Take a day off, I say to my friend. He’s not worth it. If you love it, wear it. Why don’t you just ask your boss about that pay rise first?
I’ve got too much to do, I say to myself. Maybe I’m not good enough for him. My legs definitely look fat in this dress. There’s no point even asking, nothing will change.
When our friends present us with a problem – if they want to address a work issue, or everything’s just getting a bit too much, or they want to know our thoughts on their latest dating drama – we’ll naturally try to offer words of support and love (and possibly hilarity if it’s some kind of amusing Tinder mishap, my fave). Many times too, when it’s asked of us or if we think it’s useful, we’ll try to offer words of advice. When it comes to advice, I don’t think I’m too bad. Probably not fantastic, firstly because I have a friend who never listens to a single piece of advice I ever give her and still seems to be fine and well, and secondly because I’m a bit too socially awkward to be one of those amazing advice-givers. Still though, I’d like to think that I’m pretty good at listening and offering some measured thoughts if invited to.
I’m sure we’ve all been asked for our opinion and then attempted some words of wisdom for a friend before – but when’s the last time you listened to them yourself?
If you’re anything like me, the times you treat yourself the way you do a friend are few and far between (if not, you sound like a very sensible human bean who has it all sussed and I’ll have some of whatever you’re having please).
Why is it so hard to take our own advice?
Perhaps I’m just bloody self obsessed – maybe I have some kind of weird idea that I’m just so fantastic and such a special little thing that my own (very minimal and unimportant) problems cant possibly be solved by something as trivial as advice. In a similar vein, I would sing the praises of a friend doing well at something but I’d be giving myself grief for not doing better than well, so apparently it’s wonderful for them to be doing great but I’ve failed for anything less than fantastic. So do I just think I’m better than the rest of the world’s mere mortals? If we are measuring ourselves up against a standard of achievement far, far higher than what we would subject our friends to, does that mean we hold ourselves in greater esteem? SO MANY QUESTIONS. We see the nuances of our own lives in a way we can’t fully appreciate for others, since you know, we’re not them, and in turn it seems to allow us to assign our own situations ‘special’ status.
(Close up photo of my chest coming up, don’t know why I feel the need to point this out – because spoiler, I have breasts – but the intention was to show the details of this rather lovely little New Look dress…)
That’s not just sort-of-unfair-and also-maybe-a-bit-arrogant of us, it’s unkind too. We’re quick to believe that other people can be the masters of their own story and less likely to extend belief in that power to ourselves. There are multiple examples I can think of for situations that I’ve positioned in my mind as things that have ‘just happened’ to me, (there’s that special little Soph again, who on earth do I think I am?!) rather than granting myself permission and self-belief to try to address them. We do ourselves a disservice when we constantly think like this, or so all those motivational quotes that I’m not fully on board with lead me to believe, assigning other people a greater degree of control over their own lives than we give ourselves over our own.
Plus, of course, there’s the fear. Taking the advice we’d give to our friends in the same boat (confront a difficult situation, let a few things drop in order to rest, tell the fuckboy to do one), while it seems so simple and obvious when you don’t have to do it yourself, can often mean an active effort – and urgh why does everything require effort – and potentially an aftermath we might not want to face. We know, though, that it’s for the best…we told our friends so, after all.
What strikes me every time I wonder why I fail so badly at telling myself what I would tell a friend is the a clear difference between thinking something and really feeling it. It often seems relatively easy to see the logical answer to a question or problem someone else is facing – we’re functioning adults with good heads on our shoulders after all (ha), we know what’s right and wrong, fair and unfair, we know that at times you have to go with your gut and sometimes you have to get your thinking cap on.
And still I struggle to practice what I preach. If I tell my friends that they are beautiful and should wear whatever they want, why do I give my own body (I touched on this briefly when I wrote a similarly ramble-y post on body confidence and my legs) such a hard time? If we would advise a friend to take a chill day to reset themselves after a busy period, why does it feel like failure to allow ourselves a day off when it’s us in that situation? And don’t even get me started on the times I let boys mess me around in my younger years, when I would have been getting all fired up on behalf of a friend.
We are so deeply involved (obviously), so emotionally attached to our own problems, that we let a multitude of factors and insecurities stop us from seeing quite how simple certain – not all – situations can be. Need a break? Have one! Job making you miserable? Address the problem! It’s not always easy, of course, but not being so involved in it all allows us clearer sight. We can’t quite filter the feelings from our own problems in the way that we can with other people’s, and that can distract us from really, truly believing in what we can do to effect change, improve our situations, or make us feel better.
I guess what I’m taking away from these rather jumbled thoughts is two things, and since those things seem to be both ‘things are complex!’ and ‘thing are easy!’, they don’t go together all that well, but such is life. Firstly, it’s rare for something to be black and white. So maybe next time I say something to a friend as though it’s oh-so-simple, I need to consider that actually, it might not be so easy to confront someone or resolve something or tell the fuckboy to do one (lol, not really, that one is simple – bye pal).
Secondly, maybe it’s time we started treating ourselves like we would a friend. Perhaps I should have a little more faith in my own power to change a situation, start looking on myself more kindly, stop letting insecurities make things seem more difficult than they are. What would I have said to a friend if they said ‘oh, I got home at midnight last night and I’m exhausted, but I simply must get this blog post that I’m under no obligation to write and approximately 2 people will read anyway written before work and in my lunch hour on Wednesday and no later’? Well, probably this: ‘Just publish it a day later, moron’. Perhaps if I’d listened to that it wouldn’t be such a garbled mess, but as I’ve just spent over 1000 words going on about – taking our own advice can be pretty difficult at times.
Photos: Rob Poor