I always say that engagements and babies can bring out the worst in people. But they also invite all kinds of unwarranted advice that people volunteer based on their own personal experiences. And that can be both a good and bad thing. With so many people that they think they know what’s best for your life, it’s important to be able to sift through advice that comes from a genuine place and people viewing the world through grey-tinted glasses because they feel they’ve been dealt a bad hand.
I remember when I first revealed to my colleagues that I got engaged. While most people had nothing but well wishes, there was one older woman who saw it as an opportunity to campaign against marriage because her three had failed. She went into a detailed rant about her collection of ex-husbands including “The Womanizer”, “The User” and “The Ugly, But Nice One”. I honestly think she had the best of intentions me as she cautioned me about everything that can go wrong in a marriage, but it was as if she honestly believed because marriage hadn’t worked out for her, there was no way it could possibly work out for anyone else.
If it’s one thing that bothers me most, it’s bitter older women. I hate to see women give younger women biased advice like, “All men cheat. All men are liars.” Because it’s simply not true. All it does is give young women a pessimistic view and taint their expectations on life. I pray that one day I age gracefully and give advice based on both the good and bad in my life, not just assume all women will find themselves in the pitfalls I have in the past.
What I’ve learned is that young hurt women become bitter older women when they don’t allow themselves to process their pain in a healthy way. What some women believe is strength is actually bitterness. It’s a sign that you gave up trying and chose to get find comfort in the idea that life I set up to work against you, instead of putting some courage and work into finding happiness. I think everyone should have chance at happiness, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to come easy. It’s important for women to make peace with their past at a certain point in their lives and stop licking the wounds of lives past.
I’ve also noticed that bitterness robs people of any accountability. It forces women into a victim mentality where they begin to think the world is working overtime to make them unhappy, when in reality what they need to do is evaluate their choices. For example, if every man you ‘ve ever dated has cheated on you, you have to wonder what keeps attracting you to unfaithful men and allowing that type of treatment in your life.
It’s important to learn how to distinguish advice with the best of intentions from that based on bitterness. If you struggle with being objective, maybe it’s best to keep your opinions to yourself. If you don’t have anything nice to say, step aside and let Iyanla save lives. In the meantime, here are a few tips on how to tell what to apply and what to abandon:
- Evaluate exactly where that advice is coming from.
I never understand why women take advice on getting and keeping a man from their man-less friends. Make sure the advice that’s being given to you is coming from a genuine place and not just from jealousy woman who are jaded from repeated hurt or rejection.
- Just because he treated her like ish, doesn’t mean he won’t treat you like sugar.
Some women like to throw around the phrase, “Once a cheater, always a cheater,” or “If he cheated with you, he’ll cheat on you.” These quick tidbits of wisdom sound cute and catchy, but they are not full-proof. I’ve seen plenty of men play one woman and turn around and propose to the next. Proceed with caution when dealing with men with proven track records, but people can change and sometimes it’s not as much a matter of who as it is when.
- Be leery of those who use generalizations.
Whenever I hear someone starting a long-winded rant with “All men/women…” I immediately dismiss whatever words follow. Everyone is different and they type of attitude is really code word for “All men/women I HAVE DEALT WITH,” You’d be surprise how limited people’s point-of-view is. There is an exception to every rule.
- Just because someone isn’t following their own advice, doesn’t mean it’s not good advice.
Just because someone gives great advice, doesn’t mean they are great at applying it. Sometimes it’s best to take advice for what it is and apply it to your own life, even if the person it’s coming from doesn’t practice what they preach.
- Know that age doesn’t always equal wisdom.
Just because AARP starts sending someone a monthly magazine doesn’t mean they have this whole life thing figured out. I don’t think anyone should ever reach a point in life where they feel like they have nothing left to learn. But all too often there are older woman who allow their views of life to remain limited. Life experience determines wisdom, not what’s listed on your driver’s license.
- Trust that you are the expert on your life.
No matter how many Oprah life classes you tune into or self-help books you buy, only you know what work specifically for your life. I think most people have decent intuition about what’s needed in their lives, but choose the options that are easier or more convenient. The best advice is often a combination of different sources, but most importantly you. Although other people can sometimes make you look at your life differently, essentially, you’re the one who has to live it. Choose the path that’s realistic for you.
Toya Sharee is a community health educator and parenting education coordinator who has a passion for helping young women build their self-esteem and make well-informed choices about their sexual health. She also advocates for women’s reproductive rights and blogs about everything from beauty to love and relationships. Follow her on Twitter @TheTrueTSharee or visit her blog, Bullets and Blessings.