Your friend comes to you crying, asking for help with the newest obstacle of his/her life; “what do I do?” Your friend asks. You listen to the story, analyze the details, pause, and give your friend a response: “if it were me, I would do ‘x’.”

But in reality, would you really do ‘x’?

Would you really say the things you are advising your friend to say, do the seemingly rational things you are suggesting, and act it all out under a seemingly effortless façade? Most of the time, the answer is no.

Lucy the psychiatrist

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Because when it comes to ourselves, we don’t take our own advice.

But why is it so easy to dish out out advice, but impossible to take it ourselves?

Experience.

Many times, we are able to give others great advice on things we ourselves have been through and experienced and therefore, know how to handle the situation.

We know what worked and what didn’t, and we pride ourselves on being able to pass down that useful information to those we care about.

When we come across new situations where we don’t have all the answers, we tend to become uncomfortable and uneasy.

We seek out the advice of others (just as they seek in us), and we attempt to make sense of something we don’t understand.

Our Decision Processes Are Tied to Our Emotions.

We are able to make rational, clear-cut decisions when it’s someone else’s life on the line because it’s subjective; we are not bound to the life of our friend and we are certainly not privy to their level of emotional attachment to the problem at hand.

Several studies show links between our emotions and the decision-making processes we encounter in our daily lives. According to Wikipedia.com, a theory called the Somatic Marker Hypothesis states that our emotions are a heavy factor in the decision-making process:

…Bioregulatory signals such as feelings and emotions provide the principal guide for decisions where individuals, when dealing with a judgement, will assess the severity of the outcomes, their probability of occurrence and their emotional quality to provide their decision.

It is no wonder we are unable to make clear-cut decisions when emotions are involved; emotional attachment tends to cloud our judgement and can often lead us down the wrong path.

At the time, it made sense to date that person your friends and family didn’t approve of because you were in love. When you are emotionally involved or invested in someone, the hardest thing to do is to shut off that white, emotional-noise and hear your friends or yourself clearly.

You would tell your friend to walk away from a relationship gone wrong, so why do we have so much trouble stepping away from emotionally dangerous situations in our own lives?

Are We Protecting Ourselves?

Perhaps the reason we tend to avoid our own advice is part of a defense mechanism. We protect our self-concept and our ego by judging ourselves and our own problems on a different level than when we asses the lives and problems of others.

If you buy into the idea that your crush really DOESN’T like you (based on the criteria you see so clearly for others facing a similar dilemma), you would end up negatively affecting your own self-esteem, self-concept, and essentially your ego.

If you continue to avoid a problem and avoid the advice you so desperately need to take, you preserve who you believe yourself to be and essentially remain unaffected by the truth.

How to Take Your Own Advice

This may be one of the hardest things you can ever try to do, but if you feel like you are always giving great advice to others, why not try giving it to yourself and actually following through?

Instead of sugar-coating a problem stop to evaluate the issues you are facing. Ask yourself the same questions you would ask a friend who was seeking your advice. Don’t avoid things because you don’t want to face a truth; view them head-on and take them for what they are.

Write down your problem and present them to yourself as if a friend was coming to you for advice. Try to separate the problem by breaking it down into manageable pieces: (1) what is the problem, (2) the top 3 ways to solve the problem, and (3) the outcomes for each (pros and cons).

Once you attempt to view your problem subjectively and without emotion, you may be more successful in finding a solution that works for you.

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