“Opinions are like arseholes, everyone’s got one.” (Simone Elkeles)
When you’re mired in Stuckville, population you, you tend to go advice shopping. You seem to be the only loser here and everybody else appears to have their shit together, adulting hard. You’re sorely tempted to tap them up for advice.
Advice and opinions are wonderfully diverse and oftentimes wacky. But sometimes advice is the last thing you need. Not to miss the irony; here be an advice column on how to know when advice is the last thing you need.
Confidence is contagious, which is great if you’re a good, honest soul seeding a noble cause, but borderline disastrous if those sporting the forceful opinion are deluded or stupid, with the ethics of a barbarian.
Those sporting forceful opinions are far more easily believed because their self-assurance indicates surety, and surety is sexy. So many people build a business (or govern the United States) based on forcefulness driven by deep self-belief. It doesn’t mean these people are right, but that’s no help when you’re swept up in the forceful opinions of the loud and proud.
If you’ve come up for air some months or years later, and realise you made a big mistake in following a forceful opinion, take heart. There are many more people like you.
Telling women what to do is a long-standing institution and past-time. At the risk of perpetuating gender stereotypes, women tend to be more collaborative, accommodating and likely to research far more than men, so they are ripe for the opinions of others.
As a woman, you’ve been socialised to research thoroughly and seek advice and opinions before taking action. Making decisions without soliciting opinions may feel, when unpracticed, like a preposterously selfish, rebellious or hazardous move.
Also as a woman, you’ll be privy to all sorts of unasked-for opinions, especially if you’re pregnant or accompanied by young children. Learning how to smile and shake off the opinions of strangers is a woman’s lot.
You know you’re opinion shopping when you go out of your way to hear the most bizarre and seemingly unworkable opinions around. It’s a lovely distraction from moving forward.
Another fun game is to shop for opinions until you find one that closely matches your own, so you can agree with it. In all your enthusiasm of agreement, you can actually convince yourself that you’re making progress.
Perhaps the biggest killer of opinions is the joy of opinions themselves. Oh-so-delicious, they can be consumed day and night for months and years, and you’ll still be no closer to anything vaguely resembling progress.
Opinions are like junk food – they’re delicious on the way down, but can cause bloating, gas, indigestion. Most importantly, they don’t fill you up. You’ll be hungry to consume more opinions in one hot minute.
Intuition is not some magical, never-fail power. It’s sometimes bang-on and sometimes way off. Being slavishly devoted to your influence puts you at the mercy of your emotions, which change with your knickers.
Sure, pay attention to intuition, but for god’s sake don’t put it above all else, including common sense and serendipitous opportunities.
Advice and opinions keep you busy and distracted from the reality of making progress. Progress, in all its marvelous glory, can seem like dancing the tango with someone with two left feet – there are lots of sideways steps, some back-and-forth, and you’ll likely get dropped several times.
Progress is hugely satisfying, and fuels your next tango. But you’ll never experience the joys of the tango if you’re stuck in the sidelines, comparing and contrasting opinions.
Your next best step is the only thing you need to do. It might feel like a sideways or backward step, but you’ve got no way of knowing the end of the dance you’re doing. You’ll never know if you can’t take that next best step.
Do it now.