In my pursuit of the perfect balance of life elements, I have often been at crossroads. The struggle was usually between following my principles and being concerned about the social environment. Luckily, I have never had to sweat too much about it given that caring about what others think of me rarely takes a significant spot. I just don’t care, as long as I am not offending anyone. And I don’t say this in a demeaning way, I am just very determined and it would be hard to sway me from my planned path due to social pressures. But, after I had children I found myself rethinking some decisions over and over again. I wondered why and tried to analyze this sudden hesitance about following my principles.
The reason, I figured was because now I was raising another human. I was forming these persons. I had to take into consideration their feelings and their surroundings. I wanted to shelter them and provide the best for them, without isolating them.
So far I think I have managed most of these situations well. You can do it too. If your gut feeling tells you that something is right, as long as you are not offending or hurting others just go for it. Who cares what they’ll say? Be different.
Here are some examples from my experience. Most of them have to do with kids. You may have heard people with kids say that they do not know or cannot remember what their life was about before they had kids. I used to think that was the most ridiculous thing, but I came around. It is hard to remember things before kids. But I think the principle is applicable to any subject.
I am an avid anti-smoker! If there is one thing I hate it is cigarettes and their odor, not to mention toxicity. Even before my son was born I knew I would do everything to protect him from exposure to any cigarette smoke and its toxins. This meant first, second and third-hand smoke. And it mostly came into play when we traveled to visit family in Belgrade, Serbia (since it used to be the number one country in the world by cigarette consumption per capita; in 2014 it was ranked 23rd). So, I made a laminated card and hanged it over my son’s neck at all times when we were out. The card said something like this:
“Dear Friend, if you have smoked today, the toxins from cigarettes are all over you – your skin, your clothes, your hands, and hair. These toxins are easily transferable by touch so I would appreciate if you did not kiss me or touch me, or my toys. I am cheerful and talkative and will gladly entertain you with a few words. Thanks for respecting my developmental period. Yours, signed my son.”
Too much, you say? Probably, but I don’t and didn’t care. People made faces, and I faced criticism but hey, what was the worst that could happen? That someone will say I am crazy, or rude, or disrespectful? Ok, fine. In the end, it comes to the cost-benefit analysis – what is more important to me – what others think of me or my son’s health? I think the answer is obvious.
Another example when I went against the “social norm” is when we decided to opt out of food menu in my son’s daycare. It was nice that the daycare provided food for kids free of charge. There are many kids who otherwise would have not eaten a hot meal. But, for me it was not a good quality food – canned, highly processed, sugary – those did not have a place on our menu. So we opted out. After all, it was an option offered to us, so why not take it (you can read more about the nightmare that ensued in one of my future blogs). He was the only child in the entire daycare who brought his food from home. And the first thing my coworkers told me was – “Oh you are going to be frowned upon”. That’s OK I said, let them frown as much as they want, as long as I know my kid is getting the healthiest possible choice.
Then there will be times when you will have, despite your determination to revisit your decisions. For me, it was TV and sweets. My son did not watch TV for his first two and a half years of life. None. No electronics, phones, iPads either, no screen time. He also did not eat any added sugar in his diet. But as he approached three and started having more meaningful social interactions – talking to kids in daycare and attending birthday parties I felt a bit of a peer pressure, for him. I mean, he did not know any of the cartoon characters kids were talking about. I also did not want to run after him at parties and snatch the sugar icing-covered cupcakes out of his hands (not because I would look ridiculous doing it – I couldn’t care less about that, but because I did not want to cause him suffering or embarrassment). So I budged. Now, he is allowed occasional TV time and he does occasionally get a few dark chocolate chips at home. At parties, he can eat whatever he wants to (although I do still try to keep him off of hotdogs).
I could go on and on with examples. But, you get the point. The important thing is – set your goals and follow your principles, and your gut feeling. Do not be afraid to be different. Yes, sometimes these decisions will not be very pleasant, especially if you do care about what others say or think about you but just take into account everything else and balance it out.
If you are still having trouble try these:
- Make up a list of best and worst outcomes if you made a decision that sets you apart
- If there are specific people whose reaction you care about particularly – write down what those reactions might be
- Write down how will not proceeding with a drastic decision make you feel
- Make a pro/con list of implementing or not the decision
- Go through the lists and try to balance out what you have written down and determine the path to take.
Still having trouble but desire or need to do something differently? Try with something small first and see how you feel, but think about this:
“You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.”