Think For Yourself
We tend to take for granted just how amazing we–as humans, as individuals, as lived-experiences are. Think about all the things that you’ve accomplished thus far. For starters, you’re alive amidst a global pandemic. Not only has life as we knew it changed tremendously (and will continue to do so), you have changed as well, and slowly but surely you’ve adapted to life in the crib, and that’s been harder than you may realize. Secondly, and possibly most importantly, if it weren’t for your ability to think critically and rationally, you couldn’t be where you are today.
I know that if it weren’t for all of my experiences thus far, including all the times I’ve screwed up, disappointed someone I care for, and even let myself down; I couldn’t have grown. The lessons that I’ve learned about the world and about myself have all come as a result of my failures. Those same lessons have taught me to not only do better for myself, but to have faith in my ability to figure things out. The more I think about it, who would know what’s best for me anyway? Only I can truly know what I like and don’t like; I’m sure the same could be said for you.
Now, having reminded you of this, why have you been so hesitant to rely on yourself? Why do you look to others for the answers to your problems?
I ask this because I have begun to notice a new trend, which I hope won’t amount to anything more than just that; which is letting friends, family, influencers, or just about anyone with a twitter account make decisions for us. The ways by which we receive information is so fast and accessible, that at times, our first interaction with a piece of information is through someone else. In my experience, there have been few times where someone has successfully relayed information to me that was completely absent of their own personal bias’. There were, however, many times where the opposite was true; and my first time learning about something was from an article, reaction or retweet, accompanied by their personal biases and beliefs–and possibly only a fraction of the story. I found myself holding onto strong opinions on things I knew very little about. It wasn’t until conversing with someone who really knew their sh!t that I realized I truly knew nothing.
My advice, try not to be like this. I was naïve and didn’t give any thought to how I was receiving my information or who I was receiving it from. I became hesitant to give my opinion, in fear that those around me would think otherwise; in fear that someone would expose my limited understanding or lack thereof. I couldn’t even trust my own thinking. I questioned my every thought, contemplating whether or not those ideas were actually mine. This is a rather frightening situation to find oneself in, and it forced me to reflect upon myself and really grow to see how and why this was even possible. Why was it that “my” stances on things could only be supported with regurgitated arguments and borrowed beliefs which were never truly mine to begin with? I had to re-evaluate how I received and internalized it. I had to learn how to be more critical and skeptical of the things that I am told. I had to develop a desire to want to know whether or not what I was seeing was the “truth”, and not a distorted version of the facts.
Now, just to be clear, I am not saying that wanting to know others opinions and ideas on things is wrong. Is there truly something wrong with doing some research on something before making an investment, or collecting information on the experiences of others before passing your own judgement? Not necessarily, however, I do believe that this behavior–if done too often, and left unchecked–can develop into a habit of letting others influence us to the point that they’re practically thinking for us.
In order to get out of this habit, I have been intentional about improving my ability to think critically and create my own opinions, not just choosing one that I like the best. In this way it’s like doing mental math. What is 55+76? Though I am sure that each of us is capable of computing the answer in our heads, those of us who are accustomed to computing even the simplest of math problems on the calculator app will take longer than those who don’t to find 131 as the answer. I say all this to say that like mental math, when we take the time to be critical and formulate our own opinions, we are strengthening a skill that we’ve had from our very first breath, and it would be a shame to let such a useful skill go to waste.
As tedious and annoying as the process may be, do not avoid the work. When we avoid the process of discerning fact from fiction, from choosing what we agree with or disagree with, when we begin to trust others more than ourselves, we let what has made each of us so special go to waste. The ability to dictate someone else’s thoughts, let alone your own, takes an immense amount of work, and there are people, entities, and organizations who are more than happy to go through this work on your behalf. The result is that they acquire a certain kind of power–of control–over those who so eagerly sacrifice their own agency through allowing others to think for them instead.
I can’t provide you with a how-to manual on how to think for yourself. Not because I am keeping holding my secrets hostage, or because I do not have a real answer, but because this is something that only you can figure out. It’s your life, live it your way.
Remember to think for yourself.