Do you ever feel as if we’re living in the age of the experts?
Parenting experts… relationship experts… health experts… make-up experts… career experts… culinary experts…
What exactly IS an expert? According to our old friend Merriam-Webster (the definition expert), an expert is “having, involving, or displaying special skill or knowledge derived from training or experience,” or “one with the special skill or knowledge representing mastery of a particular subject.”
I would like to believe the person I entrust my health or my son’s health to is an expert in their field and their expertise came from years and months and days and hours spent studying and honing their knowledge of medicine and the human body. I would like to think the mechanic who works on my car went through intensive training to know and understand just what that sound is and why the car is making it. If I call a lawyer, I want to feel confident that they did not complete their legal training through the Law School of Elle Woods.
But as I scroll through social media, whether that’s Instagram or LinkedIn, I have found that the world has become over-saturated by experts of all kinds and in all areas and it makes me wonder if this is at all causing us as humans to rely less on our own wisdom, intuition and instincts to make the right decisions for our lives and the lives of the people we care about.
When I first became a mother over six years ago, the advice of friends and family was undoubtedly connected to me feeling comfortable in this new “job.” Before a child is born, you truly can read every book there is, attend the classes and ask the questions about this incoming member of your family, but the truth is, until you’re in it, that information it sitting on a storage shelf in your brain marked, “To Be Used When Needed.” And regardless of that available learning and knowledge, it may be hard to completely know what you should be expecting after you are done expecting and that little person is here. But the most priceless piece of help I received in my new motherhood was found in the pit of my stomach. I remember one frustrating evening where my son was once again sick (his first year of life was full of illness) and I was over my parents’ house with him. I was concerned for his well-being, but was fighting that concern with justification that I had to go to work the next day. I had exhausted my PTO and at that point, didn’t have a back-up plan in place. I sat on the floor of their family room and – this hurts to admit, said, “You know what? I don’t care if he’s sick. He’s going to have to go to daycare tomorrow.” My mom helplessly looked at me and everything in me felt… wrong. My heart hurt and my stomach hurt because I was lying to myself. And in this case, lying to myself didn’t make me feel any better. That night, that little boy woke up at 3:00 in the morning gaping for breath and ended up in the emergency room again. I’ll never know what would have happened had I taken him earlier that evening when I knew he wasn’t well.
Almost 15 years ago, I was dating a guy long-distance and we decided that the only way we would really know if we would work out was if I moved to be with him. This wasn’t a small move but an Ohio to Florida move. I was willing to make the sacrifice because I truly believed he was the one (this song has been on repeat many times in my life) and that we were meant to be. He was obsessed with money and was very financially stable, and at that point in life, I … wasn’t. About a week before the move, we had a discussion about finances and what he expected me to contribute to our livelihood. We talked very candidly and I was open with him about the amount of debt I was carrying at the time. And I can still see myself in my bedroom surrounded by packed boxes with my tiny flip phone pressed to my ear hearing him say, “You know, Jenny… I’m not even going to think about really committing to you unless you can get and stay out of debt.” And my heart talked to me and it said, “this is not love.” Is getting out of debt a good idea? Well, of course it is. But is getting out of debt a good idea just so you can be good enough for someone else? I shared this with a couple of friends who reassured me that he didn’t really mean it like that and that everything would be fine. Spoiler alert… that guy dropped me like it’s hot about nine months later and was engaged to another girl three months after that. I have a feeling both her credit score and savings account balance were much higher than mine.
These are only two examples, but I call on them when I’m faced with another gut-wrenching (what an amazing, honest word) decision and don’t know what to do. I do not always choose correctly and when I’m wrong, I can almost always pinpoint a moment when my stomach hurt or when my heart raced because something inside me was screaming “WARNING.”
I appreciate the Mommy bloggers and the pediatricians with Instagram accounts. I like reading career advice on LinkedIn. I enjoy conversations with my friends about everything from child-rearing to saving for the future to faith and where to go on vacation. I believe we can be influenced without being taken over by influence, if that makes sense. I think we can follow, but we must also know how to lead ourselves. The world has become so loud and crowded with voices and opinions that it’s easy to lose the uniqueness of our own voice. I think sometimes if you’re asking someone if something is a bad idea, it may be because you already know that it is. And if you really feel strongly about a decision, sometimes the worst thing you can do is seek validation from others that they also believe it’s a good idea, because if they don’t, you may not follow your own heart… or stomach.
The next time you think you need to seek an expert, start by looking in the mirror.