I get a migraine and have chest pains at the mere thought of admitting this, but I do care what others think. I care about it to a terrible fault. I take painstaking care to analyze almost every situation in an attempt to guess what someone might be thinking or saying about what I say or do. My fear of disappointing anyone often paralyzes me into inaction. That's crazy, right?
Absolutely! Unfortunately, my insecurities occasionally win.
I know what others think shouldn't matter; you know it, too. But, we also know what others think DOES matter.
As a freelance writer, whether I work or not depends on what people think. In a traditional business setting, raises, promotions and more hinge on what at least one other person thinks. The world is full of "starving artists" because of what others think.
My husband and I are even raising our children to love an industry based almost entirely on what other people think. We can raise awesome crops or cattle, but they are only worth what someone else is willing to pay based on market projections of yet another group.
Oddly, we’re also raising our children to not care what others think—to be strong in their own preferences—which is especially clear when you take note of our daughter’s attire.
She doesn't give two hoots whether you think her striped leg warmers, polka dot leggings, fluorescent tank top and patterned sweater complement her neon tennis shoes. I’m proud of her confidence. I've even caught myself wishing I could borrow some of it.
However, the irony of our beliefs didn't strike me until we really started talking to our oldest two about what it means to compete in a showring.
We’ll soon send our children into the ring where they will, in fact, be judged—on the quality of their livestock, on their appearance, on their presentation abilities. This reality has led to some interesting conversations that neither my husband nor I had considered.
Yep, what other people think matters to a degree. I maintain, however, it's the degree of separation that matters most.
If you think my writing is horrible and you don’t read another column, my feelings won't be hurt (really). Such opinions might mean I won't become a syndicated and sought-after writer. But, those opinions won't lessen the quality of my life. Unless, of course, I base my quality of life on becoming an acclaimed writer. Then, your opinion must become the fuel to my fire for greatness.
Likewise, our children can choose to show cattle from our herd. Their life will be no less meaningful nor will their work be any less important if those cattle are not judged greater than average in a show ring. But, if they dream of becoming players in the show world, their success will depend on learning and growing from what others think.
In the end, I think all of that’s ok.
People judge everything; we are flawed. I never want our children to judge another human’s value based on what our children think or believe, and I’ll try my hardest to make sure they don’t. Yet, judgment and opinions are necessary parts of life.
Our opinions become both our sword and shield. In the process of judging, feelings can easily get hurt ... I don't like to hurt, and I don't like to hurt others. Hurting is uncomfortable. It's messy. It's scary.
On the other hand, having to evaluate yourself and your goals based on what other people think doesn't have to bad. Maybe, that type of evaluation is where real opportunity to grow lives.
If our oldest son maintains his appreciation for “herd markers”, he may indeed show a Longhorn-influenced calf. I will probably shudder, but I will also be proud of his confidence in what he likes.
Perhaps taking the road less traveled will lead him to one day build an acclaimed, unique herd filling a niche market in our industry. Perhaps, he’ll uncover a new passion and develop an appreciation for creating cattle that represent the best of both worlds.
Regardless, the best any of us can do is be comfortable and confident with who we are and where we’re going. Sounds simple enough, but I learned long ago—the simplest lessons are often the hardest ones to learn.
As spring dawns, I wish each of you the confidence to be great in your own right! May your goals be lofty, your efforts be honest and your life be full of purpose.