You know those topics that come up that somehow people form very strong opinions about?
Coke vs. Pepsi (I’m indifferent on this one)
Dean vs. Jess vs. Logan (100% Jess. Dean? Ew. Logan? NO.)
Chocolate vs. Vanilla (chocolate)
Dogs vs. Cats (catsssssss- uh have you seen my instagram lately?)
But then there are more personal topics that people for opinions about, usually based on their own experiences.
How fast to move a relationship
What is and is not okay in a friendship
How *late* is late before it’s rude to the people who are waiting for you
What is or is not an irrational fear
What happens to someone when they pass away
Should women breastfeed in public
Is it okay for men to catcall
Rarely ever do I offer up my opinion in a polarized debate. It’s not my place, I think to myself. I don’t want to deepen the anger. I don’t want to set anyone off. I stay quiet, and it works. No one is mad at me, and we all move on.
I’m not even talking about politics (seriously, I promise- I wouldn’t do that here. It’s not the place for it). I’m talking about silly mundane topics that we all have surprisingly strong opinions on, or even the more serious topics that don’t revolve around politics.
A shift in opinions.
There was a time in my life when I was surprisingly outspoken. I say surprisingly because, if you met me now, you wouldn’t believe it. I think my boyfriend’s family might actually believe I don’t have opinions because I almost never speak up when a debate occurs. It’s a habit I don’t practice enough, so when the opportunity does arise to proffer my own perspective, my default reaction is to stay quiet, to observe.
I didn’t really notice this until a few days ago, when I
participated was present for a conversation that people took sides to. For the sake of not airing my friend’s transgressions out on public display, I’m going to switch the topic to something else: a fear. (I’m going to make one up, so roll with it).
One of my friends was afraid of dyeing food a different color. He believed that the chemicals were harmful to the person who ingested them. Anything artificial like that, that can alter a food’s exterior, cannot be good for a body- that was his opinion. Additionally, he also believed that food dye was a waste of money, as well as aesthetically unappealing.
Immediately, other people in the group jumped on him, showing him the other side- their opinion. I listened as the banter went back and forth, the one side mentioning the fun and the appeal of the science, his side retorting with facts about the digestive system. While light-hearted enough, it soon turned a bit ugly. What was once a silly debate had now managed to hurt people’s feelings.
That’s why I stay out of opinionated conversations. There was no need whatsoever for the soured discussion, yet it happened, just as it so often does. Over time, I’ve learned that it is simply easier to stay clear of the line of fire. If you don’t talk, no one gets hurt, right?
Conditioned to silence.
Throughout my teenage years, I unintentionally conditioned myself to silence. Watching people get burned and ridiculed for hold a unique opinion quickly taught me that it’s best to stick to the status quo and only support when I share the majority perspective.
The thing is, I did have an opinion about the topic my friends discussed that day. I just kept quiet because I foresaw how the conversation would end up.
(not the food dye debate, the actual debate the food dye stood in place for. You do you. If you want green water one day just ’cause, Go for it. I 100% support. If you don’t, or you think that’s weird, we’re cool too. I’m indifferent on that one.)
Following this, only a day later, I had a conversation with my boyfriend where he said a statement about “X view” that some people shared. It was not necessarily one he agreed with- he was more just state a fact about an opinion that can be held. I thought about the previous food dye incident. Without thinking, I blurted out, “Having ‘X view’ is abhorrent and wrong.”
He looked at me with such a dazed look, remarking, “Really?”
I nodded my head fervently and said, “Yes, absolutely.”
With an even more baffled glance, he replied, “Huh. You know, I never would have known that.”
Opinions are healthy.
Having an opinion is healthy. It means my brain is actively functioning- something it did not do for a very long while. One of the reasons why I shut myself off from having a voice (and there are many others as well), was because I have carried around a lot of guilt with me for having an eating disorder in the first place. I think I’ve convinced myself that I’ve already caused too much of a stir in other people’s life that anything else is just excessive.
This spills over into other areas of my life as well. Rarely ever will I tell a friend if what he or she has done has offended me. I noticed this at work this summer. I had the most incredible coworkers. Truly, they were amazing. That does not mean though, that we had our moments of miscommunication. Occasionally, things would happen that would upset me, but because I knew they were unintentional, I never brought it up. It was not until one of my other coworkers looked over at me one day when I was visibly flustered and said, “If you aren’t happy, you need to tell us and let it out. It does no good to keep it all locked up.”
And she was so incredibly right. No healing can be done if I keep my hurt inside. But also, no growing can be done if I keep my opinions inside either.
I don’t want to silence myself anymore. I’m tired of sitting at family dinners with my boyfriend’s family with this innate fear of harming anyone if I utter a word. Naturally, I was born an extrovert- I want part of that back. Years of anxiety have slowly chipped away at my gregarious exterior, but I know there is part of me that still easily latches on to good conversation.
Do other people hesitate sharing their opinions? No? Just me?
Part of me wonders how much this happens to others of you out there. Our world is ripe with arguments occurring everywhere, all the time. You cannot click on a website without seeing something charged with fervent opinions. You cannot walk into a grocery store without hearing something you don’t agree with. It’s the way of the world, and I bet you whatever opinion you have about that, you’re not alone.
I need to learn how to stop second-guessing myself.
I have experiences unique to myself that have shaped, molded, and formed me into this unique person that I am.
There will never be another me, and there will never be another you. That’s worth something.
Mental illnesses strip away any value one has in themselves. Part of the recovery process is about slowly regaining that worth that we can believe in. This can manifest in a multitude of ways, whether that’s speaking up in a conversation or reaching out when you need a little extra help.
It’s not silly to offer our opinions. It’s valid and it’s necessary. Otherwise, we are left feeling pent-up with ideas and thoughts we will never verbalized because we are too afraid of the consequences.
As long as there is RESPECT, all our opinions- even over the small stuff- are valid.
We all have opinions.
If no one offered their opinion, we’d all look precisely the same; no progress would ever happen in the world. I hate the sound of that. It’s not a world, I want to live in, but by always staying quiet, I’m contributing to that exact stagnation. I’m done with that. A collective conscience is not always a good thing.
Like I said before, I’m not even talking about the serious issues such as social injustice, but I cannot ignore that my silence in the small topics plays out in the large ones as well. I can’t ignore the privilege I have in this. It’s something I am not proud about. But it IS something I am going to change. I am going to work on this.
We all have voices.
Just when I think my recovery is at its prime, the world humbles me, showing me there is always something more to work on.
I’ve always said I like keeping busy, sooooo, I’ll take this as a good thing.
In upcoming situations where I find myself thinking, “Why?” I want to try taking the next step and actually start asking the question. I’ll become a better person. I think it will help with my confidence, which I know is a department of my personality that needs some TLC.
Always keep questioning. Always keep speaking your truth. Always keep offering your opinion. Always be respectful. Always listen to others.
I’m tired of silencing myself. Don’t silence yourself.
- How comfortable are you offering your opinion?
- Answer any of the debate questions I put at the top of the post!
- Have you noticed an aspect of your personality that you want to work on?