At what point in our lives do we start to become so aware of what other people think? Little kids don’t care. My daughter will break out into full song in the middle of the produce section and not give a second thought as to what the stranger buying avocados thinks about it. But somewhere along the line (probably middle school) we find ourselves doing, or not doing, something based on what somebody else will think about it. Possibly worse, we end up creating unnecessary amounts of mental stress over it as well. Marcus Aurelius says this is a waste of our time. And he’s right.
Don’t waste the rest of your time here worrying about other people – unless it affects the common good.
As we’ve talked about before, your time is an extremely limited resource. Of all the things you can spend your time on, concerning yourself with the thoughts of other people should not be at the top of your list. Especially when it comes to parenting.
Ask 50 parents the best way to do something and you’ll probably get 50 answers.
“Go ahead and use a pacifier.”
“Never use a pacifier!”
“Use a pacifier but only at nap time.”
“What about the nipple confusion?!” – As a complete aside, how great is the phrase “nipple confusion”?
Food, discipline, bed time routines, potty training – you name it and there are a wide array of opinions out there to be found. Both expert and otherwise. The best case scenario is you are actually trying to find them. More often than not, parenting opinions are not discovered, but rather thrust upon you in a lobby. Each can have their value at the appropriate time, but each can also drive you absolutely crazy. Either way, don’t waste time on it.
Find a trusted advisor. Find a source of truth. Maybe that is your own parents, maybe that’s your pediatrician, maybe it’s some really cool guy who writes online about being Dad. Ultimately, you need to create filter for outside opinions, and do what you know is right. Let the rest of the noise fall on deaf ears. If you don’t have the same parenting philosophy as your in-laws (shocking, but believe it or not it could happen), don’t spend a second of your time thinking about what they think about how you parent. If you find yourself wondering how you measure up to the parent ahead of you in the pick-up line at school, realize what you’re doing and change your train of thought.
Remember too, that there is a flip side to that coin. If you see a parent doing something you wouldn’t do, so what? Don’t worry about them, and certainly don’t offer your own unsolicited advice. What could you have done for your own children while you were going out of your way to dispense your self-perceived parental wisdom?
While we shouldn’t be constantly concerned with what a social media influencer thinks about parenting, we can’t ignore the caveat that Marcus gives – “unless it affects the common good.” So, should you butt into a situation a parent is having with their kid? No. But if that situation impacts the safety or wellbeing of others, then not only should you, but the case could be made that you have an obligation to.
I know it is a tricky time right now to talk about the common good, but it matters. The heath, safety, and prosperity of the whole matters more than inconveniencing the individual. Doing what’s right as a parent, not just for your kids, but for the whole of society is important. What is good for the whole is good for the individual. So before you spend any time or effort worrying about other people, ask yourself – is what they are saying or what they are doing having a real impact on the common good? If no, then get on with your day and pay them no mind. If yes, you still shouldn’t worry, but act. Remember, Stoics aren’t just thinkers, they are doers.
Today’s takeaway: Don’t worry until you have something to worry about.