for a fact without any doubt whatsoever, can I know this?”
The answer will always be, always, “No. I cannot know that for a fact.” Perhaps this woman is single, works three jobs, and hasn’t ever been privy to knowledge that sugary breakfast cereal is bad. With little doubt, she loves her children (if you didn’t love something, would you care for it at all?). She feeds them; is that horrible? She’s killing them; is that true? I grew up on sugary breakfast cereal and I’m not dead, so can I know for a fact that she’s killing them? Can I even know for a fact that she’s buying them for her children? No.
These are just some of the ways you can talk to those negative, stressful, judgmental thoughts that only hurt you.
You see, I’m not asking you to change your perspective because it’s bad. I’m asking you to consider the possibility that talking to your negative thoughts might very well help YOU be more healthy emotionally.
I want you to consider one more thing, when you feel judgy towards someone with unhealthy food in their cart: What would happen if, tomorrow morning, everyone in the world woke up and said, “I’m only going to eat real food from now on. Only grassfed, pastured, and organic. Only that, and nothing else.”
What would that do to supply? What would that do to the price you pay at the checkout? Would YOU even be able to access the foods you so dearly enjoy, if that happened?
Perhaps everything happens in slow increments in order for us to slowly acclimate to changing opinions. Perhaps, instead of judging, we can be grateful that while it IS happening – while public opinion about healthy eating and living is changing – it is changing slowly, so as to not cause immediate chaos.
Just something to think about.
And For You Who Feel Judged – I Have Two Thoughts For You
The first is this, “Your opinion of me is none of my business.”
I know, I know. Embracing that is easier said than done.
But do everything you possibly can to get there. Please.
I speak to you from a place of deep, deep knowledge. If I was going to attribute my “blog break” to anything at all, it would be the fear of being judged by everyone else (because, let’s say this again, people on the internet are so mean sometimes).
I took time away to examine where I didn’t feel comfortable with myself; where I wasn’t accepting myself and my choices for myself, because that’s the root of the whole danged issue.
And nowhere is this more glaringly apparent than with “Cart Anxiety.” If you feel comfortable with your choices, and you DOGGONITKNOWWITHOUTADOUBT that you’re choosing what you need when you need it (and that freaking includes a cupcake every once in a while), then it won’t matter what anyone else thinks.
The second thought is this: The thoughts you’re having about other people judging you live only one place: In your own head. This is excellent news, because that’s the one and only place where you get to decide what stays and what goes.
Here are some special things for you to consider:
- Ask yourself, “Is it true that someone is going to judge me for this cupcake? Can I absolutely, without a doubt, know it’s true?” If you can’t, then why worry?
- When you go to the store, have one thing on your mind – one thing only – being “in the moment.” If you open your mind and your heart to everything that’s available for you to look at, smell, and touch in the store, you have little time to concern yourself with what other people are thinking. Take it all in – the green and the orange, the creamy and the crunchy. You might discover a new world of food you hadn’t even noticed before, because you were too busy thinking about thoughts that you thought other people may be thinking.
- The grocery store isn’t happening TO you, it’s happening FOR you. How amazing is that?
- Lastly, consider that the judgments you think other people are having aren’t theirs at all – they’re yours. These are your judgments of yourself. When you know this, you can apply the “is this absolutely, without a doubt true” exercise to ALL of them, and figure out exactly where it is you’re hurting yourself and your ability to enjoy life (and the opportunity to nourish your body and soul).
Lastly, when you start to worry about being judged in the grocery store, THINK ABOUT THIS EVERY SINGLE TIME.
At one time, I was LITERALLY WALKING AROUND WITH POOP IN MY CART.
Literally, poop in my shopping cart, that I carried, and bought – and I didn’t give a crap what anyone else thought.
(Tell yourself: At least I’m not Betty, and this is not poop.)
If that doesn’t make you feel better about your cupcake, I don’t know what will.
Finally – Contrary Beliefs are NOT Your Enemy
Ugh. I don’t know how to make this more clear, because I know there are some of you that are very invested in the idea that your beliefs are the only right way to live.
The only thing I can offer is my own personal credo: What I do is right for me, and when I do what is right for me – and do it lovingly and gently – I set a precedent for other people to want to follow in joy and excitement.
So, in closing, I just want us to all consider whether or not the example we’re setting is something other people feel excited to experiment with, or if they’re going to be turned off by dogmatic, judgmental thinking.
Let’s try – try – to be more kind to each other and ourselves, on the internet and in our own heads in the grocery store.
And maybe, instead of a scowl or a guilty downward glance, we can start smiling at each other and connecting at the checkout line. After all, we’re all just doing the best we can with what we have where we are.
“Can I even know for a fact that she’s buying them for her children? No.”
To take it even a step further, “can I know for a fact those are even her children? No.” She could be a paid nanny or babysitter, taking the children of her employer shopping, and who has been given the money and the list of what to buy, and she has absolutely no say in it.
An intriguing discussion is definitely worth comment.
I believe that you need to write more on this subject, it may
not be a taboo matter but usually people do not
speak about these subjects. To the next!All the best!!
Hello, I am very interested in your book, it sounds really good. Do you sell them in new Zealand book shops.
Heather Bryan :o)
I thought this post was going to be about having anxiety using a cart at the store. I guess I’m the only weirdo with that problem! But seriously, great post. I do find myself getting all high and mighty about what other people are buying(in my head), but then I worry if someone is judging me when I buy a bag of candy.
I just found your blog, whish I had sooner! You are a delightful writer.. witty, deep and serious all at the same time.
Your article could apply to many aspects of life, religion, politics, etc.
Haha, I totally stare at people’s carts and judge them, but I’ve never thought of it as a bad thing. It’s fun! I like people watching. Can’t say it ever occurred to me to be embarrassed about what I was buying either, lol. I’m all for the cart-snooping 🙂
These are such good points. I always deeply appreciate the positivity I find here. I have a tendency to have very judgemental thoughts, and I am constantly fighting to improve the way that I think and perceive. I am especially hard on myself, so it often becomes necessary to block out the judgements of others just to get through the day without being paralyzed by perfectionism. This has been especially true since I have become a parent. As soon as my daughter started eating solid foods I spent tons of time making my own baby food from fresh, organic foods, only to be judged by others (on the internet) who felt that I was a bad parent for not growing the vegetables myself before steaming and pureeing them. My inability to name the provenance of each vegetable at the farmers’ market was an unforgivable sin. Then I went to the pediatrician where I was told that they didn’t like my daughter being below the 50th percentile in weight and that I needed to feed her butter and the most fattening things that I could find as much as possible. What?!?! At first I was tearful that I had failed to do the best thing humanly possible for this little miracle I loved so much. I was in a whirl of conflicting information. Then, my sister gave me a reality check. There will always be someone who feels that something can be done better, or that I could have made a better choice. They might be right, or they might not. There are scientific findings, but the interpretation of those even involves some subjectivity. I could spend my life in worry and research, or I could do a little research and spend more time loving and playing with my child. Yeah, I buy my eggs in a store. We’re prohibited from having chickens where we live. It’s okay. No, my daughter has never had a soda. She’s healthy, happy, and ridiculously energetic being powered primarily by fruits, vegetables, and clean meats, even though she’s skinny. Yeah, energetic. It still happens without tons of processed food or sugar. Kids get excited when they’re happy and curious. Hundreds of years ago, people did not have processed food. They lived to be about 40. There were other factors in play. There are SO many factors that affect our existence. We cannot understand or control them all in a single lifetime. I am trying not to spend all of my time obsessing and attempting to be as “right” as possible. I choose to be on a journey of discovery and self-improvement, punctuated by periods of happiness. Do I always succeed? No. Sometimes I judge the heck out of people, including myself. Sometimes I actually do improve myself and pass that on to another in a caring way. I guess I would say that I’m working on it. There are some that would choose to call my pursuit of more serenity to be the acceptance of more complacency, but I call it balance.
oh geez, yes… when my girls were kids and one had post-op pancreatitis and was on a zero-fat diet and the other was combatting pressures at school and battling anorexia, my shopping cart was a nightmare of conflict between what one could eat and what the other could choke down… I got SO many weird looks, but I knew the cashiers and we’d talk about how the kids were doing and some of the people behind me had the grace to look mortified when they caught on that I *wasn’t* a horrible mom, I was just balancing difficult circumstances. Cashiers… generally don’t care. They see it all, and they’re too busy to spend time analyzing what comes before them. But, man, people can be amazingly supportive, and totally horrible, and everything in between.
I was biting my tongue about all the MEAN comments when you did your first post. I love that you point out here that you don’t really know why other people are shopping the way they are. Case in point, when I was a kid there was a man in front of us at the checkout with a cart FULL of bananas. When I asked him what they were for it turns out he was the manager of the Dairy Queen and they’d run out of bananas for making Banana Splits. Never would have guessed!
I love you. The end.
Okay and, also, I feel very gratified that my comment on Part 1 is pretty much along the lines of this post. Are you feeling my wavelengths? Because I’m feeling yours.
Now it’s the end. For real.
I was brought up with the golden rule of “treat others how you would like to be treated” and it stuns me how many people never seem to have heard of that basic concept.
A little empathy and kindness goes a long way in life, and there is nothing wrong with a treat every so often. No matter what you do, you’ll never make everyone happy or proud of your choices.
I eat close to a dozen eggs a week – that makes some people livid. I also drink a glass of orange juice a day, for Vitamin C and iron levels, and the way some people react, you would think I’m downing bags of sugar. I suffer from mild nausea in the morning quite often, so there is pretty much always ginger ale around, and I’m 100% okay with that.
You will never know a person’s life story by the contents of one shopping cart at one store.
Points very very well made. I have always said that the world would be a boring place if we were all the same, wanted the same things, felt the same way. Diversity is the key to a great world. In regards to food, when we know better we do better, or try to do better, and most are doing the best we can. To parents who are overwhelmed, give up the “guilty parenting”, it will get better.
Crunchy Betty. You are amazing! It is like you have read my thoughts….and given me the most amazing advice. So thank you from a young woman all the way from New Zealand trying to start her own natural cosmetics business and blog….who is constantly feeling judged, even by her own friends (and the trolls). You provide a shining beacon of hope! Love you big time! x
Raw Once More
I try not to judge other’s choices, but yeah I guess I have biases. It’s kind of like discovering a new religion, or super cool appliance(yes those things are similar) – it changes your life so you want to preach about it and ‘help’ other people have their lives changed as well. But I try not to preach, just share my experiences with whole food eating with those who are interested and ask. Although, as a vegetarian, I’ve often found it interesting just how many people, strangers and non-strangers, are keen to rant at me about the wrongness of my choice. Doesn’t bother me if they eat meat, I’ve never preached about vegetarianism, but boy oh boy does it bother some people that I don’t eat meat!
I’ve experienced another interesting side to cart anxiety as well. I used to run a children’s birthday party studio and my weekly shop consisted of 2 trolleys (carts) full of soft drink, chocolates, biscuits, chips, and lollies. I used to get a lot of stares and comments then!
I don’t know if anyone has shared this yet but I think you’ll get a kick out of it, especially given the topic:
Please watch the short youtube video. Its sooooo worth it! haha
that’s awesome! thanks for sharing.
That is awesome!!!! Thank you 🙂 I like the fresh fish IV she’s rockin
The world is setup for judgment…even this comments section has buttons for voting posts up or down!
This reminds me of the evolution of my boyfriend buying me tampons… At first he wouldn’t go at all, then he’d go buy them but be embarrassed the entire time because he thought people were judging him, then he realized,”Hey, obviously these aren’t for me, and I’m really making my girlfriend’s life easier and being a good person by doing this so I don’t give a crap.” And then I just switched to a cup and helped us both avoid buying them entirely. =)
So the moral is as long as you can get over your self embarrassment then other people’s opinions don’t matter nearly as much, also, switching to a cup is much easier on boyfriends (and you!)
I’m so glad your back Betty! I’ve missed your posts so much!
I have problems with anxieties in general and also fear being judged. I always invent a story why I have to buy sweets or unhealthy food e.g. I am having a party etc. Even if people give me looks then, I think to myself: Well, what if I am having a party? Or if I am buying stuff for incontinence, I imagine buying it for my grandma although I dont have any grandma anymore. This helps me a lot though it seems ridiculous at first.
THANK YOU for this. I was reading comments in the other thread and getting pretty pissed off.
When people are saying “haha I’m a jerkface, but it’s because I *care*” I get a little rage-hatey.
Just FYI to jerkfaces- judgey looks from folks can significantly trigger disordered eating. You have no idea if the person you are judging is trying to eat something, anything at all, in an effort to combat anorexia or an anxiety disorder around food. So please, please, please try to be compassionate. Even if they are making choices you would not make today.
Way to let your beautiful soul shine through these pages. I applaud your honesty and genuine plea for more kindness.
Great post! (But I don’t need to BUY poop – I have enough of it in my pasture 😉 )
I can’t remember who it was, or when it was, but I listened to an interview where a woman was talking about living in the moment and gratitude, even in the face of chores you hate–like going grocery shopping. She talked about experiencing this epiphany about the miracle our modern American grocery stores are, and the amazing variety of things available to us. After that, when she was in the grocery store, instead of being annoyed by it, she would focus on other things, like the inter-connection demonstrated by this plethora of goods. Or, how so many people contributed to make it possible.
I know I am not doing it justice but it was a very thought provoking interview for me and as I’ve followed this discussion of yours, it struck me that you could also apply this to grocery cart judging. Just think how wonderful it is that we live in a world where we have so many options. And how great it is that we are allowed to be individuals and fill our carts with our own unique choices. Focus on the blessing that steady employment gives to the truck driver who delivered all that sugary cereal for the woman to buy her children.
This pose is why I read and love your blog. Thank you for putting into very well written words exactly how I feel. Well Done.
I REALLY Love this!
As someone who really had to take a deep breath and bite my tongue when a bunch of meat eaters accosted me on Facebook for suggesting that they were incorrect in stating that all vegetarians and vegans are nut jobs who want to push their agenda on everyone in the whole wide world. I never judged their choices but whoowee did they judge mine, just for defending myself and those who make different choices.
I always say “eat consciously”. That is all.
Raw Once More
Oh me too Sarah! It’s amazing how meat eaters love to judge the vegetarians. I’ve NEVER preached to anyone abut not eating meat, but get judged and ranted at so often myself.
Play nice people, that is the whole point of the post! Call me a grass eater, meat eater, poop eater. It doesn’t matter what you think of me. Let’s not all get offended so easily.
Meat Eaters? Really? Maybe you should not call people “Meat Eaters”. Would you like to be called a Grass Eater or Weed Eater. SMH. Fussing about being judged and you can’t come up with anything better than that to describe someones choice of what they eat.
whoa there, Ms. Alison. I don’t think Sarah was trying to be negative. What else would she call us omnivores? She’s simply stating that we eat meat and she doesn’t. There is no societal term like “vegetarian” for people who eat meat (or maybe there is and i just can’t think of it). Therefore, we are meat eaters! I don’t understand why you found that offensive :/
Anonymous:). I believe it was the tone of her comment that ticked me off.