Pick Your Own Knows

My stepdaughter, Athena, recently said something to me that fits perfectly with today’s topic.  When discussing whether or not she liked something, she said “How can I know if I like something or not, unless I give it a try?”  I commended her for seeing that truth, because it’s a very mature attitude for a teenager to have.

This wasn’t merely about trying an unusual food before deciding if she liked it or not .  The situation with Athena was actually about having an experience before making a decision on it.  She didn’t want to immediately adopt her mother’s or Craig’s or my opinion on the thing.  She wanted to try it for herself, first hand, and make her own, fully-informed decision, which is awesome!

So many people try to tell you who you are and what you can/can’t do.  It starts when we’re children: “You know you’re not supposed to put that in your mouth,” and goes right up through adulthood “You know you’re not supposed to park there,” and into old age “You know you can’t eat solids anymore.”

Sometimes these “knows” are rules and laws that were supposedly designed to help us stay safe, but many times these “knows” feel more like “shoulds,” where people tell you how to live your life based on what THEY think you should be doing/not doing. Some of these “experts” have even gotten renowned recognition; Miss Manners and Emily Post are two that immediately come to mind.

Now, I’m not saying that everyone should ignore the “knows” or “shoulds” that people try to impose upon them.  As shown here in Groundhog Day, that can have some dire consequences for those of us who don’t get do-overs:

Groundhog Day - Flapjacks

But many times, it comes across as though the people imposing these “knows” or “shoulds” are doing it in an effort to control situations or people.

But controlling or helpful, people often go along with these “shoulds” for a variety of reasons.  However, there are some of us who prefer to pick our own “knows,” as it were, and decide to live our lives based on what WE think we “should” do or not do.  We’re usually regarded as rebels, and are often met with scorn or even publicly ridiculed for our choices, but the strongest of us endure this censure, because we don’t want to give anyone control over ourselves.

The thing about “knows” is that–much like DNA–there’s a different set for each person, which is why it’s sometimes dangerous to take the advice of others about them.  That person–regardless of how well-meaning they might be–isn’t YOU.  S/He may have had some similar encounters as you, but we each react differently to experiences, so s/he won’t have come out of the incident with the same conclusions as you might.

There are even some companies that take little bits of information about you from various sources (spending habits, web searches, movies viewed, etc) and try to advertise new things to you that they think you’ll like based on this info. Sometimes this can be helpful, because it allows us to see other options that–on the surface–appear to be similar to things we already do or like.  But it seems intrusive to me many times, mostly because I detest being advertised to.

So, here’s where knowing your “knows” gets tricky.  There might be things out there that I might really enjoy, but haven’t tried because I don’t know about them.  However, chances are strong that I won’t even give the new thing(s) a try because I innately dislike being advertised to.  Like with foods: Yes, I’m still someone who turns her nose up at unusual foods if it remotely sounds like something I don’t think I’d enjoy.

Now, that might seem like I’m not taking the advice that I spout in today’s blog, and I would agree with you, to a certain extent.  But one thing I KNOW about myself is that–when I taste something that I don’t like–I screw up my face and immediately spit it out, much like Tom Hanks did the caviar in Big (for some reason, I’ve never developed the filter that makes me handle it more maturely).  So, since I know that about myself, and I know how offensive that is to some people, I’d much rather save everyone a “gross” display–and my tastebuds from something they find foul–and not even try it in the first place.

The good thing about picking your own “knows” is that you can change them as you go through life.  “Knows” aren’t set in stone, ever.  With each new experience you have, what you know about yourself can change; if you’re open to that.  But the point is that YOU should decide when to change those, because you’re the only one who can truly KNOW what’s best for you.

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