Advice is kind of like ordering clothes online: It doesn’t fit everyone, but you’ll only really know if it will work for you if you try it. And like fashion, some words of wisdom go out of style. I always strive to offer practical tips in my blogs, but sometimes, the things I hear people say, even professionals, make me want to bang my head on the wall. Here are some of them:
- “Stop being depressed. Toughen up. Everyone goes through tough times.”
I can’t begin to explain how much this irks me. Let’s settle things here: Depression is a mental health issue, just like the flu is a physical ailment. You don’t just take a couple of pills and feel better in a few days. It’s easy to dispense advice when you’re not in the situation, but people who have suffered from depression know just how debilitating it can be.
- “It’s better not to get your hopes up. This way, you’ll never be disappointed.”
I don’t know about you, but I still end up disappointed when I don’t get my hopes up – and even when it’s something inconsequential. You have to see how upset I get when my eggs stick to the pan and I break the yolk. Something like this:
- “Don’t trust anyone. Most people will turn on you if it’s to their advantage.”
I’m going to admit that I’m guilty of adopting this closed-minded belief. A random stranger (who was trying to sell me something that I thought was fishy but ended up being legit), told me rather frankly that if I don’t learn to trust people, I will never find love.
By all means, offer your trust to others…but only if they’ve earned it.
- “Anger isn’t healthy.”
If your natural response to an anger-inducing situation is to punch someone or break something, it’s a problem. Essentially, anger itself isn’t the issue, it’s the manner in which you express it. It can be done tactfully, but you need to get to the root of why you’re angry in order to deal with the emotion and fully resolve the issue at hand. And frankly, I find that keeping emotions bottled up is almost just as bad. It’s like shaking up a can of soda: At some point, there’s going to be an explosion, often at the most inopportune times and in the most unpleasant way.
- “Don’t show people your emotions. They’ll think you’re weak.”
This little pearl has had detrimental effects on both men and women, but in different ways. Many men were raised with the belief that they shouldn’t cry, making it difficult for them to express their emotions as adults. Women, on other hand, were made to believe that in order to be respected, they either had to be demure (depending on what decade you’re from) or tough, especially if you’re in a position of authority.
On the clock, my former female manager was extremely bossy, demanding, and difficult to get along with. Off the clock, she was a sweetheart. She explained to me that she felt she needed to be tough and stoic in order to be respected, particularly when dealing with her male employees and assistant managers.
- “Women don’t like emotional guys.”
Along the same vein, this is once again an issue related to the messages we send to boys: That it’s not okay to cry. It was particularly frustrating for my cousin, who was fed up with the mixed signals he was getting from his girlfriends. “How the hell am I supposed to be?” he asked, exasperated. “Tough or sweet?” My message is always the same: Your emotions are a part of who you are, whether you are a man or a woman. You cannot be separated from them. If a woman doesn’t like the fact that you get emotional, she isn’t the right woman for you. Period.
- “Men don’t like women who are smart.”
I honestly don’t recall who told me this, but in my teenage years, it compelled me to dumb down my intelligence. My grades dropped (I was an honor-roll student), stopped reading during recess and lunch (and I LOVE to read), and refrained from using big words around my boyfriends. And I am ashamed that I did. My looks didn’t get me my job, it was my intelligence, my wittiness, my skills, and my desire to work hard.
- “Good things come to those who wait” and “Don’t wait for things to happen. Make them happen!”
So which one is it? The answer is “somewhere in between.” In some cases, opportunities will fall on your lap without too much effort. Other times, you’ll have to be proactive and work hard to obtain them. And then there are times when it’s better to wait things out before taking action. When someone asks my input on whether they should jump on an opportunity, I always offer the same advice: Go with your gut, with what feels right, because your gut will never steer you wrong. And if things don’t work out, it’s a well-learned lesson.