I’m a big proponent of finding inspiration everywhere. It makes habitual routines and tasks seem like treasure hunts, with meaning and happiness as its buried prize. And my latest pot of gold came from my young daughters.
Just last week, while ordering slices at the counter of our favorite pizza parlor, I looked down to find my sweet girls, 3 and 6, dancing. Not just bopping — they were full-body grooving. I hadn’t even noticed that music was playing, yet once I saw their smiles I began to hear the familiar lyrics of Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling!”
This was not an anomaly — whenever and wherever music is played, my daughters dance. There really is no hesitation. This is especially true when wearing sparkly rainbow tutus, which is their most requested outfit as of late. It makes no difference where we are, who is present, or if anyone else is participating: They love dancing and so they dance. It really is that simple.
I used to adore watching their delight merely on a surface level. But then, I had an epiphany: My girls are doing exactly what they want, and they have no care in the world. Their lack of inhibition is striking and inspirational. And I thought to myself, why can’t I be more like them?
I won’t dance around the answer: It’s because I care about what people think of me. (OK, there, I said it!) I’ll give myself a little credit, in that I care much less than I used to, especially since becoming a mom. (Admittedly, this may purely be logistical — I have less time now.) Nonetheless, I still care.
But why? Why do I — we — waste our precious time caring about what others think of us? And even more so, why do we change our actions and sacrifice our preferences in order to suit what we feel is a more “popular” choice?
It’s an interesting concept to think how as we age from children to adults, we often let our inhibitions prohibit our true feelings, and therefore censor our actions. I’ve been told by my wise elders that as we continue to age, we do, finally, begin to care less about others’ opinions. But seriously, fellow moms of school-age kids: Why do we allow our inhibitions to kick in right when trying to raise confident, self-loving children? Isn’t parenthood difficult enough without being hypocrites as well?
I have thought about this issue and how much it has affected my decisions. And now, wish to release myself of such a burden. Imagine how different our lives would be if we ate, said, wore, read, enjoyed, and simply did what we wanted, without caring about other people’s judgments. I can picture it now: There would be a couture line of adult unicorn flip sequin shirts, spoons would be sold with tubs of frosting, and paper weights would be replaced with tins of sparkly putty and hand sanitizer. (See, you have just learned so much about me!)
Perhaps the realistic answer is not to completely stop caring — that may be impossible. But what I suggest is that, despite our caring about others’ opinions, we power through and do what we want to do anyway. What is the worst that could happen? You think my daughters care what you think of their *awesome* dance moves?
Caring and judgment is a symbiotic relationship: In order for us to give ourselves permission to stop caring what others think, we must also stop judging others’ actions. Chances are, that’s easier than we think: I venture to guess that we spend far less time judging others and far more time judging ourselves. This idea has actually given me great reassurance and hope — I’m so busy wondering if my new statement earrings make me look ridiculous that I have little time left to think about what someone else is wearing. In other words, my own insecurities about what others think of me distracts me from judging them.
We are fortunate to be experiencing so many sweeping social changes in our country. Disrespect in the workplace is officially unacceptable and now has consequences. Issues once viewed as private are now discussed openly with the hope of relieving stigmas. We are also encouraged to be proud to be ourselves, and yet, letting go of the fear of judgement seems to be the most difficult to embrace! Why is it so hard to be true to ourselves?
I believe the time has come to care less! Perhaps we aren’t ready to “dance, dance, dance” at the local pizza parlor, but wouldn’t we be happier prioritizing our own wants and needs at the risk of a critical glance?
I wouldn’t be true to myself if I didn’t sneak in a little Jewish text here. The motto “Be Yourself” has been around for centuries — it’s best illustrated in a Hasidic story attributed to the honored Rabbi Zusha, who, upon his deathbed, reflected upon the importance of being oneself. The rabbi told his students, “Because when I get to heaven, I know God’s not going to ask me ‘Why weren’t you more like Moses?’ or ‘Why weren’t you more like King David?’ But I’m afraid that God will ask ‘Zusha, why weren’t you more like Zusha?’”
So the next time you see a sequin-clad mom at the pizza place getting jiggy with it while she’s waiting for her mushroom slice, please stop and say “hi” to me!