The world is full of crappy advice. So don’t listen to me.
There are so many different ideas on the internet about so many different topics. Self-improvement is one where there is no shortage of stuff about which people write. Much of it is lame and the rest is atrocious. I read today one of Ramit Sethi’s posts on the poor quality of relationship advice for women available on the internet. He says in his post, Why won’t anyone be honest with you?, people generally want to look only at others’ faults for rejecting them instead of improving themselves. He is right.
Navel gazing is an industry. Essayists abound willing to offer advice about what we should and should not do in relationships, in family, in our careers. Even as adults, we seem to be a culture of attention-starved children demanding everyone else’s full immersion in our troubles.
Why can’t we just live? Why can’t we accept ourselves and others for all the beautiful, positive qualities we possess AND the ugly, dark, and weak sides of our characters? Why are we so protective of our egos? Is the journey from one end of the ego spectrum–full narcissism–to the other–egolessness in the Buddhist sense–that far a journey?
Why are we so protective of our egos?
Sometimes I despise the way I handle things. I’m impatient with my kids. My ex hooks me into an emotional argument. I’m defensive with my fiance. I get on my fiance’s son for not cleaning up his things. I am sometimes narrow minded. I’m sometimes resentful. I react instead of pausing then responding intelligently.
Other times I’m pretty okay with myself. Sometimes I can accept responsibility for my share of a mess and be okay with how things turn out.
My fiance and I were just discussing this morning the people in our lives whom we go to for advice. The subject of my therapist arose and we discussed my relationship with her. She is one of a handful of close advisors whose insights I value in navigating life.
My therapist has helped me many times over the past four years in much the way one might expect; I have had crisis moments where I just couldn’t crawl out of the darkness and she helped me stand and walk. Or, to borrow from the late author and artist Gordon MacKenzie (Orbiting the Giant Hairball), I create huge hairballs, combining all of my challenges into a single unsolvable mess. She helps me unravel them into digestible pieces. Our relationship seems to have become more like trusted advisor-student traveler.
The quality of self-help life-management advice in the blogoshere is spotty. The best position to take in seeking and accepting advice is Buyer Beware. I have a host of essayists I enjoy reading regularly (see sidebar). These include Erika Napoletano is Redhead Writing, Kelly Garnett aka Cordelia Calls It Quits, Penelope Trunk, Leo Babuta’s zenhabits, Ash Ambirge’s Middle Finger Project, Danielle LaPorte, Sarah Kathleen Peck’s It Starts With…, Chris Guillebeau, and Scott Berkun, among others. More often than not one of these writers nails something I’m struggling with.
None of these people, as much as they might seem to be in my head, reading my thoughts, can solve my challenges for me.
But the struggle is still mine alone. None of these people, as much as they might seem to be in my head reading my thoughts can solve my challenges for me. Which brings me back to my discussion with my fiance about my relationship with my therapist.
I have been on a self-imposed journey of awareness and I could not have grown as I have without my therapist’s gentle guidance. The interesting thing about our work together is where I once relied on her to help solve my problems, I now work with her to apply the tools she has helped me build to move through my challenges.
Who can help when you are falling apart?
Think for a second about your inner circle of trusted advisors. Whom do you rely on for the most genuine, reliable insights? Who can help get you back to calm when you are falling apart? Picture concentric circles created by a pebble dropped into calm water. You are the center, and the circles are your relationships radiating outward. My fiance, whom I trust more than anyone, is next to me in that first circle. My therapist is a circle out, one of my few most trusted advisors upon whom I rely for honest advice, even to tell me when I can do better. I have a few others whom I also trust residing in circles further out.
The next time you come across something on the internet think about where the writer is coming from and weigh whether what they are saying sounds like truth. Use what you can and discard the rest. And then work your circle of advisors to come up with your own truths.