Thanks, But I Wasn’t Asking: How to Channel Unsolicited Advice

Over the holidays, my husband surprised me with all the items necessary to adopt a dog as a gift. We’d been talking about it for years, and now was the time. As luck would have it, the universe soon provided us with the puppy of our dreams — a gorgeous husky. It was a nerve-racking commitment, but after six years of talking about getting a dog together we knew we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to give this little one a loving home.

Since we were in the middle of the holidays, most of our initial puppy appointments had to be pushed back until the start of the new year, but I was confident I could make this sudden adoption work by doing everything in my power to self-educate myself on her needs in the meantime.

On day two of puppy parenthood I was beginning to feel my maternal instincts kick in… until, that is, I was shamed for the type of leash I had by someone walking their dog on the street. “You’re going to cause irreversible damage if you don’t get a new leash. You should buy a new one today!” she called out to me.

Wanting to cut her off from her rant and angrily give my two cents, I simply thanked her for the advice and moved on.

It dawned on me then that regardless the amount of prep, love and positive intention I put into the universe, there will always be a hater or two ready to dish out advice you weren’t asking for.

And it’s not necessarily the advice that’s the problem, but the shameful, unprovoked tone that it’s delivered in. It can take you from blissfully content and proud to absolutely insecure about your choices.

I like to take these instances in life and call them my “two steps forward, one step back” tests. Whenever someone is given the power to make you feel small it can feel like all your self-work goes out the window. I used to feel like this all the time which would prevent me from wanting to explore new opportunities in my life. Over time, however, I’ve realized failing (or not doing something perfectly) is nothing to actually feel insecure about because we all go through these tests as we continue to grow.

Below are three ways I’ve found that help me to handle these situations in a graceful, optimistic way so that the information exchange doesn’t have to make you feel remorseful of your choices.

No one is an expert on life —

I rarely call myself an expert on anything because the key to life is that we are always learning. Even scientists who research for factual evidence seem to continuously evolve previous findings that once were considered the right and only answer. It really can take a village to find the right balance so a community of trusted resources can come in handy when you are trying something new. I don’t know much about caring for a dog other than it takes a lot of time, devotion and love, so I can’t expect to know which accessories are the perfect fit per breed. Reaching out to my community of fellow dog owners led my husband and I to a great trainer who helped us with a pro list of must-haves. We don’t get to continuously climb the ladder of success without facing a situation in which we don’t have all the answers. No one is meant to be an encyclopedia of everything, so just know that if you are open you can and will find the right support along the way.

Making mistakes is oftentimes a huge gift —

The most common misconception on mistakes and failures is that they are a reflection of our own personal characters. Without mistakes we wouldn’t have some of our greatest discoveries and inventions (like post-its or penicillin). When we make mistakes we must review them and learn how to better them on our next try. We are continuously learning about ourselves and what we are capable of through our mishaps, and just because we don’t have a grading scale to determine our level of mistakes in life doesn’t mean we are failures. Keep trying and learn to view your mistakes as little gifts from the universe that will, ultimately, make you better.

What are you really dwelling on? —

After the other dog mom shamed me on my dog leash, I realized I wasn’t dwelling on her comment because she was right. Her comment hit home because I was insecure and didn’t know what the hell I was doing. I’m the youngest of my family and am currently child-less so I have never raised anyone or anything. I oftentimes get scared of being the one in charge because there has always been someone who has been around to tell me what to do or correct me when I’m doing it wrong. That’s when I realized I was holding on to her tone as if I was getting chastised by my parents or an authority figure. This woman may have had terrible delivery in her advice, but ultimately it did trigger enough in me to break through that pattern of thinking that I was incapable — and making the steps to further educate myself.

I’m fully aware that each aspect of my life won’t be perfect. Whether it’s a mistake in puppy parenting or a bump in the road in my business and relationships, I will continue to find that a backtrack isn’t a standstill. Until we learn what we are supposed to learn from a particular experience we will have to first slow down and review what occurred. These situations are not meant to shame, guilt or hurt you, but rather better you for your next experience so you don’t have to worry about speeding through it. Have trust that with each step back you will continuously have two steps forward if you just explore each situation with an openness to learn and grow.