Reflections on healing trauma, writing, and books by Tokyo-based memoirist
Unsolicited Advice Enrages Me

Unsolicited Advice Enrages Me

I hate getting advice or unsolicited feedback. When I was young, I accepted other people’s advice. I even welcomed it. Back then, I thought I was such a hopeless screw-up that I was happy to have any help I could get. Then, I went through a phase where it would hurt my feelings because I thought it meant that people didn’t have any faith in my abilities. In the past few years, I’ve been finding it enraging.

When first noticed that it hurt my feelings, I tried to figure out why it kept happening. Did I seem especially incompetent? Do I subconsciously attract the type of person who likes to give advice? Is it because most of my friends are especially smart and are often consulted? Is it karma because I’ve given unsolicited advice myself? Or is it just how people are? After all, opinions are like assholes, right?

I’m beginning to lean toward the conclusion that it’s just how people are. Everyone thinks that they alone see the world through clear eyes. It’s not personal, and it’s not my fault. I don’t bring a special amount of unsolicited advice to my door.

When I first decided that I didn’t want unsolicited advice, I expected other people to uphold that boundary for me. I figured that they would see that I didn’t want advice, anymore, and then stop giving it. (I’ve misjudged a lot of people because I once believed that everyone else was empathic as I am.) When they didn’t do that, I was disappointed.

Then, I started asking people to keep that boundary for me. I told them that I didn’t want to receive any unsolicited advice because it hurt my feelings, whether it was well-intended or not. After some argument and/or discussion, they agreed not to do it anymore, but after some time passed, their opinions would creep in. First, it would be little things, but if I didn’t call them on it, the judgments would increase, and little by little, it’d become full-blown advice again.

This is when I became enraged. I’d asked them to not cross that boundary and they’d crossed it, anyway! Pretty soon, anytime anyone gave me anything resembling advice, I became enraged, regardless of whether I’d previously had the “don’t give me unsolicited advice” conversation with them or not. I figured that grown-ass adults should know better.

I thought I was enraged because they hadn’t honored my request, and yeah, that is kind of enraging, but again, that’s how people are. You ask them for stuff, they say they understand, but they forget, it’s too tempting for them, or they just don’t recognize what they’re doing.

I’ve since discovered that the real reason I was enraged is that I’m a people pleaser, and it’s not part of my natural make-up to be a people pleaser. Honestly, it’s my nature to be self-involved. I’d rather look inward, do my thing, and remain blissfully unaware of what anyone else is doing.

However, I was trained to care about other people’s life experiences. I’m not going to say this is true for all women, because I don’t know, but I do know that the patriarchy informed the training that I received as a child.

I was taught that women are supposed to be the caretakers of other people’s shit. We must make the world run smoothly for everyone else, and if we don’t, we’ve let people down. And, here’s the kicker: somehow, somewhere, I learned that if I let someone down, even in the tiniest way, they won’t like or love me, anymore.

When someone gives me advice, I feel like they’re telling me that the world would run smoother for them if I did a certain thing, and I feel trapped. I most often get advice from loved ones, and I don’t want to lose their love. So, I feel like I either have to take their advice or explain myself (ie: “I can’t do that because…”) until they’re satisfied.

After I told them that their advice didn’t help me but hurt me, and they still gave it, anyway, I felt like they were intentionally putting me in the difficult position of having to choose between my own well-being and their love. That’s why I became so enraged.

I’m starting to realize now that I don’t have to rely on them to keep that boundary for me. I can keep my own boundary by ignoring their advice and not bothering to explain myself. Yeah, I’m still terrified of letting them down and losing their love, but that’s an unfounded fear. That fear is something for me to process.

Some people give advice ten times a day. They just like to give their opinion, and they don’t care if anyone listens or not. Often, they don’t remember what they’ve said, and they don’t even notice when I don’t listen to them.

Sometimes, people do actually expect me to either listen or explain myself, as crazy as that sounds, but if someone needs that kind of control over me, then I don’t need their love. I’m better off being loved by a tarantula.

As for the advice that I’ve given in the past? That’s codependence. My trauma taught me that I’ll suffer because someone else couldn’t handle their own shit. It taught me that I alone am responsible for keeping the world from falling apart. That was true for me a long time ago, but it’s not true, anymore.

Most normal people can solve their own problems without blowing a massive crater in the Earth. I don’t have to take responsibility for them because they can take care of themselves. They just need some support and encouragement as they try to work stuff out on their own, and I have no problem with providing them that. We all need support sometimes.

Sometimes, I’m not so great at it because no one showed me what healthy support looks like, and when people are down, they often don’t know how to ask for what they need, so it’s hard to know what to do, but I do my best.

As for those who can’t handle their shit without blowing a massive crater in the Earth? Well, I can choose to not be around them. It’s all outside of my control, anyway. The idea that I can stop them from being destructive is ridiculous, so I may as well let it go.

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