Tanya Younce, M.Ed., LPCC


Is our satisfaction with our lives correlated with how much advice we allow into our lives?

One way that I can tell that I’m becoming more content with myself and the way I live my life is that I’m flipping through magazines more quickly.  Whether they’re ones that I’ve subscribed to, ones I’ve received as gifts, or ones I find in a waiting room or bookstore, they all want to give me advice on make-up, fashion, parenting, home decorating, health issues, money management, career strategies, and relationships – and that doesn’t include the overdose of ads that are screaming for my attention with gorgeous models, alluring colors and insane promises for wrinkle reduction or other youthful miracles.  They even have tear-out coupons and perfume cards to tempt me to buy their product sometimes!  It reminds me of the overstimulation of a Mexican shopping district, where everyone is insidiously vying for your attention (Hey, mi amiga!  Come!  Look at these beautiful necklaces – I make good price for you!), practically cramming their wares down your pockets.  It’s pure madness.
There was a time when it would take me the full month to get through each magazine:  I had stacked-up issues of Self, Real Simple, O Magazine, Yoga Journal, Eating Well, etc.  and my luxury was to find some Sunday morning to sit in bed with a cup of coffee on my side table and soak up the articles, photos, recipes, product descriptions, and how-to, step-by-step directions on how to make my marriage more exciting, my body more fit, my appearance more beautiful, our breakfasts more healthy, my household more efficient, and my kids smarter and more creative!  By the time I was finished, I was as motivated as if to climb Mt. Everest, wanting to implement change and give facelifts to all kinds of things! 
But I’ve realized that that process continually makes you look at your self and your life as deficient.  Have you ever gone to a department store and tried on all these beautiful new outfits, but for whatever reason, you don’t buy them, so you have to put your old outfit back on and walk out of the store feeling like your current wardrobe may as well be rags?  Same thing with looking at new houses or cars – you’re left going back to your old one, feeling like what you have just flat-out sucks!
I think we all get overwhelmed by the media, at some point or another.  There is so much to take in on TV, the Internet, and in magazines (fortunately I don’t subscribe to any newspapers). We tend to just go numb and are left feeling like our choices have been wrong and we haven’t been doing a good enough job managing our lives.  So here’s my personal solution – I’ve gotten better at simply scanning the magazines more quickly, allowing myself no more than 10 things to cut out and file away as reference — a couple of pictures, articles or recipes.  I just zero in on specific areas where I do want advice and ignore the rest.  Those magazines now get tossed into the recycling bin within a week of getting them in my mailbox, rather than sitting stacked up by my bed, as a dreaded reminder of how much work I have to do to completely renovate my life.
Therapy should NOT feel like a load of work to do to completely renovate your life, either.  In fact, it should first be about taking inventory of what’s already working for you – what choices have you made that are good ones?  What do you already like about your self, your marriage, your parenting skills, or your career?  Then it’s an exercise in locating the few things that do need changing in order to enhance what’s already good.  It’s amazing how many clients of mine will struggle when I ask them in the first session “What are your strengths?  What’s already going well?”  They sit there with a blank expression because their brain has been wired to be flaw-focused instead.  And I honestly believe this has a LOT to do with the media.
So next time you’re watching TV commercials, or turning the pages of a fashion or home magazine, try to view them from a more confident standpoint in knowing what parts of your life are already good enough for you (and your family).  In the end…you have absolutely NO obligation to complicate your life with any more advice or new products than what’s  necessary.  Be more content with what you’ve got and ignore the rest. 🙂

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