A man and his wife were traveling with their donkey.
On the first day, they passed through a town, both riding on his back. They heard people whispering: “What a mean couple, putting all that weight on the donkey.”
On the second day, they passed through another town, the man on the donkey, the wife walking beside. They heard people whispering: “What a cruel man, forcing his wife to walk while he rides on the donkey.”
On the third day, they passed through another town, the man walking, the wife on the donkey. They heard people whispering: “What a careless man, letting his wife ride alone on the donkey.”
On the fourth day, they passed through another town, both walking beside the donkey. They heard people whispering: “What a stupid couple, why do they walk if they could ride on the donkey?”
I love this story because it explains one of society’s biggest problems in a nutshell: no matter what you do, people will judge you.
Sometimes, they’ll think highly of you and sometimes, they’ll think you’re stupid. But they’ll always think something. Even if they don’t verbalize it each time. That’s not a problem in and of itself. Life’s always been this way.
But when we feel these judgments piling up, we eventually succumb to their pressure.
Maybe, the couple was tired on the first day. Maybe, the wife needed to stretch her legs on the next. But no matter what their true intentions were, after four days of judging whispers, don’t you think they’d at least consider the crowd being right?
“What if we are stupid? What if we’re treating our donkey all wrong?”
This is the beginning of a slippery slope and it’s one we’ve all slid down before. It ends with a perfectly fine couple carrying their donkey on their hands, finally confirming what the whole town “knew” all along: they’re two hopeless nutbags.
No matter what you do, people will judge you. But how much we allow those judgments to invade our self-image? That’s up to us.
It’s not easy to keep being nice to ourselves, to trust ourselves over other people’s opinions, but it’s a fight worth fighting.
Because even if life is just a ride on a donkey, we can’t let their whispers throw us out of the saddle.
About Monday Zen: Most people hate Monday. Why? In a good life, it’s a day like any other. At the very least, it shouldn’t be worse by default. That’s what Monday Zen is for: To make sure you start the week with calm, poise, and determination.
Let’s not derail our trains of thought before they leave the station. Let’s enjoy the journey.
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