I was thinking about a lot of the messages that are taught to children in particular but all of us in general by what we see on TV. One of the most popular messages is that we should just be ourselves and not to worry about what anyone thinks of us.
While I appreciate the intention of the content creators who want to instill this sense of positive self-esteem in the future of America, I have a problem with this conception.
Maybe part of it is just my experience, but I do care what some people think about me. I care about what my family thinks about me, and I care about what my friends think of me. The immediate rebuttal is that people should love me for who I am, so my highest responsibility is to be true to myself.
I don’t know if that is quite true. Let me give you an example. Let’s say that I do something incredibly irresponsible. I could be driving my wheelchair in a very reckless fashion.
In that scenario, it means a lot more to me for my family or friends to tell me I’m wrong. I would like them to tell me I am being reckless or even dangerous to myself or other people. They are telling me what they think about me, and at that particular moment, they are not overly impressed. They could simply decide to let me be me, but if I am wrong about what is best for me or those around me, it is better if they tell me to not be myself at that moment. It is better that may help point me in the right direction.
This is part of the radical individualism embedded in our culture. Since I am the only one who knows what it means to truly be me, no one else has any right to step in and tell me that I might actually be doing something wrong or might be doing something that is harming those around me.
Standing up for ourselves is important, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m not saying that we need to always do exactly what other people want to see . However, what I am saying is that when we have this worldview that teaches that we shouldn’t care what anyone thinks of us, I think that takes some nuance.
We shouldn’t care at all what people think about us when they don’t have our best interests at heart. When they are the types of people who are intentionally trying to tear us down and demolish us, then we are better off not listening.
There is value in community, and there is value in the wisdom of those around us. It may be popular to embrace some form of radical individualism that tells us that we can be islands, but I don’t think that is the way God designed us. Community and the guidance of those around us are meant for our benefit. We certainly have to ultimately make our own choices, but we should not be so brash as to reject what the people who actually care about us think. Those people are trying to help us, and we would be wise to at least consider what they say.