Here’s the good news: advice can be found in the blink of an eye in 2021. Now, here’s the bad news: the vast majority of it sucks, according to Doctor of Psychology Venus Nicolino. Her best-selling book, Bad Advice: How to Survive and Thrive in an Age of Bullshit, exposes bad advice that keeps people stuck and unable to make meaningful changes in their lives.
“It’s not as if people set out with a goal of hampering others with idiotic advice. Some feel-good quotes are simply hard to shake off, not to mention false notions, however ridiculous, that have been repeated for decades,” Dr. V says.
The Doctor of Psychology points out many examples of bad advice in her book. None more problematic, she says, than this tasty nugget: “You can’t love anyone until you love yourself.” She notes that it is biologically impossible to love oneself in the same way one would love someone else. This advice prevents people from finding connections with others that lead to increased self-care and confidence. The idea that “You can’t love anyone until you love yourself” implies that love is sequential—“First I love me, next I love you”—but this isn’t the case. Love is not sequential, it’s synchronous. It also implies that someone is bad at love, that they’re too stupid to love, and in doing so it discounts their innate biological intelligence. “You will love, regardless of how you feel about you,” Dr. V says.
This particular bit of relationship advice also makes a mockery of love. If human beings had any control over this powerful emotion, wouldn’t we have shown off our power by now? Wouldn’t we all be free from falling in love with toxic jerks? Wouldn’t divorce rates be closer to zero than to 60%? Loving oneself the way one loves other people is biologically impossible and no one can turn love for others on and off like a light switch.
Scientific studies show that being in love changes our brains. These changes are due to the release of biochemicals, and that isn’t a process anyone can simply decide to schedule. “I’m afraid that flowery Pinterest boards are partly responsible for people thinking they must love themselves before they can love someone else,” Dr. V says.
The relationship guru does advise people to be forgiving of themselves and forget about the myth of loving oneself. She tells audiences that shame, often self-inflicted for no reason, robs us of our self-worth. Shame tells the lie that we are unworthy of love.
Dr. V’s book also takes on bad advice such as:
- Expectations lead to disappointment.
- Nobody can make you feel bad without your permission.
- Honesty is the best policy.
Her best tip for sniffing out bad advice? “If the advice involves you pushing down your human emotions, then it’s garbage. Because you would be fighting in vain millions of years of evolution designed to assist us, not do us in.”