“We know what’s best for you.”
A common phrase that was spouted frequently by my parents, most parents, mindlessly inherited from their parents, without so much as a poke or prod, let alone interrogation. Because being older in years automatically qualifies someone as smarter, wiser, all-knowing?
I was on the receiving end of these words as a little girl, a teenager, and a young woman, all the way into my late twenties, when I finally flew the nest for good, albeit far later than was healthy for me.
As a child, a part of you buys into this statement, and why wouldn’t you? After all, your parents, hopefully, are the ones who provide you with shelter, care, food, guidance, and love. As a helpless, dependent baby, they tend to your basic needs. They’re the first people you form a bond with, they try their best to teach you how to give and receive love, and they steward you into this world, into adulthood.
They’re the ones who encourage you to eat your vegetables at dinner because you’ll be hungry later. They’re the ones who warn you about that girl Katy in school. They’re the ones who suggest you bring a sweater to the park because it’ll be chilly out tonight. They’ve shown you countless acts of kindness, service, and love throughout your life. So why wouldn’t they know what’s best for you?
If you’re lucky in this world, luckier than me, the people who raise you will know you intimately. They will know what you love and loathe, your biggest dreams and deepest fears, your quirks and habits for better or worse, and your greatest gifts and gaping flaws. Sometimes it will feel like they know you better than you know yourself. And in knowing the vast soul star map of you, there will be many, many times that they turn out to be right in the advice and wisdom they pour into you. But even when you’re one of these lucky souls, I promise you that nobody on this earth knows you better than you do.
Your parents may have the best intentions for you, and maybe they don’t. They may have some stellar wisdom to impart coupled with some limiting beliefs that you would do well not to adopt as your own. There may be times you choose to take a stand and not follow their advice, and their foresight and wisdom turn out to be right. But even on these rare occasions, with grating, I told you so’s echoing in your mind, consider that maybe the wrong choice was the right choice for you in that moment. Because perhaps the wrong choice led to a lesson you were destined to learn, to growth, and to a right choice at the next crossroad.
Bullets of I know better than you do are still, less frequently, fired toward me these days but deflected and stopped in their tracks with speed and precision by the impenetrable sphere of boundaries that now stand tall and firm around me.
What I’ve learned in my thirty-three years of life so far is that this phrase, “We know what’s best for you,” is entirely flawed. If someone else knows what’s best for you, then your sovereignty and power now live outside of you too. If you buy into the belief that anyone—a parent, grandparent, older sibling, teacher—knows what’s best for you, you’re entering an unwritten agreement where other people know you better than you know yourself.
So the next time you speak or live out your truth—you say yes, or no, you walk away from something that no longer feels aligned, wear a daring outfit, choose an unconventional career path, end a relationship, decide to have an abortion, start a band or a business, or sell all your belongings to backpack around the world—and it is met with conflict, discouragement, or persuasion toward something else, I want you to remember this. I want you to remember that all the answers you will ever need in this life already reside within you.
Nobody knows you better than you do. And nobody knows what’s best for you better than you do.
Not then, not now, not ever.