If I Were You, I Would...
Start writing a post
Politics and Activism

If I Were You, I Would...

Empathy isn't about selfishness.

If I Were You, I Would...
Kara Kolar

How many conversations have we had that begin with these six words?

“If I were you, I would major in ___.”

“If I were you, I would break up with him.”

“If I were you, I would go to this school.”

“If I were you, I would tell them this.”

“If I were you, I wouldn’t worry about it.”

“If I were you, I would…”

I have said the phrase, “If I were you, I would…” too many times to count. When speaking with friends who are in the process of making difficult decisions, we often attempt to empathize with them by looking at their situation from our own perspective, telling them how we would respond if we found ourselves in their position.

This isn’t empathy.

When we listen to the problems and struggles of the ones we love and attempt to bring ourselves into the situation, the focus of the discussion shifts to ourselves. How frustrating is it when we open up to someone we’re close to, expecting them to listen to us, but they end up shifting the conversation to revolve around them?

Well, in starting sentences with the phrase, “If I were you,” that’s exactly what we are doing.

I’m very guilty of using variations of this phrase when offering advice to friends in situations I can only imagine myself in. In saying this, my intentions are never to focus a conversation on myself. I’m attempting to offer advice by sharing my perspective on how I would handle the situation. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing if the person asks what you would do if you were in their situation.

But that’s just the thing: we’re not. We may have found ourselves in similar situations, but we will never know the thoughts that are going through a friend’s mind in the moments they are hurting. Likewise, we cannot enter their minds and force them to think in the same way that we do.

We can’t walk a mile in somebody else’s shoes and expect them to form to our own feet. Stepping in another’s shoes isn’t supposed to be easy. It can be unusual, uncomfortable, and even painful. I believe that’s why we’re so inclined to empathize with somebody from our own point of view. It’s a mindset that is natural and comfortable to us, so we anticipate that our thought process will appear natural and comfortable to them. We don’t put forth the effort to feel and understand their pain.

One thing I’ve learned over this past year is that people may not always want advice. More often than not, they just want someone to listen. They want someone who will listen to understand, not to respond.

We’re human. We get hurt daily, and we are faced with many important decisions throughout our lives. But in the end, these decisions are ours and ours alone. We can’t live our lives through somebody else, and we can’t let our lives be lived by anyone other than ourselves. We are capable of choosing how we handle difficult situations, whether the advice we take is someone else’s or our own.

No more will I give advice by saying, "If I were you..." Only you are you, and only I am me. Make the best decision for you and you alone. We only get one life. Wouldn't it be a shame to spend it living someone else's?

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
the beatles
Wikipedia Commons

For as long as I can remember, I have been listening to The Beatles. Every year, my mom would appropriately blast “Birthday” on anyone’s birthday. I knew all of the words to “Back In The U.S.S.R” by the time I was 5 (Even though I had no idea what or where the U.S.S.R was). I grew up with John, Paul, George, and Ringo instead Justin, JC, Joey, Chris and Lance (I had to google N*SYNC to remember their names). The highlight of my short life was Paul McCartney in concert twice. I’m not someone to “fangirl” but those days I fangirled hard. The music of The Beatles has gotten me through everything. Their songs have brought me more joy, peace, and comfort. I can listen to them in any situation and find what I need. Here are the best lyrics from The Beatles for every and any occasion.

Keep Reading...Show less
Being Invisible The Best Super Power

The best superpower ever? Being invisible of course. Imagine just being able to go from seen to unseen on a dime. Who wouldn't want to have the opportunity to be invisible? Superman and Batman have nothing on being invisible with their superhero abilities. Here are some things that you could do while being invisible, because being invisible can benefit your social life too.

Keep Reading...Show less

19 Lessons I'll Never Forget from Growing Up In a Small Town

There have been many lessons learned.

houses under green sky
Photo by Alev Takil on Unsplash

Small towns certainly have their pros and cons. Many people who grow up in small towns find themselves counting the days until they get to escape their roots and plant new ones in bigger, "better" places. And that's fine. I'd be lying if I said I hadn't thought those same thoughts before too. We all have, but they say it's important to remember where you came from. When I think about where I come from, I can't help having an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for my roots. Being from a small town has taught me so many important lessons that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

Keep Reading...Show less
​a woman sitting at a table having a coffee

I can't say "thank you" enough to express how grateful I am for you coming into my life. You have made such a huge impact on my life. I would not be the person I am today without you and I know that you will keep inspiring me to become an even better version of myself.

Keep Reading...Show less
Student Life

Waitlisted for a College Class? Here's What to Do!

Dealing with the inevitable realities of college life.

college students waiting in a long line in the hallway

Course registration at college can be a big hassle and is almost never talked about. Classes you want to take fill up before you get a chance to register. You might change your mind about a class you want to take and must struggle to find another class to fit in the same time period. You also have to make sure no classes clash by time. Like I said, it's a big hassle.

This semester, I was waitlisted for two classes. Most people in this situation, especially first years, freak out because they don't know what to do. Here is what you should do when this happens.

Keep Reading...Show less

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Facebook Comments