Don't Ask Me, I Don't Have the Answers*
I used to love giving advice. Now I'm trying to give less of it.
For awhile now people have come to me for advice, be it about relationships, work, family, or whatever they were unsure about or struggling with at that time. “You seem to have your shit together,” is something I’ve heard from others in the past. It was likely due to a combination of what they thought of me and what I wanted them to think of me.
I rarely said no when they’d ask. Even if I didn’t have my shit together. I liked it. They were coming to me in their time of need so I felt like I couldn’t let them down. I felt useful, trusted, and respected. I felt needed and superior. A few times people I knew asked if I could speak to someone they knew to help them out with some of my wise words. Why, of course, I could.
Looking back I think it was my ego that made me think that I did have the answers for everyone. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always enjoyed helping people, especially if they reached out. I know it’s not easy to ask for help.
A lot of times I offered help or solutions even when I wasn’t asked. Now I think they were just looking to vent and to be heard. But for whatever reason, I took it upon myself to offer a way to help. Afterward, I would sometimes feel burdened by their problems.
I’d like to think that I was coming from a good place. A pure place. But I know I’ve struggled a lot with control. So my advice wasn’t really a suggestion, it was an order. And if you didn’t follow through, then I would take offense to it. “What did I tell you” and “I told you so,” never make anything better.
I believe most of us know what we should do and if not at least what we want to do. And hopefully, they are in alignment. But when they are not, we want someone to push us in a specific direction. As much as we say we want honesty and the truth, we really don’t.
We tell one-sided, incomplete stories where we paint ourselves as the potential hero or the victim. We are biased in our tellings. We want people to agree with us. If you listen closely you can tell what someone wants to do and what they want you to tell them to do.
So if I tell them the opposite of what they want to hear they’ll just try to convince me that the other thing is what they should do. And if I tell them to do something and they do it and it goes badly, I don’t want that on me. And even if it goes right, I still don’t want that on me.
In the end, we all make our own decisions. And we are going to make mistakes along the way. I was the same way. I knew my previous relationship was toxic. And even when my best friend told me to end it, I didn’t.
The decision was mine to make. The whole time. Obviously, that chapter ended and I had to do deal with the ramifications on my own but I can’t say if I should have ended it earlier or not. Because it got me to Spain, where I met my partner.
We won’t know what’s right or wrong long after we make a difficult decision. Sometimes there’s a big quick payoff and a terrible finish. And it goes the other way too.
Also, there’s just too much-unsolicited advice out there. I feel like I’m bombarded on social media with mixed messages about who I should be and how I should be. Be strong. Speak up. Listen. Be firm. Be patient. Be understanding. Don’t dim your light. Lift others up. Never compromise yourself. Unlock the greatness within. You are amazing. You are not as special as you think.
I choke on the cliches and I just don’t feel like adding to the cacophonous flood of advice in our world.
This doesn’t mean that I’m not available to those who do want to get my advice on things. Maybe in the past, I’ve felt like I had to solve people’s problems and now I just want to help them solve them. Support them. I just ask questions. Just try to get them to figure it out.
I know sometimes we get really lost. We get stuck in our heads. We get scared. We get nervous. Sometimes we need a little nudge. Sometimes we need a little encouragement. Don’t worry, I’ll always be down for that though.
In the end, we need to accept that people are going to do what they want to do. And as long as they’re not going to put themselves or someone else in danger it’s just better to let them do what they want. And even if you disagreed with their decision, even if you advised them to do something else, you should still be there for them. Support doesn’t come in just one color and in one size.
But look what do I know? I ain’t rich. I ain’t beautiful. I don’t have a K number of followers nor a checkmark. My advice? Don’t listen to me. I’ve messed up. I will continue to do so. And I am looking forward to it.
*“Don’t ask me, I don’t have the answers” is what one of my favorite authors told me after I asked him for advice about something.