Even in B&W, most of the shades are grey

Just be yourself!

It’s the little things that matter.

Follow your heart.

Time heals all wounds.

You can do anything you set your mind to.

Don’t give up.

So much advice is tossed around, getting likes and shares, cultivating warm and fuzzies. Also cultivating confusion and shame. The advice has a place, but it’s not general life advice. Not applicable to all situations.

In both giving and heeding this advice, we’ve lost nuance and the ability to see the grey in the words. 

Just be yourself is good advice when you’re traveling through time and space spending energy on trying to be someone else. Being afraid that people won’t like you for who you are. Comparing your insides to others’ outsides.

Sometimes, “yourself” needs to be a bit tempered for the situation. For example, when talking to friends, I use different language than when talking to students. When talking to some friends, I don’t offer my opinions about certain topics unless I’m directly asked. The topic varies by friend. (Everyone does this, I think. Or maybe everyone who has friends who aren’t all the same.) It’s not being inauthentic—it’s being thoughtful and understanding social dynamics.

And sometimes, “yourself” acts in ways that are anti-social and needs to be cleaned up, not accepted by the masses. And that line is so fuzzy, you sometimes can’t even see that it’s a line.

It’s the little things that matter. Absolutely! Little things make a big difference. But the big things matter, too. We need shelter, food, water, clean clothes to feel some basic level of okay. We need to feel physically and emotionally safe. If your husband picks up some flowers “just because” but gives you a verbal or physical lashing if dinner doesn’t turn out well, the flowers aren’t what matters. Having a great lunch with a great coworker in a toxic work environment doesn’t mitigate the damage done by the toxic work environment.

Follow your heart. Does this one need explanation? Sometimes hearts are incredibly stupid. We over-value rational and safe, but throwing all caution to the proverbial wind is not the best choice, either.

Time heals all wounds. This is always said about emotional wounds. (Have you ever heard someone say this to a person who broke their leg? Or stepped on a nail?) Emotional wounds fall all across the spectrum, just like physical wounds do. Some heal on their own, some need a little help, some need a lot of help, some don’t heal at all, some partially heal but leave you not the same. The duration varies greatly based on a whole ton of factors.

You can do anything you set your mind to. It is true that we often underestimate what we have the power to achieve. However, “more than you think you can” and “anything you want” are drastically different. Please do more than you think you can—your fear is holding you back from giving to the world around you—but “anything” includes a solid playlist of unattainable things.

Don’t give up. Good advice sometimes. We need grit to get through the hard parts of learning or creating or relationshipping or changing, so not giving up is solid advice in those circumstances. But that doesn’t mean that every project you start needs to be finished, that every interest you pursue needs to be pursued forever, that the career you start is the career you retire in. Seriously. Can you imagine what your life would be like if you were still pursuing whatever it was you took classes in when you were six or nine or 15? Cumulatively? 

Figuring out when to apply what thoughts is difficult and critical. But that’s just part of it, isn’t it? Life is messy and often lacks clear-cut answers.

Better to take the time, use the energy, be thoughtful than to try to apply a formula to a situation where a formula doesn’t apply. 

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