Hello dears, I’ve caught myself thinking about the difference between being careful and being mindful. The more I thought about it, I realized that being “careful” is not necessarily something I’m proud of; I’d rather be mindful. You see, carefulness does not require mindfulness, but mindfulness demands care. Hence this post… So let’s dig in.
Caring (for someone/something) is different than being careful (of someone/something).
While caring is mostly concerned with nourishing and providing, carefulness is about calculation and precaution. I don’t mean to disregard the importance of being careful here. Being careful of threats and dangers is of course important for our survival. If we weren’t careful of lions, tigers, and bears, we wouldn’t have survived as a species. Nowadays, situations that require our extra attention and our carefulness exist as well.
However, next to its function to protect and ensure our survival, carefulness has a different side that we don’t discuss much. I’ve observed and realized that carefulness, in a way, can be a coping mechanism to Life. What do I mean with “a coping mechanism?” Well, a coping mechanism is a response that has been taught or acquired.
The American Psychological Association (APA) defines a coping mechanism as “any conscious or nonconscious adjustment or adaptation that decreases tension and anxiety in a stressful experience or situation.” The “adjustment or adaptation” that the APA mentions is not inherent; we learn and acquire coping mechanisms. We learn and acquire understandings of things to be careful for or of. These things differ per household and per society.
What I’m trying to say is: Carefulness in itself is not rooted in awareness; it originated out of precaution and survival. Therefore, I think that carefulness can (doesn’t mean that it always is – but it can) be rooted in fear. Responses rooted in fear are often left unchecked and uncontested.
Now hear me out: Oftentimes, we are nonconscious of our beliefs and reasons for doing things. How often are we not careful of things, people, and circumstances without questioning whether this precaution is even legit? Similar to other beliefs and actions, being careful can be rooted in fear. It promises us safety in return for precaution. Some people, out of carefulness, worry about things that for others are just daily activities.
Am I too careful? Where does my carefulness come from?
To bring this notion closer to me, I’ll share some examples with you. Growing up, I was careful to not walk around too much in the neighborhood or late at night; my mom always warned me of the dangers. I was careful what I would say and to whom; I was told to not speak to strangers. I was careful to not disappoint my family and teachers; I was taught to be an exemplary student. Then I started to care how people would see me. And what they’d think of me. And I got too careful, and started to tread too lightly to live with an open heart. I was way too concerned, way too careful.
Thankfully, I had a bit of a rebel in me that would challenge me. This rebel heart loved to question – from my belief systems all the way to my reasons for doing things. Going through my Spiritual Awakening, where questioning became second nature, many of my nonconscious mechanisms became conscious. I’m still going through the depths of me to pull out antiquated systems that I don’t think work for my higher good – it’s a continuous process. While I’m working on this, I keep rewiring my systems. I have already formed a new perspective on carefulness – the one I’m sharing with you.
After realizing that many of the advice to be careful weren’t coming out of awareness of actual danger, but rather, social conditioning (especially from my mom – she loves me to the moon and back and forth and back again, but she can worry too much for things I wouldn’t), I now choose to be more mindful and intentional as opposed to careful per se. There is still care in my actions, but now I also have awareness of the motives guiding my actions – something that wasn’t there. This reprogramming is a work in progress, but I can already tell that it feels more liberating and empowering to be more mindful and less careful.
Always question why you (think you) should be “careful” at any given moment. This will increase your awareness of the issue, so you can move more deliberately. My intention with this post is for us to take a minute and reflect on what we’re careful of, and why that is. Caring for something or someone out of a place of awareness is different than being careful of something or someone out of socialization.
Thank you for your time, dears.
P.S.: Also, what’s the deal with “take care?” Give care! Just saying 🙂