Chances are good that you’ve been given a piece of advice that you knew right away was unhelpful at some point in your life.
Think of when your parents would say to you “if all your friends jumped off a cliff, would you jump too?” Obviously, if your friends were encouraging you to jump off a cliff, you could identify that as bad advice.
However, what if I told you that unhelpful advice isn’t always that blatant? That it can be hidden and construed as helpful? That it’s often presented and accepted under the guise of health? And that you have probably openly accepted the advice into your own life (and you probably still do)?
Well, believe it or not, that’s the truth. There is a ton of advice that circulates in our society that is presented in such a glorified manner. Often, this advice seems like the exact answer to a problem you’re facing. Surely the person on Instagram or the model in the magazine knows better than you about how to live a life of health, wellness, and happiness. So you accept their advice.
I’ve done it. You’ve done it. We’ve all done it.
So is that a bad thing?
My answer is it can be.
There is some unhelpful advice that circulates and has become widely accepted. But before you make the innocent mistake of blindly accepting the advice you consume, let’s discuss some pieces of advice you should be aware of.
6 Pieces of Unhelpful Advice You’ve Probably Been Given
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Unhelpful Advice 1: “No Excuses”
This is a piece of advice that seems to be most prevalent in the health, fitness, and dieting world. The logic behind this makes sense at first… this means no skipping the gym, no quitting your diet, no procrastinating, no being lazy, and, most obviously, no making excuses for yourself. Seems like the perfect mentality for living a life of success, health, productivity, and wellness, right?
The “no excuses” mentality can actually be incredibly unhelpful when you are trying to live a life of overall wellness and health.
To be blunt, when you approach life with a “no excuses” attitude, you will burn out. This mentality casts shame and embarrassment on the basic human need for REST. None of us can be 100% productive 100% of the time; that’s not what humans were meant to do. We need time to rest and rejuvenate. This “no excuses” mentality is a major example of harmful advice; it just sets you up for burnout!
Unhelpful Advice 2: “There are others who have it worse. Just be grateful.”
UGH! I cannot stand when I hear this piece of advice being given. It’s like saying you can’t be happy because someone else has it better. Crazy talk, right?
You are allowed to be upset. This is yet another part of simply being human. When someone offers this as a piece of advice, they are invalidating your emotions and disregarding your feelings.
Don’t get me wrong, practicing gratitude is wonderful and can be an excellent choice at times. But the implication that you are unable to feel upset is just plain unhelpful and unrealistic.
Try “It’s okay to feel sad. We all feel down sometimes. This will pass.”
Now THERE’S some helpful advice.
Unhelpful Advice 3: Any Diet Advice
This one is just silly. It literally sets you up to fail and is problematic for many different reasons.
First, it is a proven fact that diets do not work. We know that even if diets initially appear to “work”, after about a year, the benefits are often gone (Harvard Health, 2020). So when someone is offering you some advice about dieting or encouraging you to try their routinized way of eating, think twice before accepting it.
Second, with the rise of social media, nearly ANYONE is able to hand out dieting advice. It can be great that we all have a voice through our social media platforms. However, this also means that there are quite literally zero qualifications that someone has to hold to offer you dieting advice. Sometimes it is even teenagers making blind suggestions for how you should eat. These claims have very little (if any) factual backing and should not be accepted advice.
Lastly, everyone’s body is structurally different. If you are going to take diet advice from someone, chances are good that you think they look good or you would like to achieve the same body as them. Reality alert: that just isn’t possible. Our genetics play a massive role in our body shape and size. The fact is, you could eat, sleep, move, and live exactly like someone else and you would still have entirely different bodies.
Rather than accepting unhelpful diet advice (I know there’s lots of it), challenge yourself to accept your body instead. Approach healthy living from a place of self-love rather than a desire to change your appearance.
Unhelpful Advice 4: “Never be satisfied.” “Always strive for more.”
This one might surprise you. Setting goals and making dreams is one of the best ways to get to where you want to be, right?
That is true to an extent, for sure. There is absolutely nothing wrong with some healthy goals. Heck, I love to dream big and set goals myself!
But this attitude of “never being satisfied” can actually cause more harm than good. I call this “toxic motivation.” There are ways to be both motivated for growth AND happy with where you are at.
“Never being satisfied” can lead you into an unhealthy lifestyle of feeling unfulfilled and inferior. When you’re “never satisfied,” you never stop and take the time to appreciate the things you DO have, the growth you HAVE made, and the reasons to be happy RIGHT NOW.
Instead of accepting this advice, try to adopt a healthy relationship between striving for more and appreciating where you are at. Life is too short to never feel content with the present moment.
Unhealthy Advice 5: “Winners never quit”
Actually, winners DO quit sometimes. Winners know how to determine when to let something go and when to hold on. This “Winners Never Quit” mentality shames people into staying with things that no longer serve them.
For example, say you are in an extremely unfulfilling job where you are mistreated and miserable. Would you really be WINNING by staying at that job? No. Absolutely not. You would be WINNING by quitting and finding something that makes you happier.
Let’s drop this mentality and replace with with “Winners Always Quit the Things That No Longer Serve Them”.
Okay, so maybe it doesn’t have the same ring to it… but at least the message is better.
Unhealthy Advice 6: “You can sleep when you’re dead.”
Uhh… how about “You Can (AND SHOULD) Sleep When You’re TIRED)”. That sounds a lot better to me.
Sleep is another thing that is absolutely VITAL. At the most basic level, humans need food, water, and REST. Do not let this harmful advice make you feel like sleeping is something to be ashamed of.
In the past, I have allowed myself to believe that stopping work to get some sleep was unproductive. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Getting enough sleep IS productive by itself.
So yes, you can sleep when you’re dead. But you can also sleep right this very second if you need to.
If you feel you have been given this harmful advice, know you are not alone. Also, know that it is entirely up to you whether you take that advice or not. Now that you are aware of the consequences of common advice, you can take control of how you let it affect you, and nothing is more powerful than that.