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Being OK with Others' Disapproval

Have courage!

When you really care about someone, you care about what they think of you. It's a perfectly normal part of forming connections. When I buy a new item of clothing, I wonder if my husband will like it. I constantly wonder what my kids will think of me when they grow up. When I meet up with friends, I wonder what they think about me. Almost always, if there was something I could do to positively impact the way someone viewed me, be it about a deeply important part of who I am or something as simple and, frankly, vain as a new dress, I would do it.

There is one relationship where this becomes more complicated though.

Parents!

I am in the fortunate position of being close to my parents and as such, they form an important part in my life. When I feel like I am panicking about something and being irrational, when I need practical advice about cars or the house or how things work or if I am feeling paranoid, I turn to my dad. He has the ability to calm me down when I feel myself losing grip of my anxiety and is a body of knowledge about many things.

When I need to talk something through, when I am insecure, when I am unsure in my parenting, when I need advice on money or medical things to do with the kids or simply when I need reassurance and a pick me up, I call my mum. She is great at listening to a long, babbling spiel from me and extrapolating exactly what my point is, then saying just the right thing.

A strange thing happened when I became a parent. I found myself wedged oddly in between the role of parent and child. I was still somebody's child, yet I had children of my own and it pushed me so quickly into a position of more assertion, responsibility, and courage. I was now the main decision maker in the lives of precious little people in my charge and care (along with my husband). My mum and I spoke when she lost her dad about how strange it was to have a changing dynamic. She no longer had parents of her own to turn to in those unsure moments, which never truly go away. Now she WAS the top of the family tree and I now formed the middle. She now had grandchildren to think of whom she cared deeply about, as well as a daughter who would always be her child but who now needed to be supported as a mother. Time forces a constant cyclical shift amongst families where people must re-adjust to their new roles as people leave our lives and new people enter them.

It is a natural cycle, but that doesn't mean it doesn't come with its challenges. When I am around my parents or at their house, I still feel the need to help out, to clean up, to be polite. I still talk things through with them and ask their permission for things. I slip somewhat back into feeling like I live there, a child once more. When I go home, I immediately shift back into the mode of running the home.

It has taken some time and a period of adjustment to get to the point where I no longer feel like I need validation from anyone to justify certain decisions. I welcome advice and ask for opinions, however once I have measured a decision and come to a conclusion, I no longer need anyone's permission to go ahead with it.

The kind of confidence in your convictions that you need to be able to stand firm is something that comes from a mixture of time, practice, and from simply being in situations where you truly feel something strongly enough. There is nothing wrong with caring what people think, nor is there anything wrong with listening to people's opinions. The problem comes when you consistently yield to do, or not do, something which you don't think is the right decision purely out of a desire to please people. Considering people's feelings is always worthwhile, but considering people's opinions, especially when they are not particularly informed, is not always such a good use of your time and brain power. Burying a desire or aspiration you have because somebody disapproves leads to resentment and resentment is absolute poison to a good relationship of any sort. People, particularly parents, often voice concerns for a good reason. They have lived longer and seen more and there are often pitfalls they wish somebody had warned them of. It is also often easier to see something more clearly from the outside, instead of when you are in the tiring midst of it. Sometimes however, people simply fear what they don't know or understand. Certain life choices that you make won't make any sense in the context of what they themselves want for their life and this is enough to lead them to reject them without really looking into it.

Sometimes you can hope for a change over time, hope that people will see the merits of something when they see it working. For many situations, this is true and things will work themselves out. For some situations however, you can not budge people. The more you try to change people's minds or get them to see from a different perspective, the more it hurts when they don't.

A major skill to be learned through life is to be OK with people not being OK with something you are doing. As long as you are being respectful and a decent person, the rest is up to you. Learning to shake off the desperate need for approval, the self doubt that comes from others not seeing things your way and the courage to go forth anyway, is something which will reap many benefits. It is possible to maintain a loving relationship with somebody who does not understand or even agree with certain aspects of decisions that you make in life. The thing to remember is that the most important voice to listen to is your own.

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Being OK with Others' Disapproval
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