BY NICK HENNING
The ultimate test of a human being to remain positive if challenges become too much. Remaining positive often keeps the mind in a state of calm and opens possible resolutions for the problems that come up in our lives. If we want to be more optimistic about the things in our life, the way we are living our lives should change to a more positive approach.
The pandemic has forced millions to seek employment actively, which makes it even more challenging to stand out and to get interviews. When unemployed, a job search can be very frustrating, demeaning, and even depressing. Rejection after rejection can start to have an adverse effect on your attitude.
However, you can change how you look at the challenging situations in your life by thinking positively. Positive thinking often keeps us focused on what we want to achieve in life. We all need to have a vision of our goals and the way that we want to reach them.
A negative way of thinking can keep us from getting out of our difficulties. Certain areas make us doubt our capabilities to do anything. But when we are positive, we know that we are strong enough to get through these obstacles. When we are more optimistic about the challenges we face, we can deal with it as calmly as possible.
There are times in our lives when a problematic situation makes us feel overwhelmed. But when we have a positive attitude, we know that there is a solution to every problem that comes our way. We may feel frustrated because we can not make things work out at the moment, but when we are optimistic about our situation, we know that everything will work out for us.
To continue to have a positive outlook is not easy for everyone. If you find that it is not easy to maintain this outlook, there are things that you can do to help yourself become more positive.
One thing you can do is to learn to relax and stop trying to force positive changes into your life. Some people feel uncomfortable when trying to change their behavior. If you have to try to convince your brain that you should do something differently, you might not be as likely to change it.
Another thing you can do to become more positive is to start exercising. Doing exercise can help you to be more positive and give you the stamina to do something at a faster pace. There are many different ways to stay positive, so take the time to think about it and use it.
Start a gratitude journal and put it next to your bed. Every evening, write down three things that you’re grateful for that occurred that day. It will be an act of recalling that may be challenging initially. However, you’ll start to notice more and more things that you’re thankful for throughout the day. If you’re struggling to be positive, pull out your gratitude journal and review all the things you have to be grateful for in your life.
And the last thing you can do to keep your positive thoughts alive is to think about them. There are many books and programs online that can help you keep your positive thoughts active. It can be a significant challenge to think positive when you feel like you are losing your mind. But if you want to be happy, you can’t let these feelings stop you.
So remember to keep these positive thoughts in your mind during your job search. These thoughts don’t mean you should forget about your problems. However, if they are stronger than your negative thoughts, they can keep you in a positive state of mind.
If you want to remain positive, you are going to have to practice it. When you first get started on something, it can be hard to stay positive. You have to be consistent with it and continue to practice it. Keep in mind that it will take time and that you have to learn how to say no. This process will help you rewire the neural networks to think and as a result, act more positively.
Remember that if you want to maintain a positive mindset, your attitude has to be positive too. Your attitude has to be positive with everything that comes your way. And once you’ve got your attitude in place, you have to be strong. Think and say to yourself, “I AM STRONG!” to remain positive.
Keep practicing, and continue to be positive. It will take time, but slowly you will see your goals attained!
BY MARYBETH GRONEK
I need to process in solitude.
Please remain on the line and a representative will be with you shortly.
I’ve come to treasure the comfy respite that is my own mind. It’s familiar. It’s welcome. It has equilibrium & alignment. It’s home. ❤
When a question of significance comes my way, it’s the equivalent of a knock at the door. The question can come from any source: a boss, a colleague, a friend, a significant other. If the question exceeds the banality threshold and requires any modicum of processing, I am reticent to open wide the door and let you in. I will most likely tell you I need to think about it and get back to you.
At which point I politely close the door and ‘take it back to the team’ so to speak. I must engage my mind and think through your question deeply. The main point, though, is that I won’t be answering you right away and I don’t know when I will be able to. I must consult the many characters that live within the house for alignment. Once that happens I will get back to you.
At the risk of belaboring this point, I’ll give them names.
Ben is the first responder. Any new information hits him first. He’s tasked with maintaining the status quo and, thus, when presented with anything novel that would disrupt current processes or plans (which is often), he’s vehemently dissatisfied. He raises his voice, melts down, throws things. It’s all very… Real Housewives. As in most conversations, the loudest person goes first. 😉
Tina is the operations manager. Once Ben has gotten everything out of his system, Tina begins to ask how can I make this work? Her main job is to make the person at the front door satisfied in a way that also keeps the lights on. So she will take the question, internalize it, and think of solutions and paths forward. She will float these ideas past the rest of the household. Lots of back and forth is needed to make everyone comfortable with the approach (especially Ben).
David is the communications director. Once a course of action/answer is decided upon, David steps in to position it just right. His job is to anticipate the sentiment & response of the porch dweller and craft his message in such a way to assuage concerns and mitigate swirl.
Once alignment is achieved, I happily return to the door and inform my colleague/boss/friend/partner of the answer (using David’s household-endorsed script, of course).
I’ve been doing this forever. Excluding other people from my internal processing & presenting them only the final response. Not because I dislike them. On the contrary, as a measure of respect. I return with my complete, robust analysis — a neatly-wrapped gift with a gigantic bow that I happily place at their feet. Giddy from a job well done; my glee exceeded only by my reverence. I have spared them the messy burden of meeting Ben and Tina and David. Instead I present a spokesperson. It’s all so… efficient.
Lately, though, I’ve been wondering: at what cost?
Pragmatically speaking, this ‘please remain on the line and a representative will be with you shortly’ approach has two main problems.
There’s something more, though. Something that can’t be quantified.
I return to my original question.
My modus operandi is efficient, but at what cost?
Lately, I’ve been asking myself questions like — what does it mean to let someone *dwell* with me in my life? Not just “share space” with me, but actually let their presence impact that space. To give them agency in my life. I don’t just want bodies inhabiting my geosphere; I want souls interfacing with my existence.
I want to “let people in” in the deepest sense of the word — giving them sight-line into my thoughts and emotions and letting them inform those thoughts and emotions. Otherwise “relationships” are just a fancy moniker for dress-up. I have constructed this beautiful answer for you and all you get to do is choose what sweater it wears. That seems…uneven. I’m doing all the work and you’re just a reactive spectator.
We were made for community. We were made for depth. We were made for the messy back and forth with each other.
We were made for more than dress-up.
I’ve been leaning into this conviction. More and more every day, I’m challenging myself in this space. Here are some examples.
I’m working on the craziest project at work right now with an aggressive timeline in one hand and expectation of excellence in the other. I lead a team in designing operational processes amidst a solution landscape that keeps changing. As soon as I tackle one problem, five more problems surface. I’m being tapped for thought leadership at such a rapid pace that I don’t have the luxury of retreating to my mental bunker and emerging with a PR-approved response. What I mean to say is — my colleagues are now meeting Ben, Tina, and David. They are seeing it all. And I hope they respect me more for it.
My boyfriend and I just hit our 8-month anniversary (all the lifers out there collectively awwwwed). I’m learning what it means to process things with him. To let him see Ben first. And respond to Ben. I’ve found that when that happens, the “operational” conversation with Tina goes much more smoothly. And we arrive upon better outcomes together. Sometimes, we don’t even need to pass things by David. ❤
And my appetite for this way of processing increases more and more each day. It was extremely uncomfortable at first (and still is). Embarrassing even, as I expose parts of myself that haven’t seen the light of day; the oxygen-deprived weaklings struggling to stand on their own two feet. I can do nothing but absorb the humanity of it all. Even so, I’m starting to sink in to this glorious feeling that for the first time in my life I am actually ‘letting people in.’
I used to think “letting people in” meant ensuring no room of my house was ‘hidden’ from them (aka no secrets). What I’m telling you today is that that concept is great, but elementary. What good is knowing all the rooms if you are not acquainted with the people inside? The people who have so artfully decorated the rooms that provide you so much refreshment and comfort?
Here’s a more mature understanding of ‘letting people in’: it’s about providing others sight-line into our cognitive processes and giving them the immense privilege of influencing the outcome.
I’ve found that when I do let people see and inform my thinking, we achieve a better result together (and usually get there quicker!). And later on, upon settling into my mind at the end of a long day, its a different sort of retreat. Not like I’m hiding or scrambling for an answer. Rather, a celebratory retreat, like I’m sharing a beer with some dear friends who just achieved something worthwhile.
I’m not saying that from now until eternity I’ll let people in as soon as they knock. I pick and choose my entry-points. And sometimes my introvert persona insists on having its own way. And I yield. That’s more than okay. My message here does not deal in absolutes.
But I will say this. Today, and yesterday, and the day before that — I let the porch dweller in. And we’re both better off because of it.
BY JENNY B
We had similar drop-off times at our daycare. You were the mom who always had cool sunglasses and an actual hair style. Our kids were inseparable in their 2-year-old classroom. They would greet each other with palpable excitement and the biggest hugs. The daycare teachers told us the girls loved each other so much that they had to tell them to hug or pat on the back instead of exchanging kisses while they played. They chose each other, and it was the purest form of baby love.
We don’t have the same social circles, and I only ever ran into you once in the grocery store. Our kids started climbing out of their seats in the shopping carts to get to one another, and we laughed. They had recognized each other before we had noticed ourselves. Being barely 2-year-olds, they didn’t talk much, and didn’t need to to be thick as thieves. I showed you this photo and a short video from the Valentine’s day party. In the video, their little eyebrows raise and they gleefully charge toward each other, swinging around with abandon on the school gym dance floor. In another short clip, they are wiggling and shaking, like a small modern dance act to the song, “Shake it off.” They were completely unrehearsed and yet so in synch. I thought about asking for your phone number, so I could send you the pics from the school party. But, you looked tired and mentioned that you had some good ones, too. So, I let the moment pass.
I was just getting to the point in my own motherhood journey that it felt like things were getting easier. I resolved that the next time I saw you I would suggest that we have a playdate/meet-up outside of the daycare. I had just found a discount on passes to the Children’s Museum.
When COVID-19 precautions temporarily closed the daycare in March, I was overwhelmed trying to balance multiple responsibilities. In the blur of thoughts about the well-being of family and friends, I wondered how your household was. It’s one of those things never to assume and to wait until you’re told, but I thought I had noticed that you may be pregnant.
When the daycare reopened at limited capacity, you didn’t return. Weeks later you and several other families have not returned. I’ve thought about asking the school director to share our family’s contact information with you. What is the protocol for this? I haven’t been sure what to say to my daughter or what I would say to you, now.
Logistically, we won’t be able to hang out at the Children’s Museum, any time soon. And, 2-year-olds aren’t great on video calls. If you are dealing with extra stresses from a job loss or related to health/pregnancy, I don’t want to burden you. I guess I just want to know if you are doing ok. I wanted to have other ‘mom friends’ and know that I am doing ok. It feels like the tectonic plates beneath our feet have shifted and that whatever I was going to try to talk about with you during a meet up in March would be so different now.
My daughter used to wake up sometimes in the morning talking about how she had to get dressed to go see Harper. Sometimes, trying to get her to go to bed, we’d name all her cousins, one-by-one, “Jacob is sleeping in his bed. Tyler is sleeping in his bed…” And, she’d contribute to the list, “And, Harper is sleeping in her bed.” I think the whole Covid-19 Stay At Home timeframe was so strange and abrupt, at such a young age for her, that she didn’t ask questions about it. Or, maybe little kids are just so used to sweeping changes and the end of eras, because they are growing so quickly. To me, it feels like that routine and the mention of Harper’s name in our house just dropped soundlessly off a cliff. I was almost afraid to broach the topic with her, in case it upset her to remember that she hadn’t seen Harper, or that I didn’t have the answers.
With kids starting back at school this week, I was reflecting on all the new beginnings and missed connections in some way. My daughter talks a lot more, now. I asked her who she played with at school, and she was naming the children. I paused and then decided to open the subject, “Did you play with Harper?” She looked at me puzzled, like I missed the memo, and said, “No, she went home,” in a way that I knew she must have been asking her teachers and learned that response weeks ago.
I hope that you are well. I hope that you are out there having a healthy second baby, if that is the path you were on. My daughter will be turning 3, soon. Maybe we can find a way to have the girls celebrate, together. I heard Taylor Swift dropped a new album in July…
BY DIANE KERTH
Your finances are being challenged. Your boss is micro-managing. Maybe you don’t like your job. Maybe you don’t have a job. Your health is always of concern. Your family is adding to your stress and the world constantly has something happening. It’s easy to get in the mode of ‘everything is bad, my life stinks, and it feels like it won’t be getting better anytime soon’ as a way of LIVING. (Is that living??)
I have heard many people over the years say that they are OPEN to coaching, advice or guidance but the truth of the matter is there are times people DON’T really want to hear anything constructive from someone else. Yes, I do get it. Life is hard and sometimes people just want to wallow, be sad or feel angry because they think, “No one else really understands what I’m going through or how hard my life is!”
We have all been there at one time and it’s hard to go through things that we didn’t choose to have happen to us, or sometimes we are living through choices we did make and now realize was a bad choice. Change of any sort can be hard! The difference with many successful people is how long they stay in that mode of wallow or even realize that they ARE wallowing and soaking in the misery. It’s unproductive and will make life worse the longer they stay there.
We need to stand up on the inside, shake off the negativity and DO something to move forward. We really need to FIGHT to MOVE forward.
“You don't lose if you get knocked down; you lose if you stay down”. ~Muhammad Ali
So, what’s a solution?
Start asking yourself, What CAN I do?
Stop focusing on what you don’t have any control over. Focus on what you do have control over.
Here are some examples of what I have heard over the last 25 years that do NOT move you forward:
From now on ask yourself these 4 magic words:
What CAN I do?
I can clean my car.
I can call a friend. Ask about their lives. Listen to them and say nothing about my own problems. (Doing for others is very healthy)
I can take a walk.
I can drink more water.
I can research something online that I have always wanted to do.
I can ask someone for help! (This IS doing something and often the hardest thing to do.)
It’s the MINDSET we all need to strive for, there are ALWAYS things we CAN do.
Treat this as an experiment for the next 7 days. Keep asking yourself at any moment you feel stuck, “What CAN I do?” and see how your life changes.
BY MARYBETH GRONEK
With most things still closed and social distancing orders in place, I would like to say I’m spending all my extra time on fruitful and edifying pursuits, like reading, scrapbooking, and deep cleaning my apartment.
In reality, the majority of my time has been consumed by take-out and TV. And watching the dramatic performance that is 2020 unfold in all it’s Shakespearean glory.
Please tell me I’m not alone in this.
The silver lining of this couch-potato, sedentary existence has been the absence of a few extra pounds around the waist (what some have wittily monikered “the COVID-15”). Ironically, I’ve actually lost weight due to my *accidental* intermittent fasting. All the hours blur together, and I get to 2pm realizing I haven’t eaten yet. I’m sure I’m not alone in this either.
Watching TV during quarantine feels a lot like reading Harry Potter in the 2000s or the Hunger Games/Divergent in the 2010s. These fantasy and dystopian novels allowed us to transport to a place totally foreign from real life. And in so doing we could relax into something that was so ‘other,’ so not like what we were experiencing. It provided respite. And a common experience that we all could, for the most part, get behind.
In such polarizing times as these, my time in front of the TV has, shockingly, had a grounding effect. It’s provided characters and storylines that have inspired me, made me laugh, and most importantly made me feel like a human again. Which, in a mask-filled, glove-filled, six-foot-distance-filled society, is a welcome refreshment.
Without further ado, I’d like to introduce you to the five most important fictitious characters in my life right now.
Janeway is Captain and lead actress in Star Trek Voyager. Assertive, driven, feminine. She is the perfect example of a leader. She goes head-to-head with the war-lusty Kazon. She evades the Vidiians and their unconscionable organ-grafting racket. She crosses the Nekrit Expanse without precedent or regret. She does the unthinkable in negotiating with the Borg to ensure her crew’s safety. Oh, and she has terrific hair. #Bungoals
Let’s talk about her crew. She brings together Maquis and Federation crewmates — both with distinct organizing and leadership styles — to operate as a cohesive and unified force under her command. She treats each crew member with decency and dignity. She speaks her mind when people miss the mark, and offers praise when it is well-deserved. She’s tough and kind. Her crew adores her and respects her, a highly-coveted combination for any impactful leader with a long view of history.
I find myself admiring her interpersonal dynamics, her directness, her leadership style, and her compassion. I find myself using Janeway phrases like ‘Acknolwedged!’ and ‘I’ll be in my ready room’ (the former at work, the latter with my boyfriend). I find myself thinking if I could be more like her, there’s not a problem I wouldn’t be able to solve or a dangerous scrape I wouldn’t emerge from with grace. I find myself wondering what my relationships would be like if I gave more second chances the way Janeway did to Tom Paris and B’elanna and Seven of Nine. I find myself thinking if I could navigate the many seasons of my life the way Janeway navigates a starship, I’d be more than alright.
He’s the stuff of legends. L.A. Defense attorney. Suit donner and bullshit slayer. There’s not a hopeless, yet justified, cause he’d turn down. He defends the innocent client with bad optics, you know, the person found standing over the dead body holding the murder weapon but actually didn’t do it. A bulwark for truth, justice, and the American way.
He finds a proper motive the way a stoned teenager finds a Taco Burrito King — quickly and with singular devotion.
And no one says “Incompetent. Irrelevant. And immaterial” quite like he does.
Cinematically, the show is the perfect blend of suspense and predictability.
The show — boasting one of the longest syndication runs in TV history — is a history-buff’s dream. Set in 1932 Los Angeles, it was the first courtroom drama to hit television, as well as the first hour-long program that wasn’t a Western. Courtroom shows are so ubiquitous nowadays, so it’s hard to imagine being the first show of its kind pioneering that trail.
But Perry Mason was more than an archetype. His stoic tenacity for justice inspired many now-notable attorneys and justices, like Sonia Sotomayor, to pursue litigation as a career.
Yes, I am re-watching this late 90s show about a teenage witch, her two crazy aunts and their talking cat. No, I am not embarrassed to admit it. It’s been the guilty pleasure that I cannot get enough of.
I didn’t watch this show when it first came out. I was so bookish my teenager years that I barely came near a TV (how do you work this remote, anyways?) I first watched the show on Amazon Prime during grad school and I was hooked.
Sabrina is the high school student I wanted to be — confident but not popular. She’s quirky & fully embraces her eccentricities. That confidence gets her the dreamy boyfriend and an overall fun, rich life.
The first episode is Sabrina’s 16th birthday when she finds out she’s part-witch. Throughout the show, her aunt Hilda and Zelda, as well as the former-dictator-turned-cat Salem, help Sabrina through the process of maturing in her powers.
I like Sabrina the Teenage Witch the way I like Jane Eyre and To Kill A Mockingbird — it’s a Bildungsroman, aka ‘coming of age’ story. I love watching Sabrina mess up and learn from her mistakes. I love seeing the encouragement she gets from her family as she moves from adolescence to adulthood. And honestly, this go around, I’m taking notes. If I’m ever blessed enough to have children, I’d want to raise them the same way. Not with a talking cat, obviously, but with a family culture that encourages exploration, delivers guidance with charming candor, and makes space for grace.
The Victorian house and the magical powers would be an added plus. 😉
Andy Griffith is the dopest, most honest and upstanding sheriff that ever did grace the big screen. Son to Aunt Bee, father to Opie, and mentor to Deputy Fife, Andy is the *glue* that holds Mayberry together. And his southern drawl is somethin’ charming.
More laid back than a recliner, his easy-going, genteel attitude gets delinquents to change their ways & earns him the respect of everyone in the town. He’s Opie’s dad. He’s Mayberry’s dad. And, if you’re anything like me, you leave each episode kind of wanting him to be yours too.
If you’ve been reading this and wondering to yourself, How geriatric! Does she even watch anything from a more recent decade? Alas! You are wrong. Well, partly wrong. I do watch a lot of MeTV, who, judging by their preponderance of incontinence and life insurance commercials, is targeting an audience above seventy. So yes, I’m a bit of an old soul. But I do watch TV from this decade. I watched Fuller House (and loved it). I watched Once Upon a Time (and rewatched it). I watched Tiger King (and couldn’t quite settle on how I felt about it. Horrified? Enthralled? Is there really one word to summarize the vast array of emotions accompanying that show?)
Lately, though, I’ve been watching Sweet Magnolias on Netflix. The story of three women from a small town who go into business together. Helen Decatur, one of those three woman, is my TV crush right now. She’s a fun, witty, and vivacious attorney who uses her charm to pretty much get anything she wants. While she’s tough, she’s got such a soft side. I think that’s why I like her so much. Her power hasn’t diminished her femininity one bit. She’s not afraid to cry or tease, and when she speaks her mind its not in a harsh way. Firm but kind.
She reminds me that I can catch more flies with honey than vinegar. And I don’t have to trade assertiveness in the process.
Added bonus: Heather Headley (the actress) and I used to go to the same church back in the 2010s and to see her career skyrocket has been nothing short of amazing.
I’ve learned 5,728 million things during quarantine.
My most favorite lesson?
Don’t be picky with your muse.
Inspiration comes from the oddest of places. Like fictional TV characters.
I try not to be too choosy.
BY DIANE KERTH
It was Friday afternoon. The workday was coming to a close and I couldn’t wait to pour myself a glass of cold white wine. When I got home I went to the refrigerator, opened the door and to my utter amazement no wine! How could this be! It was disappointing to say the least. I didn’t feel like making the trek to the store so, I went back to the refrigerator and looked again as if maybe I missed a lonely bottle of Chardonnay pushed to the back, hiding behind the food. No, nothing, not a single bottle of Chardonnay hiding anywhere. All that I saw, was a bottle of Champagne on the top shelf that I was saving for a special occasion.
Then I realized I have had that Champagne bottle sitting there for at least 2 years! For a “special occasion”? I have had many wonderful events in the last 2 years so why was I SAVING it? And what makes a bottle of Champagne any more special than a bottle of wine?
This really had me thinking. The Champagne I was staring at in the refrigerator was only about $10 and the wine I usually purchase is between $10 - $15 so what gives? My bottle of wine is often MORE expensive than the Champagne. Is my problem that I spend too little on Champagne or is the problem that I put too little value on the wine just because it doesn’t sound as fancy as Champagne? Why do I value one thing more than another?
Now we are on to something!
Do we value someone more when they have a special job title? Or how they look? Or what they drive?
How much do we value OURSELVES?
Self-worth (a sense of one’s own value) is a driver to many things in our lives. When we have a healthy self-worth, we can have an easier time with decisions, stress and pressure. We can be open to experiences that stretch us into growing as a person. Every day we are constantly communicating with ourselves. It’s called thinking. 😊Over and over we may be repeating some of the same statements in our heads. What we think about can direct how we feel about ourselves. Are we more likely to be successful if we are saying to ourselves:
“I messed up again. Why aren’t I as attractive as other people? I am a failure. I should be making more money in my life by now. If I were thinner people would like me more. If I were taller I would probably be more confident. Maybe I’m dumber than I think? Am I a big loser? I thought I was smart, am I just kidding myself? ”
Or are we more likely to be successful if we repeat over and over:
“I know what I am doing. I am an awesome person. I know I am doing my best. I am improving every day. I am strong. I am special. I am valuable. I am loved. I am a great person. I am succeeding at life. I am confident. I am outstanding. I am worthy. I like me.”
We need to do our best to feed ourselves strong positive language. The words that we keep replaying in our heads make a huge difference on the quality of life we are living daily. We can be so hard on ourselves that we may not even realize it. How we communicate with others, is important for building relationships, having impact and being understood and it’s also CRITICAL to have positive strong communication with ourselves. On the road to a successful life we need to have a strong self-worth and build on it every day.
There are other aspects of how we can increase our self-worth such as doing things we may have always wanted to try but never have. It’s about doing them and completing them, not necessarily being good or bad at them. We also need to treat ourselves well physically and take charge of the areas in our life that we have control over. A good first step to increasing our self-worth is to start being aware, mindful, of what we are saying to ourselves every day. Feed your mind with words that will build you up not rip you apart. When we understand that we are valuable and worthy, it allows us to say YES or NO to choices without worrying about pleasing someone else. Increasing our self-worth, increases our ability to stand up and live the life we want to be living.
I said YES, to drinking the Champagne!
BY MARYBETH GRONEK
Enter: Seemingly perfect single person at a family gathering.
The scene goes something like this. You’re at a function. A relative (a usually caring and compassionate one, I might add) inquires about the State of Your Love Life.
You clear your throat. You’re prepared. It’s only the 5,846th millionth time you’ve been asked this question.
I’ve been dating a bit, but no one in particular that I’m excited about right now.
The relative turns to you, bleary-eyed, with Mother-Theresa-imbued understanding and consideration, and says,
“Just be yourself.
When you meet the right person, it will work out.”
I’ve never played soccer (or any contact sport for that matter). But this phrase impacts me the way I imagine a ball-to-the-groin hits the not-so-fortunate recipient: right where it hurts.
I’m in a relationship right now, so I’ve been spared the “just be yourself” line for some time now. This distance has allowed me to analyze the phrase more logically and less emotionally, and to fully understand why it is so irksome, frustrating, and confusing.
The problems with this phrase are threefold.
#1 — It assumes I haven’t been “myself” up till this point.
I can’t really begin to explain how insulting this is, but I’ll try. To evaluate someone’s dating life, from the outside looking in, and to conclude that the reason they are single is because they’ve been “shy” or “not themselves” during dates is the height of arrogance. If you could just stop being so love-struck or so anxious or so obsessed with what other people think you could finally find a mate you poor, unfortunate person! It implies that you think I have zero game, extreme nervousness, or massive insecurity issues (all of which may be true btw), but for you to assume that is happening and to rely on that as the “source” of my singleness says more about you than it does about me.
People are complex. They are beautiful, wonderful mysteries wrapped inside intricate, magnificent enigmas. Buried in a treasure box. On a remote island. On another planet. Across the galaxy.
It takes a massive amount of time to simply “skim the surface” of what makes a person tick. To understand why they act a specific way in certain situations. Ask married people. They’ll tell you it takes a lifetime to learn just one person, and even then there are mysteries to unravel. Each day a new discovery. You’re telling me you can take a quick glance at my circumstances and chart a simple course from You-Are-Acting-This-Way to You-Are-Single? B.S.
#2 — It assumes the lack of being “myself” is the reason I’m single.
Another huge assumption. Another miscalculation with broad strokes. There are *plenty* of reasons why people are single, many of which have nothing to do with “not being myself.”
For those of you actively dating — maybe you’ve just met a lot of duds lately. Or maybe you met some incredibly interesting people, but their value-system didn’t quite align with yours, making it a poor match long-term. Or maybe the value-system aligned but the chemistry just wasn’t there. I hate to be the it’s not me, it’s you girl, but sometimes the shoe fits. Sometimes we go through bouts of dating people that just aren’t right for us. And it has nothing to do with “being myself.”
For those of you not actively dating — maybe you’ve made a choice to stay single for a season to focus on your career, or your friendships, or other passions. Or maybe you’re just too damn busy loving your life to really care.
Life is multi-faceted, and so is love. To assume that someone is single because they aren’t being themselves shows your naiveté — as if that is the only reason why things don’t work out. Or why people are single. Come, now. Nuance with me.
#3 — It conveys that I shouldn’t change.
When I hear “just be yourself” it also sounds a lot like “don’t change.”
Which is TERRIBLE advice if you actually care about someone.
The sweet mom who lovingly tells her boy he is perfect, that he doesn’t have to change a thing about himself, is doing him a grave disservice.
What if he needs to change? What if I need to?
There’s so much about dating that is mysterious, but this part is crystal clear: if you have unappealing habits that are repelling quality people, then you probably need to change.
Some obvious eye-sores in dating:
What if it is you?
What if you *need* to change to attract the partner of your dreams? In that case, saying “just be yourself” and implying someone doesn’t need to change is extremely bad advice, especially if they do want a partner. It will likely leave them lonely forever.
Don’t misunderstand. This isn’t about “accepting” someone. We accept the people we care about. Duh. This is about calling out behaviors, patterns, and life choices that are so obviously limiting peoples’ chances at love.
And, as the recipient, having the humility to course-correct.
Yes, I may need to change. And that is absolutely okay!
As you can see, this “just be yourself” phrase has its issues.
The phrase would be problematic enough if it just stopped at Hey! It has multiple, conflicting meanings, so stop using it.
But there’s more.
There’s an undertone to this phrase that is actually quite true. Piercingly true. That’s the confusing — and effective — part. The *face-value* component is off-base. The undertone is spot on.
What I think people intend to mean when they say ‘just be yourself’ isn’t don’t change rather, show up. Let me explain.
Sometimes we hold back in relationships. We trade authenticity for attachment. We don’t show up fully for fear that those in our life will leave. When something someone does bothers us we don’t say anything (silence) or we lash out (anger), both of which mask our true emotion — sadness and pain. Or we hold back on what we really want to do or say because we don’t think the other person can “handle” us.
Something I’ve been asking myself repeatedly in my current relationship: what does it look like for me to show up right now?
It changes moment to moment. Sometimes showing up means dancing barefoot, unabashedly, to Frank Sinatra with my boyfriend because I feel like being romantic. Sometimes it means saying I’d rather stay in than go out because the sweatpants are calling my name! Sometimes it means telling him, with complete vulnerability, that he let me down instead of responding with anger or silence. Sometimes it’s being strong for him. Sometimes it’s letting him take care of me when I need it, letting him pick up the pieces of a bad day when I can’t do it on my own. Sometimes it’s catching his eye across the room and twirling, because I just feel like being a girl in that moment.
Essentially — “showing up” is acting on and vocalizing my truest feelings and thoughts. No filter. No cover-up. No hiding.
I think this is the essence of “just be yourself” advice in it’s purest, most helpful form. People rarely hear this undertone though, because they’re too repelled and distracted by the surface, nonsensical meanings.
“Just be yourself” comes across as others suggesting I’m presenting a mask to the world (which, again, is insulting) or that I don’t need to change anything (which, again, is wrong). When rather, the real sword-piecing truth is Hey — you’re showing up at 75% of yourself. Can you stop hiding when you’re disappointed and communicate that please? Can you show up at 100%?
I submit we have the funeral for this phrase.
And say something much more useful instead.
Show up. Continue showing up. I’m so proud of you.
Very few times in life does the sentiment “it’s the effort that counts” actually hold its weight in veracity. This is one of those times. When it comes to dating, it is the trying that counts. It’s the putting oneself out there. It’s the showing up at 100%. It’s the trying, over and over again. Whether you’re single or in a relationship.
Because it is precisely in the effort that you get the result. You can’t snap your fingers and be happily married. You can’t meet your dream partner if you don’t put in the effort of dating and show up completely in that space.
So when we see a single person showing up, let it challenge & motivate us to do the same in our own love life (if we aren’t already).
And let’s not offer them the ultra-confusing word salad of “just be yourself.” Their effort warrants much more.
Instead let’s applaud them for saying ‘no’ to the wrong thing, even in the midst of what might be a lonely season.
Let’s applaud them for trying to fix their life up before inviting someone to share it.
Let’s applaud them for showing up. Over and over again.
The way we show up over and over again for our partner. Our job. Our family and friends.
Acknowledge and honor the effort.
You are trying. And that’s awesome.
It’s really that simple.
BY JENNY B
Have you ever watched a child pretending to drive? I remember my friend Lindsay joking as we began our high school driver’s ed course that one of her earliest memories was her dad’s terror at her first driving experience. She was only a few years old when he let her sit on his lap and ‘help’ pull the car from the back to the front of the driveway while they were waiting for the rest of the family. Her first instinct at how to drive a car was to wildly swing the steering wheel, sharp left to sharp right. Even inching along at the rate of 0-5 miles per hour, she remembers her dad’s instant panic as the wheels of the car swung sharply toward the brick of their house and then the neighbors’, and bringing that idea for ‘a game’ quickly to an end. Yes, her family had a good laugh and reminded her of the last time she was ‘allowed to drive’, as we begin as 15-year-olds to really learn and take responsibility for operating a 1-ton machine on the open road.
I’ve watched my daughter play in plastic, toddler-sized toy cars. Her instincts are the same, to wildly maneuver the steering wheel, even when she can see that it sharply changes the direction she is moving in. Try the experiment sitting while waiting in a parked, real car, and she will add in pushing every button and turning every knob on the dashboard. This is her idea of driving and being in control.
While I support using every tool you have in your experience, she and I have different ideas about what it means to operate in control. Many adults with the benefit of a longer timeline of life experience and physical maturity of the brain will be smiling by now. Because we know that being a good driver does equate to applying your energy and attention to pushing buttons and turning the wheel just because you can.
You see where I am going with this, right? As an adult in the broader context of life, this has caused me to reflect on being in control of not just my car, but my health, my life:
The last one, which turns the context to the more external, social, and goal-oriented is the adult perspective. My child’s experience is all about the joy of getting to play with the car. She is just playing and not trying to get anywhere or be ‘on time.’ How we operate in relation to others gets a lot of attention. Still, I would encourage you to not pass so quickly over the first 2 questions, and look inward for yourself.
In driver’s ed, they taught us the ‘Rules of the Road’: How to Operate a Car Safely in Public. If you stop at that threshold in other areas of your life, it’s like taking pride in saying, “I am confident that I know how to chew and swallow my food when I go out to a nice meal at a restaurant, so I do not choke and need to be given the Heimlich maneuver.” Better to ask: Are you eating food you enjoy? Is it nourishing your body, relationships, and future? Those are the type of nuanced, next-level questions that can make the difference beyond just getting by at a basic level.
We have been asking a lot of these questions in my household, lately, in an attempt to better ourselves and question some of the patterns we have adopted, especially as work and family life got busier in our 30s. Even in times of crisis, it’s bringing some joy back to our days to implement small changes like new and healthier foods, instead of the same go-to, easy dinner. Or, video calling with some of the extended family/friends circle, when, perhaps, we’ve been leaning heavily on our inner, obvious circle, for months, now.
In reflecting on Father’s Day 2020 this past weekend, nothing is perfect. But, we are a little healthier and happier for opening ourselves up to our higher minds and aspirations.
Special shout out to my husband who is a great dad and pictured in the photo with our daughter. He said the most swoon-worthy thing the morning I was writing this, which felt ‘out of nowhere’. But, as we know, so many experiences that come ‘out of nowhere’ have a long history of being shaped. He said, “I don’t know why we have a Father’s Day and a Mother’s Day. I believe in equality, and it’s not like we are providing uniquely different things for our daughter. It should just be Parents’ Day.”
Swoon. And, that was the first time I was truly grateful for all the hard work and conversations we’ve had to have put in this year. It feels like we are finally getting beyond the basics and starting to enjoy driving.
BY DIANE KERTH
“Walking Squared” is a path to the life we want to be living.
The other day I went for a long walk outside. It was late in the day which was a mistake because it was hot! Very Hot! Sweaty hot! Where all you may think about is being hot. For a long time now, I have used my walks as a time to focus, recharge and get in tune with myself. Sometimes I listen to music and other times just listen to the sounds around me such as birds, the wind, or trees rustling. Walking is so much more than just burning calories. On this particular walk, my head was saying things like, “Gosh I’m out of shape. I’m so mad at myself. I shouldn’t have been eating so much. This is what I get for being lazy lately.“ It was all kinds of negative, beat myself up, words. Fortunately, I caught myself and thought, this is not helping me push through this hard walk. I know better than to get caught in a pattern of negative thinking. I need to find positive things to say to myself. I need to start thinking strong, uplifting, empowering words. I know it will make me feel better, so I need to change it! I kept walking, putting one foot in front of the other, step after step, till struggling with the heat but NOW thinking. “I am strong. I am kind. I am out here walking instead of sitting on the couch eating. I am moving instead of watching TV. I am getting healthier. I can do this. ” I started to feel better, repeating over and over positive words. I was getting more energized with each positive thought and the walk became more tolerable. The words I was FEEDING myself made a huge difference on completing the walk. I made it home with a smile on my face and proud of how I was now feeling.
Feeding myself positive information is important to living my life, Walking Squared. It’s a term I live by, which reminds me of what I want in life and that it takes effort, intention and focus. You see, there is a blue square I drew with a pen, on a piece of white paper, hanging in my house. People ask me about it ALL the time. “Why is that paper, with the blue square on it, taped to your kitchen cabinet?” It’s because it reminds me that I DO know what I want. It’s a reminder to refocus, keep my goals, dreams and desired life in clear focus. I’m definitely not in control of all things in life but I do have control over some areas of my life. I control what I can control, and I let the rest go. The life I want is IN that square. How I feel about myself goes IN that square and so everything IN that square will be all things good! 😊 I am constantly on a quest to move forward in my life, step-by-step, towards all of the things that are in that blue square posted on my kitchen cabinet. It’s what I call Walking Squared, Moving Forward with Focus. The blue square on my kitchen cabinet is a clean blue square. Once you’ve done the work and know what you want in it, the blank square acts as an awesome reminder.
The first thing to living this way is to figure out what we want our lives to be about? Who do we want to be? What’s important to us?
Draw a square on a piece of paper. What words would you put in it? Happy, Encouraging, Loving, Healthy, Confident, are some of MY words. Then after it’s filled in with as many as you want, draw another square on a different page with how would you describe your life now? If the squares match with similar words, then excellent! But if you find yourself writing down words such as tired, stressed, worried, angry, drinking too much, eating too much, embarrassed of who I am, then there are definitely areas to improve upon, assuming that is NOT the life you want to be living.
How we communicate makes a huge impact on who we are and the life we lead.
I believe that we treat ourselves based on what we say to ourselves. Grab hold of the power we have available to each of us by saying positive empowering words to ourselves, as well as the positive things we can say to others. Words can lift people up or tear people down. Words are our thoughts; our thoughts drive our emotions. Our emotions drive our choices. All of this drives how our life unfolds. If we want what’s in our desired squares, we need to start speaking words that will guide us to our desired result. I strive to be Walking Squared every day. What’s in your square?
BY MARYBETH GRONEK
It’s the little foxes that spoil the garden.
It’s the little stains that ruin the outfit.
It’s the little shards of glass that, when stepped on, prove the trickiest and most painful to extract.
Truth is, most dangerous people we meet aren’t serial killers. They are your average Joes (sorry to all the people named Joe out there) who *seem* okay for a while, then come at you with such cruelty that you’re like who the heck is this, and how did I not see this before?
If we’re being real honest, though, there were things. Little things.
Little things here and there that didn’t quite sit right. A weird look. A bizarre response to something someone else said. A visceral feeling to not disclose completely. Little subtleties that (should have) clued us in that something’s not quite right. That trouble is ahead.
And then sh*t hits the fan and our subconscious is like Yep. Saw that coming a yardstick away.
Because not every foe comes at us with a pitchfork. Because real danger is an iceberg; barely visible on the horizon, the true horror buried much deeper. Because we can’t see a wolf’s teeth until it growls.
But we can notice the scowl.
That’s what this article is about: identifying the *low-key* signs that someone is dangerous. Not murderous dangerous. Just the type that will steal your joy, throw shade your impact, & minimize your legacy. You know, the things that really matter.
1. They are tenacious about maintaining appearances.
They are hyper-conscious of how they appear to others and actively work to control your perception of them. Whether it’s wanting to appear smart or strong or capable or ‘edgy,’ such people protect their image at all costs and view everything you say and do through the lens of does this threaten or uphold my image?
This person will seem really normal and then fly off the handle all of a sudden to a seemingly innocent comment from a friendly source that was mistaken as a threat. For such an individual, nothing is ‘neutral’ — everything either supports or attacks the image of themselves they’ve constructed. It’s called narcissism in its extreme form (or megalomania when it’s most intense), but, honestly, most cases are less severe. And are perpetrated by people who, generally, care about others but don’t know how to go about maintaining relationship when they feel threatened. Which is often.
2. They have unresolved issues.
You’ve heard the phrase: hurt people hurt people. When someone experiences pain and hasn’t sufficiently dealt with it or healed from it, you can bet they are dangerous. Much like the ‘appearances’ person, they seem normal until you unknowingly touch upon their unresolved issue.
Unresolved issues manifest in different ways. It could be an overcritical, berating father whose son grows up to never be proud of himself or his work. So when you innocently remind him of something he has to do for you, he flies off the handle, not having resolved the issue of feeling inadequate. Or maybe the woman who was cheated on by a previous partner who can’t seem to trust any man— at work or in her love life — since. And when a male colleague or person she’s dating innocently omits key information she rails into him. Fearful, of course, that he’s being dishonest. Like the ‘appearances’ person, the ‘unresolved issues’ person reacts to every encounter through the lens of their pain. And thus, their behavior is erratic — normal in most circumstances, but completely irrational when intersecting with the unhealed wound.
3. They are a drama magnet.
This is the person who seems to always be connected with relational drama. They cause repeated strife in the friend group, they’ve been ostracized from their family (by choice), they’ve “had to” cut out people from their life. Each of these in isolation may be justified and maybe isn’t so bad. The drama magnet, though, will have an ‘all of the above’ approach— a long history of stirring the relational pot. Boil down any controversy and you will find them at the center. Talk about a resume builder!
Unlike Harry, Ron, and Hermione though, the drama magnet is not as self-aware and doesn’t realize that they are the epicenter of relational strife. I once had a friend like this. She would talk about people behind their back repeatedly. She cut herself off from her biological family. She caused drama at her church, to the point where she physically had to leave the state. She even ruined a budding romance of mine by poisoning the man’s opinion of me. Really gross stuff. Every place she traversed she left a path of destruction in her wake. Such people are dangerous because they are a ticking bomb: it’s only a matter of time before you are next.
4. They choose to air grievances publicly, not privately.
Utilized by the insecure in physical venues and the cowardly in virtual spaces, public confrontation may seem like the *ultimate* power move. It’s celebrated in movies, TV shows, and other cultural benchmarks. The bowl in the china shop. The one who is “not afraid” to make waves. Real Housewives style.
The truth is: they’re scared. Scared to share what is actually bothering them. Scared of being vulnerable. Scared of not getting what they want. Scared to be on the receiving end of your disappointment. And unable to bear its weight. So they put on a spectacle. Because then they only have to deal with your shock, not the substance of your concerns.
A wise person once told me — praise publicly, critique privately. Why do we have so much trouble following this adage that we know, implicitly, is the honorable way? Because it’s easier to critique publicly. Private confrontation involves dialogue. A back and forth. Understanding, concessions, and oftentimes, meeting in the middle. And acknowledging that maybe I’m a bit in the wrong too. Critiquing privately involves introspection and personal growth. Essentially, it requires work from both parties .The painful, yet good kind of work.
Dangerous people run from this at all costs. Their energy is spent elsewhere — preventing their ego from meeting their true self. Self-reflection cannot be permitted. So the environment that engenders such reflections (dialogue) must also be avoided. Dangerous people don’t talk through, they act out.
You know what takes courage? Looking into someone’s eyes, one-on-one, and actually telling them how they missed the mark. If everyone out there actually did this, I believe we could heal our relationships. Heck, we could heal our land.
5. They have patterns of deception.
And corresponding justification.There is no trait more universally bemoaned than deception. It is the scourge of every world that contains it and the downfall of every character that embraces it. Want proof? Look no further than our collective canon of literary examples. Satan was called “the great deceiver.” Judas Iscariot traded his friend for 30 silver pieces. From Othello’s Iago to Hamlet’s Claudius, Shakespeare villians share deception as their one linking ethos. Fast-forward a few hundred years. Scar deceived Mufasa. Peter Pettigrew deceived the Potters. Loki deceived all of Asgard (over and over again). The list is endless.
When it comes to character constitution, there is no trait more corrupting and degrading. Or, as Marcellus puts it after seeing the ghost of Hamlet’s father, Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.
Not every deception, though, is as deadly obvious as a Shakespeare play. And in 21st century life, it usually pairs with a hearty side of justification.
I dated a guy a few years ago who was recently divorced. He treated me well and I thought he really treasured me. A few months in, I found out he had filed for divorce but it wasn’t actually finalized yet. He conveniently left out that detail. Of course he justified this oversight by his fear of losing me should I know the truth. Regardless of his reason, I couldn’t sugar-coat it — he intentionally deceived me. And then he tried to justify his deception.
I started playing back our conversations and began seeing justifications everywhere, even for things I didn’t accuse him of. It made me doubt…pretty much everything.
This deception-justification pattern is a common behavior of the dangerous. Why? Because like the drama magnet, it’s only a matter of time before you are the deceived party. And when that time comes, you won’t get a heartfelt apology. You’ll get a cold, hard, chilling, justification. No inkling of remorse, no desire to change on their part. To stay, at that juncture, would mean willingly agreeing to be duped in the future. And no self-respecting person can do that. To befriend a known deceiver is to agree to a fruitless relationship that is bound to end. Might as well start preparing the eulogy.
6. They refuse to take responsibility.
“We’ve gotten to the point where everybody’s got a right and nobody’s got a responsibility.” Newton Minow, former FCC Chair
A subtly dangerous person will refuse to take responsibility. For their own actions. For how those actions impacted you. For anything, for that matter. They are incorrigible — in the worst possible way. They cannot be prevailed upon to assume any sort of negative responsibility, perceived or otherwise. Any problem, should it exist in the world, is someone else’s fault.
Do a quick scan of those in your relational web. Can you find someone who, to your recollection, has a habit of not taking responsibility for their actions? If so, stay far away. Chances are they are dangerous & you (luckily) have not had the occasion to find out. For the record, I think Lorelei Gilmore is delightful and not at all dangerous! ;)
7. They force you to doubt reality.
Doubt is their name and gaslight is their game. This is when the person moves out of the *subtly* dangerous category and into the *overtly* dangerous category. They try to convince you something happened that didn’t. Or, more likely, they try to convince that you that something that did happen actually didn’t. Like their poor behavior (that you point out) or not fulfilling their word (which you call them on). Instead of making excuses or justification, which is insulting enough, they have the audacity to tell you you are not remembering things correctly. Sound familiar? Stephanie Sarkis, Ph.D. has done terrific work outlining other characteristics of gaslighters that really hits the mark.
Gaslighting is a natural outgrowth of justification (#5) and not taking responsibility (#6). Instead of providing rationale or blaming someone else, the gaslighter just asserts ‘no you’re remembering it wrong, that’s not how it was.’ It involves a level of self-deception that is quite flabbergasting. And it violates trust between two people, which is the bedrock of a healthy relationship. If someone is trying to get you to doubt reality — RUN.
I don’t think a dangerous person has to meet all of the above criteria. Heck, I don’t even think someone has to exhibit a natural progression of terrible behavior. Relationships aren’t that neat and tidy. Just one or two of these signs should raise alarm bells in your psyche. At the end of the day, it’s up to you to acknowledge these psychological “alarms” and determine what your next course of action is. Namely, if you will maintain or break rapport. Either way you win because you are now in control! The likelihood of getting caught off guard by dangerous behavior will be minimized. You are now equipped with the warning signs.
Why does this all matter? Because life is too short to spend it with toxic people. Maybe it’s just me, but ever since I hit my thirties my BS threshold has gone way up. I love my life and have no time or mental energy to waste on people who don’t deserve that investment. These signs help differentiate the healthy from seemingly-healthy. They prevent investing in someone who who won’t be in my life long-term. And they provide a sense of confidence and security that those in my inner circle can be trusted. Really trusted.
So here’s to meaningful living.
To enduring relationships.
And to spotting the scowl before the growl. 😉
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