By now, many of you have probably seen the youtube videos of babies eating lemons for the first time. A trusted adult hands the baby a lemon and waits for the horrified (yet hilarious) expression to follow. The babies make faces of disappointment, anger, fear, and sadness. The best videos combine these emotions and end with the baby staring at the lemon giver with an expression of innocent disbelief.
After the joy that came from watching the video, my only thought was to reach out to one of my friends with a baby to recreate the experience. When I asked my friend, she told me that she had already done the experiment (without me). He had the same reaction as the babies in the video, but then she added something I didn’t expect. He went BACK for the lemon. After the second taste, he didn’t hate the lemon as the first experience would suggest. In fact, he liked it.
In life, we are all the baby trying the lemon for the first time. Whether we are starting a new job, moving to a new place, or undertaking a new goal, we are often blindsided when life gives us a lemon. The problem is that many of us taste the lemon for the first time and decide that we don’t like it and never try it again. What we really don’t like isn’t the lemon itself, but instead a dislike for false expectations, fear of the unknown, and change.
The baby expects the food to be bland or maybe sweet only to be shocked when it’s not. When an experience exposes our false expectations, the shock causes us to panic or shutdown. We’ve all heard that we can’t be disappointed if we keep our expectations low. I think this is a defense mechanism. Keeping our expectations low does not require us to react when we are given a lemon. But, just because something doesn’t meet (or instead contradicts) our expectations, does not make it bad. It is what we decide to do after that matters.
Fear of the unknown
You can see the disbelief across the babies’ faces as they look at the camera. This is like nothing they’ve ever tasted before. When we try something new and it turns out to be a lemon, it is sour and unexpected. We assume that it is something bad, when in fact it is just something unknown. Because we have no basis for the new experience, we first resist. This feels like danger and causes us to go into fight or flight. We must be willing to fight or to experience the sour lemon for a second time.
The babies experience the lemon as a change from their usual food. It doesn’t taste the same, it doesn’t feel the same. Initially, this causes confusion and maybe anger. We react the same with changes in our lives. If we go back and try the lemon a second time, we may realize our initial experience was biased by our innate aversion to change.
When life gives you lemons, they aren’t poisonous. They may be unexpected, but not dangerous. Sometimes the beginning is not what we predicted and just because we don’t like it at first taste, doesn’t mean that it tastes bad. Our taste, or our initial experience, is affected by our dislike for false expectations, the unknown, and change. Once we overcome these, we can make a better judgement as to whether something is bad or our beliefs made us assume it was. Try the lemon a second time to make sure the distaste wasn’t the result of shock. You may find lemons aren’t bad after all, you may even like them.