Lately, I realise that assumptions are seen to be a negative thing in the world – like we shouldn’t assume things…
While it’s sometimes true that we shouldn’t assume (like how we can’t just assume people are perfectly healthy because they appear to be so, or that people are of lower class because they don’t wear designer clothes, or that have perfect lives because that’s how it appears on their social media) we also need to understand why we make assumptions.
What is an assumption?
For the purposes and context of this blog post, we define assumption as: “a thing that is accepted as true or as certain to happen, without proof.” The key here is “WITHOUT PROOF”.
Why do we need to assume?
We live in a complicated time and place where there is more information on our fingertips than any human can handle. We need some sort of system to help us categorise and navigate through the world. They can keep us safe too!
One extreme example: knifes are very sharp and dangerous. When you see a knife, you can assume that it is sharp. As a result, you will handle knifes with caution and you will not give it to your toddler to play with as this probably will not end well. Useful, right?
Another example: you were walking down the street and coincidentally witnessed something and gained very sensitive information. There are two groups of people who came to ask you questions about it afterwards: a group of people from an organisation you weren’t familiar with and the police. You can assume that you would be somewhat safe to tell the truth to the police as their aim is to keep citizens (like you!) safe. However, you are not sure about the other organisation - you may assume that they don’t have your safety and interest at heart. Also a useful assumption, right?
When assumptions are unacceptable…
Some assumptions can be hurtful to some people. In my opinion, these assumptions are unacceptable – at least to say out loud. How do we know if an assumption is unacceptable? Personally, I ask myself: is this assumption fair?
An unfair example:
Leila is a stay at home mum of two seemingly perfect healthy toddlers. She always appears to be put together when she is out in public and her husband has a great steady job that pays the bills and some money for emergency. This year, she decided to put her toddlers in childcare.
I can hear it already – all the other mums (and people in general) assuming that Leila is a “bad mum”. She is a stay at home mum so she should have all the time in the world to take care of her toddlers… She is lazy & does not want to give all her energy and time for her children.
What they don’t know: Leila’s toddlers showed great interest in learning and socialising. Coincidentally, there’s a great childcare facility near her home that can foster and grow these interests which will allow her toddlers to learn from more than just her and her husband.
Is Leila still a bad mum for giving her children more opportunities to grow?
Instead of assuming… ASK!
People tend to not display everything there is to know about their situation. I mean, if I tried to tell you my exact situation, I would need to start from my earliest memory until now – I don’t think either of us has time for that and you will probably tune out very very soon. But you know what you can do? Ask.
Ask people how they are doing… Why they are doing that thing that you don’t understand the reason… The key is to ask them privately. Never do this in a public forum. Be open minded about it too! Imagine you are in their shoes and be understanding. They may answer you, they may not. It’s not your right to get the answers – it is their life and at the end of the day it’s probably not your business. But personally, I am a firm believer that it is your right to ask (politely).
The motherhood journey is one of the most rewarding but also the hardest things that women go through. From conception, birth all the way until our children become adults themselves, there are many challenges, proud moments, tears of pain, sadness but also joy and everything else in between. There could be many reasons why a mother chooses to do something for her and her family. As outsiders, we don’t know the situation fully. As the mother, we can’t always carry a billboard to show the world exactly what we are going through (and what we’re going through probably won’t even fit on a billboard). In any case, rather than judging, you could instead encourage them in their motherhood journey.
So the next time you assume something about somebody, think twice before you say something out loud (or publish on the internet). Ask! (but don’t pressure them to answer) It’s better than judging based on assumption. When someone else assumes something about you, don’t feel offended or hurt. Instead, remember this: everyone needs to assume things about people – it’s unreasonable for anyone to never assume anything! However, this does not make it true or false – it’s just one’s organisational system to make sense of the world. Only you have the power to let what others say hurt you.