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Archive for the ‘Self-Help’ Category

A lot of young parents work in my office. I was talking with one new dad, who I’d say is in his mid-30s, about how sometimes it can be hard to do something life-changing like having a kid when you’re older and more accustomed to your life the way it is.

That got me thinking about my friends in their 20s. For the most part we’re not at the marriage-and-babies phase yet, but the single ones are looking for relationships. As someone who has spent a fair amount of time being single (I’ve never been the serial monogamist), I have to say that when you do meet someone with potential, it’s an adjustment to fit them into your life without leaving your friends feeling neglected. Dating (even casually) is time consuming. You get used to your single routine — gym, dinner with friends, TV shows you watch regularly, happy hours. Suddenly there’s a person you hang out with two or three times a week, someone who gets dibs on at least one of your weekend nights, and the routine goes out the window. It’s what you’ve wanted for a long time, and it’s great, but it’s still a change.

I’ve heard friends say that they want someone who fits into their life, that they aren’t going to chase, that they aren’t going to change for anyone. The thing is, you pretty much have no choice but to change. When you add a boyfriend or girlfriend to your plate, something has to give if it’s going to work. You’re not the only one changing your schedule around, they are too!

I’m a list-maker and calendar-keeper, and I find that helps me juggle my social calendar as best as possible. And I try not to let my schedule get so fixed in place that I can’t make room for a guy. When a guy calls you to make plans and is greeted with a laundry list of all the hobbies you have to pass the time (“Mondays is my knitting class! And on Tuesdays and Thursdays I have yoga! And drinks with the girls on Friday!…Can you do three Wednesdays from now?”), they’ll stop trying and go find some girl who can schedule a date within the week.

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In one day, I came upon two different blog postings about the same thing: Women who develop a sense of entitlement when it comes to what kind of man they want and think they deserve.

We tend to describe ourselves in list form. We’re smart, funny, pretty, kind, hard-working (if you’ve ever read cliche online dating profiles, you see a lot of this). We want a man who conforms to a list as well: educated, tall, good-looking, funny, charming, sensitive, etc. We want, we want, we want. But realistically, what’s out there? I’m not saying what’s out there is crap, far from it. But how many people can really fulfill every qualification you have? And take a good look at yourself: Can you really fulfill a long must-have list, too? Check out the above links. Food for thought.

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No matter how necessary it might be, no one likes to break up with another person. Even if you just about hate them now, you feel a sense of obligation. At some point, you liked this person, maybe even loved them, so hurting them isn’t going to be easy. I’ve had a few conversations with friends who’ve recently been through breakups and are in varying stages of getting over it, and I’ve realized that breaking up with someone doesn’t just take courage. It takes a tremendous amount of self-confidence.

Here’s why:

1. It takes confidence to be selfish. Dumping someone is a selfish act. Haven’t you ever been on the receiving end of the “How could you be so selfish?!” line? Yeah, thought so. But being selfish is a necessary part of life. It’s self-preservation. It allows you to take care of yourself so you can better take care of others. Often one gets roped into remaining friends with an ex out of guilt, but a confident person realizes that this would not be a true friendship, so out of self-preservation (no offense to the other person), they cut ties completely in order to properly get over the relationship and move on. Being selfish can be damn smart.

2. It takes confidence to think you can do better. When you realize what a catch you are, and how you deserve a great relationship, and how the person you’re with is not the last datable person on Earth, you gain the ability to let go of a relationship that’s no longer serving your needs.

3. It takes confidence to think you’re better off single and alone than paired up in a cruddy relationship. Really, people put up with a lot of crap so they won’t be lonely. A confident person is okay with going through a period of being single and will enjoy that stage of life (or whatever stage they happen to be in). A person lacking confidence will assume a relationship will help fill some void. It won’t. You will always have that void and even with a relationship, you’ll go on trying to find other things to fill it.

So, there you have it. If you’re contemplating breaking up with your S.O., or you’ve just been through a breakup and the ex is playing the we-can-be-friends-so-I-can-secretly-try-to-get-you-back card, put yourself first. Get this person out of your life. It’s hard to do, but it gets easier as you begin to realize how much you’re really worth.

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A male friend IMed me to chat about my post about men’s fashion. He had some follow-up questions about stuff I didn’t cover (Such as: t-shirts — tucked in ever? I say no). Then came the line I hear a lot: Why is it so damn important to care so much about this crap, anyway?

Let me tell you, I don’t like that question. It’s not just because there’s no easy answer (fashion, really, is quite frivolous compared to a lot of other things), but because it’s hard to convince people — even people who know I’m right — that your appearance is paramount. I get that “we should get beyond all of that surface stuff,” but…we don’t. We, as human beings, as animals, don’t. How you look plays a role in how you’re treated. Enough people have done experiments where they dressed nicely for a few hours and then dressed shabbily for a few hours and gauged people’s reactions to prove that. When you interview for a job, when you attend a formal event, when you go to religious services, when you go on a date, the way you look matters. It shows that you pay attention to social norms. It shows that you take care of yourself. It shows respect for yourself and those who are around you or with you. Not only is underdressing a bad thing, but often overdressing can make people just as suspicious of you.

Long story short, looks fucking matter. Get over yourself.

Not only does this kind of question bother me for the reasons above, but it bothers me because of this: The same people who make no effort to dress appropriately still judge the appearance of others. It’s human nature! So, slobby people of the world, you think the rules don’t apply to you? You think you can look like you haven’t showered for days, and then expect some really hot person to be interested in you because you’re a nice person and they should see through the layer of grime? But you wouldn’t want to touch an unattractive person with a ten foot pole because you can do better! It doesn’t work that way.

If nothing I’ve said hits home for you, think of it this way: If you’re single and looking for dates (or, say, job hunting) wouldn’t you want to do everything in your power to give yourself the advantage? If all you have to do to make a major difference in how you’re perceived by others is wear clothes that fit you better, clothes you can probably acquire in a one-day shopping trip, wouldn’t you do that?

Don’t think of caring about fashion as having to follow lame social conventions. Think of it as adding one more tool in your arsenal. Grooming is a tool. Humor is a tool. Knowledge of current events is a tool. You are creating the impression of yourself that others get. Create the right impression.

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Read it here.

What I find interesting is that this article tells you to listen to your intuition. Simple advice, isn’t it? But so many of us don’t. That little voice in your mind, or that nagging feeling in the pit of your stomach, will not steer you in the wrong direction. If something’s telling you a relationship isn’t good, listen. The rest of your body tends to realize things much sooner than your heart.

Another good line from this article: “People who have great relationships don’t spend very much time talking about them to others.” True story! I can tell when a friend of mine has met someone good when I ask “Hey, how’s [significant other]?” and all they have to respond with is “They’re great!” before changing the subject to the fact that the Mad Men season premiere is next week. It’s when I ask and they launch into this long speech filled with rationalizations that I see the doubt in their eyes.

So, the takeaways: Listen to your gut, and the more you need to analyze about your relationship, the worse it’s probably going.

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There’s an article in today’s Washington Post about a woman who works as a consultant, helping Baby Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y people get along in the workplace. Often, she teaches Boomers how to figure those Gen Y kids out. As a Millenial, I’m stereotyped as having a poor work ethic. Supposedly everything was handed to me by my indulgent parents, and I got trophies even if I came in last place, and I don’t talk to anyone in person, just on Facebook. Read the comments. Some of them are pretty insightful.

I think it’s kind of weird to have someone work as a consultant, helping people figure out Gen Y. Pretty soon we’ll be in our 40s, trying to figure out those kids who were born in the (gasp!) early 21st century. Besides, didn’t the parents of the Boomers think their kids were a bunch of wild, irresponsible hippies? The Boomers in their heyday made sexting look like church. My point is, no one likes to be told how they “are” based on sweeping generalizations. Don’t tell me I’m a lazy, self-entitled waste of space. I actually never work overtime because I’m so insanely efficient at work that I don’t have to. What can I say? I’m a list-maker.

That brings me to my latest Don’t Be This Girl: The Bitter Single. These women have been burned a few times by guys, or are at least terribly afraid of being burned, and so they “protect” themselves by assuming that all men are shit. If you ever hear someone say (or hear yourself saying), “ALL men are [negative trait here],” that is the trademark of The Bitter Single. These women commiserate with their gal pals over pink cocktails, comforting each other after a bad break-up. “It’s not you,” they coo. “It’s him. It’s men! Men are all pigs.”

No, they aren’t all pigs, and maybe it actually is you. I don’t get why male-bashing is so popular. Men could just as easily assume that all women are snobby bitches, and that wouldn’t be at all fair to the down-to-earth ladies looking for a nice man. When you make broad generalizations like this, you close yourself off from being able to see the good in people. When someone believes that all 24-year-olds are incapable of taking work seriously, they won’t notice the ones who do. When a woman declares that all men are douchebags, and her friends sing a chorus of, “Mm hmm, that’s right!” in the background, she will scare away good men. They can smell The Bitter Single from miles away.

Most people are good people. Stop generalizing and look at each person for who they are.

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Here’s an oldie but goodie from Slate: The Eligible-Bachelor Paradox: How economics and game theory explain the shortage of available, appealing men

So, the assumed lack of men who are good catches, according to this article, is that the good ones get caught earlier, while the awkward ones stay single. As for women, the greater of a catch they are, the longer they hold out for perfection. So, all that’s left, after awhile, are women who think they’re amazing, and awkward men.

That article pointed to this one: Marry Him! The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough

I think the title is self-explanatory. Anyway, am I telling you to settle? To marry the first person to come along? No, not necessarily. If you have misgivings about someone, you sure as hell shouldn’t marry them. But maybe don’t be unreasonably picky, and don’t think you’re so amazing that no man will ever measure up. Because while you’re there, being supposedly amazing, nice guys are marrying other women.

Interesting point of view in these articles. Food for thought!

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