Yesterday I wrote about Merriam-Webster announcing that it had chosen to make the non-binary singular personal pronoun ‘they’ its word of the year. I have been using it that way for some time now and it comes naturally for me. But it was not so at first. When I first started using it, it was reluctantly and with a sense of unease every time even though I was fully aware of the positive reasons for adopting the practice.
I initially thought that my unease was because it seemed to violate a basic rule of grammar that I had learned and that had become instinctive to me. But I began to realize that there was a deeper reason and that it was because I thought that people who heard or read me using it might look down on my lack of knowledge of proper English and thus think less of me. Since I take some pride in my writing and speaking skills, this bothered me.
Following that self-realization, I made the conscious decision that if something is the right thing to do (which this clearly was) then I should go ahead and do it because why the hell should I care what other people think? In my pre-occupation with my self-image, I had forgotten the basic fact that rules are made for people, not people for rules.
Keeping that front and center turns out to be quite a significant and simplifying factor in decision-making. It should have been obvious to me from the beginning, of course, but sometimes we are not aware of how much our behavior is based on seeking or keeping the approval of others, even those whom we do not know or perhaps even like.