nancylebov (nancylebov) wrote,

A very dubious look at "6 Harsh Truths"

Recently, I saw a number of recommendations from more or less independent sources for 6 Harsh Truths that Will Make You a Better Person by David Wong. Having read it, I found it to be a bunch of half truths that I consider unlikely to work well as advice.

The Cracked article starts out promising that it's good advice for everyone whose life isn't going superbly.

David Wong says he wishes this was advice he'd been given. In other words, he hasn't checked on whether it's advice that works for anyone, nor does he actually know whether this advice would have been good for him back in 1995. I've sent myself an email reminder to post in six months asking about what effect that article has had on anyone's life.

The basic theme of the article is that you're only well-treated for what you bring to other people's lives. You're worthless otherwise.

This is a half-truth. What you bring to other people's lives matters. However, the reason I'm posting about this is that I believe framing the message that way is actively dangerous for depressed people. The thing is, if you don't believe you're worth something no matter what, you won't do the work of making your life better.

I realize not everyone will read the article the same way. It's even possible that I see it as a comprehensive attack because I'm fucked up. However, the article is addressed to what the author believes is fucked up people, so I think some thought should be given to what that audience is like especially since part of the theme of the article is that nothing matters but results. If you're trying to help people live better lives, and the actual result of your effort is to leave some of them in worse shape, perhaps you should be interested in actual effects-- especially if your message is that nothing matters but results.

Part of what was driving that negative self-talk I mentioned above was the feeling that there were huge numbers of people who were enthusiastically despising me, or at least they would if they knew me. This is taking things personally in a way that doesn't make sense, but I do think that contempt is common currency for a lot of bloggers and trolls.

It's true that not having faults isn't enough.

"Don't like the prospect of pouring all of that time into a skill? Well, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that the sheer act of practicing will help you come out of your shell -- I got through years of tedious office work because I knew that I was learning a unique skill on the side. People quit because it takes too long to see results, because they can't figure out that the process is the result."

This is false, or at least seriously incomplete. Just grinding leads to some improvement, but actual excellence takes thinking about what you're doing and experimenting to make improvements. For a lot of people, this is even harder than grinding, but it's important to know the difference.

"You Hate Yourself Because You Don't Do Anything"

This is another of those half-truths. Not doing anything can lead to self-hatred, but there are accomplished people who are depressed anyway. This is not a suggestion to give up on doing things, but depression can have mental causes other than inactivity, and it can be a physical problem. Depression may need to be addressed as a separate issue from doing things.

Part of what was making me crazy about the article was that it seemed to have a message of "You're not good enough to be trusted to have any worthwhile motivations. If someone superior kicks you hard enough, maybe you won't be a piece of shit." On a reread and in a calmer state of mind, it doesn't seem quite that bad, but it does seem like more than a bit of a superiority dance.

I'm interested in hearing about times you've given or taken advice (preferably with some information about tone and whether you think it mattered) and it worked at least well enough for the recipient to try it.

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