We all want to fit in. Whether we’re new moms, seasoned pros, or not sure we want to have children at all, we all want to be accepted by others. Whether we’re the one who wasn’t genuinely invited to the party, the awkward bridesmaid that didn’t keep in touch as much as she wanted, or the only single one in an ocean of married friends, we all want to be understood. We all want to be heard. It’s human nature.
Veteran parents love to tell newbies exactly how things are going to go. “Just wait” and “you’ll see” seem to be the most common phrases shared, which can often be frustrating to “fresh” new parents that just want to experience it for themselves. It is in this response, that initial frustration to unsolicited advice, that I’m finding new perspective as a parent.
Unfortunately, it’s also human nature to assume the worst. We’re hard-wired to expect negative outcomes and hold onto pain, as that was what was most likely to keep us alive in the early days of our species. Well, I know from experience, that despite what your instincts may say, most people are not out to get you.
Assuming positive intent from others and clearly communicating your context and purpose will get you so much further, so much faster, than reacting to perceived judgment from others. It’s important to recognize that more often than not, the person overreacting has a reason, and usually that reason has nothing to do with you.
We have this hope, this expectation, that everyone we meet will remember every detail we share after we’ve shared it once and feel hurt or frustrated when they don’t. I am entirely guilty of this. There’s a reason that professional journalists record their interviews. They recognize that they may miss something valuable, or misremember the context that was intended. If a professional listener, translator, and communicator cannot remember everything from an interview, why do we pressure ourselves and others to do so when we first meet?
Why do we so quickly dismiss those who are different from us, rather than embrace those differences and learn from their unique perspective? If we take the time to embrace our discomforts and fears of rejection, if we leaned in more often, we would begin to more easily accept ourselves and others. We would begin to expect less from others and more from ourselves.
The only way we grow and learn is by stepping out of our comfort zones and expanding the bubbles with which we associate.
I think it’s safe to say that now, more than ever, we all need to try harder to be more understanding. Perspective and context work hand-in-hand with patience and understanding. If we spread love and acceptance, vulnerability and honesty, we will begin to understand our worth and won’t have to spend so much time feeling like we need to prove ourselves to others.
I’m the first to admit that I care way too much about what others think of me. This is largely because I don’t spend enough time focusing on myself. I’m a people pleaser at heart, and this often leads to confusion and misunderstandings that perpetuate more confusion and misunderstandings. I tend to feed off other people’s discomfort and find myself trying to overcompensate to make it right.
What if instead we noticed, acknowledged, and discussed that discomfort immediately? I think it would free our spirits and help us to connect on a new and more meaningful level.
If we let go of this fear of judgment, maybe we would see that “fresh” doesn’t have to be a negative term. That those veteran parents might just be projecting what they wish they would’ve known and trying to help the newcomers avoid mistakes of their past. And if we don’t confront our insecurities, our mistakes from the past that linger into today, we put our children at risk to repeat them.
Walking a mile in someone else’s shoes is useless if you know that at the end of that walk, your old shoes are waiting for you, completely unchanged. What if we opened ourselves up to throwing out our old shoes entirely? By committing ourselves to understanding others’ perspectives, we can find new value in our own experiences and forge a new, more supportive pair of shoes altogether. The new pair might be uncomfortable at first, but once you break them in, they can take you to places you never imagined.
I, for one, am excited to break in this fresh new pair of more-supportive-than-Dr.-Scholl’s mama shoes.