I have spent a lot of time this new year – and yes, the first month is just barely halfway through – reading and commenting on balance, perceptions and judgment. The problem, personally, is that I was not relating these readings or my comments to my own situation.
While balance is, and seemingly will always be, a struggle, it is a tightrope walk when it comes to how others perceive you and ultimately judge you. I was thrown down this road when first Sarah at Momalom.com wrote “We care what people think about us.” My initial response was that I don’t really care what people think about me but that is not totally true. Those who are close to me – friends who are close, family – I care what these people think. Then, Deena at A Day in the Life of Me posted some of her own “Reflections,” based on her life.
This all has had me thinking about how others look at me and do they judge what they see without knowing me.
I am a single mom. I have had people who do not know me question why I am not married. Do they know the circumstances which led to the end of my marriage? No. I have told very few people this story. Does it hurt when people say I am not doing what is best for my children by not being married – a line of thinking I have never understood? Definitely. Do I generally let these people see the hurt? No. I tend to hold it in and keep control. Remember this as control will come back later.
I have six children. Now before anyone can ask it, yes, they are all from the same father. That is another question I get from people a lot – or did when the kids were younger. Now that most of the kids are out of the house, I seldom have all six together so I do not get asked this as often. I do not understand this question at all. It does not hurt me. It annoys me. First, is it a new acquaintance’s business how many times I have been married (just one if you really want to count) or how many men fathered my children (again just one)? Is a large family, without a television show to track its every move, that unusual in our culture?
I have become use to these questions from new acquaintances in my life and from people who do not know me. I have never had someone close to me question these things because those who know me know I am fiercely loyal. I would have never thought of cheating and having a child with someone other than the man who was my husband.
More recently, I have had a friend, someone who knows me extremely well, say that I was too in control. It took a long time to look inside myself and see that maybe I project being in control. I run a household by myself. I do like to plan and know what is going to happen. I like to be in control but lately there has been little control internally. I don’t feel like I am in control although, to the outside world, it probably does look that way.
Why project the control instead of the chaos I feel? Whether I like to admit it or not, I do worry about what people think. I worry that my children will think that chaos is the norm. I worry that others will think I do not have the ability to live as I do. I worry that others will judge me.
Evidently, the worrying does come out without my knowing it. My youngest bought me a book for Christmas about how to stop worrying. I laughed at first but now, I see maybe it should be next on my reading list.
Do you worry about what others think of you? Do you worry you cannot find the balance between caring what others think and being yourself? Do you worry about how others judge you? Do you judge others?
I am coming to see that I can tell myself I don’t care what others think but, ultimately, I do care at least a little.