My choices are not a commentary on yours

It can be hard to remember, but no one is giving up dairy, changing jobs, attachment parenting, or exercising AT you (or me). >>

Let’s play a super fun game called “What are your worst personality traits?”

I’ll go first!

My worst personality traits include but are not limited to:

1. A general tendency towards gossip
2. Weird over-decisiveness
3. Defensiveness about everything, ever

As I’ve gotten older and more socially adept, I’ve learned to tamp down my external defensiveness but the space between my ears is still a perfect storm of “Well!” and “But!” and “That won’t work for me and I WILL TELL YOU WHY.”

Fun, right?

Like most people, when I’m with old friends I’m much more inclined to be my real, true, naturally defensive self. How lucky for them!

It was over lunch with one such friend that I was (hopefully) cured of my defensiveness once and for all.

We’d been talking about my friend’s decision to go from being a most-of-the-time vegetarian to a full-blown vegan. As a fellow most-of-the time vegetarian, my immediate thought process was:

1. “I bet she thinks I’m an unethical heathen because I eat bacon twice a year.”
2. “Does she think she’s better than me?”
3. “When I die, am I going to a special circle of hell that’s reserved for people who say they’re vegetarians but eat Arby’s chicken strips once a year?”

And because we were old friends, I made a ‘joke’ indicating as much.

She laughed, looked me straight in the eye and said, “Sarah, my choices are not a commentary on yours.”

That’s good, isn’t it? And it can apply to every single thing we find ourselves getting worked up about.

My choice not to have children is not a commentary on your choice to have children. It is, however, a commentary on my two awesome stepsons, my non-maternal personality, my commitment to my career and travel, and the fact that I’m 36 and my husband is 42.

My choice not to eat meat is not a commentary on your choice to eat meat. It’s a commentary on the fact that I haaaaaate ground hamburger and if you grew up in the Midwest that’s pretty much all we eat here.

My choice to travel a lot is not a commentary on your choice to stay at home. It’s a commentary on my own easily-bored nature and the fact that I live somewhere with six months of snow.

And isn’t that a relief? No one is making their decisions in reaction to ours. Nobody is attachment parenting, voting Libertarian, going carless, or giving up dairy AT us.

Really, most of us are too self-absorbed to be making decisions in reaction to other people’s! We’re all doing the best we can, making the choices that work best for who we are right now. We’re making those choices because we want to.

So let’s make a pact. Next time someone makes a choice that runs counter to our own or brings out our less pleasant, more defensive side, let’s take a deep breath and remember: it’s not about us.

My choices are not a commentary on yours. And vice versa. Click To Tweet

P.S. 5 ways to stop caring what people think

Photo by adrian on Unsplash

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  1. Jen

    Yes, exactly! Love this post! Let’s all make the life choices that are best for us and not judge others for their different choices.

    P.S. I’m also vegetarian and love travel and don’t want kids and I just got married and now have a 20 year old stepdaughter (and step-granddaughter!) I’m 33 and my husband (! it still feels strange to say that!) is 39. It feels a little weird sometimes but also awesome.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      Yes! Yes. Also: step-granddaughter at 33 is MIND BLOWING. Congrats on your marriage 🙂

  2. Ardith

    Brilliantly and beautifully said, Sarah. Cheers, Ardith

  3. darcie

    fwiw, i’ve never considered you defensive, but i really like this article. it’s been a change for me, but letting go of either/or, good/bad judgements is slowly (s l o w l y) letting more options into my life to learn new things. without losing my convictions, it’s more fun to be like, “what if i didn’t judge [idea you have about your things] against [my thoughts of your thing]?” taking into consideration that there are like, endless options for most ideas is pretty cool. what if i didn’t give myself only two options (good/bad)? WHAT IF?!

    • Anonymous

      Stellar response; thank you for the reminder.

  4. Rebecca

    SO SO good! What a great point that most people never think to recognize!

  5. marisa

    Yes! This is a fantastic reminder! People aren’t doing things AT us; such a great way to put it. Isn’t it crazy how self centered we can be?

  6. Amy Kennedy

    Ahhhh, I love this! Firstly, I’m a little defensive about myself, but hugely defensive for anyone I love! I need to stop that. Secondly, I eat meat have kids and a grandchild and a step child (who’s a woman now) with 5 step grandchildren. And it’s all okay. This is the first time I’ve ever read anything that put this so perfectly–have to remember this for work too. This is a little different, but my mom always tells me: It’s none of your business what other people think of you. Love that too.

  7. Alysa

    Oh man this is so true, and it really resonates when it comes to parenting choices. My decision to breastfeed/bottle feed/co-sleep/natural birth/c-section has nothing to do with anyone else!!!

  8. Bianca Lucine

    Sarah, I love all your articles but this is one I won’t ever forget. Actually, I think I’m gonna write your friend’s sentence in a note tucked in the wallet and glance at it at least thrice each day to remind myself that *no one is judging my life with his choices*. This has always been very difficult for me, but I believe your article will give me a hand. Thank you a lot, you deserve the best!

    • Sarah Von Bargen


  9. Olga

    Every soul on my corner of this planet will get this article link/email/snuck under the door… because is so so so good that Im sure will limit the need for alcohol consumption among friends. Thank you!!

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      So glad you liked it, Olga!

  10. Sofia

    I’m going to have to remember this going forward, you have such wise friends! Keeping this in mind will surely make life much easier, decrease self-doubts and open brain space for fun and important things! Thank you!

  11. Martina

    I just love this on so many levels! Preach! 🙂

  12. Cynthia

    My mind is CONSTANTLY overthinking and overanalyzing everything, which is exhausting. And most of the things my brain consumes itself with is exactly what you wrote about: the choices of others commenting mine. The statement your friend gave you is so unique and often not thought about, but is clearly so wise and thoughtful! I need to make that phrase a motto I live by every day for my own sanity. 🙂

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