My therapist used to tell me, “it isn’t your business what other people think of you.” I’m still not sure I completely agree with her, since what other people think can occasionally have fairly large consequences on a practical level (promotions at work, for example) – but in general it’s correct. I’m entitled to my beliefs and opinions, and other people are entitled to theirs. Someone else might think I’m antisocial or making poor parenting choices because I want to homeschool; I might think someone is arrogant and disconnected from local community because they are a snowbird. But if I choose to live my life based on the thoughts of others about me and my decisions, I’ll be miserable (just like all those snowbirds would be, sweltering here all summer without the communities they grew up in, or being shut in all winter there because they can’t shovel themselves out anymore).
I have to let it go.
All the thoughts, all the judgments, all the opinions, all the raised eyebrows – I have to roll them off my back and focus on the needs of the people I know and love best, and the path that I am called and equipped to walk. And honestly? I feel like I’m just starting to figure out what that path is, because for so many years I’ve tried to do what I felt I “should” do and be who I thought I “should” be, based on the thoughts and opinions of other people (including authors… since I am after all a bookworm). I could write pages about the things I’ve done because I thought it was the objectively “best” or “right” decision, only to discover later that it was most definitely not best or right decision for me.
I think a large part of that comes from being differently wired and not realizing it, and thus always feeling out of place and trying to fit in, to mask my differences, to find a place and a people where I could really belong and be accepted for who I was. But by the time I could articulate that desire, I had already lost touch with who I truly was and what I actually wanted from life. It’s hard to find out where you’ll belong when you don’t even know who you are…
And now, as a parent, I don’t want that self-consciousness and anxiety to make my parenting decisions for me. I don’t want to homeschool because some Christian leader says it will be a safer and more Christian environment for my child. I don’t want to send my kids to public school because some other Christian leader says it is how families can integrate into the secular community and be a witness to their neighbors. It needs to be my decision, mine and Paul’s anyway, knowing ourselves, our children, and our communities. Further, I don’t want to live with that compulsion to explain myself and my children every time we go out in public: he’s autistic, I’m sorry he’s a bit loud and touching everything on the shelf; I’m neurodivergent, I’m sorry I can’t look at you and make small talk in the checkout line; she’s teething and hungry, I’m sorry she’s crying here in the grocery store. I just want to know I am doing the best I can in this moment and these circumstances – even if a lot of those circumstances are invisible to the people around me – and be content in that knowledge.
So with all this baggage, Debbie Reber’s third “Tilt” in Differently Wired was both challenging and encouraging for me: “Let Go of What Others Think.”
“When we parent from a place of insecurity and distance ourselves from who our child is in an effort to make ourselves feel more comfortable, we’re joining in a chorus of voices pointing out everything that’s wrong with being atypical. We’re placing acceptance for ourselves above fighting for acceptance for who our children are. So, caring about what people think? It needs to stop. […]
“The goal here is to stand in our truth. To show up authentically every day and parent with confidence and conviction. We want to be the same parent during a public meltdown at Cold Stone Creamery as we are in the privacy of our own home. Rather than apologizing for who our child is, we want there to be no doubt that we’ve got our child’s back, knowing that that not only feels better for everyone involved, but models the kind of respect and acceptance that’s necessary for us to shift the paradigm forward. […]
“If you are ever overly conscious of how others are perceiving you and/or your child, I invite you to join me in this mission. Cue up the soundtrack to Frozen and belt it out at the top of your lungs: LET IT GO!”
I may have to try that next time I’m anxious about a holiday, or in a conversation with friends in the education system, or trying to reign in a hyperactive tired five year old at a park… it might at least break some of the tension 😛
If you liked the quote from Differently Wired, read my brief review of the book here and check back in June for the giveaway!