Before I get into this topic, let’s look at what advice really means.
According to the Cambridge Dictionary (because it just sounds cool to start off with sophisticated references lol), advice is “an opinion that someone offers you about what you should do or how you should act in a particular situation.”
We receive advice from various sources all the time - through mentors, friends, family, podcasts, books, ads etc. And half the time, the advice we receive is based on someone else’s experience or opinion on a similar situation that they might have faced. So, there will be times when the advice we receive may not apply to us and depending on how skilled we are at filtering this information and how confident we are in ourselves and our decisions, we may act upon advice that may not be very favorable to our life.
The only way we can know what works best for us is if we learn to prioritize our thoughts, actions, feelings, opinions and decisions one step higher than everyone else’s. It doesn’t mean we dismiss others’ opinions or continue to stay narrow minded with our choices. But, blindly following someone else’s advice just because they might be someone we respect or is older than us may not be the best thing to do.
As South Asians, a majority of us grew up being taught that we had to follow the advice that elders’ gave us because they were “older” than us. However, that doesn’t always mean that their advice will be applicable to our lives - especially if we are raised in a completely different era than them. Which brings me to one of the two best things I’ve received as advice.
For the longest time, I valued everyone else’s opinions more than mine. I went through many situations where my opinions or thoughts were dismissed so I just assumed that I wasn’t capable of making the right decisions and looked to everyone else for their opinions rather than asking myself what I needed. Until, I started realizing that advice or opinions I received from people were masks for many of their insecurities, validation of their mistakes, or were frequently biased. A majority of them did not provide advice from a place of empathy or truly understanding my situation, my thought process or my life. And that’s when something a friend of mine told me over 10 years ago made sense!
“the best piece of advice I can give you is not to listen to anyone else’s advice, including mine.”
As dismissive as that might sound, her intention was to point out how much emphasis we placed on other people’s advice about what we should be doing or how we should act rather than asking ourselves what we were seeking or how we felt. If we place more importance on others’ opinions rather than ours, everything we hear in the name of advice will sound more accurate and effective than our gut feeling. And repeating this behaviour over time will silence our authentic voice and make us extremely dependent on receiving validation for our feelings or decisions from others. An easy example is how often we depend on Google for advice. We’ve just assumed that every article we read provides us with accurate information when there’s a chance that’s not true! Google has a 97.4% accuracy rate by the way - yep, I Googled it :)
This brings me to the 2nd piece of advice that resonated with me - this one’s a bit out of the box. I’m sure a majority of you have travelled by air at least once in their lifetimes. How many times have you paid attention to the pre-flight safety demonstration video? You’d be surprised that something that we’ve heard so many times has an impactful life lesson hidden in it.
“In the unlikely event of an emergency, oxygen masks will drop down from above your seat. If you are travelling with children, make sure that your own mask is on first before helping your children.”
Sigh, I miss travelling! Lol Does this line from the script sound familiar? Do you see the life lesson we’re meant to learn? ALWAYS put on your own mask before taking care of anyone else’s.
We grow up learning to prioritize our parents in one phase, our partner/in-laws in the 2nd phase, and our children in the 3rd - all three groups at the same time!. As important as our loved ones, especially children are to us, what benefit would it be if we prioritized their needs before taking care of ourselves - mentally, physically and emotionally. If we are mentally unavailable or physically exhausted, the love or attention we provide to our loved ones will not be as impactful or effective as it could be if we take care of ourselves first. A tired, exhaustive, sulky parent/care-giver or partner is no fun to be around right? And I know this is hard to do but it comes down to understanding the importance of priorities - prioritizing your needs before catering to others’ and taking everyone else’s advice and opinions about your life with a grain of salt.
It's important to learn to set a boundary or place a filter to the advice we receive so that people are aware that either we aren’t seeking their unsolicited advice all the time or will not blindly believe their opinions. So whenever you’re seeking advice - pause for a few minutes to think about what your opinion is on the topic you’re seeking advice for, and then seek advice from others. Put on your thinking caps before asking someone else to ;)
On that note, my friend who I mentioned above has released a new book of her poetry!
Dela Muhundarajah, the author of this book has been a big sister and friend to me for so many years. To see her write and release parts of her story and her journey of becoming the woman she is today is so inspiring!
If you’re interested in supporting her work, please do buy a copy of her book “Out of the Cocoon” - now available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/1777717604/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_glt_i_G96606BFDJFEEFWBAKTW?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1
She also makes beautiful cards for any occasions: Truthnotes.ca