The Values We Obey

ID-100238615Having an opinion on everything is admittedly extremely exhausting. And not always the right path. Even though there are those admirable persons who don’t give a damn about other people’s opinions; and what others think, say, or write about them just rolls off these guys’ shoulders unnoticed, it does not change the fact that there will always be those who blur out their two cents nevertheless. Finding a healthy balance between not caring and caring just enough is of the essence here.

But who sets the benchmark for healthy? Isn’t it true that we get used to habits and customs when being exposed only frequently enough? Things we might find odd and wrong at first appear normal after a certain amount of repetitions. Like drinking coffee, for instance. Or having sex. So instead of ignoring uncalled-for life advice, we get used to it. Until we find it normal and might even change our self-image according to this improper and inappropriate little voice called cultural norms in the back of our head.

Uncalled opinions change slightly over time – though only in content, not extend. What was once fat-shaming is now fit-shaming, for example: You go to the gym? Be aware that you don’t become too fit! Because, you know, boys don’t like girls with abs or a defined biceps. By the way, boys also don’t like it when girls wear too much makeup, or too little. Or when they dress too “slutty” (how come such a judgmental word even made it into common vocabulary?), or too “uptight”. When girls are open and extrovert they are easy, and when they are rather introvert, they are boring. Tough world – never knowing what is right and what is wrong, you gotta pick carefully whom you want to please.

I could add some similar regulations for guys now, but my lack of experience and conviction they really would care restrain me from doing so. For instance, when my full figured guy-friend tells me to be careful to not build too many muscles in the gym because “Boys don’t like that” (I wonder when I ever gave him the impression that my actions are driven by the constant background-thought about whether or not some random dude would appreciate them), I start marveling in which situation I would possibly ever tell this friend anything about his body shape and girls’ preferences in relation to that.

This would never occur to me out of several reasons: generalizing “A group of people does not like this or that” is already a wrong approach steered by willful ignorance of the diversity of human beings (including their preferences). Then, someone who bases their liking or disliking of a person on looks are kind of unappealing per se anyways, so why even bother? Also, he is a grown-up guy and knows exactly about his outer appearance – who am I to tell him which way it would be better or worse? And, last but not least, why would I want to mess with my friend’s self-confidence?

Also, unless you don't behave according to our made-up values.

Also, unless you don’t behave according to our made-up values.

Concluding from that I cannot but wonder how mentioning this came to his mind. I never asked him. But I have a theory: We got so used to expressing our opinion about things we deem right that we find it totally normal to do so even though it might affect other people negatively. We don’t even think about it. And we adapt it to our own thinking. Like, when people (no matter the gender) I talk to assure me they are “not these kind of people [who have one-night-stands]” – as if to be save from judgment. Besides the point that I didn’t even know I have to belong to a certain group of people to do or not do things (from now until forever? What if I want to change my mind?), I wonder why they find it so important to be on the abstaining side. Probably because society suggests them it is.

When exactly have our values shifted from “Be nice to each other and care about other people, don’t steal anyone’s ice cream and say always thank you” to “If you want to be taken seriously in professional, social or any other kind of way, you have to look like a top-model, behave like a saint and wear Ray Bans”?

As with everything, change comes by time and with will only. As long as we accept these values being imposed on us, as long as we react to unrequested, improper advice with bending and squirming and a corrupt self-image, exactly this long we give the power to shape our norms to those with twisted minds and redundant opinions. If someone does not judge you for what you do or what you look like (I never thought this would be an issue again after high school), but for who you are, you probably have found someone on the right track. Just go with them.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at
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