The Worst Advice I’ve Ever Received

This week marks the start of my relationship advice column for The Good Men Project. I can’t tell you all how stoked I am for the opportunity. If you’re new to GMP, a diverse community of thought leaders who explore men’s evolving roles in modern times, I hope you’ll check them out. To read my first weekly segment, answering a question on finding bliss and “the one,” visit this link.

To celebrate, I thought I’d share some of the worst advice I’ve ever received. Most has been well-intended, some I had the wherewithal to ignore and some came from the person closest to me: myself.

authenticity quote

1. Darken your eyebrows.

When I was a teen and first entering the modeling world, I took advice from all industry pros to heart. Much of it was good (don’t pay anyone to model, don’t sign anything your agent hasn’t read and approved), darkening my eyebrows with brownish pencil made me look like I had furry worms crawling on my forehead.

Lesson learned: Don’t wear makeup 50+ shades darker than your face, and anything that makes you look like a creepy-crawler magnet. Aim to look like you.

2. Die your hair platinum blonde.

See explanation #1. When a stylist remarked, “You’d make a great platinum blonde,” I raced off to a salon and left two hours later with Barbie-esque hair. For about two weeks I loved it, relishing the attention. (People stare at you when your head glows.) But then roots appeared, making my naturally light hair appear dishwater-brown by comparison. Meanwhile, I felt like a faker. The frantic upkeep made me and my bank account crazy.

Lesson learned: Don’t color your hair vastly different colors than your natural shade, unless want to rock hot pink or rainbow stripes.

3. Don’t break up with a guy until after Valentine’s Day (or other holidays).

Strategic, right? *quivers* I gave this to myself and took it, multiple times, in my early twenties. Not keen on hurting a guy I planned to break up with more than necessary, I also wanted to make sure I had a date for those holidays. *moment of silence to commemorate personal growth* (If any of you guys are reading this, I’m so so sorry.)

Lesson learned: Staying in a wrong-for-you relationship is lonely, especially on holidays. Pretending you’re invested in a relationship hurts everyone.

4. Create fake identities to have conversations with yourself on others’ blog.

Eek! I’m so glad I didn’t take this. An acquaintance/internet genius suggested I do this when only my parents and 1.5 strangers read my blog. In doing so, he claimed, I’d intrigue people into clicking my (actual) name and visiting my blog.

Lesson learned: Being an industry professional doesn’t make someone an expert on you or your work. Also? Authenticity is everything.

5. Don’t quit.

I’ve heard this many times from well-intended folks—including when I’d decided to leave my first marriage, to trade financial stability in Miami for countless unknowns in LA, and to stop working on a novel to focus on non-fiction. In all of these cases, my instincts told me to leap. With one minor delay (clinging on to the novel for a bit), I did so. These leaps were some of my most empowering and important.

Lesson learned: There’s a big difference between giving up and moving forward. Staying in a relationship or venture because it seems safest or right to others can mean saying NO to our dreams—including those we haven’t yet conjured.

*****

I now realize this list could’ve gone on and on, as could the list of awesome advice I’ve received. For now, I’ll leave you with these five and open the floor to you. What’s the worst advice you’ve ever received? Did you take it? Do you relate to any of mine? I love hearing from you! ♥

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23 Comments

  1. I’m a blogger too and I got #4 quite a few times from some SEO/Marketing experts. Honestly I just feel like having an authentic connection with 1 person is better than a fake connection with a 100. Great advice!

    Reply
    • Ah, so that must be common advice! I wasn’t sure, but regardless, I agree: real connections trump all, including numbers. 🙂 In my experience, the numbers follow anyway. It may take more time, but it’s so worthwhile.

      Reply
  2. Dorothy Parker wrote a wonderful short story–“Good Souls”–those who intend well but make a situation worse and usually are quite hurtful. As a person who has dealt with disability for almost four decades, I thought I had heard all the “good intentions,” including their variations.

    There are people who do not want to be seen with or be around people whose disabilities are quite obvious, no matter how well the person has adapted. Recently, a “good soul” questioned my living with my aged cat. BTW, I only adopt older animals, many with medical complications.Veterinarians are part of the process, of course. My life is so much more because of these older, “disabled” animals.

    After giving the “good soul’s” well-meaning comment some thought, I decided to focus on opportunities for my cat and I to show this woman that being “able” is the ability to adapt to the life we have now–reality–and not pining over life as it was. When we are open to how others have adapted, our own ability to adapt broadens. More becomes possible instead of less.

    As you said about quitting, it’s not about giving up it’s about moving forward with the life you have. Yet again, an inspiring post, August. Thank you.

    Karen

    Reply
    • I’ll have to find that story! Thanks so much for weighing in, Karen. You’ve raised such valuable points — and boy, do your feelings about special needs pets (and people!) resonate. 🙂

      I love that you turned your experience with the hurtful comment into a teaching moment. Leading by example is one of the BEST ways to better the world, IMO. Grateful for your heart!

      Reply
  3. Wow that is some bad advice! I’m trying to think of bad advice I’ve been given but I can’t right now. Thanks for sharing an congratulations on the GMP!!!

    Reply
  4. I’ve received lots of “bad advice” but one that I always previously ignored and paid for it with over a year of not writing – “If you’d just write a ‘popular novel’ you’d make lots more money!” — I spent over a year angsting myself through something I didn’t feel inspired by — stoooopid! Now it’s time to go back to what I do best. My writing has been the novelist version of your platinum blonde experience – laugh!

    Reply
    • Oh wow, Kat. What toxic advice! I’m so sorry it stalled you for awhile. And I imagine others have experienced the same, or told themselves their ideas weren’t “popular” enough. So glad you’ve moved on to broader horizons and hair colors! 😉 😉

      Reply
  5. Oh, goodness, you took me back to my teenage years when I tried all sorts of weird things. Plucking, dyeing and liquid lipstick, which was the worst of everything I did. Fun to think back though and realize that all these things we tried go toward building who we are today. Love reading your columns.

    Reply
    • Isn’t it amazing what we try? I agree that it’s all part of the journey – and great story and blog post fodder. 😉 Thanks for weighing in, Velda! And for the support. ❤

      Reply
  6. Oh… I got tons and tons of well meant advice that afterwards turned out to be worst I could do. Then I got excellent advice I didn’t follow and should have.
    I’m afraid, I’m too stubborn to follow advices.
    But I have to say: worst thing I ever did was not listening to my own gut feeling… a few years back I made a bad decision. Thank God when I came to my senses it wasn’t too late yet. But it was a very, very near miss.
    Thanks for another wonderful blog post, August. Love it.

    Reply
  7. You forgot Don’t Perm Your Hair.

    But I wholeheartedly agree with all the rest. And I’m beyond stoked for your GMP column. That is a huge deal in my book cuz I love their site and think they write great content. Now 2 of my fave peeps are together! Congrats!!

    Reply
  8. Ok, never created fake accounts to chat with. Seems wrong, besides AugustMclaughlin.com was taken.
    Also, I know I am so slow and sporadic when I read, but did finish “In her shadow”. Great novel! I enjoyed it very much and it did always keep me guessing.
    Scott

    Reply
  9. August, as one trying to stay married to someone who made not only me but my parents and sons miserable, I listened to poor advice from well-meaning friends who did not understand that what I was going through were not mere annoyances but seriously flawed and possibly dangerous behavior on his part. After loving him despite his “ornery” self (* pregnant clearing of throat *), praying for him, looking past his faults, I realized I was finally “done”. Now, eight years later, I am married to the love of my life. Had I kept listening to those “friends”, my anniversaries and other holidays with that man would have become more and more heartbreaking. There just gets to be a point beyond which we have to stop listening to what others say and start following our own hearts.
    Oh, yes, and my other dumb move — getting a “white woman’s Afro” just because it was something different. Good news: I sold a lot of “Happy Meals” as my hair turned as orange as Ronald McDonald’s.

    Reply
  10. Other than some really bad perms in the 80s, no bad advice really pops out in my memory. I wanted to stop by, though, and thank you for the GOOD advice you gave me at BlogHer. It was great to meet you, and I so appreciated how you took some time to tell me about your VOTY experience the previous year and how I could calm my stage fright. You really helped to calm my nerves! 🙂

    Reply
    • So nice to hear from you, Marcy! I loved meeting you and was so impressed with your VOTY experience. You rocked it like a pro! Please stay in touch. 🙂

      Reply
  11. Worst advice I ever received was actually from a close friend (we’re technically not friends anymore). She once told me that a good woman will always conform to placate a good man. Mind you, I realize that compromise is essential in any relationship but to change myself completely to appease another person is so wrong and that’s exactly what she was asking me to do (as was my “then” guy). Mathair was floored and told me that a good man and a good friend would never ask me to change who I was; they would accept me and love me for who I am. Now, I take my advice from Mathair. Momma always knows best after all. 😉

    Reply
  12. Platinum blonde rocks once you start going mostly grey as the roots are harder to spot, what you should not do is trust hair chalks from the internet to wash out of said blonde hair although in my case it is cool because the purple hair chalk I applied for a fun BBQ washed to pink and lasted long enough for me to decide I really do want to actually dip dye the ends of my hair purple permanently I just had to deal with strange looks from my boss until my barrette/net hair accessory arrived lol 😀

    Reply
  1. My #BlogHer15 Recap as a Timid and Squeamish VOTY Featured Honoree: From Excited to Terrified to Exuberant | (Don't Be) Too Timid and Squeamish

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