When I was a little girl, I would always agree with my best friend. It didn’t matter if I actually agreed with her, when she asked my opinion, I would agree with her. I thought that if I didn’t agree with her, she would stop being my best friend. One day, my two best friends and I were hanging out, and this friend who I felt like I always needed to agree with said, “I don’t like it when people just always agree with you. It is so annoying.” My other friend agreed with her (ironic, is it not?), and I sat there silently. I was that person. She thought I was annoying. How was I going to hurdle this? Did I even know what my own opinion was? It was a startling realization to come to as a ten-year-old. From then on, I tried to share my opinion more readily, but it was unnatural for me to do so in social circles.
Like most people, I want to be liked and included. Despite that realization by my ten-year-old self, I always felt that in order to fit in, I needed to agree with the thinking of other people around me. I would agree with things I didn’t agree with and join in on gossip that I didn’t like nor think true. Inevitably, I would feel sad about what I was doing, which is perhaps why I hung out with a myriad of people, so that I felt like I was righting the wrongs of the gossip I joined in on. The problem worsened through college as I tried to remain friends with people who held different views on things that were really quite important to me. The problem with agreeing all the time was that I started to loose my own sense of self, and I forgot why I believed what I did. Instead, I only knew what my friends and I had talked about, and so I would hold my ground on their side, even when I had once been on the other side.
Then I got married, and things really got muddled. I started just agreeing with my husband, and I didn’t know how to hold my own opinions. Early in our marriage, my husband told me that he felt like I was so persuadable that anything I read or heard would change my opinion. It was true. I felt like I had lost the ability to form my own opinions and defend them. I would just give in to others’ opinions because I didn’t want to look like the dummy who didn’t know anything. Only recently have I broken this chain. As they always say, “knowledge is power,” and as I’ve spent more time investing in my own knowledge through consumption of the news and lots and lots of podcasts, I’ve begun to hold my own ground against friends, family members, and even my husband. It’s been a liberating feeling to have a sense of identity again.
The point of all this circles back to what my friend said when we were ten years old. It is boring to be friends with people who simply agree with you no matter what. This earth was created with people of all different thoughts and walks of life, and those thoughts and experiences can teach us and others. Learn from your own life, learn from the sources you have access to, and don’t be afraid to voice your own opinion. Ask questions of those you disagree with so that you can understand their point of view. Ask questions about what’s happening in the world so you can have an opinion about it. Ask questions about the gospel so you can have the spirit answer you. There is no reason to go through life without your own opinion. It will eventually make you lose yourself (and not in the way the Lord wants).
I would first suggest that you disagree with people when they begin to gossip. There is nothing so vile as gossip and, I believe, so soul crushing. It doesn’t matter if what is said will get back to them—that talk will hurt you. So often when my girlfriends and I would gossip, I would nod my head and join in, all the while thinking, “I don’t actually think any of this stuff. I think that girl is really nice (or smart, or whatever the opposite was of what the gossip was about).” Sure, there are some people who will annoy you who you will want to gossip about. I suggest that rather than sharing it with your friends, write it down in a journal. The chance of that getting to them is about zero. Then, if you release that tension, and you feel bad about what you’ve written, you can dispose of it, and it has done no harm. The same can never be said about gossip you spread.
Secondly, when you disagree with a person because of your beliefs in the gospel, share that. This is missionary work 101, and it is terrifying. Especially when you don’t know how to or feel like you can’t clearly articulate your beliefs. If they pressure you or mock you, stand your ground and say that sometimes you can’t explain everything you believe, but it feels right to you. Never be afraid to stand for what you believe in.
Lastly, if you don’t feel educated enough on a subject, it is okay to say so. You can always say, “I don’t know enough on that subject. I’ll have to research it some more.” It will be far more interesting for you to research something than it will for you to agree with a person through an entire conversation that you don’t know anything about.
There is no reason to lose yourself to the opinions of other people. Stand up for what you really believe, and you’ll start to figure out who you are and what you believe. There is no time like right now to figure that out.