How often do you hear yourself thinking: I would never do that …? Many people use this line of thinking as their barometer – their way of measuring whether something is acceptable or not. Over the last 24 hours, Chrissie Swan has been vilified for smoking while pregnant. Obviously it’s a dangerous behaviour and understandably people who don’t smoke or who don’t smoke while pregnant find it hard to understand why she did. And herein lies the problem, we judge others by our own behaviour. I gave up smoking as soon as I realised I was pregnant, read many tweets – suggesting that if they can do it, so can everyone else.
I hear it all the time – people struggling to understand depression, anxiety, obesity, substance abuse, and violence because they would never do that (lie in bed all day, worry about having cancer, overeating, drinking 2 bottles of wine a night, taking drugs, or getting into a fight). And it’s one thing to find it hard to relate to such problems, but by judging others we bypass any chance of empathy and support.
Changing behaviour involves far more than simply making better choices. We need a plan and tonnes of support. We need understanding when we have set backs and encouragement to try again. If you can’t understand another person’s behaviour, you may be lucky enough not to have felt shame or guilt. But most of us can tap into our empathy stores and think: Chrissie – Although I have not smoked while pregnant, I too have made mistakes and I wish you all the luck in kicking the habit.