What happens when we start following others?

dumboo asks: What will happen if we start following others?

Hi dumboo –

When we are young, following others is pretty much all we do.

Who do I mean by “we?”  Well, we dogs definitely follow our mothers and siblings when we’re very young, and when we get interested in a human, we’ll follow you everywhere, all day long!  Have you ever watched ducklings?  They swim in a nearly perfect line behind their mothers when in water, and walk right behind her as well on land.

And you humans?  When you are babies, your primary focus is on your caregivers – whether your parents or someone else – and trying to learn how to be like them.  That’s how humans learn to walk and talk, probably the two most difficult things any person ever masters.   Toddlers and young kids then spend their years mostly doing the same – they adopt their parents’ attitudes, beliefs, ways of acting (even though they seem to be disobeying them all the time, they’re copying them on a deeper level).

Then, when humans reach a certain age, they begin to follow their caregivers less, and their peers more.  Suddenly they’re not listening to the music their dad liked so much, and instead they’re obsessed with Bruno Mars and Pitbull.  Then they probably start thinking outside their family’s values in other ways as well – maybe supporting different politicians than their parents, or even changing their religion.

Then, once they become adults, it’s likely that they slow down all that following.  They have a basic idea of who they are, and start pursuing their adult goals.  But even then, deep down, they’re still very affected by what they saw of their caregivers when they were young, and probably trying to follow them in certain ways.

And that trend lasts for the rest of their lives!

Now that’s a very long beginning, before I start to answer your question.  But it’s probably clear that my answer is: Start following others?  You’ve been following others your whole life!  If you’re asking what’s going to happen if you change who you follow, my answer is that you’ll find that some of that results in good things, and some results in bad.  Handsome is grown up now, and while he still loves the music he heard in his parents’ home, he’s sure happy he also broadened his tastes to include music they can’t stand!  But he also made a lot of mistakes when he followed others.

But it’s very, very important that you do just that.  It’s a necessary part of your growing up and becoming yourself.  I will, however, give you a couple of bits of advice for when you do:

–       First, try to avoid making decisions that can’t be revoked.  If you go out with someone your parents don’t like, that’s okay, and you can learn from the experience.  But if you get pregnant with someone they don’t like, you may find that you start to agree with them about that guy, and are stuck having to deal with him for the rest of your life!

–       Second, whenever you can, take a step back and ask yourself if you’re doing what you really want.  Following a crowd of peers can be really fun, but if they’re doing something you don’t like, and you join them just to belong, you’re going to start feeling really bad about yourself.  It’s okay to follow ‘somewhat,’ and still be able to pull away from them at times.  In fact, it’s a great life skill.

–       And third, be ready to Forgive.  To forgive your family for not having had some of the cool traits of who you follow now; to forgive your new bunch for not being perfect; and to forgive yourself for the mistakes you’re bound to make.

If you can manage all these, while following others, you’re going to do fine.  Just keep yourself safe, and know that growing up is a bumpy road.

Thanks again,





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