When you think about what you really desire, chances are that at least a small piece of you worries about what “everybody” will think? In Finding Your Own North Star, Martha Beck challenges you to carefully define your “everybody.” Are you really just talking about your mother, Aunt Josephine, and your boss? Is it your best friend, your son, and that guy you have a crush on?  Chances are good that the “everybody” you worry about is only a handful of people, and when you really investigate how much their opinion matters, you may discover that you’re expending a lot of your worry energy on people you don’t even like that much, much less respect enough to trust their advice.

Think about it. People are dying to give you advice, but does it really guide you? How much of what “everybody” says to you is total hogwash?

What “Advice” Would Really Sound Like If You Could Read Minds

  • I know I’m miserable in my soul-sucking job, but you should NOT quit your job and do something exciting and risky because then I’ll be forced to stare into the eyes of my own unhappiness and face up to the fact that you’re brave enough to do what I’m not.
  • Yes, it’s true that all of my romantic relationships have been total train wrecks, but you should absolutely listen to me when I tell you to steer clear of that person who is absolutely no good for you. Because I know what’s good for you better than you do.
  • I understand that you want to dye your hair purple, stop shaving your armpits, get tattoos, and let your freak flag fly. But nobody will ever love you if you do. I’m an expert at this because I’ve done everything possible to look exactly the way society says you’re supposed to look, and see how well it’s turned out for me? (NOT!)
  • You’ve gotta stop putting your heart on the line the way you do. My own heart has been broken so severely that I’m traumatized and can’t bear to unbind my heart anymore. So you should wall yours up with boards and chains to make sure nobody ever hurts you the way I got hurt. Trust me, this is for your own good.
  • Don’t be foolish and go after that big dream. It’ll never come true, and then you’ll look like a failure and you’ll spend the rest of your life known as that person who went for it and didn’t get it. You should trust me on this because I have a dozen unrealized dreams and if you go after yours and succeed, I’ll feel like a total loser.
  • Because I’m gay and have been completely in the closet for my entire life, and because my whole life will have been a lie unless you conform like I have, you should trust me when I tell you that your life will be ruined if you tell the world you’re really homosexual.
  • You’d be crazy to take that volunteer job in Africa, where there’s malaria and Ebola virus and all kinds of other dangerous, risky things. You can trust me on this. I know because I’ve been outside the United States once – to Canada.
  • You shouldn’t get a pet.  They’re messy and expensive and hard to take care of. Plus, I had one once, and she broke my heart so badly, I’ve never opened myself to another pet, therefore you shouldn’t either.
  • Don’t go on that diet. You might actually lose weight, and then we won’t be fat together, and I’m afraid you won’t love me if you’re thin and healthy, since food is what we bond over.
  • Don’t ever let ‘em see your flaws. Wear masks. Be inauthentic.  Do whatever it takes to fit in so you can get ahead in life. Be like me. Then I’ll feel validated for the fact that I lack true intimacy in my life, even though I look like I’ve got it all together.

Be Careful About “Advice”

Beware whose advice you take seriously. Do you really want to be like the advice-bearers? Do you respect, admire, and honor the way they’ve chosen to live their lives? Are you really willing to model yours after theirs?

I’m not suggesting you ignore all advice. I have a whole slew of people whose advice I deeply value because I have so much respect for how the advice-givers live their lives.

I’m merely asking you to choose your mentors carefully. Make sure they’re not projecting their own sh*t onto you. Ensure that they really do have your best interest at heart. Then take the advice they give, run it by your Inner Pilot Light, and make sure it resonates with your own heart. 

How Do You Handle Advice?

Do you listen to everyone? Ignore advice completely? Pick and choose? Tell us your story.

Under good advice to screen advice carefully,

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14 Comments

  1. Michelle Medina

    OMFG Lissa!!!!
    Last week I was riding in the car with a friend who said: “It’s not time for your book to be published yet.” I asked why, she said there was no big dramatic ending. Not in those exact words, but she used a made for TV movie about a girl who ends up at Harvard to illustrate her point. A true story that I’ve never watched or read, but she said I needed a big finish like that for my book.
    It’s amazing how I had been thinking that myself and then when someone finally agreed with me, though I’ve never said those words to that friend in particular I called bs on it!
    I’m actually greatful to her because if she hadn’t verbalized my own faulty thought process I’d have kept thinking it to!
    Also interesting how this post came at just the right time, right after this happened to me!
    Thank you! Smile.

    Reply
  2. Tina Bernarduci

    When I was a teenager, I noticed that when I discussed my relationship problems with my girlfriends instead of anything helpful coming from it, what seemed to happen was it added to the drama of the situation. I know we were angst-ridden, hormonal teenagers, but I soon found myself not discussing these type of things anymore with them. Instead I found thoughtful contemplation (my form of meditation at the time) to be more insightful and helpful. Now that I am older, I have the same tendency and if someone does offer advice or suggestions, I smile and say thanks then later give the ideas some thought. If they are just critical or judgmental thoughts, then I don’t give it much consideration. If I react in a strong way to what was said, I look to myself to see why did I react that way. Maybe my reactions were justified if someone else is just looking to control or project onto me their issues. Or maybe I need to look at something within me that needs evaluation. I look at this as a potential for growth and realize that unsolicited advice (even if critical) may be a catalyst for change that will be beneficial for me. If I feel it is someone else’s stuff, then I dismiss it right away. I do not look for approval from anyone, because I know I am responsible for my happiness. So long, as I am happy and what I’m doing does not hurt anyone else, I proceed. Although some may criticize, most people accept me even though I do ‘let my freak flag fly’. Most seem to respect my abilities and contributions even if I may be viewed as ‘different’ than them. People actually seek me out for assistance or advice. While I do offer assistance in any way that I can, my advice generally consists more of options that they could consider and choose on their own. I want to facilitate their growth and ownership of their choices which I feel is important to happiness. I think it is because I am sincere with no pretense and willing to help others when and how I can. That seems to be more important to me and also to others. I’m reminded of a Dr. Seuss quote….”Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter, don’t mind.” Wise words indeed.

    Reply
  3. Don

    Over the years I’ve learned to bite my tongue – and Lord is that every difficult – and not offer any advice unless asked. Then with the disclaimer that “you have to do what you feel is right as you are the one, the only one, who is responsible for your decision.

    Reply
  4. Tania

    I learned a long time ago that advice is
    Ad vice. Its Adding vice. Why? Chances are that even of the suggestion would work for the person giving it, it won’t work for the receiver because it’s not them. They are their own person Unique And when it doesnt work for the receiver, he or she will feel like they got bad guidance. It’s much better to be there to listen and ask guiding questions so that the person can come up with what will work for them.

    Reply
  5. Martine

    It´s as if you read my mind, Lisa. I decided to follow my heart and move abroad with nothing other than a bit of cash and a few ideas. Along the way, I´ve encountered people who have demanded to know my plans/reason for moving abroad and then informed me that I´m somewhat confused because I haven´t got it all figured out (great advice, huh?!). And in my weaker moments, I´ve actually listened to them. I learnt the hard way. I learnt that I´m not obligated to tell all and sundry my sh*t and that when I actually take a close look at who these people are I realise that they are not the sort I´d want to mirror in any way, let alone listen to. Thank you for a great post!

    Reply
  6. Brandon

    Thank you Lissa!

    The way you present your thoughts are current and real. You seem to know how to get my attention everytime! I have had a tendency to consume the thoughts of everyone who has the ability to speak swallowing their words and digesting them into my subconscious. You can imagine what the end of this process creates. Nothing but s*#t!! Without knowing, something as simple as the gas station clerk commenting on my hair, which I am very particular about, can ruminate in my mind and create a whole slew of critical thoughts that I create inadvertently. I would even go so far as to recreate my fabulous do the next morning!

    Turning this “advice” inside out and writing it in this format has awoken in me the need for a new and much healthier mental diet. I haven’t even realized how much I’ve been ingesting! No wonder the bloated, nasty feeling. This shines a light on where people are truly coming from when they give “advice”. No matter how good their intentions may be. I’ve always had a feeling that this is what a lot of people put in their recipe for homemade advice, call it a hunch, but had never quite seen it stated like this. Here’s to you Lissa!

    Already feeling better!

    Brandon

    Reply
    • Sussie

      Brandon,
      i have the same problem – my mind is like a sponge and i have to be careful to what i listen to and who…it absorbs everything – as truth- then i read an article to stated that our sub consciousness listens to everything and does/acts out/believes in what it listens to…so now i have to be very careful to what i listen to and whom, and try and counter react it with a affirmation or something….i hope that helps…

      Reply
  7. Yvonne

    Great post Lissa and forwarded to a friend who gets told by her whole family what she ought to be doing and this is perfect for her!

    Thanks

    Reply
  8. Joanna Warwick

    Absolutely loved this !!!! So true – we forget that other people
    Have an agenda often when they are giving advice – that’s why the best thing you can do is help someone else find their own way and work it for themselves – be support not advice – ofcourse you could stop asking everyone else their opinion and listen to yourself !
    X

    Reply
  9. Sarah Lawrence Hinson

    Love, love, love this post.

    Also very much enjoyed the comments, thank you everyone here. (Tania – Add Vice!) Yess! Will borrow that one with pride. (You haven’t met Richard Bandler have you – originator of NLP – you talk like him).

    Anyway. I so enjoyed this post, especially the part that listed all the Add Vicers projections. Made me laugh.

    Recently had a conversation with a female family member about our house move. Every time I said ‘and we’ll be doing this thing or that thing’ she kept saying ‘Oh you probably won’t have time to do that or this…house moves are so busy’. Remember thinking what an odd conversation, until now.

    Making me think more deeply about energy projections and control.

    Let that freak flag fly Lissa. I’m sticking mine in the ground right now.

    In the energy of love, all.

    Sarah
    A Mom On A Spiritual Journey!

    Reply
  10. River Grace

    Rarely, because I’ve been on the receiving end of so much bad advice. I tend to be quiet, rarely interrupt or talk over someone, thus most of my extraverted, and some of my introverted friends tend to assume that I’m not very bright or introspective about the topics at hand. Contrary to popular belief, I listen more than I speak because I know that I don’t know everything about any given topic and tend to wait until I feel I have enough information to have an opinion. Sometimes this is frustrating because some ill-mannered person does talk over me when I finally speak. My response is sometimes caustic if I’ve had that experience with the same person before…such as “excuse me, I didn’t realize this was only your 10th comment on this topic.” I also know this is not a very loving reaction, but it is one that is remembered, at least in my presence. The strangest thing is, other quiet people often go out of their way to befriend me. When we gather as a team, or just a social event, we have more fun, get more done and know we have found our tribe.
    Thank you for the love you bring forth for all of us,
    River Grace

    Reply
  11. Lissa Rankin, MD

    Thank you my friends! I’ve been offline for days- spending full day sessions in Sausalito with my mentoring clients, taking a weekend workshop with Sera Beak, and today replenishing myself at the spa. So what a treat to return to your comments. Add vice- indeed! Love it!

    Thank you for the sweet words, and as always, bless you for caring about what I write.
    With love
    Lissa

    Reply
  12. Lola D

    Great article Lissa, I can definitely relate. Very compelling and thoughtful comments by the readers as well.
    I dislike “advice” (more like preaching) from certain relatives and try not to take it, as they love to put me down. They have their own agendas and project their BS onto me with their thoughtless, unsolicited, unfiltered, hypercritical comments and judgements. I do my best to keep them at arms length and try and avoid discussing my personal problems with them. They love to throw any failures in my face and “forget” to ever compliment me on my successes. I believe it comes from their own insecurity and jealousy. As a grown 50 something woman, I resent them having the audacity to tell me how to live my life. I also realized I have been putting up with their crap my whole life~but not anymore! Hard to change your psyche when you grow up surrounded by mean, negative, critical people, but I do my best.

    Reply
  13. Josiah Nayes

    Please leave a comment and let us know what you think about the new ETWDD web site.

    Reply

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