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  • Dora Nudelman

Minding Our Own Business

I was at a coffee shop the other day when a total stranger came up to me and started badgering me because he decided that I didn't seem happy enough for his liking. Of course I just ignored him and went about my business, but this encounter got me thinking. Why do some people believe that they have the right not only to misjudge others but, also, to tell them how they should be behaving/looking/acting?

I understand that some people do this because they want the world to be a happier place (or maybe they're just doped up on drugs), but while I appreciate the intention, I do not agree with intruding on someone else's personal space in order to achieve that goal.

I am a generally happy person. I can be funny, silly, enthusiastic, and excited, but I am not often all that externally bubbly; it's just not my nature. Now, just because I don't walk around with a plastered smile on my face 24/7, that does not automatically mean that I am angry. In fact, often times I am either deep in thought, relaxing, or just observing the world around me. Sure, sometimes I can seem a bit intense, and maybe I might, in fact, be peeved about something (just like everybody else) but, regardless, no one really knows what I am thinking about or why. So when someone comes into my personal space uninvited and tells me what I "should" be doing or how I "should" be acting, it feels like an invasion of privacy and an unnecessary judgment.

My point? It is important that we do not judge a book by its cover or assume that we know what is best for others. Imposing our views and expectations onto other people does not do anyone any favors. In fact, if what we think is not an accurate assessment of how another person is feeling, or that person is simply not in the place to accept what we have to say, then our comments will not be well received. Trust me, there is a time and place for getting involved, but the best time is when it is actually called for or even more specifically, asked for. And if you are the one on the receiving end of someone else's judgment, realize that their discomfort with who you are or how you present yourself often has more to do with their own insecurity and need to be right than it does with you.

Ultimately, we don't really know what's going on in another's head or in their life. So unless we've walked in their shoes or know them intimately, we cannot accurately assess anything. Can we even be sure that we would act any differently given the same circumstances? How anyone expresses themselves or deals with life is a very personal endeavor. So we must remember to respect each other's boundaries and understand that there are many paths to the same goal. Just like we wouldn't like to be judged for who we are or how we express ourselves, let us not judge others either.

There are many ways to express happiness, excitement, jubilation, and contentment, but it is not always outwardly. In truth, no one really has the right to tell anyone else how to express their joy. We all need to keep in mind that every culture has its own norms of behaving, as do different personalities, so to think that we all must express happiness in the same way is

actually quite self-centered and narrow-minded. So instead, let's respect each other's personal space and let's allow (without judgement) others to express themselves (or not) in any way they feel is aligned with their own personal style. Furthermore, let us each feel free to mindfully indulge in our right to be true to who we really are without the fear of being unfairly criticized or judged for it.

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