Don't laugh at people who are trying

Regular readers will know that I have a dog called Diesel. While out walking Diesel at the weekend, I happened to be passing by two people who were talking about a runner who was heading their way.

The two people were not talking in a positive way about the runner, who was a woman. Indeed, their comments - which all related to her size and weight - were cutting, derogatory and completely unsupportive. 

I was stunned when I heard the phrases being thrown around and even though I had passed them some way back, I could still hear them. I wondered whether the runner could also hear them as she passed by.

The scene played out in my mind a number of times over the next few days. I know from my own experience at school and in adult life that people judge based on appearance, however much we are taught to not judge a book by its cover.

I also know from my education that perception is projection and that, as Carl Yung explained, "everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves". Yung went on to explain that information which is most unconscious to us we must by need project out onto people and events around us.

So leaving aside the shock I felt at the vitriolic comments I overheard that weren't even about me (though I did, for a fleeting moment, consider whether I might be their next target), I started to wonder what these two people were going through inside and how this caused them to project that onto someone else.

The takeaway for me is that we all have things going on in our lives, however perfect things might look. Our outwards facing façade can hide a multitude of turmoil, challenges and dreams that either we work hard to fulfil or we lose along the roadside of life's journey.

The runner should be given significant credit. Just as we have no idea of the background of the two commentators, we have no idea of the runner's backstory. What we do know is that she had decided to make a change and she was acting on that decision such that she was out there and running and with each step, getting closer to her goal and achieving her dreams.

If someone is trying to change for the better, they need support, not ridicule. Indeed, what is going on in your world that causes you to project your bad feelings onto someone else who is taking time and expending effort to improve their life, fitness, career, or otherwise? That’s the question we should be asking of you. Or rather, that’s the question you should be asking yourself.
— One Brit, No Bull

Every transformation takes a decision, a commitment to taking action, the (often significant) action itself and a firm reinforcement of boundaries to prevent a regression to past behavior that doesn't support the goal being achieved. In this case, not only does the runner have to reinforce her boundaries internally, plus maybe at home and with colleagues at work, but apparently she has to reinforce her boundaries in the street. That's not right.

Encouragement is truly what’s needed, not judgment.
— One Brit, No Bull

So, I'm going to celebrate the fact that the runner was running and take comfort in the fact that she was getting closer to her goal with each step. As for the two people adding their harsh commentary, I'm going to suggest they take note of Jung's views and see if they can find a way to make peace inside so they can project the same peace and good intentions on the world outside.

Rob Whitfield is the CEO and Founder of One Brit, No Bull, a corporate training and coaching company based in Los Angeles and operating worldwide. Rob can be contacted here or on (+1) 518 9NO BULL.

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As well as being an experienced management consultant and energetic public speaker, Rob Whitfield is a certified Trainer of Neuro-Linguistic Programming, a certified Master Coach and a certified Master Practitioner of Hypnotherapy and Time Line Therapy. No Bull.