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Monday, 24 September 2012

41. Everybody has an opinion

On our way to school the other day, Faith and I had a conversation that went a little like this:

Faith: Mom, what type of shape would you say my face is?
Me: What?  Why do you ask? 
Faith: I was just wondering..
Me: Sweetie, too much time and energy is wasted on ‘experts’ telling you who you are and what you should be or do.  You and your sisters are very lucky...  You are all healthy and beautiful.
Faith: Hmm..
Me: Okay, my point is this, the problem with these sort of questions is this -- depending on who you’re asking, everyone will have a different opinion.
Faith: Okay.  I get it.  But if you HAD to judge what shape my face was…
Me: In my opinion, if among all the different shapes available, and there was one called “beautiful”, that would be what I would pick.
Faith: Aww… thanks Mom.

The above is actually the abridged version of our conversation -- I had gone into a lengthy soliloquy discussing how differing people will often have contrasting opinions on a subject or person based on their personal history and experiences.  Everybody has an viewpoint about this and that.  It cannot be helped.  What differentiates us from one another is whether the belief is informed and how we allow that bias to direct the way we behave on a day-to-day basis.  That said, at 40-something, I have long given up getting my knickers in a knot about other people’s opinions, regardless of how keen they seem to want to share them!  Well, at least I try not to..

For as long as I can remember, the majority of people I met have tried to guess my heritage.  Depending on who I spoke with, they often exclaimed such surprise at my Chinese or Spanish lineage; as they expressed their varying opinions of what THEY thought I looked like.  And to be honest, it got under my skin.  AND then, when I first became a mother, no doubt like many new moms, I was fiercely protective of anything said about my babies.  People, both strangers and the-more-familiar, would come up and share their unsolicited opinions about the girls! JOY. 

For example, for Faith, I’ve had someone comment on how her naturally curly hair was just baby hair and it was all going to fall off and become dead straight!  Even now, people are a tad too keen to comment whether the girls look like Matt or me.  My standard response?  I tell them that I THINK my girls look exactly like THEMSELVES and are beautiful.

Thankfully, over the years, I am learning (I was going to say “I have learnt” but realized it wasn’t entirely true!!) to not to be so sensitive about other people’s opinions.  Even the ones who don’t believe me when I tell them “no, I don’t perm my children’s hair”!  I have learnt that human nature is that once people have decided on something, most of the time, they have no interest in changing their mind – because it would mean having to admit they were wrong to begin with. 

But in spite of all my posturing about ‘opinion’, I actually drum into my girls that its important to have an opinion; but I try to teach them to be reasonably au fait with their viewpoints as opposed to following public opinion indiscriminately.  As Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius once said:

Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact.
Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth

And with that, I continue to encourage the girls to keep their eyes and opinions open as they make their way through this world of ours.


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