We have a major challenge these days – we don’t trust ourselves. I don’t know for sure if this has shifted in recent years, but, it does seem like this has become more problematic the more information we have at our fingertips. Information is bountiful and free flowing – thousands of blogs, books, websites, research studies – on almost any topic you could think of, are available to us 24-7. We have more than enough information, and as Barry Schwartz wrote about in The Paradox of Choice, this can make us feel less free, and more paralyzed. The problem is – we have too much information – lots of it totally contradictory – that it boggles our minds. As a wellness and transition specialist, I see this all the time with information regarding nutrition and health. I often tell clients who are confused that I’ve been studying this stuff for years and I still sometimes get confused!
So, what do many of us do? We sift through this information, sometimes getting even more confused, and we consult experts. We look outside ourselves for people to tell us what to do. We look for advice.
I am a poster child for gathering information and advice. I love to learn, and I dutifully implement advice that I resonate with. Advice often comes in the form of learning from someone who has had an experience that you want to have, or has dealt successfully with a situation that you are currently or about to deal with. To be clear: there’s nothing inherently wrong with advice. But, advice has to be contextualized. That is, it’s really important to consider who is giving the advice and consider what one of my coaches calls their “map of the word” (their experiences and outlook on life as a result of those experiences).
Too much advice can get in the way of solving problems. When I began struggling with some health issues about 18 months ago, I started a journey of health practitioner -hopping, including 2 MDs, 3 naturopathic doctors, an intuitive counselor, a functional nutritionist, and 2 acupuncturists/Chinese medicine practitioners. I also read books, scoured the internet, and learned a lot on my own. Ultimately, I don’t regret my hopping …as all of these people had something helpful to teach me . But, I only recently began to accept that I needed to trust myself, my own instincts, the messages that my body was giving me – to fully heal. (I’m currently seeing just one health practitioner, not “hopping” or researching other alternatives, and getting great results!)
The other thing about advice is that it’s not a stagnant thing – even from the same person. Because we are constantly learning and growing – our maps of the world change. Years ago, I sought out advice from a healer about a romantic relationship. At the time, I was dating someone who was 5 years younger than me. Along with other advice, this person told me that I should avoid dating someone younger than me. Interestingly, this same healer just married a man about 20 years her junior. I’m not judging this at all (in fact, it’s crystal clear that these two are meant for each other), but rather using it as an illustration of how people’s maps can change over time. This person also helped me immeasurably for many years, in more ways than I can describe.
When I look back, I remember many instances of seeking out advice from both friends and professionals about my romantic relationships. In fact, this seeking only stopped when I started dating my now-husband 3 years ago and I just knew – because I deeply trusted my innate knowing – that this was the right person, and the right relationship for me. In retrospect, I realize that every other instance where I sought out advice from people, I was afraid to trust my deeper instinct – which would have told me exactly what I needed to know and do. Sometimes, I did tune into that deeper knowing, and ended relationships, but mostly, I wanted things to be what they weren’t, I wanted people to be different than who they were – so I ignored or pushed down evidence to the contrary. I talked about “mixed messages” while I was subverting the true message that my intuition was so clearly telling me.
I see so much advice that tells people to run the other way if someone has just ended a relationship, don’t date a divorced person until x years after they’ve been divorced, don’t get involved with someone who is ten years younger or ten years older…and I totally get where this is coming from. And I don’t completely dismiss the idea of gathering information from past patterns. But, at the same time, I know that all the (even great) advice in the world doesn’t compare to simply digging down and listening to that wise voice within you and trusting yourself fully and completely.
All the healers, coaches and teachers I admire most dispense information and advice with caveats – they are aware that their maps and experience influence what they tell people and they want to contextualize this for the people they are helping. More importantly, they are all ultimately focused less on advice and more on supporting others to discover how they can trust themselves fully – and this is my ultimate goal with all of the clients that I’m lucky enough to work with.
Happy Summer Solstice! Love and Trust <3