I used to not have many opinions. Being an easy going kind of person, it’s not that hard to go through childhood, and teenage years, without feeling particularly strongly about a large number of topics. I was a happy-go-lucky kid and lived in the moment – naive to more complicated issues and too positive to scrutinize the world around me. I often accepted things just as they were. Meanwhile, curiosity let me keep an open mind, and I liked observing my strongly opinionated friends and family, whose dedicated point-of-views made it easier for me to shrug my shoulders and stay a little neutral.
For a long time, I viewed having too many opinions as a negative personality trait. If you stand too much to one side, you lose having objectivity in situations. And if opinion combines with stubbornness, you’re likely never going to improve as a person – which was important to me. I was open to learning from those around me, and as the baby in my family, it proved to be an easy, follow-the-leader role for me.
This attitude, while innocent in nature, didn’t serve me well. It left me feeling adrift, putty to the strongly worded statements of those around me. I didn’t hold fast to feelings I was actually quite passionate about, and I wasn’t able to stand up for myself in many ways.
Now, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized how important it is to cultivate opinions. They are vital for navigating the world around us. Opinions set boundaries with others, they show how we consider and observe our surroundings, and they reveal the conclusions we have made about everything from the food we eat, to the clothes we wear. Having an opinion is more of an asset than not having one, because it says that you’ve made up your mind about something. (Of course, too much judgement isn’t necessarily a good thing, but that’s never been my issue.)
Both having an opinion and voicing your opinion require self-confidence, which for many years was not a strength of mine. I did not have trust in my abilities and my judgements, and was happy to defer responsibility to others. And when I did have an opinion, I often held it back, for politeness, a lack of assurance, or a feeling that it didn’t matter what I had to say. All of which speak to a stifling of my own voice, rather than someone else telling me otherwise. The good news is that I’ve worked through it, and while I’m still soft on some opinions, I’ve found that I’m a lot less likely to be quiet.
As we approach Thanksgiving, I encourage you to take a look at your opinions, whether you have a lot, or like me, whether you need to work on having a few more. Think about whether you let other people’s judgement cloud your own, or if you’re too hung up on your own point-of-view, try listening a little more to someone else. And when Great-Aunt Sally sits across from you and says she dislikes your haircut, you can tell her that, in your opinion, it’s perfect! Because if you don’t, it says more about you than any overbearing relative. After all, at least Aunt Sally has made up her mind about something!
Do you have a lot of opinions or do you feel like you could do with a few more? Share your thoughts with me in the comments below!