Life isn’t easy, and it’s natural for us to turn to our loved ones for advice when we don’t know what to do and need help. There’s no scarcity of columns in the world offering helpful tips to make your life better regarding any aspect of your life, whether it’s how to fix the sink to how to choose a life partner. That being said, many people offer advice when we don’t even ask for it, and not all advice is helpful; some might actually make us feel worse.
Early on, I learned that the quality of advice depends on the person giving it and their life experiences or situations. In my younger days, I would turn to my friends at life’s slightest inconveniences. For example, I would tell my single friend, “My partner isn’t doing the dishes or helping with cleaning the house.” And she would say, “You need to leave him. You deserve so much better.” That seems quite drastic, but then I came across this advice online that said, “Don’t take relationship advice from single people,” and it is so true. Similarly, if you’re in a relationship, you can’t go to your friends who are also in relationships to ask them why being single is so great.
But that’s not the best advice I got in my life though it is among the more helpful ones. The best advice I got that changed the quality of my life was “Don’t take things too personally.”
Growing up, I had always been very sensitive and quick to react, where everything anyone said affected me on a deeper level. I was taking every single thing very personally. I hated hearing anything negative about myself and would try to change myself so people wouldn’t say that anymore. I never stopped to think if what people were saying was true, if they knew me, or if it even mattered in my life.
Over time, it gets exhausting because, to be honest, you can’t control what people think and say. If you spend every waking moment of your life being personally affected by people’s actions or words, the only person it will hurt is you.
As I got older and started writing more and getting published, I was proud, but it would quickly get deflated after reading one negative comment. It’s impossible to put your work out for others to read and judge and not get criticized by someone. Everyone is not going to agree with you, and someone is going to make their opinions known for everyone else to see while they sit behind their screens.
The first time I got an article published on a well-known website, my moment of happiness quickly turned into feeling hurt because I read multiple comments that said “This is ridiculous!” “We don’t need your kind here,” “Whine, whine, whine, yawn,”—and those were the less cruel ones. I would get obsessed with one negative comment, even if I had more positive ones, and I would keep thinking about why the person said that while questioning my own words and beliefs.
I cried because my feelings were hurt, and I started questioning, “Do I not belong here?” or “Am I an awful writer?” It took me some time to get over all that, and I didn’t write for a while because I didn’t want people to be mean to me.
Over the years, I have received a lot of criticism, and perhaps it was getting older and realizing that there will never be an end to people who say mean things—my choices were either to continue writing or to just stop. I chose to continue writing, and I still get cruel comments in every single article I write from people I don’t know, who don’t know about my life and who sit behind their screens judging.
The truth is that happy people don’t even think or have the time to go online and write horrible things just because. That’s not to say important issues do not need to be voiced, such as gender equality or human rights, but that’s a topic for a different time.
“Don’t take things too personally” is one piece of advice I wish I had known sooner because it has dramatically changed the quality of my life, but it didn’t happen overnight—it took time. The less I started taking things personally, the better I felt about myself and what I was doing in life. I didn’t let one bad thing overshadow five or six good things. That’s not to say it doesn’t prick me every time I see something mean, but it doesn’t stop me from doing what I want to do.
I also don’t know the lives of the people making such comments; perhaps they had a bad day or life has been terrible to them (still not an excuse), but letting myself get affected was not helping me but hindering me instead.
Over the years, not taking things too personally has made me calmer and more patient. I am no longer quick to react as I used to be. I understand that what other people think about me has nothing to do with me, especially when they don’t even know me. We can’t stop people from having opinions, but we can make ourselves much happier if we apply this helpful tool in our lives.