I’m a huge food person and one of my favorite things to do is try new restaurants and new types of food. I’m up for anything, and I mean ANYTHING. Strange animal parts, flavor combinations, texture foods, you name it, and I’ll try it at least once.
Every so often, a friend will take me to a place I haven’t been to but they have. I’ll find something that sounds interesting on the menu and they might say something like “Oh that’s not very good, it’s overhyped.”
A simple response might be to just change what I was going to order or ask what they recommend, but whenever I find myself in a situation like this I treat it like a crucial juncture – am I going to let this person define my experience for me?
I haven’t tried this dish, maybe I read online that it is really good and I’m super interested. Should I just defer to my friend because they offered their opinion?
My answer? No, I shouldn’t. It was something I’ve been wanting to try and I don’t care if they didn’t like it, I still want to try it so I can form my OWN opinions.
This is a simple restaurant example, but the idea can be extrapolated to much larger and more formative experiences. If you travel to another country with someone and you’re excited to visit museums and cultural sites but all they want to do is go out all night and sleep away the day, one of you is going to end up defining the experience in a negative way for the other and that’s not fair to either of you.
An even bigger example from my own life was when I moved to Calgary. Because I immediately moved in with a boyfriend who was actually from that city, nearly all of my experiences were defined by him. He showed me how to navigate the city. He drove us to the mountains. He taught me how to ski and how to mountain bike. He showed me his favorite restaurants and bars and his friend’s favorite spots.
At first, this was great! A built-in tour guide. A person I can ask questions to and who will gladly take me to spots they already know are good.
Unfortunately, I realized too late that this is not a sustainable way of moving to a new place. I had failed to define my own experience of Calgary. I spent almost a year there before I really started pushing for trying things that were new to the both of us and by then it was too late. I felt that I had no agency over the city. I didn’t have anything that I had discovered and defined for myself and it really messed with my perception of that city and how successful I could be there.
Maybe some of you already know this, but for me, it was a huge lesson in self-ownership. Partners, friends, family, co-workers will hand you their unsolicited opinions and advice all the time, sometimes to your benefit. But I’ve discovered it’s important to realize when your entire experience is being defined by thoughts from another rather than your own exploration and decision.
Own yourself, and own your experiences, because if you don’t, other people will do it for you.