The other day I went shopping with my sister and Mariah, my eldest niece, who is six. On the way into the mall, Mariah was jumping from white line to white line on the pedestrian crosswalk stating, “You can only touch the white lines o.k.?”. I had a moment where I envied her lack of self-consciousness. I wondered about when that sets in. When do we become more concerned with what others will think of us than our own sense of fun and expression? Admittedly, I am probably more concerned about the opinions of others than the average bear (well, most likely bears have no concern in this area at all as finding food and being hunted are their predominant concerns, leaving little time for the establishment of social mores). It seems to be a recurring theme in discussions between my husband and I lately. We are still getting to know why the other does what they do and Phil is learning that a lot of my behaviour is directed by what others might think of me. Whereas his total lack of concern for the judgments of others is shocking to me.
In my defense, it is a natural reaction. Later on in our shopping trip we were in the baby section of Sears (shopping for shower gifts for work people — don’t start rumors) and Mariah was listening to CD’s for babies and children and dancing along — until she saw a lady look her way. She stopped and coloured slightly. My niece is a naturally shy little girl, something she and I share. But this reaction is not dependent on the judgment of others. The woman who happened to walk by Mariah was in no way judging Mariah, I’m sure she even smiled. But Mariah was self-conscious anyway. Me too Mariah, me too.