Tuesday, March 21, 2023 | Sha'ban 28, 1444 H
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A mile in their shoes

Last week a young woman in her early thirties came to my clinic with her father. A few years ago, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, a mental health condition that leaves the person battling severe mood swings that affect his or her social and occupational performances along with their quality of life.

After a short admission to a mental health unit, she was able to regain her health and get back to work. A few weeks later, she stopped taking her medication and came to my clinic feeling very depressed and lacking motivation to do anything.

Her father understood clearly that stopping medication was the main reason behind the return of depression. Both him and I were trying to understand why she would stop her medication when we had explained to her what would happen if she did that.

This situation made me reflect on the difficulties people with mental health problems face on a daily basis as they try to regain their strength and continue to take responsibility for their family, work and their future even when they are questioning what the point of all of this is.

People who experience mental health problems are often misunderstood and constantly judged by those around them so it’s not uncommon for them to be called ‘lazy,’ ‘attention seeker’ and ‘drama queen.’ Such terms can even come from close friends and family.

Others would be so overprotective that the person feels smothered by his or her spouse or parent.

Sometimes the medications we prescribe have side effects like feeling sleepy or gaining weight, or lacking energy. These side effects do not occur all the time and not all patients experience them yet those who do find it difficult to get the balance between the good effects and side effects.

That is the reason why a good doctor communicates well with his or her patients. Being judgmental is a human nature, our brains tend to judge behaviours of others in order to make sense of the world around us. An English proverb says “You can’t understand someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.”

Tells us not to be judgmental of others. From a psychological point of view, being judgmental means thinking, speaking, or behaving in a way that is critical of other people, condemning their ideas as bad, stupid or unworthy.

Sometimes we judge ourselves in a negative way which can lead to low self esteem, depression and anxiety. This is why being aware of one’s tendency to judge him or herself and others is an essential step towards being a better person.

A group of artists brought the concept of ‘A Mile in My Shoes’ to life. They designed an exhibition with a different collection of shoes and audio stories that explore shared life experiences of people from different backgrounds, such as refugees, war veterans or a neurosurgeon.

Visitors would walk a mile in the shoes of a stranger while listening to their story. The stories cover different aspects of life, from loss and grief to hope and love and take the visitor on an empathetic as well as a physical journey.

This experience encourages empathy among people as they learn about others.

So how can one be less judgmental? Psychologists recommend a few steps that can make us less judgmental. These include acknowledging having the thought and then asking yourself why you felt the need to judge?

Try to challenge the assumption you made about that person’s behaviour and then find some way to excuse the behaviour. If you know the person you are judging, try to remind yourself about their good qualities. Above all, learning to be less judgmental takes time and training but you will get there eventually.

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