Posted by: CJ | July 2, 2010

Why don’t you just try acting normal?

Every so often, people that care about me–in their way, not mine–and don’t particularly understand me will give me advice that amounts to, “Why don’t you just try acting completely contrary to who you are, and whatever problem I think you have will go away.”

Sometimes the problems they’re talking about are things that I agree are problems, sometimes they aren’t.

This sort of advice is not only unhelpful to me, but also revealing and slightly offensive. It reveals that the person doesn’t particularly understand me, and either doesn’t realize it or doesn’t care to. It makes all of their other advice suspect, and in the latter case it makes me question how much they care about me as an individual. As opposed to caring about me in the capacity of whatever roles they’ve decided I should play in their life. It’s slightly offensive because whatever problem (or “problem”) they’re trying to solve with whatever advice they’re spouting, it’s clear they haven’t thought about my perspective enough. Certainly not enough to show any particular respect or recognition of my individuality.

Part of my reaction is that, like most everyone else, I don’t like unwanted advice and I don’t like being told what to do. But it’s also that, to me, caring for someone principally means trying to understand them and accept them for who they are. This is much more difficult than it sounds. Understanding a person as an individual rather than in terms of whatever groups they belong to can be very difficult. Accepting someone for who they are rather than who you want them to be is, almost always, incredibly difficult. It can mean letting go of whatever potential you see in them, whatever plans you’d like to make for them, and being happy with who they are and who they’re trying to be. Or, if not quite accepting, then at least recognizing and finding a way to deal with it.

All of which doesn’t mean I never want advice. Merely that it’s best if the advice is given when asked for, and takes who I am into account rather than someone else in a similar position.



  1. Amen man, Amen…

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