We Can Dish It, But Can't Take It: Why We Don't Follow Our Own Advice

by Megan Cummins
Taylor Godfrey

When it comes to advice, it’s easy to talk the talk, but a lot harder to walk the walk.

Girls especially, who spend countless hours listening to friends update one another on the most recent incident in their love lives, are more than just silent bystanders when it comes to the lives of their loved ones. We are active participants.

As an outside observer, it’s easy to identify a problem and produce a logical solution, a solution that in a black-and-white world, not only seems logical, but also obvious.

So, why is it when the adviser becomes the advisee and a similar, if not identical, situation occurs, the same sound advice is no longer a viable option?

I, for one, am guilty of failing to practice what I preach. While I pride myself on my ability to maturely evaluate a problem, I can dish out advice until pigs fly, but that doesn’t mean my actions are going to match my words.

Why? Because when it comes to personal dilemmas, you only see the outcome you want to see; logic becomes clouded by emotion. Well, emotion and a little of something else.

According to psychologists, humans have only two basic instincts: food (survival) and sex (reproduction).

Now I don’t disagree with them; if I have observed anything in my last three years at college, it’s that these two aspects are intuitive to say the least.

However, I would argue an additional basic human instinct, one that exposes itself long before we’re given “the talk” about the birds and the bees: judgment.

From the quality of a movie to the fit of a new pair of shoes, we judge everything and everyone, including those we love.

Judgment isn’t always callous; it can be as harmless as wondering why so-and-so didn’t get ready five minutes earlier so he or she wouldn’t be late.

How many times have you lent your shoulder to cry on, while thinking to yourself, "Thank goodness this isn’t happening in my own life"?

We judge our friends' actions against our own and marvel silently about how we would have never done such things because “we know better.” We make ourselves powerful and feel in control. In a sense, we get to play God.

Everyone likes to believe that if and when the time came to take their own advice, they would make the right decision.

But, taking one’s own advice is more than just practicing what you preach.

It means maybe your life isn’t as together as you previously believed, but first and foremost, it means admitting you’re not as powerful or in control as you thought you were.

When push comes to shove, we end up justifying a situation.

We try to convince ourselves the problem isn’t the same as our friend’s, that it’s different in some way or another.

Our emotions start to distort the facts, sugarcoating words or actions so as to disguise negative connotations, all at the stake of our pride.

But that’s the issue: Our problems aren’t different, they’re the same problems most people are dealing with.

The difference is we’re no longer an outside observer; now, we’re emotionally attached and vulnerable. So we make exceptions and excuses; we do anything we can to avoid an undesirable outcome, including using others as a scapegoat.

It’s a matter of what you should do versus what you want to do. As children, we all played the “ask one parent for something and if they said no, go ask the other one” card.

Though we’ve grown taller and somewhat wiser, it’s still the same old game. Instead of cookies and toys, it's advice, and the first parent who offered the undesirable answer is now your voice of reason.

In some cases, seeking advice is justified. Sometimes friends, mothers, fathers or mentors really do know best, but the reality of it is, if you already gave someone advice on the subject, you should have been preaching the guidance you seek.

Now, everyone is different; there is absolutely no way to categorize our society into those who take their own advice and those who don’t, simply because most people fall into both.

Situations vary and circumstances call for different plans of action, but every person has his or her poison. It's that one specific area that leaves them overlooking their own guidance.

If you happen to be one of the souls who always, 100 percent of the time takes their own advice as gospel, kudos to you; you’re a rare species.

However, not taking your own advice doesn’t mean you entirely lack power and control.

It just means admitting you’re a human being who’s experiencing the same romantic, economic, emotional, physical, [fill in the blank] issues that most people are faced with at one point in their lives.

Advice is meant to render the uttermost ideal solution or end result, so embrace the clichés.

Practice what you preach; talk the talk and walk the walk.

Because if your loved ones deserve the ideal end result, don’t you think you do, too?