Their voices were so loud my head was ready to explode. I couldn’t make them stop.
It was my own fault. I had opened the door and they all rushed in, flooding every crevice they could find.
I should’ve known better. At least, that’s what I’ve been told.
That’s the problem with advice.
You go in seeking insight, direction, or, in desperate times, a glimmer of hope.
But more often than not, you take a step and boom, you’re smothered. Or get a host of contradictions. Or catchy, hollow lines which sound good but turn up empty when you look beyond the surface.
Before you know it, it’s a jumbled mess in your head, a thick layer of confusion on top of why you went looking for it in the first place.
Sometimes it comes even when you don’t ask for it, and doesn’t stop; ask anyone who’s pregnant, or single and looking, or trying to lose those last ten pounds.
And let’s not forget the oceans of advice online; the oodles and oodles of Googles. I’ve fallen into that trap a few times. ‘Do this!’ ‘Don’t do that!’ Their voices are loud and confident, their faces are made-for-TV, and it’s either their way or wrong. “They” have all the answers.
Advice for the ages
Isn’t advice a way for us to learn from each other, to reduce time and effort spent on similar problems?
Yes, because having a common, shared knowledge base benefits humanity, from the wheel to sliced bread to the internet, pooling what we know makes life easier, and reminds us that we’re not alone in our struggles.
But you have to be honest about what you’re looking for.
If you need a good book and want to know where to buy it, your friend will say, “Amazon!”.
That’s not advice, that’s a solution.
If you have a relationship problem and call your best friend, she will lend an understanding ear.
That’s not advice, that’s support.
When you do ask for advice, without care and ask it of every person who crosses your path, you open the flood gates.
That can get really loud. So loud it drowns out your own instincts, your desires, your voice. So loud that all you can hear is how you should do exactly what they did, so you can be more like them, so they like you more. The spell of others’ success is practically irresistible.
Real advice ain’t all that, it’s WAY more
Real advice comes with strings attached.
It recognizes that it is limited by the giver’s views and experience. It leads rather than commands. It comes from a place of hard-learned lessons rather than easy street.
It asks deeper questions, and dares you to be nothing less than honest.
Sometimes we say we want advice, but what we really want is validation. We already know what we want deep inside, but we’re scared we might fail, or don’t have what it takes.
And that is the loudest voice of them all.
This is not advice, just a real experience
I’ve learned that you can’t make that voice go away (believe me, I’ve tried). I’ve only gotten as far as turning it down a few notches, which happens when I work on the very things the voice is talking about. Or give myself permission to sit in stillness, or play (you know, those frivolous things we do just for fun, not because we have to, but because we feel like it).
On good days, I can change the station completely.
Being around people I really like makes it last longer, and when the laughter gets louder that’s the absolute best.
Somewhere along the way, if I’m doing the things I know are right for me (and that’s the catch), it gets just quiet enough for me to hear exactly what I need.