Opinions and Feelings

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Today I may very well upset some of you, and I'm sorry if that happens.  I want to talk about opinions, sensitivity, and the like.  I mentioned on Friday that there was a lot going on in my head, that the Internet was giving me a lot of food for thought.  I've been trying to figure out how I want to piece it all together and I'm still not sure I'm going to get it right but here goes.

Part One: I have read a lot of posts lately expressing the opinion of the author on a particular subject: "My Opinion on X Subject".  It's stated over and over in the post, "This is just my opinion......I'm just telling you how I feel....." which after awhile, I find annoying.  Of course it's your opinion- you're writing it.  But I read through to see what the author has to say and then I read the comments, which are either so mindless and sickeningly sweet: "Oh my God, I LOVE you.  You are awesome and every single thing you say is so right!!" or they are well-written commentary expressing the opposite- non-argumentative, nicely stated opinions.  Those are the ones I find most interesting because so often there is a reply from the author stating, "That's fine if you think that, but this is MY opinion."  Boom, done.  No follow-up dialogue, not saying thanks for your point of view, nothing.  That type of response bothers me so much because the author is basically saying that their opinion is worth putting out there and the follow-up, contradictory ones are not.  This is about my opinion, not yours.  How dare you not agree with me on this post? (even though it's stated in the post at least once that not everyone will agree about x subject).  The whole point of an opinion is that it is a personal thought, and therefore, not everyone is going to think the way you do.  There's nothing wrong with that.  And if you are going to write a post where you have to start off with "This is just my opinion....." then maybe don't be surprised if some people don't agree with you.

This blog is full of opinions.  I'm writing what I think about something.  I know what I say doesn't always resonate with everyone, and it doesn't have to.  I don't mind getting comments that say something to the contrary because it might make me think a little bit differently about something.  (Nice, well-stated thought out comments, that is.  I don't include angry, nasty comments in that.)  Everyone is entitled to their opinion even if it's not a conformist one.
Part Two: On Friday I also referenced this article, entitled "17 Cultural Reasons this European Never Wants to Live in America."  I found it fascinating given that I am an American- I really wanted to see what someone from another country has as an opinion of our society.  It's a really good read if you're open-minded.  If you're not, you may want to skip it because his very frank post may upset you.  But that's his number one point: Americans are too sensitive.  We cannot handle straightforward upfront speech when it is less than flattering toward us.  After I read that, I starting thinking about it and it's true: everything is qualified by, "This is just my opinion...."  Even my post today started with a disclaimer so you know it's not my goal to make you mad, because heaven forbid I say something that might not mesh well with your opinions.  Maybe I shouldn't have put it there, but I did.

We have to buffer our opinions with qualifiers so we don't lose readers, we can't speak frankly to someone about work performance because we might get sued due to perceived racial/gender issues even if there aren't any, we can't tell people that we don't like something about them without worrying about them dropping us as a friend, you can't tell someone they're doing something that makes them look funny or that they're overweight without hurting their feelings.  You don't want to be responsible for sending someone into a tailspin.  And all of this is completely ok in our society- we are so very politically correct- which may contribute to the mess we're currently in.  Everyone has to have the best of everything, everyone has to be equal and no one can be better or different than anyone else or else we hurt someone's feelings, and we're just not allowed to do that.  "Everyone gets a trophy!"  That drives me crazy.

One thing I found this week when I was working on my style posts was this, from someecards:

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Honestly, it cracked me up.  But I didn't post it because I didn't want to make anyone mad, didn't want to offend anyone and lose a reader.  I'm still ok with that decision because that isn't necessarily the tone I want to bring to the blog, but the first thing I think about shouldn't be whether or not someone reading isn't going to like it.  Honestly, I'm not a mean-spirited person, but I laugh at most of those e-cards, even when it's something about my own personality.  It's just an e-card.  I can take it.

I am not, however, personally good with constructive criticism.  Perhaps it's the Type A perfectionist in me, but I want to do everything right the first time and not mess up at all.  I hate constructive criticism, but I'm getting better at taking it.  One person who does not hold back on me is hubs, and I hate not being perfect to him, which I realize is silly.  I'm sensitive to his remarks and they often hurt my feelings, but then I think about it and realize he's not telling me whatever it is to hurt me, he's just trying to help.  It's me that's taking it the wrong way.  I need to get over myself, and maybe the rest of society does too.

So, that's my two cents.  It's okay if you don't agree with me.


30 comments

  1. I think you (and the European!) are correct - Americans have trouble with frank speech and upfront criticism. Everything 'negative' we say has to be couched to make it more palatable. I don't know if that's always a bad thing, though. Running around feeling entitled to be rude to everyone just because you're cranky isn't a great policy, either! Apologizing too much in a blog post gets old fast, but I have to admit I can think of at least one occasion when I was guilty of doing the same! Confessing it, even on the Internet, makes me feel a little foolish, but I'm also guilty of taking helpful critique far too personally. Being a little thicker skinned is actually a major goal of mine!

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    1. I know! We apologize so we won't step on someone else's feelings. I don't know if I will do that on the blog anymore or not, since I am stating what I feel. But like I said, I'm always open to discussion. If someone has a really good point, then maybe you'll change my mind. And yes, I agree, you can't just be rude to people for the heck of it, but I think a lot of us can't tell the difference between frank and rude anymore because we're so pandered to.

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  2. Loved this post. I obviously know some of the posts you are referring to. I often censor myself on my blog because I use it for business and I don't want to ostracize anyone.

    I'm an atheist but I'm really anti-religion for several several reasons and I try not to express my views too much because I know how religious people are. I sometimes feel it's unfair because religious folks can express how much God helped them with blah blah or a particular quote from the bible and I can't merely express my dislike for religion. I like to say I'm growing and thats why I don't express myself that often but that is really not true. I'm just being polite.

    Also the most frustrating thing is Religious people can accuse me of being a heathen and going straight to hell for my beliefs yet when you point out how un-Christian like that is.. it's all, well God would wanted it. ahh..no. You are being a hypocrite.

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    1. I struggle with the same issue.

      I grew up in a country that's largely secular, and I'm still getting used to the idea that in the US, as an atheist, I'm the odd one. I don't make a habit of discussing mine of other people's beliefs —it truly is the most bottomless and subjective of topics!— but I've had to stand my ground a few times in conversation.

      My impression is that it's okay to treat other people's religions gingerly, but the same doesn't apply to someone's irreligion. (Few things upset me more than the assumption that the atheists's values and moral compass are somehow underdeveloped, or of a lesser kind. Even when not said outright, there is plenty of commentary rooted in this notion.

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    2. Religion is a huge issue. It's ok to talk religion but it's not ok to talk non-religion. It is ok to fill Twitter and Facebook with biblical passages, but if you don't believe then there must be something wrong with you. It's not a fair standard. I really take a live and let live approach with religion (and people's lifestyle choices in general)- leave me alone and I'll leave you alone. Other religions/non-religions don't bother me at all, and I don't know why they are so hotly debated. If you believe, be content in that.

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    3. wow.. I really agree with Weird Amiga's comment.(actually inspired a post). It has taken many years to come to terms with my beliefs. Many years of searching and being introduced to other religions. I came from a catholic family but I was raised as a Jehovah Witness. I knew from a very very young age how I felt about Christianity,god, and the whole business. I knew it before I 'knew' it(if that makes sense) and it was a great struggle to come to terms that I firmly did not believe because I was surrounded by religious people.

      However..my personality is to naturally go against the majority so I was alone on my beliefs and it really wasn't until like my early 20s(omg..I can say early 20s now. getting old dude). Where I felt secure in my beliefs and no one was going to change me.

      I respect other people's religious beliefs as long as they respect my beliefs.

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    4. Eyelah, you hit the nail on the head. This is the one that bothers me the most. I am right there with you. I'm completely Agnostic, but if I were to write any sort of blog post about my beliefs I would be reamed for them. However, if I criticized a Christian blogger then I would be considered the bad one. I've had to unfollow blogs before because the in your face Christianity aspects were just too much for me. It made me feel uncomfortable in the "you're not welcome if you're not a follower of Christ" way. Sometimes it is so hard to find a place in which you feel welcome and able to express what you truly want. It is funny because my blog is supposed to be for me. I also use it for my business, but I cannot completely be me. Similarly to what you mentioned, I feel as though I'll be shot down if I mention my true feelings about most everything-- especially religion. I know I would probably lose readers and I might even lose customers. This makes me sad to think about.

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  3. I read something recently that basically said Americans only want to hear your opinion if you agree with them. And that got me thinking back to the election. Obviously not everybody is going to agree, but why can't we have a discussion instead of yelling at each other? And then of course everybody's feelings get hurt, because as a culture we can dish it out but we can't take it.

    You already know that I agree with everything the guy (and you!) said, but while we're in the spirit of being forthright I want to get something out there. Until we as a culture get over ourselves and start being honest, we're going to have problems. I'm going to come right out and say it: It's not okay that so much of the country is overweight or obese. It's not about looks, it's a blatant disregard (or maybe ignorance?) of health. And it's just not acceptable. Yes, there are some medical conditions that cause weight gain, but that's not what I'm talking about. I mean the people who eat themselves into obesity and tell each other it's okay because we all come in different sizes. Well, go to Europe. Count the overweight people you see there. You won't find many, and it's because their cultures are more honest. It's not healthy to be huge. Period. I wish people would wake up and see that here.

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    1. I completely agree. No one is saying that you need to be super skinny with a 6 pack. We are just saying that you need to lose weight to be healthy otherwise you are going to die early. Period. I'm not super skinny at all but I have to work to maintain the figure I have otherwise I gain weight really quickly.

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    2. Yes! Exactly. Not everyone has the same genes, but nobody has the genetic makeup to naturally weigh 400+ pounds, either.

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    3. Oh god Paige you have no idea how tired I am of the extremist bloggers who use "Fat Acceptance" as an excuse to attack anyone who even mentions wanting to lose some weight.

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    4. I think this is an issue that really needs to be talked about more because it's a huge problem in our country. It's part of my our healthcare system is such a disaster. There are too many people needing medical attention that ordinarily shouldn't need it, and it's a burden on everyone. BUT, I don't think banning food and drink products (hello, NYC) is the way to go, either. People need to take responsibility for their choices. And I agree with Paige and Ayla- it's not that everyone needs to be skinny, but making healthy choices does help.

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    5. Ya know, I just thought of something else related to my original comment. I was kind of nervous to post it this morning. It's not because I'm afraid to speak my mind, it's because there's a weird taboo going around on the web that skinny girls like me aren't supposed to talk about weight. Ever. And I think that's insane, and shows just how deluded the culture has become.

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    6. Paige, you're entirely right. I am not allowed to say that I'm out of shape. I literally have had people yell at me about this. Sorry, but just because I have a high metabolism and stay skinny doesn't mean that I am fit. There's a difference. However, I find myself worrying that I'll offend someone. Obesity is an issue because we can't discuss it, but it also is an issue because of the processed junk that we as a society have accepted as food. We drive cars, not walk. We eat junk, not fresh foods. That has a lot to do with it too I believe. Our society has forgotten what it means to slow down and enjoy a made from scratch meal and we get wrapped up in how quickly we can scarf down a burger from the nearest fast food joint.

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  4. I tend to get myself in trouble because I speak my mind. I don't say things to hurt people, but I'm not good at sugar-coating things either. I don't like mind games, so I just tell it like it is. My sister-in-law jokes that I don't have a filter :)

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    1. I sometimes wish I didn't have a filter! I think that would make saying "no" to people a lot easier. My husband and I were talking about someone who was very frank, and he said it was refreshing, and he feels he's the same way (and unapologetic for it). I would like to be less sugary, personally.

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  5. This post really struck a chord with me. I also find that I sometimes have to hold back. Like Eyelah, I avoid certain topics on my blog but unforutnately, even in my own Facebook I keep my mouth shut about certain things because I know some of my views are not too popular with many people I know. It's crazy that people want to say they are up for discussion but when the time comes, they clam up. It seems, especially in the US that people don't want to be accountable when they are wrong and are pretty self-absorbed. I commend you for writing this post.

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    1. Your next to last statement is so spot on. We don't want to take responsibility for ourselves and everything is about "me". I'm not saying you have to be super self-sacrificing, but be able to defend your opinions and be able to discuss it with someone who disagrees. Maybe you'll get swayed, maybe you won't, but at least be open to it.

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    2. ahh.. yes I agree with Marilyn about Facebook. About a year or so ago I posted a commented about how there were people yelling at me because I was going into Planned Parenthood(hot topic in this country). I was going there because I was uninsured and I was being very responsible and getting myself examined as well as birth control(to prevent abortions obviously).

      I was offended by these people yelling at me because they didn't know me. They didn't know why I was there. They just assumed I was going to have an abortion. I could have had AIDS and needed help. Planned Parenthood provides so many other services besides abortions..(whew another topic) So, of course I posted something like this on Facebook and a family friend who is not a doctor nor has a college education actually had the nerve to tell me.. well you know they put abortion additives in birth control pills.(really..last time I was in chemistry class we didn't use additives when mixing chemicals just saying..)

      At first I thought he was joking but then he continue to post bible scripture and what not on my comment and I'll admit I did not handle it like I should have because I didn't simply say.. you are not a doctor therefore I do not need to take medical advice from you.

      but the lesson I learned from that is I will not be posting controversial comments again not because I don't want to start an argument because I did not want my Facebook page to be a center of political controversy. People feel it's ok to post these stupid updates about their life and get wildly offended when you respond.

      Like..excuse me that was a personal conversation between me and my ocmputer?(really??)

      In short.. I limit my interaction on facebook to blogging and etsy shop updates. Want details about my life..then pick up the phone and call or go on twitter(haha).

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  6. This post super interesting. And you are right, Americans are a pretty sensitive bunch. Your discussion of the phrase "That's just my opinion" made me think of how the phrase is not only used defensively and as an excuse for not responding or listening to another person, but also how phrases like "that's just MY opinion" and even "I'm just being MYSELF and no one should have a problem with that" are used to qualify rude statements or behaviors. I think it depends on where a person is coming from... if it really is your opinion, great! Share it, and participate in the dialogue that results. If you want the best for someone and recognize a change that could be made, great! Share it. But if you are saying, or doing something to embarass someone, or be unecessarily rude or hurtful, be big enough to realize that saying "That's just my opinion" or "That's just how I am" are not magic words that make everything acceptable. It is unfortunate how often that happens.

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    1. That is a really great point that I hadn't thought of! People do use it to justify rude behavior. That is a really big mean-girl tactic. If you're going to be frank with someone, you can still do it kindly.

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  7. YES. I promised you a long response on Twitter this morning, but I agree with Paige: "Americans only want to hear your opinion if you agree with them."

    I'm thrilled that people feel that they can share their opinions on their blogs - after all, that's why we have them - but we shouldn't lie about being open to dialogue if we're not. That's worse than not starting the conversation in the first place.

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    1. Yes, exactly my point. Don't get defensive if someone doesn't agree with you. It's not a bad thing!

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  8. Well said! I have that article open because that's a subject I'm actually really interested in. A bit off topic, but still related- what you said about having to worry about telling people the truth about their performance on the job hit home: it drives me NUTS that it's so hard to get people who deserve to be fired fired here. Especially in public schools (I use to work in one)/ government positions. I think anyone who can't take a negative comment about them and make themselves better from it is a waste of space. And then they deserve to not work there anymore. You're right about another thing too: as bloggers we should never be afraid to be frank. After all, this is what blogging is about. But further, I wish people would encourage dialogue about issues, both for and against. Isn't that the highest form of society, civility, and relationship after all?

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    1. I do agree about teachers and government jobs. I was a teacher, too, and saw several teachers that no longer should have been there. (I'm not big on unions, either- the union was nothing more than a money maker for the union.) If someone is speaking to you out of truth and not just coming after you for no reason, then maybe it's good to look at yourself and better yourself.

      As for blogging, I like when people speak their mind. It generally at least opens my mind up to their point. But when they can't listen to the other side, that bothers me for sure.

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  9. i just got back from a weekend with my inlaws, and i cannot tell you how much this resonated with me. it's ridiculous how sensitive some adults and most of the kids i'm around are. and it doesn't work out too well for them when my opinionated ass gets around. i don't understand, listen, understand, move on.. don't cry. and whine. and be angry.

    perhaps i rambled on a bit, but i hope you got my point: i like this.

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    1. Thanks so much! I am not quite so opinionated but there are times when I do want to speak my opinion and I get timid about it for just that reason. I need a thicker skin and the ability to say what I want to say to people's faces. It's easier online!

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  10. This post is inspiring. I want to write a blog post about all of the things I fear writing about because I worry of offending someone. Seriously. I'm writing it down on my blog editorial calendar.

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    1. Seriously, do it! I think it's good to get things like that off your chest, and it opens you up a little bit to your readers, and can prepare them for something that may not be so bouncy-happy.

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  11. I enjoyed this post and loved the ecard. I have a favorite shop that sells the most hilarious cards that I laugh at and don't buy for fear of insulting the person I have in mind.

    I also attend a book club and one book some time ago was Da Vinci Code. While I hoped to have an interesting conversation about the book, the meeting was completely taken over by a woman who put down the book and said she knew the truth with a capital T. That was the only meeting she ever attended. It really ruined the night. And the host was a woman who attends the Catholic church and had gone to great lengths to find the pictures and places mentioned in the book and print them out.

    Lastly, at work I was on a conference call and made a somewhat snide remark about a project that had failed at least 2 times in the past, forgetting who was on the call. Oops...

    Keep up the good work!

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