I am (not shockingly) a bit behind on current memes. In fact, it’s an achievement that I even know what meme means. And so I am sure that the phrase “your mileage may vary” (or YMMV) has been around for a while. In fact, my colleague Colleen Arnold wrote a post about it in March, when she called YMMV “the happiest acronym on the internet.” At the time, I was fascinated by the concept, and I may have even intended to write about it myself. But I got distracted, and wrote about other things.
Then I read the post by Christopher Snider that I referenced yesterday, and it included the phrase “Your Diabetes May Vary.” That reminded me of many conversations with clients about their struggles feeling truly understood when friends and loved ones try to compare their own experiences with my client’s. I think this struggle can be particularly challenging when you are facing both mental and physical health challenges.
That got me wondering. Why is it that YMMV resonates with us?
I think that one reason we gravitate towards YMMV is this: it counterbalances the human tendency to assume that your experiences are the same as someone in a similar condition. It helps you connect and offer respect for another’s perspective. It’s a quick touch phrase to reach for when you want to say something like this: “I want to share my experience with you because I hope that it will help you get through what you are facing. And, I don’t want to assume that you are exactly like me, so I’m going to qualify that you might have a different experience.” YMMV is much easier to say.
I think that YMMV can be a powerful reminder to pause before you judge someone else and their experiences. Yesterday’s post explored the reality that a forum which works well for some people feels unhelpful to others. When you are passionate about something, whether it is your health, a relationship, or another experience, it is easy to get caught up in the enthusiasm of sharing with others. Reminding yourself that YMMV may be the space you need to share your own experience without conveying the expectation that others should have an identical experience.
YMMV can also be a reminder to check in on the judgments that you might be leveling at yourself. If another member of your family, school, or support community seems to be handling a challenge more smoothly than you think you are, it can be easy to fall into the trap of blaming, shaming, or otherwise judging yourself. Remembering that YMMV is a quick way to give yourself permission to have the experience you are having–independent of what is going on for everyone else.
And as we move into the holiday season, YMMV can also be a cue to let yourself take a break from judging your holidays. And then maybe you can allow yourself to relax and celebrate the small moments of goodness.
Do you have another great YMMV suggestion to share? I’d love to hear it.