A friend of mine was lamenting a problem with mothering these days. The working mother is made to feel guilty for not staying home with her child, while the stay-at-home mother is made to feel guilty for not going out to work. There are many permutations of this, and in every scenario the mother is Doing It Wrong in a vocal minority’s eyes. It’s an inescapable paradox.
A young man suggested the eloquent “who cares what someone else thinks bro. just tell them to get fucked”. It sounds like a good idea. Who cares what the world thinks, you do what you thinks is right for you. This thinking has two faults. First, the consequences of such thinking can be disastrous, and second, how easy is it really to follow such advice?
Living the philosophy of doing what you want and to hell with anyone else sounds great from a teenage rebel’s point of view, but the consequences of living like this aren’t great, despite what your average libertarian thinks. Learning from others’ mistakes is a very useful practice, and listening to advice is also a really good idea. Sometimes it is appropriate to strike out on your own, sometimes it’s even necessary. But as a practical lifestyle, it leaves a bit to be desired.
How easy is it to ignore what other people think? That’s not easy to answer. Some people are sensitive, while other have a tough hide. It varies from person to person. But humans are social creatures and when people give us negative feedback we tend to want to change to conform more to the social norm. When the negative signals are attached to every option, it gets all very confusing. Perhaps you go with the most popular option, or the option your favorite celebrity chose, or what your mum or best friend recommends.
The problem my friend was contemplating is one if the times where the best thing to do really is ‘do what suits you’. It’s difficult to do, and there will be criticism and condemnation from every angle, but it’s something that has no right answer. Learning to ignore the people who try to put their agendas onto your life is essential, because no matter what you choose, you’re wrong. Pick the way you want, and to hell with the rest of them.