A tweet I received today made me think about why I no longer freely express my opinions like I did when I was younger. Tweet: from velofille @nessliddell if you aren’t sure just say your opinion and if you are corrected then you learnt something.
When I was at school I had a number of friends who were quite opinionated. I found that when I would express my own opinion these friends would almost override my opinion with their own. Over time my confidence started to dwindle as I became sick of having to constantly justify my own opinions, and also to fight to get my opinions heard. To me they were sound debaters and in a way I guess I thought that they were a lot more intelligent than me. I gradually learnt to keep my opinions mostly to myself; only expressing them when I was confident to back them up and not back down.
The other thing that I have realised looking back, is that I would also change my opinion to fit with the majority (even if I didn’t fully agree). Unfortunately, I soon realised that I could avoid conflict completely either by hiding my opinions or changing them to suit the situation. I absolutely hate conflict, and underpinning that is the fear that people will stop liking me because our opinions differ. Also, when I get frustrated or angry I tend to cry, which most people see as a sign of weakness especially in women. I am afraid that if I start expressing my opinion with him, that he will just shoot me down and I will once again be that teenager who let other’s opinions override my own.
As an adult I still reserve my opinions and let fear hold me back.
Currently, my father-in-law is a prime example of when I hold my tongue. I do like him however, he is HIGHLY opinionated, constantly talks about politics and he can be incredibly overbearing (mind you my father is very similar). He is intelligent and respects people that can openly debate with him about anything and everything. I was quite interested in politics at university and got involved a lot, however I don’t feel comfortable debating with my father-in-law or even expressing my opinion. Personally, I don’t care if Helen Clark is a lesbian (what bearing did that have on her as a prime minister), I don’t care to hear racist comments about people and frankly believe there is more to life than politics. Mark and I were raised at very different ends of the political spectrum and as a couple; we try not to talk about politics as a rule. Suffice to say, I don’t go to Wellington a lot.
So where do I go from here? I need to start understanding that an opinion is just that and I believe that we all have the right to express our own. I need to start believing in myself and rebuilding my confidence in my own opinions. If people decide not to like me because of my opinions then do I really want or need them in my life?
So here’s to my “happily ever after”.....