We’ve all had friends who found themselves in a rut and came to us for advice. As a third-party observer, we often have a decent perspective from which to give our thoughts and suggestions. But, many of us have also found ourselves in a similar situations and found it hard to give ourselves the same much needed advice. Why is this so?
Why are we such expert advice-givers and life-analyzers when it comes to other people’s lives but so clueless about our own lives?
I have found this to be true, especially in my own life. I mean, I am smart, with a fair knowledge of the right things to do in a certain situations, either because I have had prior experience, or because I have given advice to a friend in a similar situation. But somehow, I just never do it! Or even worse, I don’t even see where I’m going wrong in the first place.
A friend of mine, who often comes to me for advice whenever she desperately needs a reality jolt, came to me some time ago for advice on her relationship; she was in an extremely toxic situationship (we both agreed that what she had didn’t pass for a relationship) where she was basically the only party putting in the work.
She told me of how she was always the one to initiate conversations, suggest outings and even has to engineer sex! It instantly became clear to me that she was ‘chasing’ him and practically begging to be loved by him. Not like there’s anything wrong with going after what you want, but I believe there are much subtler ways to ‘chase’, than groveling. I believe in retaining one’s dignity and self-respect in pursuit of our desires, no matter how badly we want something.
So, I swooped in, in my cape of assumed wisdom and told her what she’d failed to see about the relationship. I explained that she needed to love herself more and open her eyes to her own value and also suggested a few tips for inspiring her partner to be more involved in the relationship. I further advised her to leave him if he didn’t show any signs of improvement after some time, because I thought she deserved better than forcing herself upon man who acted like he didn’t want to be with her.
Fairly good advice, right? Now tell me why, fast forward to a couple of years later, I was in the exact same situation and to my utmost surprise, I didn’t realize it! I never even thought I could ever be in such a situation, because I mean, didn’t I know the signs already? Haven’t I given the same advice to friends in similar situations? Why on Earth didn’t I see myself in the same situation?
It’s The Ego!
When someone approaches us for advice, we get an ego boost, feeling recognized and important, maybe even wise! So, we devote all our energy, intellect and experience in guiding the person to protect our assumed position of significance. However, when it comes to ourselves, we have the tendency to believe that our issues do not require immediate resolution, taking ourselves for granted.
Thanks to our egos as well, we also fail to recognize in our own selves in the very same mistakes we are correcting in other people. We believe we are wise enough to handle our own personal matters because we’ve solved same in others, so the gravity of our problems become underestimated.
At odds on the right advice to give yourself in a specific situation? Grab a white sheet of paper and and write down the pros and cons of maintaining status quo versus bringing about a change in status quo. That way, the sharp contrast can hit you in the face like a wake-up call!
In a typical situation where a person comes to us for advice, we are usually not directly involved in the events at play. I was able to see my friend’s problems and offer sound advice because of my third person point-of-view. A certain degree of objective introspection is required to be able to take one’s own advice and most of us lack the ability to do that.
This could be because we can detach ourselves from emotional response to situations when it concerns others. Whereas, when it comes to our own problems, we are so engrossed subjectively into it that the emotional blanket of attachment doesn’t allow us clear view. Our egos and feelings are in the way and if we do not make the deliberate and albeit difficult effort, our side of the story is the only thing we’d see.
Easy To Talk…
It is very convenient to give people advice because we have nothing directly at stake in the matter. If our advice doesn’t work for them, we could always blame them for not following the advice properly. In my friend’s case, I wasn’t the one who was going to face the reality of crying into my pillow every night, heart shattered by a break up I didn’t even want in the first place. I wasn’t the one going to fight the impulses to just “call him and make this pain go away” even if it meant that I had to beg to be loved, every day, in said Situationship.
On the flip-side, following your own advice makes you accountable to yourself. You have to bear the responsibility if your advice goes awry and that is one of the most difficult things. It’s easy to talk, but walking it is a different story entirely.
People tend to make rules for others and exceptions for themselves.Unknown
It’s funny how it was this same friend who gave me a much-needed reality check! She opened my eyes just-in-time, to the fact that I was in the same situation I’d previously advised her about. I initially found it hard to accept her evaluation and advice, making numerous excuses about how mine was a different situation than hers, even though deep down, I knew it was essentially the same.
Denial is a typical response of people in abusive relationships. We defend our positions with such phrases as “you just don’t understand”, “It’s not the same thing”, and so on, when in fact we know the truth but don’t want to come to terms with it.
I fought this feeling for a long time because I didn’t want to accept the painful truth that: I, despite my supposed wisdom, was now in a toxic relationship. Wow, that hit!
It’s difficult to come to terms with our own folly, especially when we think we should have known better! Studies show that we are much harder on ourselves when we make mistakes, than we are on others. Little wonder we find it so hard to be honest with ourselves about our shortcomings.
Self-Kindness Vs Self-Criticism
Perhaps, in order to see our own selves clearly, we need to remove ourselves from the situation and mentally take the stance of a friendly but objective third-party observer. Perhaps we need to be more honest with ourselves, anticipating the difficulty of discovering hard truths about ourselves and bracing up in advance for it.
Finally, when we do discover these truths, we should try to accept ourselves regardless, with open arms and without self-judgment or harsh criticism. If we are a little kinder to ourselves, maybe it would become less difficult to be honest with ourselves, knowing that what meets us on the other end of honest self-evaluation, is an understanding hug from us to ourselves, just like a friend would’ve.