Alifya Abbas Pesh:
I don’t like to let events, people or things linger on my mind for too long. It affects my clarity of thought, and so I have conditioned myself to disallow any one particular thought to dominate. However, there have been times when I have broken this cardinal rule and become consumed. Like it happened just recently. I am a gold-digger when it comes to watching American TV shows. I watch my favorites religiously. And in case of new TV shows, I take my time in making new choices, because if I happen to really like what I watch, then there is no stopping me! I regularly scour the Internet to check which shows are making the noise in the virtual space. About 10 days ago, I came across a Netflix series named “13 Reasons Why.” I read its synopsis, and watched the trailer on YouTube. I decided I am going to watch the show! Luckily Netflix believes in showering good blessings at once, and so I was able to binge-watch the show (13 episodes) two nights flat! Usually, my takeaways from TV shows are the good-looking characters and actors (mostly male!) who play them. But with “13 Reasons Why”, my takeaways also consisted of a lingering thought.
The show deals with a slew of issues, headlined by teen suicide and teen depression. The show has a wholesome cast of young actors portraying a variety of memorable and relatable high-school students. The protagonist of the story is Hannah Baker, a young vivacious girl who committed suicide owing to a hellish high-school experience. In the days leading to her death, she had recorded 13 tapes on which she narrates her story. Each tape is centered on a character, who according to Hannah is one of the “reasons” that drove her to the edge. In one of the episodes, Hannah talks about “being judged”, and how it is the worst thing. I couldn’t agree more.
We are all judged, and we are also prone to judging others. In my view, both practices are terrible. First, let’s talked about “being judged.” I have been at the receiving end of being judged since I was a school-goer. I have a certain physical disability which has affected my gait and it has invited pity, empathy, sympathy, sneers, mockery, and ridicule in abundance. As a result, it triggered in me a deep angst, and I was mostly unhappy because I was not “normal.”
Before that storm could settle, adolescence occurred and a new set of judgments coming my way. I did not look a certain way, and I was well into my teens you know! I plummeted into a deep pit of self-dissatisfaction. Because, c’mon, all my friends, even enemies, had attention of the opposite sex, and I was nowhere close. And the judgments became bitter with each passing day. I was desperate for a miracle – some kind of divine intervention which would give me a makeover which would elevate my existence in my own world. The “moment” arrived in 2007, finally! But no, I did not get the makeover I wanted. Instead, I got a makeover I needed. It was a mental one. My best friend of 17 years, introduced me to the world of American TV shows. She had suggested me to watch this show called “Gossip Girl”, a teen drama inspired by a book of the same name. I watched an episode without any expectation. And soon, the show became the most important part of my life for a certain period (6 seasons exactly), and the characters (rich, brash, and bratty) became my “extended family.” Thereon, watching fictional characters (of many different shows) in their element has been my escapist reality. I have closely observed their thinking processes and adopted them as my own. Their trials and triumphs became lessons for me. One of the things which I imbibed is: not letting others’ judgments affect my life and choices. TV show characters, by means of their scripted flawed lives, have allowed me to make peace with mine, and arrive at a point of acknowledgement which is: We all have flaws – some visible, some kept well-hidden. No matter what you do – a set of people will love you unconditionally, and there are going to be those that will invent their own reasons for making you the subject of their dislike or hate.
Perhaps, what I am trying to put across may seem as silly and unreal. Did you just judge me? Haha! But my argument is simple and a valid one: if books can change lives, why can’t fictional TV characters have a life-changing impact on mine?
Now let me talk about the other half – the habit of judging others, that is. I was a part of the “let’s judge others” clique for a very long time. I gave it up in 2007. As someone who has been at the receiving end of being judged, I can safely say that people who judge are needy of airing their opinions unnecessarily. Moreover, I believe to judge someone or something is none of our business, especially if it doesn’t belong to us or is not linked to our existence is any way. Let me give you an example: As a person, thanks to my umbilical-cord-like attachment to TV shows and characters, now I am an individual who is open-minded, liberal, and more accommodating of things, people, and circumstances. And I developed a sense of humor, so I am able to find a light/funny twist in everyone and everything. As a result, my witty views and opinions invite frequent shock and disbelief from people around me. I am judged for being a “free soul with a sense of humor.”
In my opinion, a judgmental person’s need to judge others’ originates from a sense of disbelief, insecurity, and a superfluous self-concept. This trait could be natural or a byproduct of societal influence.
Being a nonjudgmental person is easy. You just need to love to your life and get super busy living it up! Moreover, you just have to accept a simple worldly fact: there are all kinds of people in the world. Once this happens, you will find that you don’t have the time to bother or “judge” what others are doing.
To reiterate, to judge and to be judged are two sides of an utterly disgusting coin. Don’t invest in being on either side. Buy a new currency instead!
Fun fact: 99 times out of 100 I am judged, I laugh it off. The remaining one time? I am not paying attention, haha! You should do the same.
Alifya is a B.A. in Media and Communication, born and raised in Dubai. She has been writing for over 15 years now. A self-confessed happy-go-lucky recluse, she is passionate about writing about topics which appeal to her sensibilities, books, travel, American TV shows, and good food.