I love giving advice. I always feel really honored when people ask me for advice – especially KitschMix readers! – because, in a way, asking for advice is a transfer of power.
Sure, you have the power to not listen to the advice that’s given to you… To a certain degree.
The person whose advice you seek has the power to influence your decision-making process, and if you were to take the advice exactly as it’s given, you’re basically forfeiting your own power over the situation.
Don’t get me wrong – the practice of seeking input on your decisions can be super helpful.
Other people can see parts of the situation that you may have made yourself blind to – whether consciously or subconsciously.
Other people may have more experience with your situation, or at least something close to your situation.
Other people might even be professionally trained to handle a situation “exactly like yours” (even though there’s no such thing as an exact situation match).
It’s important that you remember, though – the best advice is going to come from within. Other people can only help clarify what you already know.
Only you know your feelings.
You’re the only one who knows the full depth of what you’re feeling at any given moment, and what you’ve felt in the past. You might let other people in when you’re seeking advice, but most likely, you’ve been societally-conditioned to resist “over-sharing”. This means that there will be gaps, because it’s all relevant in the advice-giving process.
You know what makes you happy, and you know what bums you out – and, most likely, your gut already told you what you wanted the answer to be. And, most likely, you’re not going to follow the advice unless it confirms what you already thought – and that’s not always a matter of stubbornness. That’s your intuition doing what it’s supposed to do.
You need to go through your own issues.
It’s easy to tell someone, “Learn from my mistakes” – but the real world doesn’t exactly work like that. I think it has something to do with the feelings thing. You can’t feel the pain that a “bad decision” will cause unless you actually feel it. You can’t harness the power of positive changes unless you’re actually feeling the positive changes.
And, while advice is super helpful in letting you know what you probably shouldn’t try, you’re still going to make your own mistakes, and that’s okay. That’s how we learn. Humans aren’t designed to learn from someone else’s mistakes.
Situations are not identical.
It’s all too common that people will compare their situation to someone else’s, just because the two seem similar at first glance. It’s human nature to want to be “equal”, but equal and identical are not the same. I try to use similarities to form some sort of bond with the readers who write in, but even when it seems like the same scene that’s already played out for me, there are always other factors left out.
Sometimes, these factors are purposely left out because we can’t bear admitting them to another person. Sometimes, these factors are left out because we can’t see them as being related to the situation at hand. But everything is connected, in one way or another, so it’s literally impossible for someone to know enough about you to give you perfect, spot-on advice.
Most of us live our lives to please someone else, even if we won’t admit it to ourselves (let alone others!). When someone gives us unsolicited advice, we tend to follow what will please the most people – even if it means hurting ourselves in the process. We’re taught that we should live for others, because that’s what “nice people” do.
But the reality is that you can’t live for others until you have learned how to live for yourself. I don’t remember who originally said it (and Google is showing up multiple answers), but one of my favorite quotes is “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” You need to make yourself happy, first and foremost. It’s brave and it’s essential. Just make sure you know the difference between “putting yourself first” and “being selfish”.
Boundaries are necessary.
It’s far too easy to give up your autonomy, especially if you’re in a relationship. (And no, it’s not always toxic, when done in moderation.) But you need some boundaries in place – you’ll need to distance yourself from people whose influence on you is negative. You’ll need to distance yourself from people who just want to get inside your head. (These people are toxic, even if they’re not exactly doing it on purpose.)
While it’s not healthy to completely shut everyone else out, it is necessary to remind yourself that other people’s opinions about your life are just opinions. Remember your inner truth, and let it guide your decisions – and limit the amount of control you hand away to others.
Life is a series of choices.
In most cases, there isn’t a concrete right-or-wrong answer. The only place there is a right-or-wrong is when we assign these values to the choices we make. As humans, we’re drawn to label things, even when labeling doesn’t make a lot of sense – very few things in life are purely black-and-white, right-or-wrong, yes-or-no.
Most people make the choices that they feel are the “right” thing to do, even if their motivations are skewed away from what is considered “normal”. But normal doesn’t always mean right, any more than abnormal means wrong – both are just labels that we put on things after the fact. Don’t be afraid to make the choices that feel right to you, even if it goes against the advice you’re given.
Your path is very personal.
As much as we’d like to think that our lives affect everyone else around us (and, to be clear, they definitely do)… Our choices will affect us more than they affect others. It’s just a fact of life. You’re propelled along your path by the choices you make, and your path will not (and cannot) be just like anyone else’s. It’s one of the most beautiful things about being human – we are all different.
As much as we’d prefer that things stayed as simple as they do in the animal kingdom, they never will. Humans are one of the most complex creatures on the face of the planet (if we’re not actually the most complex – I’m not sure exactly where we fall on that list, but I know we’re definitely more complex than the large majority of animals). Your path is yours alone, and while it’s fine to look for a solution that benefits everyone, you shouldn’t sacrifice yourself to do it. Be brave and go your own way.