*blows off a thick layer of dust*
I’m not going to explain why I stopped writing for so long, because it’s personal AND boring, but the itch to exercise those muscles is getting pretty strong, so I need to stop self-criticizing for everything I might or might not write and Just Do It, as the overpriced brand has it. So, in light of that, I’m gonna start with a warm-up set commentating on an article I saw today. It’s LIFE ADVICE, y’all. Mostly about destructive self-criticism. So naturally I’m going to criticize someone else’s insights instead.
1. 1. Stop spending time with the wrong people. – Life is too short to spend time with people who suck the happiness out of you. If someone wants you in their life, they’ll make room for you. You shouldn’t have to fight for a spot. Never, ever insist yourself to someone who continuously overlooks your worth. And remember, it’s not the people that stand by your side when you’re at your best, but the ones who stand beside you when you’re at your worst that are your true friends.
Mixed feelings about this. The first bit is good- people who like you will act like they like you, it won’t be a mystery, and you won’t experience much ambivalence over it that isn’t fairly recognizable as coming purely from yourself, and passive-aggressive or mercurial “friends” are a waste of time and energy. The same thing applies to dating- someone who is constantly giving you mixed messages is either a pointless time-waster or someone who is actually giving you really clear signals you don’t want to hear, and more to the point anyone who couldn’t be a good friend as well as a lover isn’t worth your time either unless all you’re after is short-term sex. (In the long term these people won’t make good partners in bed either.)
But I have a big issue with this line: “And remember, it’s not the people that stand by your side when you’re at your best, but the ones who stand beside you when you’re at your worst that are your true friends.”. Yes, true friends will stand by you during the lowest times in your life rather than scattering as soon as you’re no longer that fun to spend time with, but a really true friend will kick your ass if you’re acting like your worst self. They won’t put up with it. They’ll tell you you’re wrong. If you’re really fucked up they’ll tell you to get professional help, repeatedly. And eventually, if you refuse to work to get better? They’ll leave, because you’re no longer the you they loved.
2. #2. Stop running from your problems. – Face them head on. No, it won’t be easy. There is no person in the world capable of flawlessly handling every punch thrown at them. We aren’t supposed to be able to instantly solve problems. That’s not how we’re made. In fact, we’re made to get upset, sad, hurt, stumble and fall. Because that’s the whole purpose of living – to face problems, learn, adapt, and solve them over the course of time. This is what ultimately molds us into the person we become.
No issue here. Good advice. The only thing I’d add to it is that no matter how painful dealing with the problem is, it’s not nearly as painful as living with indefinitely.
3. #3. Stop lying to yourself. – You can lie to anyone else in the world, but you can’t lie to yourself. Our lives improve only when we take chances, and the first and most difficult chance we can take is to be honest with ourselves.
Actually you can lie to yourself very well if you’re really motivated to, and a lot of the time you’ll do it without even thinking twice about it. It’s pretty normal, actually. But your life will go smoother in direct proportion to how well you learn not to. Also while lying to others is sometimes necessary and even honorable, it usually doesn’t help you to lie to them, either.
4. #4. Stop putting your own needs on the back burner. – The most painful thing is losing yourself in the process of loving someone too much, and forgetting that you are special too. Yes, help others; but help yourself too. If there was ever a moment to follow your passion and do something that matters to you, that moment is now.
You don’t actually get a cookie or a medal for martyrdom. And constantly feeling deprived or like your own needs don’t matter is a recipe for misery, and miserable people make lousy friends and partners.
5. #5. Stop trying to be someone you’re not. – One of the greatest challenges in life is being yourself in a world that’s trying to make you like everyone else. Someone will always be prettier, someone will always be smarter, someone will always be younger, but they will never be you. Don’t change so people will like you. Be yourself and the right people will love the real you.
Actually if the real you is a shitty person with shitty values, no they won’t. But the good news is you actually CAN change that, it will just be a lot of work. But ultimately very rewarding work.
6. #6. Stop trying to hold onto the past. – You can’t start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading your last one.
Having your brain taken over by constantly re-enacting past patterns, emotions, and experiences is one of the most effective ways to attach a metaphorical boat anchor to your own ankles.
7. #7. Stop being scared to make a mistake. – Doing something and getting it wrong is at least ten times more productive than doing nothing. Every success has a trail of failures behind it, and every failure is leading towards success. You end up regretting the things you did NOT do far more than the things you did.
Or, as we say in derby, “If you’re not falling, you’re not learning.” And most stuff isn’t going to leave bruises.
8. #8. Stop berating yourself for old mistakes. – We may love the wrong person and cry about the wrong things, but no matter how things go wrong, one thing is for sure, mistakes help us find the person and things that are right for us. We all make mistakes, have struggles, and even regret things in our past. But you are not your mistakes, you are not your struggles, and you are here NOW with the power to shape your day and your future. Every single thing that has ever happened in your life is preparing you for a moment that is yet to come.
I sometimes think there’s a Shame Center of the brain that has no other purpose other than going over past regrets and embarrassments until we feel almost as bad about them as we did the first time, all over again.
9. #9. Stop trying to buy happiness. – Many of the things we desire are expensive. But the truth is, the things that really satisfy us are totally free – love, laughter and working on our passions.
Actually, working on our passions isn’t remotely free unless your passion is bodyweight exercise, and even then it costs in time and energy. Love isn’t really free either, it requires hard work, lots of time, and sometimes money- though real love usually (usually!) doesn’t feel like work.
10. #10. Stop exclusively looking to others for happiness. – If you’re not happy with who you are on the inside, you won’t be happy in a long-term relationship with anyone else either. You have to create stability in your own life first before you can share it with someone else.
More or less true. I don’t buy this sentiment’s close cousin, “you can’t love anyone else until you can love yourself”, though. I’ve known plenty of people who struggled or still struggle with loving themselves who did a lot better at it when they had a strong, healthy relationship- but it does take a lot of self-awareness and self-control to pull off.
11. #11. Stop being idle. – Don’t think too much or you’ll create a problem that wasn’t even there in the first place. Evaluate situations and take decisive action. You cannot change what you refuse to confront. Making progress involves risk. Period! You can’t make it to second base with your foot on first.
Mostly true. Sometimes taking action won’t lead to success though, especially when you have a basic belief that doing something is invariably better than doing nothing and placing a little faith in those around you.
12. #12. Stop thinking you’re not ready. – Nobody ever feels 100% ready when an opportunity arises. Because most great opportunities in life force us to grow beyond our comfort zones, which means we won’t feel totally comfortable at first.
Again, mostly true. Sometimes we genuinely aren’t, though, and failure when there was never a possibility of success isn’t necessarily beneficial.
13. #13. Stop getting involved in relationships for the wrong reasons. – Relationships must be chosen wisely. It’s better to be alone than to be in bad company. There’s no need to rush. If something is meant to be, it will happen – in the right time, with the right person, and for the best reason. Fall in love when you’re ready, not when you’re lonely.
You shouldn’t pursue love just because you’re lonely, as that will only lead to searching for anyone to fill that partner-shaped hole in your life, which NEVER ends well. (Healthy people you actually want to be with will correctly sense you see them as an object/spacefiller and not a person, and they’ll run like hell- but the people who are fucked up or exploitative might bite.) But we all get lonely, and it’s not a reason to back-burner it until we’re not. You might wait forever.
14. #14. Stop rejecting new relationships just because old ones didn’t work. – In life you’ll realize that there is a purpose for everyone you meet. Some will test you, some will use you and some will teach you. But most importantly, some will bring out the best in you.
I agree with the first sentence and nothing else. People don’t exist to serve a purpose for you, they’re people and they exist for their own damn sake, not to teach you some sort of lesson. Definitely avoid people who seem to bring out your worst self and stick with ones that bring out your best, but people are not FOR you and your personal development.
15. #15. Stop trying to compete against everyone else. – Don’t worry about what others are doing better than you. Concentrate on beating your own records every day. Success is a battle between YOU and YOURSELF only.
Yup. Though for certain very specific goals (like picking up your time on a speed/endurance metric, or a weightlifting personal record), it’s sometimes helpful to pick someone who is *already very close to you* and use them as a rabbit to chase- as long as it remains good-natured.
16. #16. Stop being jealous of others. – Jealousy is the art of counting someone else’s blessings instead of your own. Ask yourself this: “What’s something I have that everyone wants?”
Actually, that’s ENVY. Jealous is worrying that someone else is going to take or already has something you have. This is why we use the phrase “jealously guarding”, and refer to someone as jealous when they’re suspecting a partner of cheating. Technically speaking this bit of advice is telling you to drop envy for jealousy instead. This has been your pedant moment of the week.
17. #17. Stop complaining and feeling sorry for yourself. – Life’s curveballs are thrown for a reason – to shift your path in a direction that is meant for you. You may not see or understand everything the moment it happens, and it may be tough. But reflect back on those negative curveballs thrown at you in the past. You’ll often see that eventually they led you to a better place, person, state of mind, or situation. So smile! Let everyone know that today you are a lot stronger than you were yesterday, and you will be.
While it’s true that wallowing in self-pity and constant bitching will only get you more of the same, you still need to feel and process sadness, disappointment, and unhappiness and there’s nothing wrong with you doing so. Thinking you need to show a happy, positive face all the time will only make you feel a miserable secret self and terrible loneliness. Also, telling someone else to smile is a fucking asshole move, and sometimes what doesn’t kill us doesn’t make us stronger, it just leaves scars and crippling injuries.
18. #18. Stop holding grudges. – Don’t live your life with hate in your heart. You will end up hurting yourself more than the people you hate. Forgiveness is not saying, “What you did to me is okay.” It is saying, “I’m not going to let what you did to me ruin my happiness forever.” Forgiveness is the answer… let go, find peace, liberate yourself! And remember, forgiveness is not just for other people, it’s for you too. If you must, forgive yourself, move on and try to do better next time.
You don’t have to forgive to not being wasting energy and thought cycles on the person you haven’t and maybe will never forgive. Sometimes forgiveness benefits neither of you. Letting them ruin your life or your peace of mind after you’ve gotten clean away is letting them win, and living better is your victory- but you don’t have to forgive to do that.
19. #19. Stop letting others bring you down to their level. – Refuse to lower your standards to accommodate those who refuse to raise theirs.
Words to live by. Tit for tat erodes your own integrity and self-respect- or it should.
20. #20. Stop wasting time explaining yourself to others. – Your friends don’t need it and your enemies won’t believe it anyway. Just do what you know in your heart is right.
BULLSHIT. If you take it for granted all the time that your friends understand exactly what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, you’re going to lose friends, and your butthurt reaction when you discover you were NOT understood is only going to hasten the process. This is particularly important applied to partners. (Romantic or business.)
21. #21. Stop doing the same things over and over without taking a break. – The time to take a deep breath is when you don’t have time for it. If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting. Sometimes you need to distance yourself to see things clearly.
Fair enough, but far from universally applicable. If you’re a paramedic keeping someone alive on the way to the hospital, you don’t want to take a break, change what you’re doing, or pause to reflect. Less extreme situations sometimes also apply.
22. #22. Stop overlooking the beauty of small moments. – Enjoy the little things, because one day you may look back and discover they were the big things. The best portion of your life will be the small, nameless moments you spend smiling with someone who matters to you.
Agree. Happiness is a fleeting enough emotion you’ve got to savor it while you’ve got it.
23. #23. Stop trying to make things perfect. – The real world doesn’t reward perfectionists, it rewards people who get things done.
This is true. Although perfectionism is sometimes appropriate to time and place- perfectionists make good neurosurgeons, though you still have to close up that skull someday.
24. #24. Stop following the path of least resistance. – Life is not easy, especially when you plan on achieving something worthwhile. Don’t take the easy way out. Do something extraordinary.
Agreed, just so long as you have a healthy sense of proportion about it. Your life is not wasted if you don’t climb Everest or otherwise go down in the record books. Being a good parent and raising kids to well-adjusted, kind, productive adults is extraordinary. So is doing a job the way it should be done, every time.
25. #25. Stop acting like everything is fine if it isn’t. – It’s okay to fall apart for a little while. You don’t always have to pretend to be strong, and there is no need to constantly prove that everything is going well. You shouldn’t be concerned with what other people are thinking either – cry if you need to – it’s healthy to shed your tears. The sooner you do, the sooner you will be able to smile again.
You have to pick your time and place, but also words to live by. Take it from someone who has an ulcer without a helicobacter infection, purely from internalizing stress: it creates so much long-term misery permanent stoicism just isn’t worth the cost. Doesn’t mean you have to be public about it, though.
26. #26. Stop blaming others for your troubles. – The extent to which you can achieve your dreams depends on the extent to which you take responsibility for your life. When you blame others for what you’re going through, you deny responsibility – you give others power over that part of your life.
Yeah, though this really cuts both ways. If you constantly internalize everything bad that happens as having been somehow your fault or something you could have prevented, you will eat yourself alive and then you won’t be much good to anyone, including yourself. Psychologists call this internal vs external locus of control; people who are balanced somewhere in between are happiest and most successful. Plus taking credit for sheer gobsmacking luck will make you an arrogant ass.
27. #27. Stop trying to be everything to everyone. – Doing so is impossible, and trying will only burn you out. But making one person smile CAN change the world. Maybe not the whole world, but their world. So narrow your focus.
Take it from a lazy person: this is so much less work and stress it’s not even funny. Doesn’t mean don’t make an effort, but taking on impossible tasks just consumes you.
28. #28. Stop worrying so much. – Worry will not strip tomorrow of its burdens, it will strip today of its joy. One way to check if something is worth mulling over is to ask yourself this question: “Will this matter in one year’s time? Three years? Five years?” If not, then it’s not worth worrying about.
Would that people could just turn this off by thinking positive. Believe it or not, how much anxiety you experience, as well as how easily you can turn it off on command, is heavily genetically influenced- and people who draw the short end of that straw have to learn much more powerful coping methods, and in some cases use medication.
29. #29. Stop focusing on what you don’t want to happen. – Focus on what you do want to happen. Positive thinking is at the forefront of every great success story. If you awake every morning with the thought that something wonderful will happen in your life today, and you pay close attention, you’ll often find that you’re right.
I DO BELIEVE IN FAIRIES I DO I DO I DO. Being able to visualize success clearly and move toward it is very important, but so is avoiding pitfalls you can see if you keep your eyes on the road and not the horizon.
30. #30. Stop being ungrateful. – No matter how good or bad you have it, wake up each day thankful for your life. Someone somewhere else is desperately fighting for theirs. Instead of thinking about what you’re missing, try thinking about what you have that everyone else is missing.
Ehhh. This is a good way of calming yourself in a crisis, but feeling like you have no right to your own unhappiness over your circumstances just because there are starving children in Africa isn’t going to lead to any sort of psychologically positive outcome. It’s not good for making kids eat their dinner, either. Is good for giving them a weird and dysfunctional relationship with food, though. And for that matter happiness.
Tune in next time for… I have no idea what, or when.