Sunday, August 8, 2010

"Don't you know what you want?"

"Never ask people. Don't you know what you want? How can you stand it, not to know?"

Howard Roark says this to the far less confident Peter Keating in the opening chapters of Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead. I've been struggling with getting motivated to read much of anything lately, so I'm still not too far into the novel, but something about this quote really resonated with me.

People are constantly seeking what they call advice. Whether they want an opinion on an outfit, what to cook for dinner, or how to handle a sticky situation, they'll ask someone for advice on what they should do. But think about what Roark said - "Don't you know what you want?"

Now think about the last time you asked for advice. For me, it was very recent. I was dealing with some boy troubles, and I turned to a close friend for her thoughts on what to do. After hearing what she had to say, I reflected on how her opinion was very similar (almost identical) to mine.

Once again, I started thinking. I asked for advice from this girl, someone who is very similar to me, and I got exactly what I already thought, what I wanted to hear. This got me to think even more - my mind was reeling at this point. I figured out why we ask for advice: because we want affirmation for what we're about to do.

Roark is right - we already know what we want. We know what we're supposed to do, how to handle the situation. When asking for advice, we're really asking someone to agree with us, to affirm us, to assure us that what we're doing is right. We pretend to disregard what we know to be true - our thoughts, our feelings, our instincts - in order to try to fulfill our human desire for approval.

We as people constantly crave approval of what we're doing and who we are. We want to believe that what we're doing is the right thing, that how we're behaving is the right way to behave, but we don't need them to tell us. Whoever "they" are - how are "they" all-knowing? Where do "they" get their information? It's usually not so different from what we think, so what makes it better?

Nothing. Nothing except for that fact that receiving an affirmation fulfills our human desire to fit in, to please people.

Because when it comes down to it, we really always know what we want, what we should do. That's not to say asking for advice is bad. Sometimes we really do need to hear another person's thoughts on subjects, because new people have new perspectives, which lead to new ideas.

But what really needs to happen is for us to have confidence in our own abilities to make the right choices for ourselves. Having someone agree with you is nice, but why should we regard someone else's opinion as higher than our own? We know ourselves best, and at the end of the day we are the ones who have to live with our why does it matter what someone else thinks of what we're doing?

We all need to be confident in our abilities to solve anything that life throws at us...chances are, we already know what we should do.

♥ abigail

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