When you’re young, you’re usually painted a pretty clear picture of right and wrong. Don’t touch the hot stove, eat dinner before dessert, and definitely – most definitely – do not come home past curfew. We’re taught that there are certain consequences for breaking the rules, and we’re usually left with that gut reaction if we decide to do something that goes against those basic guidelines our parents have set for us.
Enter high school. The line between right and wrong is quickly replaced by the line between what your friends do, and what your parents say you should do. You test boundaries, crossing the line when you think you can, pushing limits to see just how much longer you can stay out on a Friday night and whether or not you can change locations without notifying your parents via text. You tell little white lies – because it’s worth it to be out with your friends for a late night bonfire and risk getting in trouble for breaking curfew.
Are you supposed to grow up after that? Does there come a point where we stop second guessing what we’ve been taught, whether or not our friends will approve, if our parents will give us the “disappointed” look (which we all know is so much worse than the “fuming mad” look) if we make a choice they don’t feel is appropriate? When do we, as kids, learn to take a step back and say “I don’t care,” and when do parents learn to let go? Most of us are taught not to care what others think about the choices we make, the way we dress, the paths we pursue. As long as we can sleep well at night, as long as we’re happy – that’s all that matters, right?
Wrong. We all second guess. I, for one, constantly evaluate what my co-workers will think of my actions, how my parents will perceive a different life choice, what my friends will think if I really say how I feel, etc. To an extent, I think it’s a good thing – a system of checks and balances that hold us accountable to that which we know to be a level sounding board for all our moral choices. But where do you draw the line? When do you stop caring about how others will react to our choices, and focus on what really does make you happy in spite of everyone else? It goes without saying that you can’t please everyone. Your social choices, career paths and personal relationships are all a result of information, feelings and lessons you’ve learned from those around you. How can you honestly not take other people’s perceptions and opinions into account when making your life choices? It’s nearly impossible.
The fine line exists, however, between determining the value in your own choices versus the value of making those around you happy. You pick and choose your battles, I suppose. The secret is choosing the right battles. Taking the blind leap of faith into a new life, a new decision, a new choice without the approval of those you feel you need it from most. The gut intuition of making the jump and knowing that it’s going to be okay, regardless of who’s on your side. And even more important – the hope and faith that even when you feel like no one actually is on your side, the belief that eventually they will be because they care about you.
Do we ever stop seeking approval? Do we ever stop second guessing? Am I fated to constantly wonder what others think? Will I wonder what my friends will think of my future place settings at my wedding? What my parents will think if I want to change my career? What my dog things when I dance around my house like an idiot? And I guess the more important question is – do I want to be burdened with this or not? Because at this point, I honestly don’t know.