Encouraged by her recent commentary on young men (titled “Why Can’t They Get Girlfriends?”) Natalie Ellen Bean has just handed me the following essay to share with you. It would appear that young Natalie has connected with the original intention that she held upon her arrival to the planet. Like all of us who have chosen to experience life on this magnificent physical plane of existence, Natalie did not intend to use the opinions of her parents, or anyone else, to measure the appropriateness of her own desires and beliefs. It is refreshing to know that she will not be waiting until she is over thirty years old to remember Who She Is. I am letting her type this as is, since any editing from me would only defeat the theme of her latest revelation.
Hi, again! It’s Natalie. With more thoughts swirling around in my head, I appreciate that mom has given me a forum to share my ideas with you.
Being influenced by the opinions of other people has been one of my biggest issues. We have all been in situations where we need some guidance. As teenagers, we can get so down on ourselves that it is nearly impossible to think on our own. I have learned that it is perfectly acceptable to depend on others for guidance, but at some point, we need to be able to sort things out for ourselves.
I still receive plenty of life’s lessons from my elders and teachers who offer valuable information on how to handle things. But I have just realized that I have a mind of my own and I can actually use it. I don’t mean that every 15 year old, like me, should stop listening to their parents and adopt the idea that we know everything. We don’t know everything, but we do have the ability to handle ourselves.
Whenever I am having trouble with a friend, a boy, or even my siblings, I usually turn to my mom for guidance. I have gained a lot of trust in my mom, and I know that she will always offer me the best advice for ME. When I was in the midst of a bad break-up, I was constantly asking my mom what my next move should be. While this was going down, one thing that she kept reminding me has stuck in my mind.
After I asked her, “What would everyone think if I did this?” she looked at me and said, “Natalie, you have to stop caring so much about what other people think. You know who you are. You know what’s right.”
Despite all of the sympathy that I was getting from my friends and other grown-ups, what my mom said to me that day truly made me feel that whatever decisions I had been making throughout the ordeal were the right ones for me.
It has taken me awhile to understand that I DO know what is best for me. Don’t get me wrong, there are still a lot of teenagers who have no idea what’s best for them. Maybe no one has reminded them that it’s okay to trust themselves first. I feel as if I have really grasped the whole idea that when I am having trouble with myself, or there is something that I am having second thoughts about, I become vulnerable. I can become so vulnerable to outside ideas that they can actually suppress MY OWN thoughts. Now I always keep the image of a filter in my mind whenever I have doubts, or questions about the information I am receiving from others. This image allows me to sift through the opinions of others that may be clouding my ability to think on my own.
For example, when I was going through a rough time with my boyfriend, I automatically allowed outside opinions to bubble in my head long enough to believe them, accept them, and label them as my own. Then I remembered that no one else has been in the same position that I was in. Maybe they had gone through something similar, but they could not possibly have experienced the exact things, in the same exact way, that I have. They weren’t me.
Good friends, family, and teachers can always lead you in the right direction, offer comfort, and confirm your thoughts. We DO pick up on what people we admire teach us, and we eventually branch out on our own when we are confident in our opinion of ourselves. I do not believe that we should ever stop taking note of the experience of others, or stop being open to what grown-ups like to refer to as “constructive” criticism. But we do need to learn how to filter out the outside thoughts that WE know can cloud our own judgment.
If one of my friends asks me for help, I am always willing to provide them with any of my own experiences that may benefit them. But in these situations, I am beginning to remind myself that all they really need is a little nudge to discover what they already “know” in their heart. They may feel lost or mindless because emotions are so powerful, but with a little nudge, they will be able to realize what they need to do in order to help themselves.
One big problem that I have noticed in high school is that people are constantly gossiping and doing the whole “You won’t believe what I heard about her” and “I shouldn’t tell you this” thing. We are constantly getting our information about each other from second-hand sources, which is basically more opinion than fact. I can admit to being a part of this, but I am now making an effort to stop contributing to the madness. I am starting to “catch myself” more often. I have started imagining that filter in my head for these situations, too.
I know that my mom has written about topics concerning the influence of other people’s opinions many times on this site. She might think that she is writing for herself and other grown-ups who can relate to her experience, but she should know that I am reading this stuff, too.
Thanks, mom, for reminding me that I am my own person. No one knows me as well as me.