Let Me Give You Some Advice (Not)

Advice is a funny thing.  We ask for it, but don’t always listen to it.  Or we don’t ask for it, but have it forced upon us anyway. There are certain things that we can advise others on effortlessly, but when it comes to following our own words of enlightenment, we lag painfully behind.

When I was pregnant with my first child, I felt as if I was wandering around the world with a sign on my back blaring “FEEL FREE TO DOLE OUT UNSOLICITED ADVICE!”

Pregnant women are advice targets.  If the reams of wisdom from friends and family members are not quite enough, then do not fear, there will be bus loads of strangers on hand to give their two cents worth, or ten dollars worth or twenty pounds worth. There’s no avoiding it. The problem is, you don’t always want to avoid it, because parts of what you hear will be vital and precious, even if you can’t grasp it at the time.

Hasn’t someone invented an app to filter out ‘bad’ advice yet? A digital troll who vibrates your phone violently when a well meaning but misguided opinion is hurtling towards you at breakneck speed?

It will come.

The difficulty of being the recipient of advice overload is that it can dislocate you from your gut.

Confuse your your instinct.

Cloud your intuition.

The difficulty of not being receptive to sound advice when offered, is that you can become narrow-minded, inflexible, stubborn.

It’s a fine line.

Meanwhile, the internet is brimming with advice on writing… some of it exceptionally valuable. However, I’ve realised that it is possible to spend more time reading the advice on ‘how to’ write than it is to actually write yourself.  Just as I spent far too many hours researching breastfeeding an unsettled baby, rather than attempting to stay attuned to the unsettled baby on hand. The one who was waiting for me to tackle it with him.

I have a policy to not automatically offer my opinion on someone else’s ‘stuff’ unless it is specifically requested. Even then, I’m known to infuriatingly flip the question back to the asker (a well practiced skill in psychotherapy training!)

The task that needs tackling is how to call on the experiences of those who have walked the same road  and benefit from their stories, while staying aware that no road is ever identical.  Each of us treads a unique path, shared, but always ever so slightly different, like the variable ridges of a fingerprint.

My pledge to you is not to advise… but only to guide.  I’ve learned that sometimes when you’re in the dark, what you truly need is not someone to turn the light on for you, but to gently touch your arm instead, and point you in the direction of the sun.

Write about advice! Are you compelled to give it? Are you always asking for it? Do you have a story to tell where ADVICE, ‘good’ or ‘bad’, is the central character? All words are welcomed… I invite you to release some thoughts below…

One Response to “Let Me Give You Some Advice (Not)”

  1. Kay
    March 9, 2012 at 3:11 am #

    "Have fun!" my mother would 'advise' me as I set off as a young woman (or fledgling 'in-dependent') on some trip or adventure. "Take risks" my father would call out after me. At that time I took their words at face value. I moulded them quite literally into my teenage rule book. At times I took it too far and found myself a little closer 'to the edge' than was entirely safe. I got myself in pickles, or worse. I emphasised fun more than work or study or laying down foundations for my future.However later in life I realised some important things about this advice. Firstly that the opposite advice "work hard" or "be careful" would have had no effect on me, or worse, provoke a stronger rebellion. Secondly it implied trust in me – maybe unfounded trust but the implication was enough for me. And while I did wander into some treacherous situations, I somehow, eventually, found my own limit (not theirs) and came back from it, having learnt about myself, found my 'edge' and found the satisfaction in gaining a little control and responsibility. Now I look back and realise that I try to live like this as an adult, since the adult me is more bound by my brain developing an understanding of cause and effect, a cautiousness around risk. The times when I risk something, when I venture out of the realms of safety and comfort, I glean so much more value and satisfaction and knowledge. And Mum's advice needs to go hand in hand with Dad's. (I like to picture my parents hand in hand!). My mother saw the fun in everything, in the mundane, in the tedium of housework, weekly routine, the daily journeys to school, in laying the table as a belly dancer, washing up as the queen might and not to force fun, but to find it wherever I was. She helped me to to lighten up life. And my father has had an adventurous and extraordinary life, and still does as he approaches his ninth decade. He continues to encourage me with his words and his actions.Have fun and take risks.Or 'seek out the pleasure in life and push beyond self-imposed limits'. That might have been harder to shout along a railway platform, but I think that is what they meant!

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