When the people who love you the most in this world offer advice, it is easy to assume that they are always coming from a good place. Many actually are—but should you always listen? You may also be more prone to follow the suggestions of those you love, which can make that advice all the more dangerous.
Make sure to only follow the advice that increases your quality of life. Thankfully, there are ways to distinguish between healthy advice and toxic advice. Watch out for the following common phrases.
“Mind your manners.”
Often heard as a child, this advice comes in handy later in life. With proper etiquette training, you may be able to network in professional and social circles in ways you may not have thought possible. However, this phrase can be problematic when a family member is not referring to the typical etiquette lessons of Emily Post but rather focuses more on behavior.
For example, your family may prefer for you to speak quietly—this advice can come across as scolding, even to adult children. If you are a loud, outgoing individual, then be true to yourself. On the other hand, if you are more comfortable blending into the background, then do not push yourself so far out of your comfort zone that you feel anxiety. Embracing who you are at heart has nothing to do with manners.
“When I was your age…”
This phrase is a favorite among the elder figures in many families, often in service of proving that something cannot or should not be done. It may also be used to highlight a difference between what a family member was able to accomplish and what you have been able to accomplish—and if you fall short then your self-esteem can feel wounded. For example, perhaps your family member uses the phrase to explain that they were already married with children at your current age, while you remain single.
However, each individual experiences their own challenging circumstances that may hinder them from achieving certain goals in their planned time frame. In addition, your family member may be conveniently leaving out how they were helped along the way (by, say, another family member who was willing to pay for their living expenses or find them a job).
Avoid listening to any comparisons between you and any member of your family. It’s much easier to feel happy about other people’s achievements when there is a lack of competition.
“Don’t let the kids ___!”
No matter the end of the phrase, advice about parenting your own children must always be taken with a grain of salt. If you raise your children exactly how you were raised, then there is a decent chance that they will have a similar childhood to your own. However, since most people have had imperfect childhoods, you may naturally seek different ways to discipline or raise your children.
Although this phrase can be frustrating, it can also trigger memories that serve as a very clear reminder of what you actually should do. If—God forbid—you were spanked or harshly punished as a child, then you have the option to follow your own path for the sake of your children. No one has all the answers, but you can certainly trust how you felt as a child.
“You should take better care of yourself.”
This phrase is filled to the brim with implications that can spark the temper of even the most patient individual. While some family members just want to make sure you take enough time to rest and eat well, they can come across as highly critical. This phrase suggests that you are not taking care of yourself, that you do not look well, or that you are failing in at least one aspect of your life.
The pressure of work, children, bills, and just about everything else can pile up to the point where you cannot see where it ends. Sometimes people can forget to sneak in a quick nap or take their daily vitamins, and a reminder can be helpful at this point. However, if your family’s advice extends beyond this healthy point, you may want to ignore it. Mothers can criticize their daughters for their weight, while claiming that they just want the best for them, and end up only increasing stress and decreasing self-esteem. In addition, you may still hear this phrase when you know that you take wonderful care of your mind and body. In such a case, it is possible that family members know you do not need their advice, making them feel rejected and prone to lashing out.
“You can’t make a living at that.”
Finally, young adults often hear this phrase from their parents, and it often holds quite a bit of truth. Childhood dreams of becoming a dancer, an artist, an actor, or a musician can make a parent almost excited to state this phrase—after all, it’s hard to hear your children speak about a life they want when you know that they will likely face challenges.
Instead of stating how impossible the odds are, your family should make you aware of the challenges they know about. That being said, unless they have worked (and succeeded) in the same profession, they’re not the best person to be giving you such advice—instead, you should be haring it from a mentor of no relation. Never listen to someone who never tried.
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