I've never figure skated (I can't even skate backwards), but I've always loved watching figure skating. My mom loved it, too. When I lived at home we used to enjoy watching the World Championships or Olympics together and commenting on our favourite skaters.
In figure skating competition there are single men's and single women's events, as well as two doubles events. One of the doubles events is ice-dancing, in which the skaters perform intricate dance steps; the other is pairs, in which the man throws and lifts the woman and they do many simultaneous side-by-side moves.
My mom always said she liked ice-dancing better than pairs, and I said I did, too.
But one day I realized I don't. I don't like ice-dancing better; I like pairs better.
I've always had trouble making up my own mind about things. Maybe it has something to do with being a Type Six on the Enneagram: Sixes are hesitant to trust their own thinking and often absorb others' opinions rather than forming their own. As the article I've linked here puts it, Sixes "have the most trouble contacting their own inner guidance. As a result, they do not have confidence in their own minds and judgments."
I don't know if other people would see me that way, but I definitely see myself that way -- and I think that's what was happening with the figure-skating thing. It wasn't that my mom said "You have to like what I like"; she had strong opinions, but she didn't insist that I share them. The problem was in me: I tended not to trust my own judgment, so I assumed I was probably wrong and that the other person, who was speaking out so confidently, was right.
But then one day (and it took at least 20 years for this to happen) I suddenly thought, "Wait a minute -- no. Pairs skating is thrilling! I love watching the female skater fly through the air and land smoothly on one skate, or seeing the two skaters do a jump together, spinning and landing in perfect sync. That's the one I like better."
It was a small thing, but significant. There was no Right or Wrong in a larger sense -- both kinds of figure skating are good, and it really doesn't matter which you prefer -- but there was a right or wrong for me. And I realized it was OK for me not to like what someone else liked; I could choose what I liked.
I'm a lot better than I used to be at stating my personal preference, especially in situations where the stakes are low. I don't waffle indecisively at restaurants, waiting to hear what others are ordering before making up my own mind. (Mmmm ... waffles ...)
But I still struggle with distrusting my own inner voice and wisdom. In moments of uncertainty or conflict I still find myself holding back, letting others who are more decisive and articulate take over, and assuming that I'm probably wrong or that I must have misjudged the situation. A while back I was talking to my pastor about a problem; after asking many helpful questions, he said, "You know, you may just need to recognize the possibility that you did the right thing." It's a little ironic, I suppose, that I needed someone else to remind me to trust my own judgment.
I don't watch figure skating that often anymore, and I'll never again watch it with my mom, but I still think of it as a symbol of freedom. Not just the freedom skaters must feel as they soar through the air or skim across the ice, but the freedom to think for myself. To form my own opinions and, if the opportunity is right, express them. To trust -- humbly, yet confidently -- in my own inner guidance.