Not to beat a dead horse, but this whole kickboxing thing has opened a can of worms. (Wow, two idioms in one sentence. Sorry.) The whole thing has brought to my attention the need for people to keep their mouths shut, mine included. Better yet, let’s only speak if we’re going to be supportive! I’m also continually fascinated by what drives people to speak up in the first place. I could announce that I’m moving my family to a swamp in Papua New Guinea for the summer and some people would be like, “OK, cool.” But when those same people find out I’m taking a kickboxing class they say something like, “You do know there are other forms of aerobic exercise, right?” (This is after having to explain why I’m taking the class again.) I have developed a pretty snarky canned response as I’ve heard this question so many times over the last few days, but you have to read it out loud with your jaw clenched to get the full effect: “Yes, I’m fully aware, but none of those are appealing to me.” I never ever expected this much backlash. I really am shocked. And I can’t quite put my finger on people’s problem with it, other than the few who are concerned for my safety.
Bottom line: Do not tell someone they can’t or shouldn’t do something. Ever. (Well, except for suicide or illegal activities, that is. I figure that’s obvious, but someone would have surely written it in the comments if I didn’t put it in writing first.)
Here’s what I’ve come to realize over the last few days… and I admit I’m terribly guilty of this so I’m really kind of writing for myself. This is bigger than kickboxing. Not only am I thinking about when my niece joined the Peace Corps and when my nephew enlisted, not to mention the countless friends I’m sure I’ve given a hard time about something, it has made me realize how often I do this to my own kids while trying to give them what I see as “more realistic” expectations in order to prevent them from being disappointed. In reality, if I just go along with it and support their ideas, one of two things will happen: 1) they will eventually learn on their own it’s not going to work out or simply change their minds, OR 2) they will exceed my expectations and accomplish their goals.
We all underestimate the power our words have. We each play a key role in helping someone succeed as well as holding someone back. We all have a lot of responsibility to each other that goes largely unchecked.
It is not our role as friends, parents, acquaintances, or coworkers to plant seeds of doubt in others. It it not our job to poke fun at someone’s interests or desires because we don’t see the appeal. Again, because someone will comment if I don’t spell it out… Of course, there are certain times when a healthy debate is appropriate or we offer our opinion when our advice has been expressly solicited, but in those instances when someone is flat out telling us something that is important to them… if we don’t have anything nice to say, we need to keep our mouths shut. Just smile and say, “Oh, good for you.” I promise you it’s far better to risk insulting someone by appearing uninterested than certainly insulting them and discouraging them from reaching their full potential at the same time. Although some people might try harder when someone tells them they “can’t,” most will hear our words of doubt and decide to not even try.
On the contrary, when someone makes a decision or voices a passion, no matter how asinine we might think it is, it it our responsibility to encourage and support them. It’s not up to us to determine whether they will fail or succeed. Let them risk failing. Then you’re not in the position to say, “I told you so,” which is about the most destructive phrase you can say to a loved one. If they fail, pat them on the back and say, “You gave it a good try. How do you feel about trying it again?” And if they succeed, be their biggest cheer leader!
This whole week has been incredibly eye-opening, and it was such a surprise. Not that I was hiding it, but I had no intention of telling so many people about my class (I just didn’t think anyone would care) nor did I expect to post about this twice in one week, but the reaction to MY decision has made me realize I need to think about how I can be more supportive of my friends and family. Being on the receiving end of something not everyone agrees with is challenging and hurtful. I hate to think of how I’ve made others feel by being unsupportive.
So here’s to all of us pursuing our own unique passions! Towanda!