The Rest of the Story

vacuum-cleaner-268179_640When Brian Tatro first saw Cathy Rodriguez, he didn’t know what to think. Tatro, a Yakima, Washington resident was driving through a residential neighborhood when he saw Rodriguez out in front of her house. She was busy cleaning her sidewalk – with a vacuum cleaner. Tatro pulled out his phone and began recording the scene.

He posted the video to his Facebook account and can be heard commenting “Guess no one’s heard of a broom before” as the scene unfolds. Friends began weighing in, with most making jokes about Rodriguez. “She must go through a lot of vacuums…a trend setter for sure!” shared one. Another referenced the recent Broom Challenge trend, “Her broom must be in the kitchen standing up by itself.” More hateful comments soon followed. Commenters suggested that Rodriguez was using drugs or suffered from mental illness. The jokes had taken a sinister turn.

Counselor Mateo Sol calls this classic judgmentalism. “We all generally prefer to see ourselves as smart, generous, kind, patient, and forgiving people most of the time. But the truth is that we aren’t.” He says that being judgmental is “critically nitpicking and finding fault with another person, group of people, idea, or situation.” We all do it to some extent because it’s an unconscious act.

Judgmental people expect others to be consistent all the time. They struggle to see beyond a person’s flaws. They easily jump to conclusions about someone’s behavior. They have a hard time with ambiguity. They find it difficult to see and appreciate the beauty in others. According to Sol, these behaviors are common (I know I’m guilty of each myself) and the result of poor self-esteem.

Sol says we often feel like others are out to get us and feel anxious around others. There’s a strong critic inside that’s judging us, so as a defense mechanism we judge others in an effort to make us feel better. And because it’s unconscious, we don’t even realize we’re doing it.

To counteract our own judgmentalism, Sol offers these tips:

  • Explore your own self-talk. Look for patterns in the way you feel and the way those feelings manifest themselves in your inner voice.
  • Accept the ugly, weird, messy parts. Try to see yourself realistically and embrace the good as well as the imperfect.
  • Look deeper into people and situations. Look beyond initial appearances. Ask questions and avoid jumping to conclusions.
  • Be critical about your judgmentalism. Learn to question your own feelings and assumptions. Ask yourself “Am I seeing the whole picture?”
  • Ground yourself with mindfulness. When you start to feel the urge to judge someone, try to refocus on what’s going on around you. Cut off the judgmental thoughts by being present in the moment.

Had anyone bothered to ask Cathy Rodriguez, they would have found out that she was cleaning up glass from her van. It had been hit by a drunk driver while it sat in front of the house and three windows had shattered. Furthermore, the van was totaled. The driver didn’t have any insurance, and Rodriguez was left without a means of transportation for her family. By using her vacuum on the sidewalk, Rodriguez was simply trying protect pedestrians and pets from being injured. “I didn’t want them to get hurt,” she said.

When Tatro learned the story behind what he had witnessed, he was humbled. He immediately took to Facebook to address the negative comments and apologize for his own quick judgment. Finding that a GoFundMe page had been created to help buy the Rodriguez family a new vehicle, he was the first to contribute.