Even useless advice can be instructive. Fifteen women share the good that emerged from bad advice
"When you hit rock bottom, you’ll do something about it.”
Dr. Shula Wittenstein
I’ve struggled with my weight since the age of 12. Over the years, I tried almost everything out there. Someone wise and kind whom I respect, told me, more as a truism than advice, “When you feel you’ve reached rock bottom, and can’t stand yourself anymore, you’ll do something about it.”
I was fairly sure that I’d already reached that place, and that I had tried, over and over again, to “do something” about it. But invariably, I found myself back at square one.
It took me 30 more years to reformulate that approach, and develop the headspace that would lead to inner peace and successful weight loss.
Believing that one can find success when she’s in the depth of self-loathing and despair is a fallacy. On the other hand, embracing the notion of self-love as the propellant, when one feels so down, is an unattainable fantasy.
My formulation was simple: I am worthy. I’ve been created for a purpose (I know that because Hashem created me). Focus… go!
I did it one hour, day, month, year at a time. As the pounds dissipated, so did the frustration and despair.
The unhelpful advice I’d been given led to a powerful new perspective which, ultimately, made room for self-acceptance and love.
Internalize that you’re worthy. You have a purpose. Keep your eyes on the road, undistracted by negative judgment, yet focused making choices… then go!
Dr. Shula Wittenstein has been an individual and marital therapist and trauma specialist for 24 years. She’s grateful for the privilege of living in Eretz Yisrael with her husband, children, and grandchildren.
“Smother them with love, love, and more love.”
Miriam Klein Adelman, Lakewood
This gem was more than useless, it was actually destructive: “Just smother your children with love.”
I learned that if you don’t have boundaries in place together with that love, you’re turning your children into monsters. And they don’t respect you or love you for that.
“If you’re finding it hard, just walk away; you don’t have to deal with it.”
Sarah Chana Radcliffe
People don’t like to see us suffer. They can sometimes be quick to try to help us out of our pain by encouraging us to give up our struggle. “Just walk away!” they say.
However, what we might actually need is encouragement to help us succeed. Reminding us of our strength, our courage, and our history of success can give us the boost we need to succeed at difficult tasks.
Instead of encouraging people to give up, we need to support them through their challenges.
I received the “walk away” advice from a friend in response to sharing with her the exhaustion and overwhelm I felt after dealing with a particularly grueling schedule. My kids were small at the time and I was busy with my marriage, family, studying, and working. It was all good, and I had no desire to give anything up. I just needed a little support.
My friend’s advice to cut back on my activities was well-meant, but useless. That wasn’t the “help” I needed. If she’d just acknowledged that fatigue was normal considering all that I’d been doing that month, and that I’d bounce back soon — as I always did — she would’ve strengthened me. Instead, she made me feel alone, misunderstood, and slightly foolish for taking on too much.
Sarah Chana Radcliffe, M. Ed., C. Psych., is a psychologist in private practice in Toronto, Canada and the weekly Family Reflections columnist for Family First. She’s the author of several books on parenting.
(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 663)
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