7 things you don’t owe anyone an explanation for, according to psychology

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The truth is, people will always have an opinion on what it is you do with your life.

From career aspirations to dietary preferences or relationship status, co-workers, relatives, or random strangers on the internet will chime in with their own unsolicited advice or suggestions, thinking they’re doing you a favor by sharing their wisdom.

Well, here’s my opinion: this is your life first and foremost. You get to choose what you do, say, and think.

And there are certain things you don’t owe anyone an explanation for.

Here are 7 of them.

1) Your career choices

When I was younger, I told one of my relatives I wanted to become a writer.

“You’ll never earn a living doing that,” she scoffed.

Lo and behold, I am now a full-time writer who is doing very well for herself.

This example serves to prove a point: other people may act like they know what’s best for you, but when it comes down to it, only you know what’s truly worth pursuing. Only you know what fulfils you on a fundamental level.

Counselor Ran D. Anbar, M.D., FAAP, says that “a career or vocation should feel right and make intellectual sense.”

The key words here are “feel right” – feelings are subjective, and no matter what anybody else says, they are yours to recognize and act upon.

If you want to become the CEO of an international company, you don’t need to explain why you’ve decided to set your sights on this exact job.

If you want to be a dog walker or a housekeeper, the same applies. It is not up to others to decide what counts as success. Success is wholly yours to determine.

2) Your dietary preferences

The very same relative who mocked my choice of career back when I was a teenager used to also make fun of me when I was on a vegan diet.

In fact, the hardest part of veganism wasn’t to stick to a plant-based diet; it was to constantly have to deal with an onslaught of unsolicited advice and annoying questions that came from a place of contempt rather than curiosity.

One time, I even had to have an economic debate with my doctor. She was meant to take my blood sample to check if everything was in order, and instead, there I was, explaining to her the basics of supply and demand because she wouldn’t let it go.

There are many reasons why you shouldn’t have to explain your dietary preferences.

First of all, disordered eating is a thing. Many people have a complicated relationship with food, and the more questions they get asked, the worse their mental health gets.

Secondly, what you decide to put inside your body is your decision. You have every right to make conscious choices about your own health.

Finally, board-certified orthopedic surgeon David Hanscom MD writes that “our relationship with food evolves into deep beliefs. How we react to them provides insight into our other life views.”

Your beliefs are personal. You shouldn’t ever feel pressured to share them.

And that brings us to the next point…

3) Your core values

According to psychologist Barb Markway, values are “the principles that give our lives meaning and allow us to persevere through adversity.”

Your core values essentially make you who you are. If you strongly believe in the importance of honesty, loyalty, flexibility, or whatever else that comes to mind, your actions are going to reflect those beliefs, not to mention your sense of identity will be built upon them.

And guess what?

Yep, that’s right. You don’t owe anyone an explanation for who you are in the marrow of your bones.

Is it a good idea to get to know yourself better through a careful investigation of why you are the way you are?

Absolutely.

But do you owe that investigation (and a subsequent summary of it) to the world?

Not at all.

4) Your spiritual or religious views

Oftentimes, our core values are tied to our spiritual or religious beliefs.

And once again, this is something you don’t have to explain to anyone unless you genuinely want to.

Whatever your views are in the realm of spirituality, they are deeply personal and ought to be approached with open-minded curiosity rather than immediate judgment.

The same applies to you, however – it’s important that you remain open when it comes to other people’s faith if that is what you expect of them, too.

Treat others how you want to be treated.

5) Your relationship status

In Bridget Jones’s Diary, Fielding demonstrates just how frustrating it is to live as a single person in a society hyperfocused on marriage and family.

If you’re single past the age of thirty, some people will assume something’s inherently ‘wrong’ with you (why else would you decide not to settle down and live “a normal married life” like the rest of them?) and play matchmaker in the hopes that you’ll soon join the club.

“Why are you still single?” is a question we hear way too often.

And the truth is, you don’t have to answer it. Your relationship status is your business.

After all, others don’t know all the complex situations you’ve gone through, the fears you’ve faced, and the ideas you’ve contemplated.

They don’t know that you’ve recently gotten out of a long-term relationship; that you’ve been dealing with some serious family stuff, preventing you from pursuing romance; that you are genuinely not interested in marriage; that you’d rather be single than settle for someone who isn’t a good match for you.

And if you are in a relationship, there’s no need to explain why you’re not married yet or when a baby will be on the cards.

Luckily, these kinds of questions are becoming less common in some societies. When it comes to the “singledom stigma,” for example, Elyakim Kislev Ph.D. says, “Studies show that attitudes towards singles are becoming more positive in religious societies.”

He adds, “The idea and place of ‘home’ and ‘family’ in society are gradually shifting to be more inclusive of singles.”

6) Your personal boundaries

This is a big one.

In her book Set Boundaries, Find Peace: A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself, therapist Nedra Glover Tawwab talks about the importance of setting boundaries in our relationships with others – and the price we pay for not upholding them (including burnout, resentment, and anger).

She highlights that while establishing boundaries, you don’t have to explain yourself. At all.

If you can’t help your friend out, there’s no need for you to go into the ins and outs of why you’re too busy. All you need to say is that you’ll be unavailable because you already have other plans.

That’s it.

Crazy, right? As someone who used to be a big people-pleaser, this idea seemed quite revolutionary to me once upon a time, too.

When I realized I didn’t owe anyone an explanation for why I set boundaries, I felt liberated.

7) Your self-care practices

Finally, the things you do for your mental health – be it journaling, going on a daily walk, inner child healing, upholding personal rituals, or whatever flows your boat – are completely valid no matter how absurd.

As long as you’re not harming anyone, you have every right to look after yourself in ways that make you feel healthy, happy, and loved.

Look, don’t just take my word for it. According to experts, “Self-care means taking the time to do things that help you live well and improve both your physical health and mental health. This can help you manage stress, lower your risk of illness, and increase your energy.”

If your self-care includes taking an hour every day to read a fun fantasy book, feel free to leave a social event early so you can get home on time, make yourself a cup of tea, and get reading. No need to explain yourself.

Your mental health is of the utmost importance. Do what feels right – no matter what anybody says.

It’s your life, after all.

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Tina Fey

I'm Tina Fey, the founder of the blog Love Connection. I've extremely passionate about sharing relationship advice. I've studied psychology and have my Masters in marital, family, and relationship counseling. I hope with all my heart to help you improve your relationships, and I hope that even if one thing I write helps you, it means more to me than just about anything else in the world. Check out my blog Love Connection, and if you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter

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