Throwing Out the Garbage

Posted by Kristin Beale in Life After Paralysis on October 06, 2021 # Lifestyle

Selfie of Kristin and her husbandOur world is full of opinions: you have yours, the people around you have theirs, and the world has one it’s trying to push on you. There are so many different directions our lives can go, depending on whose opinion you adhere to. Just because everyone has an opinion, though, that doesn’t mean you need to acknowledge it and, just because it’s expressed doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good or correct.

In the same way, people use those opinions, good and bad, to formulate advice for others. In the situations that the person’s opinion is amiss, the corresponding advice is throw-away. My main point here is that, just because people have opinions and offer you advice, it doesn’t mean it’ll be quality or applicable to you. The magic word is: discernment.

I could fill five minutes with my opinion on when I think is the best time to go freshwater fishing, even though I don’t know anything about it. I can tell you how to raise your child, and I’d be happy to talk to you about how to keep a good stage presence during a play. Everything I need to know for those 15 minutes, if you take me up on all 3, is purely Google-search-based and I learned in under 2 minutes. But, give me a chance and I can make you think I know what I’m talking about.

Now that you know that I’m tricky and I don’t actually know what I’m talking about in the slightest, your challenge is to hear me out and search for the valuable pieces; assuming you have the spare time to listen to me, the polite and peace-keeping approach is to hear what I have to say, tell me “thank you,” and let it float right out of your other ear. When advice comes to you without a price tag, it’s worth hearing people out and taking whatever value from it that you can – even if your takeaway is “don’t talk about fishing around her again.”

Most importantly, do what’s best for you. Not all advice is good advice, and not everything is going to fit your lifestyle. With all of the counsel, you may receive, make sure to prioritize your needs and understand the best way to serve them, while remaining in peace with the people around you.

Here’s a tip. When I get a clue that someone is giving me throw-away advice, I paste a smile on my face while they’re talking and think about my dog, my To-Do list, or which groceries I have in my pantry. As long as I nod at the right times and keep that smile on my face, no one needs to know I’m not listening. The alternative for me, with evidence from a childhood full of fights with my parents or sister, is to push back and uselessly make my voice heard. My tried, peaceful alternative is my pasted smile and thinking of my crunchy peanut butter or my dog, Achilles.

This is not to say that the right approach is to space out while people are talking to you, or to fake smile at everyone who gives you a suggestion. I’m only suggesting that you be respectful and listen to what people have to say, thank them for their input, then throw away the parts that aren’t helpful. At the end of the day, you’re the one that has to live with the decisions you make, so you deserve to be in the driver’s seat.

In my experience, people love to give their two cents on how I interact with people, how I run my business, and how I do certain things. Instead of getting annoyed with it, I’ve learned to let that annoyance roll off of me. I use the time they’re talking to decide what I’m going to dress my dog as for Halloween, to add things to my mental To-Do list, and to figure out what I’ll have for dinner. If I followed all the cues, I also smiled and nodded enough to make the other person think I’m going to take their advice without variation. Everyone can be happy!

Now, for your first test:

The best time to go freshwater fishing is first thing in the middle of the afternoon. Give your children access to the internet at a young age, and don’t think too much about what you look like up there – I’m sure you look fine. Trust me.

Thank you for smiling.

Kristin Beale is a native of Richmond, Virginia. She is the author of two books, Greater Things and A Million Suns, and a comic book, Date Me. Check them out and read an excerpt at Her comics can be found on Instagram @Greater.Things.Comics.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.