For the last two decades of my life, I have held on closely to this fear of being judged so tightly that I have mistaken it for being a warm hug. I hung onto words of affirmation from others the way a baby grips onto one’s finger. I didn’t allow myself to make decisions until someone else suggested it first. My mind would twist questions like “Are you going out with us this weekend?” into “We’re only asking because we feel like we have to,” within the snap of a finger. Every time I asked a friend to hangout I would immediately assume that the friend thinks hanging out with me is like pulling teeth, when that wasn’t the truth!
In what is currently a viral TikTok soundbite, over hundreds of thousands of TikTok users use a clip of Kris Jenner saying “What would happen if you just called Taylor up?” to relate to how our parents ask us to do bizarre things– like asking the cute waiter for his phone number while they are actively providing dinner service for you and your family.
I’m starting to think that what seems to be an outlandish suggestion could become my new philosophy. Sometimes, that outlandish advice can lead to the best outcome. Maybe you have a friend that always persuades you to make outrageous or out of character decisions. Maybe you are that friend. Or maybe, in the midst of trying to decide whether or not you’re going along with tonight’s scheme: you can’t help but think of how other people will think of you! The fear of being judged or even perceived by others: my number one enemy.
When we live in fear of how others look at us, we end up taking the path of least resistance and making the most passive decisions in order to feel a sense of safety and security. For my “Hamilton” fans: talk less, smile more, that’s been my philosophy!
During my first week of freshman year at Saint Louis University, I made my first of many brave decisions to venture out of my comfort zone despite only wanting to call my mom and lay in bed. On-campus first-year students move into their residence halls a week early in order to experience Fall Welcome. An entire campus of just freshmen running amok. Doesn’t that sound like heaven?
With my highschool friends attending universities from Denver to South Carolina, I had no support system at SLU. But instead of letting that fear paralyze and tuck my body into bed for a stress nap, I felt empowered to say hi to everyone I could. No one knew me! No one cared what friend group I ran around with in high school, no one cared about how good my grades were and no one cared that I waved at someone who actually wasn’t waving to me by accident. In that week, I had asked myself to be brave.
No one else had to tell me that I should be brave. I was the only one eye-to-eye with my fear of being judged. What if you just do it? Say hello to strangers, make plans with a classmate, push myself out of my comfort zone: these were all things I decided to say Who cares? to. I asked myself to be brave then, and I still ask myself today to be brave now.
Laugh, instead of grimacing, after saying “you too!” when the flight attendant says “enjoy your vacation!” and shake the weight of “What if someone is judging me?” off. Maybe even think about asking for the waiter’s number – mom has a point!
The more decisions I made with a “Who cares?” rationale, the less I cared about what other people thought of me. I think the hardest lesson in life is accepting that you can’t please everyone. I’m still in the process of learning that people can and do love me for who I am, not who I want them to think I am.
In this modern age of social media, where one’s business is everyone else’s business, I remind you that your truth and peace comes first. You are free from who you were five years ago and you’re even free from who you were yesterday! I have made some terrible decisions, but that does not define me. I have accomplished amazing goals but that alone does not define me either. It’s so important to live in the moment and focus on the present. Make one out-of-character decision at a time. Call Taylor up: you can eat by yourself at restaurants and you can totally tear up the dance floor with the girls you met five minutes ago in the bathroom!
Maybe I won’t always listen to my mom when she tells me to talk to a boy who looks like he could be around my age at the airport. But I will ask myself to be brave, one out-of-character decision at a time.