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Taking Our Own Advice

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“You need to lose weight.”

Do other people’s problems seem easier than your own?

Easier for you to solve, that is.

That’s the way it works for me and I imagine that’s because when I try to help others I don’t take their problems personally.

That means I can look at the situation from a distance and see more options.

My own problems, on the other hand, usually seem so important that it is very difficult to step back and see the big picture.

This kind of thing seems to happen all the time and I find it amazing how often I dish out advice and then find myself struggling in a similar position to the person I tried to help.

I’m writing about it now because that’s exactly what happened last week after my sister called to talk about the arrangements for her wedding.

I’m not going to spell out her issues or my own but both involve family relations.

My sister told me she is worried one member of her future husband’s family is going to create a scene when she comes to the wedding because that’s the kind of thing she does.

She then gave me a few examples of how the woman has behaved in the past and from that extremely limited bit of evidence I calmly concluded the woman is obsessed with herself.

That went down really well with my sister and I could almost feel her relax at the other end of the phone connection.

What I actually said was a lot of people seem to be incapable of seeing how their actions affect others or seeing things from someone else’s point of view.

All they can focus on is how something affects them or how they feel about it even when the issue in question has very little to do with them… like someone else’s wedding, for example.

That piece of information probably won’t help my sister prevent unwanted drama on the day, but I think she feels better prepared to deal with it if it does happen.

By the end of our conversation she also had a better grip on the fact that quite often there is nothing we can do about other people’s problems and that there is no reason to feel bad about that.

Sure, those problems often create inconveniences but as long as we don’t embrace them, that’s all they are.

Anyway, within two days of that conversation I found myself having to deal with another family issue that was potentially quite hurtful for some people I care about and for me.

The situation had very little to do with us but despite the advice I’d just dished out to my sister, I just couldn’t see that and I let it push me to the edge of depression.

When I finally realised I wasn’t causing the problem and that I couldn’t do anything about it, I felt a whole lot better and I started to see that there could even be long-term benefits if we handled the situation well.

So, in the end, I listened to my own advice… but it took a whole lot longer to get there when the problem affected me instead of someone else.