When it comes to opinions, I wish more people had them.
Before I dive in, I think it’s important to establish some definitions of what I mean when I say “opinions.” For most people, opinions are the things we believe that are solely based on our feelings or a handful of experiences if that. However, when I talk about opinions I’m referring to something that is believed or even known to be true based on your experiences, feelings, and facts. For example, I am of the opinion that sugar, while amazingly delicious, is bad for your health in high amounts. I have experienced what it is like when I consume too much sugar and scientific studies have supported my thoughts. Therefore, to me, this is an opinion. It’s personal, but it’s combined with facts that were discovered through scientific evidence of people that aren’t just me. Maybe asking the general population to bring logic into their personal opinions is a big ask, but I’ll leave that decision up to you.
I’m about as opinionated as they come. If I think something, 9 times out of 10 I’m letting you know what I think. I try to use my filter of emotional awareness but a lot of times it’s not “activated”. However, when I share my opinion I try to be as open as possible to other people’s opinions and ideas.
Today we live in a time where it feels like EVERYONE is over-opinionated, under-educated, and shoving their viewpoints down each other’s throats.
Being opinionated, in my definition, isn’t about being too emotionally attached to that opinion.
We can have opinions based on emotions, which is fine, but I think it’s important to develop that opinion with facts as well. For example, I did not always identify as a feminist. There was a time not long ago that the word “feminist” was a dirty word to me and I could never see myself as someone like that. With the information that was available to me at the time, I thought feminists were all bra burning, men-hating women that wanted to watch the world burn. Until I did some reading and researching of my own, I had no idea that the values which I believe are actually labeled as Feminism. (Trust me, it definitely came as a shock.)
In order to have strong standing opinions, we must first be open to the fact that our opinion can be wrong. Wrong does not mean bad or evil, it just means incorrect or uninformed. There is nothing wrong with being wrong. Think back to when you believed the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus were real. Where you wrong to believe in those things based on the evidence you were provided at the time? Absolutely not. But once you were provided with some evidence, it became easier to accept the reality of what “Santa” actually meant.
I think when we combine our thoughts and ideas with emotions as well as logic and facts, that’s when a true “opinion” develops.
Let’s go back to my personal feminism example. When I use this term I am not only speaking about equality amongst all genders (however many we want to agree or disagree about there being) but among all people. Now, if this concept of equality across demographics suddenly began to go by another name like “Boogeyman-ism” then I would be able to critically look at the pilar arguments that are being established and pursued in this “ideology” and be able to change my own label in which I categorize myself and my viewpoints. However, we are currently using the title Feminist to describe the concepts that I value on a deep level. In this way, I have been able to vastly expand my definition of feminism to include literally all people. I care about men receiving paternity leave from work. I care about LGBTQ* people being able to serve in the military, should they so choose. I care deeply about each person being able to make choices for their lives according to their own lifestyle and viewpoints. I care about the same opportunities being given to all people who want them. To me, at this current point in time, that is called feminism.
If someone wanted to tell me, “Well actually, Jordan, that’s called egalitarianism” I would say fine, call it that. The idea is literally the same regardless of what you label it, I don’t care what you call it I care what happens because of it. Words and labels matter to a point, but when we are finding different ways to describe the same thing, we need to remain open to the variety of ways in which other people choose to define their ideas.
In this way, I am able to live the values that are important to me. I remain open to the changes that inevitably come with evolving cultural viewpoints and scientific data while holding true to what matters to me.
If someone was able to come to me and point out the ways in which my Feminist ideas were hurting specific communities (which actually is not out of the realm of possibilities considering the overall lack of intersectional feminism these days) I would take a critical look at myself and my beliefs and ask if this is what I want to continue to live with.
Opinions matter because we have built a world that heavily relies on our ability to have opinions and use those opinions to help or hurt others around us.
ALSO – It’s okay to NOT have opinions yet! It’s okay to develop and edit your opinions as you age and evolve. It’s okay to realize you’ve been living with someone else’s opinions and not your own. Kind of like when you realized one day that you wanted to dress yourself instead of having your parent pick out your clothes. There didn’t have to be anything fundamentally wrong with the choices your mom was making for you to branch out and develop a style of your own. The same goes for opinions. If you find yourself adopting opinions of others around you that don’t quite fit with who you are anymore, it’s okay to change them.
The only thing that’s not okay about opinions is not having one and being annoyed or mad or frustrated when things don’t work out for you. If you don’t like the way something is going in your life, develop an opinion about it and live out your values.
When you LIVE your values and opinions, you don’t have a problem with other people having different opinions. Case in point: I’m a tree-hugging hippie liberal feminist who is very left leaning (sorry for the labels, but that’s probably what fits best) and I love and respect my family members who voted for Trump. Am I happy with their choice? Nope. Do I wish they could understand why I view his existence as a president as harmful? Yep. But do I respect their ability to have and maintain whatever opinion they choose to have? Yes.
In order to live in a harmonious society, there has to be some civil discord. We have to be able to disagree and argue and ultimately compromise to find solutions in this world.
Opinions are choices based on a collection of our belief systems (self-chosen or engrained in us at birth), experiences, and overall dispositions. A spectrum of opinions is inherently going to exist within the fabric of humanity.
Being opinionated is somehow perceived as negative in our culture when it shouldn’t be. Someone who is able to hold an opinion and acknowledge that other opinions exist are the type of people we want in positions of power.
I think we are all able to access this frame of mind. I think people do it every day in a myriad of ways and don’t stop to think how actually mentally flexible they are. Anyone in a long term relationship or people with siblings know what it means to compromise. In the end, we don’t all get exactly what we want, but we are happier knowing that we all get to participate and have our viewpoints heard by the other party.
Sometimes, you even have to compromise with yourself.
For example, I don’t like the taste of celery juice but I continue to drink it. I know it has immense health benefits for me. It’s not like I’m gagging while drinking it, but when it comes to craving something I would rather have a cup of tea. Despite my opinion, I choose to participate in an activity that I know is beneficial for the betterment of my entire body, regardless of what my taste buds tell me. I’m compromising with myself in that I would rather have a milkshake but I know my body deserves the benefits of the celery juice.
When it comes to having opinions, I think it’s important that we all develop our own. We all have a unique perspective and experience on this earth to share and the world is truly a better place when we are able to respect the variety of opinions that exist.
So no matter what your opinion is – coffee is necessary for mornings, caffeine is a drug, God is a man, God doesn’t exist, the government is poisoning us, the government is the backbone of our society, abortion is murder, women control their bodies, and everything in between – whatever it is, I don’t really care.
I just care, very deeply, that everyone takes the chance to think for themselves and accept that other opinions exist.
We are incredible mammals with a capacity to think and feel and prove so much of our experiences, I hate seeing people at each other’s throats for something as silly as undeveloped opinions.