A recent Facebook post grabbed my attention. It was written by a brand new mommy who was headed back to work after her maternity leave. Referencing leaving her little one she stated something like…”No one prepared me for how hard driving away would be!” The string of comments that followed were peppered with both words of encouragement, polite judgement or at least insinuated disapproval. All responses had an opinion. Oh–friends. This is one of those super sensitive hot buttons that fill women with a great deal of stress and drama. No matter what decision is made and for whatever reason–there are differing opinions on what SHOULD be done. I have had the awesome privilege over the past 12 years to become the mom of 3 beautiful kids AND I have a passion to lead and inspire those around me. I hold a necessary position of helping make ends meet financially for our family…so this has personally plopped me in the middle of several hot button discussions.
Upon further reflection, I realized I have made many polarizing decisions throughout my adult life. (We all do.) Those decisions (and the voiced opinions of others) have created self-doubt and guilt. They have also caused me to feel isolated or at best incredibly misunderstood. If you have felt misunderstood or have guilt surrounding personal life decisions…perhaps this blog might help? You can follow my wildly unpopular journey…finding threads of similarity to your own story–or if nothing else encouragement and hope…because there is a powerful super power that I have discovered though this process!
It started in my late teens when I chose to walk with Jesus. He was super misunderstood…so I should have known walking with him wouldn’t be easy. Post college I made the decision to go on Young Life staff…mainly unpopular to the people who matter most…my parents. (What is Young Life staff…and your salary will be WHAT?)
Once we had children I chose to stay on Young Life staff. (So you are NOT going to stay at home with your babies?) After having my 2nd child, I worked part time. (So you didn’t want to stay working full time?) I took graduate classes for counseling and then went a completely different direction–I opened a studio in my home and worked as a personal trainer. Those endeavors took time away from my family which brought about voiced criticism and praise depending on the person! (Wow I am so proud of you for owning your own business! Goodness–you are working long hours aren’t you?)
After spending time learning about our bodies and nutrition, our family shifted to a vegetarian and specifically a more “plant based” diet. Wow. Lots of hate. (But don’t you like bacon? Is this an animal rights thing?)
But the twists and turns continued as our family did the unthinkable. We uprooted our world–and moved to Africa. Adoption itself–let alone attempting to form a transracial family evoked plenty of feedback. But if that wasn’t enough…because we were living internationally for an indefinite amount of time, we homeschooled during those years. HOMESCHOOLED. Adding another stigma to my collection. (Aren’t you afraid they won’t be socialized? I just could never do it.) Due to some post-traumatic stress from that adventure as well as fostering a need to figure out where we would lay roots…I have continued to homeschool even upon returning from Uganda. (Cue the side-ways glances.)
The icing that brings us to present day? I partnered with the Pro-Activ doctors and once again own my own business…in direct sales. (Isn’t that some sort of pyramid scheme? I just could never be in sales.) Wow…I have stirred the pot of opinions to overflow!
Friends! I have learned so very much over the past few decades while making (wildly unpopular) hot-button decisions. Paramount…and lean in for this one: When it comes to the approval of others…you.cannot.win. Truly…no winners. I have also found that most people have an opinion surrounding what we do. (Social media doesn’t help with this. If we go online for validation… we.won’t.find.it! Actually we may…but we will often receive just as much negative feedback!) So we circle back around…we cannot let the opinion of others dictate our REAL LIFE choices…or our emotions for that matter!
Here’s the second lesson. We are all are doing the VERY best we can with what we have. Each of our stories are so widely varied and the factors that led to those decisions are incredibly complex. Each intricate and delicate decision came from hundreds of different factors related to our history/background, our current circumstances, and even our dreams for the future. But somehow we read a few simple words on Facebook…so and so went back to work…or didn’t–and we see this as a black and white issue. I have lived in the black and white of life and there is no freedom or grace there–I have learned the world is SO very full of gray!
Interestingly, it seems the choices of OTHERS (made for their very special and unique story) can make US feel as if they are placing a statement on OUR unique circumstances and story. So if I eat vegetables…Kelly thinks I am saying HER diet is all wrong. NOPE…I eat vegetables because of my own convictions. If I choose to homeschool…Maggie believes I am indicating her private, public, or any other educational option is not a good one. NOPE…I just have found this is best for our fam in this season. I choose to work from home through a channel that is often misunderstood…does that mean YOU need to do the same? NOPE…it is what is best for our family and something I love. Period. The end.
Do you see what is happening? We have this provocative super power called…CHOICE. Not everyone is afforded the opportunity to choose whether they stay at home or work outside the home–but many westerners are afforded this gift. BUT we “should” on everyone else about their choices. Or we view their decision as a personal affront to our own decision. We have too many opinions about what are others are up to. On these hot button issues…we simply need to mind our own business. We need to be gentler with others…treat them like soft little furry bunnies who are doing the best they can to navigate the wilderness.
Ready for the secret sauce? Here is where our super power is taken to the next level. When we are able to shake off the “shoulds” of others…this power of choice can free us and take us to new heights. We then CHOOSE who we let in our heads. My little bunny friend…you are doing the very best you can with your unique circumstances and story. Don’t let other people’s opinions waste mental space or place guilt and shame where it doesn’t belong! Even more exciting…once we have exerted this super power once or twice in our lives we gain confidence to use it again and again. We realize how empowering it can be–and we are set free.
I wouldn’t trade my story or my circumstances for anything in the world. I have taken a wildly unpopular road less traveled. I am sure I have disappointed and confounded many along the way. BUT (and here’s the secret)…we never win when we make choices we THINK will please the rest of the world. I would strongly encourage you to strap on your cape of invincibility and activate your most provocative super power…remember your story is unique and you are not only able to choose what you do–you have the power to choose to block out the hate. From one cute little bunny to another…take my cue and…YOU DO YOU.
May You Be a Blessing and May You Be Blessed,