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When Did “You Do You” Become Every Parent’s Catchphrase?

You do you

Recently, on social media, specifically on Facebook, I’ve noticed a lot of parents commenting, “You do you!” On a recent blog I wrote, about children having televisions in their bedrooms, there were polarizing opinions. But only one comment really jumped out at me. Which one? The one that said, “You do you.

The commenter then followed this now seemingly ubiquitous phrase by adding that others should “mind their business” or “read something else.” Of course, I appreciated this mother virtually backing me up, but I couldn’t help but wonder when did “You do you” become the catchphrase for so many parents? My biggest issue with this catchphrase is that could be taken in a myriad of ways. And it could be delivered in a myriad of ways.

Yes, in this instance, the commenter writing, “You do you,” had my back. But if she hadn’t followed that up with writing that others should mind their own business, I maybe would have taken the comment, “You do you,” to mean that this commenter didn’t agree with my point of view, but didn’t want to express it outright. “You do you,” really can be taken in so many ways. Likewise, it could be meant in so many ways.

Recently, I found myself using, “You do you,” to another parent and, no, I most definitely wasn’t being supportive. I had received an email from a mother of a classmate of my son, who I had invited to my son’s birthday party. This mother responded to the invite with a lengthy e-mail about how she and her six-year-old had “decided together not to come” to my son’s birthday party, because, as she wrote, my son had been “aggressive” to her daughter for the entire school year. I was pissed, not because her kid wasn’t coming to the party, or that I don’t like it when people criticize my son, but more because I questioned why the f**k was she telling me this in JUNE, three weeks before the end of the school year?

I also felt like she was fishing for me to say, “Please bring your daughter to my son’s birthday party. She’ll have a blast! I promise!” I wasn’t mad. But I was annoyed at this mother. So, I wrote back, “You do you,” and hit the send button, thinking “Oh, I’m using this phrase too now?!” In this instance, I was using “You do You,” not in a supportive or understanding way, but more in an, “I couldn’t give AF if your kid comes or not,” kind of way. By responding, ‘You do you,” I wanted to show her that I didn’t care and, also, I thought she was being ridiculous. “You do you,” was just a nicer, kinder way of saying, “I have better things to worry about, like the due date on the yogurt in my fridge.”

And that’s the funny or ironic thing about seeing so many commenting, or saying, “You do you.” For many parents, who don’t agree with someone’s parenting style, or don’t agree with what you post about your own children, writing “You do you,” after sharing an opposing view, it makes the comment sound less judgmental. “You do you,’ softens the blow if they disagree with you, while at the same time, makes them come across as non-judgemental, which is definitely “no, no” in this day and age of parenting. If you come across as too judgmental – or judgmental at all – about the way another parent parents their children, you will be virtually attacked these days. Or, now, you’ll get, “You do you.”

Let’s be real, “You do you,” can be very passive aggressive. Let’s say, someone posts a photo of their new tattoo, but you hate tattoos or hate the specific tattoo they just got. By writing, “You do you,” what you could be saying is that you don’t like their tattoo, but, hey, it’s not your body, so just let them be themselves. But, also, if someone comments or says, “You do you,” it can also feel sort of dismissive, as if by saying, “You do you,” it’s a way out, a get out of jail free card, from giving you their true feelings, which is totally fine, because “You do you!” (I’m kidding.)

I also do think “You do you,” is sometimes just a lazy way of saying you don’t want to, or you want a way out of, giving your opinion. But then, when someone posts an inspirational quote, that they encourage you to follow, by commenting, “Yes! You do you!” it can be a super and honest way to be supportive. The phrase, “You do you,” is not a new one – in fact it’s been used for years – but it’s only recently that I’ve noticed parents using it so often and so liberally. Also, as a parent who is quite confident in my parenting skills and choices, I don’t really need others to tell me, “You do you,” be it positive or negative. I mean, while I appreciate people’s support, or at least them softening their opposing opinions, with “You do You,” what does everyone think I’ve been doing for years? That I’ve NOT being doing me?

Still, using “You do you,” could be a strong affirmation, to “be yourself.” And, yes, most people like or feel the need for support and positive affirmation. “You do you,” can also just be taken at face value, that you should do what feels best for you, which every mother needs a reminder of, every now and again, right?

When researching where “You do you,” originated from, and why it seems so many people, especially in the parenting sphere, are now using it with abundance, like it’s a new trend, I came across this interesting piece, entitled, The Real Meaning of You Do You” (This popular phrase should mean more than it does.) The writer believes that people are going overboard with the phrase “You do you.” Like me, she noticed that “You do you,” has become a ‘typical response.

“It is kind of just encouraging another person to do what they want and to not care if anyone judges their decision, because they know what is best for themselves. Do not get me wrong, doing what you think is right for your sake is good, but people take this phrase overboard.” She also notes that “People in our generation need to understand that, yes, doing something without the fear of judgment is so freeing, but at the same time they need to think of who they really are. Just because you feel like you can do anything you want by living by this phrase, it does not mean you need to do anything and everything. Stay true to who you are and do it proudly. Express yourself in a way that you are confident in embracing things that projects who you really are without going overboard and becoming something you are not.”

Like me, the author sees the irony. You do you, but not because our society says so. “Most people have taken this as following what everyone else is doing even though it is supposed to mean to do the exact opposite. Since the phrase has become so popular within our society, everyone is now practicing it. I’m not saying stop being you; what I am saying is be you because you want to be you, not because our society has decided that it is cool to express yourself.”

So, yes, I will keep using “You do you,” both in a supportive way, and also, in an, admittedly, sometimes sarcastic way. Like me, you don’t need someone to tell you “You do you.” Just be you! That being said, I could see myself saying to my daughter, for example, “You do you,” if she feels peer pressured for example. It’s not the worst phrase to teach your kids, that’s for sure.

Have you found yourself using this phrase?

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