I’ve decided to take a page out of modern society’s most popular article type: the list. What follows are pieces of advice I’ve been given or have heard being given, that I think are either potentially detrimental, misleading, or just plain not helpful.
4. “Just be yourself.”
On the surface, this seems like good advice. Just like most of the others I’ll be discussing. And it can be, at times. But this is a dangerous one. In essence, you’re being told to embrace everything you are, and live it with pride. But what if you’re not happy with who you are? And in extreme cases, what if who you truly are leads you to do things you shouldn’t do? What if you’re a chronic worrier going into an interview? Being yourself wouldn’t be the best option I think, if you’re trying to sell yourself. Mind you, it’s probably not a good thing to be a chronic worrier, so you might want to look into changing that part of yourself, but I won’t make that judgement call for you. However, that does bring me to the next part of this piece of advice. People usually need to make conscious efforts to change and be what they want to be. So if you encourage them to “just be yourself”, that means you think they’re fine the way they are. And again, that might entirely be true. But what if there’s a positive change they want to make, but everyone keeps telling them they’re just fine already? Who’s left to strive for something more?
3. “If you want it, just go for it.”
Do I really need to point out that people could misconstrue this one to mean it’s okay to steal? Let’s say you’ve just been given that advice by someone when you asked their opinion on if you should ask someone out (and yes, that’s how I personally got this gem). Okay, I suppose I could see where it might be good advice. Stop over-thinking, and just go for it, right? But it really only has a very limited use. Namely, it has to be relationship advice, and given to someone who overthinks things (which I do, so I was grateful for the advice at the time). The problem is not everyone needs that advice, and not every situation calls for it. Yet I’ve heard it used in a lot of situations. It just doesn’t work as well as it should.
2. “Give it some time.”
Intended to encourage patience, this piece of advice while not harmful, is just plain useless. Anyone who’s in a situation where waiting is necessary has likely already waited a fairly long time, hence the need to vent their frustrations. Patience is all well and good, but we all have our limits. This piece of advice always struck me as the sort of thing people who somewhat care about you, but not enough to actually help will give. It’s an over-worked cliché that can barely be called advice that gets casually thrown into a conversation when the speaker isn’t sure what else to say but doesn’t want to get actively involved in the situation. And it’s almost always followed up by the lazy man’s advice of…
1. “If it’s meant to be, it’ll all work itself out.”
Soooooo… Let me get this straight. There’s some divine “plan”, and you don’t actually know how it goes, but you’re telling me that it’ll work if all goes according to this ethereal “plan”. And just how exactly is that supposed to make me feel better? So what if there’s a plan? I come to you with a problem, and instead of offering me a solution (or even just some help in figuring the solution out), you just tell me that I shouldn’t get too fussed if things don’t work out because apparently that wasn’t part of the plan. I don’t know about anyone else, but when I make a decision, I put everything I’ve got into it. I invest a lot of time and effort into it. I want it to work. I know it won’t always, and I know there’s always a lesson that can be learned from it. But getting this lazy, non-committal, and absolutely useless piece of advice is not going to help me. Even as someone who does loosely believe in fate and destiny, I can’t wrap my head around how anyone can think this is ever going to be useful to someone who’s frustrated or stuck in some problem or bad situation. All it does is show that you’re not invested in their welfare and can’t be bothered to do enough to even think of something to say that might help.
But then again, maybe you are helping, since they’ll see that you don’t actually care and they’ll finally stop relying on your terrible advice.