We all have those little pet peeves, when we’re looking for support, love and advice from people we know and have come to trust (and yes, everybody knows that Google is included here), and the best help they can offer is frankly, quite unhelpful. Garbage. So, if you’ve recently experienced poor quality encouragement, think you’re guilty of offering useless advice, or possibly just want to laugh at the woes of others…. I’ve been working on a list of frightfully common, yet utterly dreadful advice that – let’s admit it – we’ve all been guilty of at one point or another.
BE YOURSELF. (Comes in variations of; Be True To Yourself, Follow Your Instincts, and You’ll Know What To Do)
Not constructive ! Ok, so we’ve all offered this little gem to a friend in need at least once in our lives, but seriously, what were we thinking? I know what you were thinking – ‘I don’t have time for this’, ‘why won’t she stop whinging’, and ‘why is he asking me, I don’t know.’ But this advice doesn’t come with any how-to details with it, basically like an IKEA desk without instructions, or a map without names. The concept of “myself” is a very subjective thing. I might think I am a fun-loving girl with a great attitude and a tendency to get over-excited, and everyone I meet might think I’m an introverted, shy and quiet young woman (alright, alright, extreme example – but you get the picture!). The point is that since “Yourself” or “Myself” doesn’t really have a specific meaning, this well-worn phrase is practically useless.
Besides which, it also discourages the idea of self improvement. If I have a trait(s) that I personally hate (for instance, I hate it when people laugh through their noses, I mean, it’s like snorting, but even more unnecessary), why would I want to just ‘be myself’ and keep doing it even though I don’t like it? No, I’m all for constructive self-criticism and some healthy re-modelling every now and again. ‘Be Yourself.’ Pah. Besides the fact it’s too vague, it’s also like an invitation to become stagnant. No thankyou – I’ll take specifics any day.
IF IT’S MEANT TO BE, IT WILL BE (AKA; Let Mother Nature Do It’s Thing, Just Don’t Try At All, or There’s No More Hope For You)
Newsflash – mother nature has already done it’s thing ! It created you just the way you are (and also with the capacity for self-improvement and this thing called evolution, thank goodness!). Do you see any lions in the Sahara waiting for a zebra to be delivered on a silver platter? Didn’t think so.
Just because the lion is meant to eat zebra doesn’t mean that the zebra will come and lie down in front of the lion without any effort on the lion’s part. Just because it’s meant to be doesn’t mean that you can just sit back and wait. Which is why this is one of the most oft-used, and royally useless, pieces of advice out. Not only does it encourage laziness, it also offers a false sense of security. And yes, I too am guilty of using this phrase to solve a friend’s problem (this problem(s) honestly didn’t have a solution – but hey, I was trying to be supportive. It worked. For a minute). But there are easier, and more accurate ways to say this – sometimes the best helper is time – that doesn’t mean you should just twiddle your thumbs while the clock ticks though. Time is too precious to waste waiting for the impossible (and in my experience, people only ever use this line when they can’t see any way out of your predicament).
DON’T GIVE UP (AKA; Be Persistent, Keep Trying, or You’re Following A Hopeless Cause)
Now, don’t get me wrong – there’s nothing wrong with a healthy dose of persistence. But chances are, if you’re whinging to someone else about a problem or a (repeatedly) failed endeavour, deep down you know the battle is already lost. If someone has to tell you not to give up, your either a) not smart enough to figure out that a good idea requires repeated attempts before it can be disproved, or b) holding on to an idea that should have been given up long ago. Sometimes it’s really healthy to just let something go.
If you’re offering this advice, you’re probably too chicken to tell the person to ‘give it up already’ (usually – not always. Sometimes, rarely, this advice is essential for a good idea to come to fruition). And if you’re receiving this advice, you’re probably too chicken to admit to yourself that you need to start fresh and let this one give up the ghost. Either way, this popular phrase can be terribly unhealthy, and prevent people from moving on and discovering something that works much better. Again, I will warn people away from stagnation – sometimes, you don’t even have to give up completely, just move onto something else for a while, and when you come back to it, this fresh situation will have a much more positive outlook and the prospect of giving up won’t even enter your head ! The point is, if someone has to tell you NOT to give up – maybe it’s time to admit that you’ve had enough for a while. Not so shameful as you might think, and can often be more productive than you’d ever dream.
Moreover, I don’t believe in mistakes, only lessons. If you’ve learned what not to do, or how better to do something next time, then that’s plenty.
THINK OF THE FUTURE (AKA; You’re Making the Wrong Decisions, You’re Losing Direction, or Listen to Your Parents)
Two words: Useless. Advice.
I get it, right. My parents, and my grandparents, and my aunts and uncles, they know things I don’t. They’re wise. They have the advantage of age, experience, lessons ignored and lessons learned. Our families also have the added advantage of having our best interests at heart. But there are two points I’d like to make here:
Firstly – There is this advantage that these wise people have over me – they’ve lived longer. They have had more opportunity to ‘live and learn.’ To make mistakes. And of course, I’m not ruling out listening to your parents, or thinking of your future. But listen moderately. You have to live and learn as well. And often, what people are saying when they say ‘think of your future’ is; “listen to me, live the way I want you to.” No. Live the way you want to. (Short of being a serial killer or some other crazy, minority lifestyle).
Secondly – I have this motto (and take it from me, this motto is good advice!) – “If you don’t do it today, you won’t do it tomorrow.” And it’s true. Honest. I’ve seen it in myself, and I’ve seen it in others. It’s all good and well to imagine a “someday,” a far off future where this happens, and you do this, and that, and you go running EVERY MORNING. Let me tell you – if you don’t start running this morning, you probably won’t do it tomorrow morning either. And that far off future? It’s staying far off.
The devil is in the detail, my friends. Be specific. Say “tomorrow, I’m going to go running.” And then go and do it. Because otherwise you never will. Offering advice like “think of the future” is like encouraging someone to read a fiction book and telling them it’s true.
So there you have it – the advice I love to hate. Now you know, try and limit your usage of these well-worn phrases. Having said that, I’m a horrible hypocrite, because I solemnly swear that I know I will use this advice countless times in the years to come – but that’s ok, ’cause we live and learn, I guess.