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Cultivating compassion and quieting judgment

I’ve been trying to reflect and examine a side of myself I don’t like very much.  You see, I have a tendency, like many of us, to be judgmental at times. It doesn’t serve me or anyone else very well, and it’s unattractive to boot.  Thank goodness I can usually keep my judgments to myself and recognize them as personal, fleeting opinions that don’t need to be spoken aloud, or else I’d probably get into some trouble.

Perhaps the biggest thing that used to come up in my life was my utter distaste and dislike of cigarette smoking. I just couldn’t understand why anyone would deliberately ingest something that had no health benefit, why someone would take up a highly addictive habit that would impact their well-being for the rest of their days.  My parents are both outspoken anti-smoking advocates, and I have no doubt that my stance comes pretty much directly from them.

Of course my beliefs have been challenged repeatedly through the years, from friends who tested boundaries as teenagers by taking drags on cigarettes to buddies who are now in their thirties and forties who can’t (or don’t want to) quit their cigarette habit. Smoking has severely impacted the lives of some of my dearest loved ones, including those who have passed due to health conditions that were in no small way related to their smoking.

Here’s the thing, though: smoking is but one behavior out of thousands upon thousands of human behaviors that is anything but good for us.  As much as it saddens me to see a friend light up, I am no beacon of perfect health and perfection myself.  I know that my life will be healthier and longer if I exercise regularly, yet I fall out of my routines with alarming frequency.  Someone who is an exercise enthusiast might look at me and wonder why I can’t get my act together.  If I know that exercise will make me a higher-functioning, happier, healthier person, why can’t I just do it? Lethargy is clearly a bad, bad habit.

Or what about diets? If I know that a balanced, healthy diet with little to no animal products is scientifically proven to make me feel more energetic and less prone to aches and pains, why can’t I just say no to the cheese on top of my chili or the hamburger that I know will give me indigestion?

All this is to say I am working hard on nurturing my sense of compassion while acknowledging and, I hope, releasing my judgmental ways.  As much as I am both a casual and professional health advocate, I am not a spokesperson for a perfect way of living (ha! the mere thought makes me laugh!), and it’s not helpful to anyone for me to point and prod and critique others’ lifestyle choices.  That said, I will continue this ongoing and lifelong journey of trying to better myself through healthy choices. And I’ll use my articles to bring to light the different things everyone, and especially we migraineurs, can do to improve the quality of our everyday lives.

Have you ever caught yourself casting aspersions or otherwise feeling judgmental about someone else’s habits or lifestyle patterns? How do you handle it? If you’re one to speak up about such judgments, how do the people in your life you’re speaking to react? 

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Natasha
    4 years ago

    I totally understand what you are talking about here, I think most people would be better off not judging others in many areas of their lives, especially since we as migraineurs often are judged on just about every aspect of our lives. However, the smoking example is hard for me to ignore because the smell of cigarette smoke makes me vomit and increases my head pain so much that it can trigger uncontrollable crying. One recent example was when I was in the ER for the 3rd time in one week for my severe migraine and RLS symptoms, I was already crying and feeling awful since that environment is bad enough anyways. Then some man sat down a couple chairs away from me smelling of cigarettes. It took everything in me not to jump over and strangle him or demand he explain why he is there if he feels well enough to go out and smoke (and possibly why they will end up bumping him ahead of me on the waitlist since ERs don’t understand pain they can’t see). I can’t walk by someone on the street smoking (not that I actually ever leave my house anymore) without thinking to myself how much I wish that person could feel my migraine pain that I experience 24/7. I think people shouldn’t judge the actions of others (no one knows everyone’s background and therefor can’t judge every little thing they do) unless those actions affect those around them.

  • Natasha
    4 years ago

    One other sidenote: I look at migraine triggers as an allergic reaction, especially since I haven’t found a single medication to help my symptoms (I’ve tried everything there is at this point). When something I can’t control causes me more pain or worsens other symptoms, there is nothing I can do about it. I avoid every trigger as much as possible, but unfortunately cigarette smoke travels quickly.

  • Nancy Harris Bonk moderator
    4 years ago

    Thank you Janet, this is wonderful.

  • The Migraine Girl moderator author
    4 years ago

    Thanks for the kind feedback, Nancy! It wasn’t easy to admit all this so your compliment means a lot. 🙂


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