being told what to do

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I loathe being told what to do, even when it was sensible advice from trusted friends. The mere syllable of “sh—” throws me off in any conversation if anyone tries to tell me what I “should” or “should not” do. And the phrase “don’t think like that” or variables of it makes me cringe. If I hadn’t learnt any self-control, I would have walked off blatantly.

When I got ill every 3 weeks and started getting stomach cramps while at work in Tokyo, a friend suggested I see a certain homeopathic doctor or try a certain type of massage to rebalance the body’s health and to de-stress myself. For one, I remained adamant that I wasn’t stressed. And of course, during my “glorious” days of the mid-twenties, I thought I knew what I wanted, what was right for me and I relied completely on my strength. But then I didn’t want to blow my friend off for she meant well, so I smiled, nodded, thanked her and then completely ignored her suggestions.

Indeed, it was my pride that prevented me from heeding to any advice from anyone I did not admire or deem to have amassed a bucket’s more life experience than I do – and even then I’d just smile and nod, more often than not.

Today I am trying to let my pride down. As I became more open about the pains I was suffering, everyone had a theory and offered me suggestions. I took them in and tried them all, well nearly. I was starving for a panacea that would take my physical and mental torment away so I gobbled up every word I heard. I jumped at every possible treatment outside the realms of traditional medicine if it would facilitate my healing.

And as I explored the different methods I came to understand my body, my mind and what I needed. It also helped me admit I was in my weak times and that I needed external assistance: my invincible self was but an illusion.

Yet, unsurprisingly, I flipped to the other extreme of trying out everything possible, which in the end tired me out (though arguably some treatments and examinations were essential to keep me alive even if I didn’t like going to see all sorts of doctors every other day).

Perhaps the reason for this extreme exploration process was because I cramped it all into a space of a few months as a consequence of my indignant refusal towards any type of medication or treatment prior to my downfall, which would otherwise have taken a much more spread out period of time had I heeded to my friend’s suggestions a few years back. Nonetheless, if I hadn’t gone through the process, I wouldn’t know what was right for me or not, and to find a balance of techniques and treatments that work well for me today and with which I am comfortable. Some methods worked, some didn’t. I had to try at least once to see for myself and decide. So, not at all such a bad thing, is it?



Thus, what I have learnt—if there must be a lesson learnt—is that at the end of the day, we do know best for ourselves. We don’t need to be told what to do. It is one thing to take in well-intended advice, but another to feel compelled to do everything everyone suggests.

Try and explore if you must, but first and foremost, feel comfortable and be in tune to your own needs and preferences.

Most people do not know you as you know yourself; they ground their opinions of you and what you must do in their own perspectives and experience, frequently forgetting that what is good for them may not work the same way for you, and vice versa. Some think I’m not seeing enough doctors; others think I’m seeing too many. Only I know what I’m comfortable with, and a remark I make about my experience was to share my life and not to seek approval or judgment.

So listen to your own heart. Don’t let people tell you how you should think or not.

I still appreciate advice and suggestions, for most of them come from other’s graciousness and willingness to help. Yet, for now, I will smile, and nod.

about Noch Noch

Enoch Li, (pen name: Noch Noch) was born and raised in Hong Kong and Australia. She has also studied / worked / lived in the US, France, UK, Japan, The Netherlands, China, and has travelled to more than 40 countries. She loves travelling and her curiosity in foreign cultures and languages has led her to enjoy her life as an international executive in the banking & finance industry. However, she was forced to take time off work in 2010 due to her illnesses and after spending time in recovery, cooking, practising Chinese calligraphy, reading and writing – in short, learning to take care of herself and letting out the residual work stress, she has transitioned into a Social Entrepreneur and founded BEARAPY to help corporates make workplaces mentally healthy, and support executives to become more resilient.