Posted by fxckfeelings on May 18, 2017
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It’s hard not to take it personally when your country’s leaders represent values that you despise, making you feel obliged to both renounce all they represent and responsible for making things better. After all, you are expected to make sacrifices for your country, but if you can’t make sacrifices for new national goals you don’t believe in, it’s hard to decide whether to give your all to getting your country back or getting out of Dodge and leaving the leadership to self-destruct. Whether you’re describing personal problems or national ones, however, it’s never fair to hold yourself responsible for righting wrongs that are beyond your control, especially when doing so distracts you from your actual responsibilities. It’s important then to remain in touch with the responsibilities you actually control so you can keep your head up and be proud of doing your best to be a good person, even if you feel your country is headed down the toilet.
A year ago I knew what I wanted to do for the next 30 years, but then, after a series of challenges, including a re-valuation of my nine-year romantic partnership and Donald Trump getting elected President of the United States, I don’t know what I want to do next. I want to get as far away from my current life as possible as it’s based heavily on the American Dream (TM)—I just bought a house and I own my own business with my spouse, and it’s a decent life, at least hypothetically, even with the financial stress of a large amount of debt. But after America made a really bad choice, I don’t want to have anything to do with the country, its ideals, or its empty commercialized promises. I don’t want the American Dream, or even to live here. I’ve never fit in well and now I realize just how mismatched my entire life philosophy is with American culture. Maybe this shouldn’t be a traumatizing experience, but I’m having serious trouble shaking this off— I am a planner without a plan, I don’t know my purpose, and I’m still trying to work through anger at the people who voted for the current President, many who are my friends and family. I want to move out of the country partly just to say “fuck you all, you voted for him and now you never get to see us because we live on the other side of the Earth.” Now, I think once I get out of this hole I will be better for it, with a more complete view of myself and my place in the world, but I’ve been struggling to get out of this hole for months now and not seeing any progress. I take meds for chronic depression but this is a serious dip even for me. My goal is to find a smart sensible plan, even though I’m depressed as fuck, everything feels meaningless, and all I really want to do is get away from my life and the American nightmare. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on May 4, 2017
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Sometimes our brains act like our parents, tricking us with white lies so we’ll do what’s best for us. Unfortunately, unlike our parents, our brains sometimes get the wrong idea about what the right is for us in the long run. Parents reason that it’s OK to bribe kids into eating broccoli or coax them out of inappropriate behavior with empty threats of brain damage or blindness (or both) if the benefit outweighs the crime, but brains often do the opposite, convincing us that we should do what feels best in the short term, consequences be damned. So, if like our reader from earlier this week, your heart is broken and your brain is giving you any of the following seemingly legitimate reasons to reach out the person who did the breaking (with the secret hope of putting everything back together again), push your brain to think twice.
1) “I’m genuinely concerned about her wellbeing.”
Unselfish love is a wonderful feeling and seems above approach reproach, but once you’ve learned that a specific love will likely lead to misery/not-wonderful feelings, you’re supposed to protect yourself and keep your own wellbeing in mind. You may genuinely believe that the act of checking in on your ex is truly altruistic and that no harm can come from wanting good things for another human being, but if that were true, then martyrs wouldn’t exist. Your job isn’t to sacrifice yourself to save your ex but to keep yourself out of troubled relationships, exhaustion, and pain. Your brain may tell you that you’re doing the right thing by making sure she’s OK, but experience tells you that the buzz you get from seeing and helping her is like that from any other heavy drug; short-lived with a nasty hangover and a high risk for longterm damage.
2) “I don’t want to get back together, I just want to get some closure.”
Closure, like true love or perfect New York apartments, is another of those good feelings we see Nora Ephron movies for (RIP) because real life seldom provides it. As long as you’re honest and fearless in sharing your true feelings, TV and movies generally tell you that you can end a relationship with both parties (or more) accepting that it’s over and that, regardless of sadness and loss, with no resentment, unfinished business or unanswered questions, or self-doubt. Unfortunately, experience and Woody Allen movies (his career and integrity, RIP) tell you otherwise. Yes, you should try to be honest and accepting, but when closure doesn’t happen, remind yourself that the irreparable conflict is why the relationship didn’t work in the first place; if you were able to feel closure, you probably wouldn’t have broken up. In real life, closure isn’t a possibility, just an excuse to see your ex for a momentary respite from the pain of being closed out of his life.
3) “We were friends before we dated so we should be able to be friends now.”
Most people weren’t really friends before dating, just friendly; most people go through a platonic, getting-to-know-you period before dating begins in earnest (unless they’re in an arranged marriage or lost a bet in Las Vegas).
As such, they don’t actually have a pre-existing relationship to fall back on if romance fails, because real friendship requires a kind of comfort and trust that no one controls or manufactures at will, even with the best of intentions. That’s why even good people can’t necessarily be friends with the people they used to date or even love, even if they wish them well and have the strength to apologize, forgive, and get over past grievances. So, if your feelings and chemistry permitit, friendship is great, but if it’s not working, don’t try to pretend the uncomfortable or negative feelings aren’t there or you’ll make them worse. Being friendly non-friends is better than trying to force a friendship you just can’t have, especially since you’ll probably ruin any possible friendship in the process.
4) “I just want to let her know I forgive her.”
We may watch Nora Ephron movies to experience things that rarely happen in real life, but we watch Larry David to see someone suffer the same humiliations that we do, mostly from trying to do the right thing, at a safe distance. Trying to offer forgiveness is one of those good deeds that usually backfires and makes for good comedy on TV but tragedy in real life. After all, if your ex did something wrong but doesn’t see things that way, then forgiveness feels like condescension or re-accusation and will just stir up her old resentments. If she acknowledges responsibility, then forgiveness may be acceptable but won’t change the fact that most kinds of bad behavior happen again unless someone really, really wants to change, and even then they can’t always do it. In other words, you’re forgiving something your ex may not be able to prevent herself from doing again. No matter how strong the urge to give your ex the gift of forgiveness, do the more difficult work of finding acceptance instead, both of her unfixable flaws and your own covert desire to reconnect. Then decide whether further contact will give you the protection you need from whatever you’re forgiving her for.
5) “I just want to tell him this story I know he’d find really funny—it’s not like I want to get back together again or anything.”
Next to the aforementioned “I just want to ask him for my favorite T-shirt/mug/broken umbrella” excuse, “I just want to tell him (X unimportant fun thing)” is one of the flimsiest pretenses there is. As innocuous as it may seem to share stories that you used to enjoy together, it’s risky to share anything together until the not-enjoyable negative feelings left over from most normal breakups have truly cooled. Yes, you might like to see him again and remember the good times (and to possibly remind him or you of your friendship—see #3), but doing so won’t really help you and your ex move on to the next stage of life. Again, most of the painful feelings caused by breakups can’t be smoothed away by good talks, conjoint crying, or wacky anecdotes. It’s best not to reach out to your ex until you can be sure you’re truly over each other, but paradoxically, being over it means that you can hear a funny story (or do almost anything) without thinking of your ex or wanting to reach out to him at all.
Posted by fxckfeelings on November 10, 2016
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If, like our reader from earlier, you feel uncertain about remaining estranged from Asshole™ parents, it’s important to keep guilt from pushing you to attempt an otherwise unwise reconciliation. So, before trying to reach out, take these five steps to figure out whether it’s worth the attempt to make peace with your wretched parents.
1) Determine The Danger to Your Kids
Don’t assume that you can always protect kids from your parents’ potentially hurtful words or actions, or stem their cruelty with your own kind, reasonable behavior. If they are sufficiently bitter or crazy they may attack on sight, leaving your kids shaken by their destructive and out of control behavior. Be realistic in evaluating your parents’ detonation times and never let your wish for reconciliation cause you to underestimate danger, especially when your kids are at risk.
2) Determine the Danger Overall
Imagine other potential kinds of of hurt and harm that reaching out to your parents may trigger; with some malicious, explosive people, any kind of contact is dangerous. Even if your efforts are kind and well meant, nothing will reduce their sense of grievance or eagerness to even the score. Rely on your prior experience, not wishful thinking, to predict whether a well-intentioned call or visit will expose you to spiteful behavior including shaming, verbal assaults, and legal struggles over gifts and inheritances.
3) Process the Potential Benefits
Ask yourself whether your willingness to engage in polite conversation and reconnect will have any potential longterm benefits for you and yours, beyond possibly feeling less guilty and isolated. Be realistic about whether your efforts will facilitate real gains, like larger family get-togethers and friendships between cousins. Include whatever pleasure such contact may give others and the satisfaction you may feel for being kind when you have good reason to feel hurt or mistreated.
4) Test Your Ability to Keep Yourself and Your Family Safe
Drawing on your experience from prior family conflicts, guilt trips, or shame shake-downs, prepare for the worst with exit strategies that will end unacceptable conversations and protect you and yours from hurtful fallout before you can get sucked in. Rehearse polite statements that express regret for quick exits while not attacking, defending, or prolonging the discomfort, and make sure to choose locations that are easy to leave. Don’t reach out until you are confident you can protect yourself from unacceptable behavior.
5) Tally Up Total Outreach Pros and Cons
If, after examining all the potential risks and gains, it becomes clear that reaching out to your parents isn’t likely to benefit anyone or build a stronger family, don’t do it, and certainly don’t hold yourself responsible. Your only obligation is to your family, and all you can do is try to give peace a chance if peace is even a possibility. As long as your decision is based on realistic risk assessment and good values, it will never be wrong, no matter how bad the guilt gets.
Posted by fxckfeelings on October 27, 2016
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We may all hope to be the kind of lucky people bound to our parents by a shared sense of humor, values, and love, but for some of us the only parent/child bond we share is in our genes. For those extra-unlucky group whose parents carry the genes for rage, alcoholism, and selfishness—the building blocks of Asshole™ DNA—reconciliation is all but impossible, and all attempts will leave you needlessly miserable. That’s why you should never satisfy your yearning for a better relationship with your parent until you administer an unofficial Asshole™ DNA test; learn how to size them up realistically and decide whether you can attempt to strengthen your bond or should leave it at the genetic level.
After decades of trying to have a positive relationship with my parents, I finally stopped all contact two years ago after they transferred their toxicity to my children. Therapy has helped me realize that they are narcissists and that it is simply impossible to have a loving relationship with them. That knowledge deepens as my relationship with my own children grows as they grow, and I cherish them. Although we are all much happier without contact, and even though I know that actually things will never change, a part of me still wishes that things could be different. My father’s own brother refuses to see him for similar reasons and he and other relatives are very supportive of me. Recently, my partner lost both of her parents and she was able to be with each of them in their final hours. Now she is worried that I may regret not trying one last time to improve relations. I appreciate her concern but fear that there really is no point and that, if I did make contact, I’d just be laying myself open to another attack. But, what if I do regret not trying..and so it goes round and round in my head. My goal is to determine whether I’ll feel worse about not talking to my parents or, by trying to talk to them again, possibly allowing their toxic presence back into my life.
Given how hard it is for most people to part with their favorite/disgusting jeans from college or prized collection of VHS tapes, it’s not surprising that cutting yourself off entirely from your parents, no matter how necessary, is bound to leave you with lingering senses of sadness and doubt.
You’re right, of course, to give top priority to the protection of your kids, particularly if your parents are likely to become violent or openly express rage or make accusations in their presence. Even so, there’s no way to feel entirely at peace about cutting off all communication, knowing that time and death will someday make the silence permanent. And admitting to yourself how that silence may also provide some relief will just flood you with the kind of guilt that most Catholics, Jews, and people with neck tattoos feel exclusively entitled to.
Before giving into this first wave of guilt and assuming that resuming contact would be a worthwhile step towards improving your relationship and elevating your soul, take stock of past attempts and their results. Don’t expect to be able to mend fences with insight so powerful that it dissolves their mistrust and hostility; your only standard for a good intervention should be to be pleasant, polite, and reasonably conciliatory, regardless of results. If you achieved this standard through a few good attempts with no real return on your efforts—or worse, your efforts were greeted with a blast of hostility and drama—it’s unlikely that trying again will produce a better result.
Once you’ve decided that seeking improvement is probably unrealistic and possibly harmful, ask yourself whether it’s worthwhile or even possible to have a limited non-relationship rather than nothing at all. A limited non-relationship means restricting contact to short, superficial, polite conversations, free of emotional satisfaction, intimacy, and, as such, opportunity for conflict. You may never get that desired (and fictional) catharsis, but you will be able to participate in large family gatherings without threat of conflict and express benign good wishes, however shallow, regardless of past wrongs or recent provocation.
If you’re hoping to reconnect in order to achieve some level of emotional satisfaction, then you’re bound for disappointment; the best result, aside from the confidence that comes from doing your best to do what’s right, is the possibility that it may nurture other good family relationships for you and the kids while showing the kids how to avoid conflict when it’s pointless and destructive.
Don’t hold yourself responsible for or feel guilty about letting go of anything that’s unfixable, be it your beloved first car or your relationship with toxic parents. Don’t assume, however, that total excommunication is your only other option; you can always salvage broken things for parts.
So, if you wish, you can usually maintain civility with uncivil relatives if you first decide that the strategic rewards are worth the unpleasant effort of management they invariably require. But if you decide that it’s unlikely that your efforts will be rewarded with anything but regret, don’t let guilt blind you to all the benefits of letting go.
“Now that I’m a parent, I wish I could improve my relationship with my parents and give them and my children an opportunity to bond and get to know one another. Given that my parents are unimproveable Assholes™, however, I do what’s necessary to protect the kids while keeping things civil and peaceful.”
Posted by fxckfeelings on September 13, 2016
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If, like our reader from earlier this week, you have your eyes on a very specific prize, second place can feel like a first class ticket to Loserville, even if it’s just a coach ticket to whatever goal you had in the first place. If your drive is making it so hard to appreciate your efforts that it’s really just driving you crazy, here are five ways to deal with that perceived failure.
1) Get Your Goals In Line
Putting aside the performance goals that you don’t really control, like a particular salary, promotion, or degree, ask yourself what you’re trying to accomplish. Usually, with goals that are work- or education-related, you’re ultimately trying to find a way to make a living and develop your skills and abilities. The kind of grades you get or job you finally land—the feel-good outcomes—are never completely under your control, so don’t hold yourself accountable for them.
2) Set Effort-Based Standards
Instead of reaching for those feel-good outcomes, measure your success by how much time, effort, and overall feel-bad hard work you put into your goal, like the number of hours you studied and whether you asked for help when you needed it. If you found yourself avoiding the work, ask yourself whether you faced that problem and tried to do something about it. Be objective in grading your efforts, using the same standards as you would for anyone else, and if you find yourself falling short, avoid self-incrimination and aim for self-improvement instead.
3) Fight Negative Thoughts
Unless you’re a massive jerk/Republican presidential nominee, you wouldn’t tell someone who’d tried hard and put in the work that he was a failure, so don’t be that mean to yourself. If you’re a natural-born perfectionist who tends to get down on himself, learn how to talk back to your self-criticism and give yourself positive encouragement, getting help from a positive coach/therapist if necessary. Otherwise, your negative thinking will make your performance worse, cause you undeserved pain, and put you at the mercy of the world’s meanest critic, who happens to live in your head.
4) Get Motivation From Your Good Values
Ditch outcomes-based motivation, looking inward instead to find drive in your own positive ideals, like the importance of being independent, helping others, and doing your share. Yes, you’re also motivated by good results, competition with others, and the ecstasy of the victory lap. When your career goals reflect positive values, however, regardless of whether you’re getting the glory, it’s much harder to feel negative about the outcome of your efforts, even when those outcomes are negative themselves.
5) Reject Failure And Rethink Success
If at first you don’t succeed, don’t listen to old clichés and keep trying the same thing over again and again. Step back, seek advice, and ask yourself whether there’s an obstacle you can’t control, like a skill you can’t acquire or a relationship you can’t make work. If that’s the case, accept your helplessness, don’t take it personally, and try to find another way forward. You may need to compromise or eat some crow, but as long as you’re acting in accordance with your basic values, you’re on the right path to some kind of success you can be proud of.
Posted by fxckfeelings on August 30, 2016
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When we’re desperate to push ourselves to accomplish seemingly impossible tasks, drive and doubt can combine to create an inner drill-sergeant: a loud, insulting voice in your head that screams all the insults of a military commander but much less flying spittle. Unfortunately, that balance of drive and doubt can be precarious, so if you push yourself too far you may go from driven to too depressed and full of self-hate to do much of anything. As with a new recruit, you may have no choice over your commander/the kinds of emotions that get you going, but you can learn how to manage those emotions so they don’t cause you to give up and go AWOL.
I’m a 23-year-old man who spent my formative years as this retarded socially awkward mute and at some point after visiting hospitals for work experience I decided I wanted to be a physician really fucking badly. The only problem was I was a moron who spent his formative years playing video games instead of taking the right science classes or getting good grades. I then spend an extra year working my ass off and taking the right classes at night and volunteering in health care during the day. Since the start of the whole ordeal, my academic advisor has been telling me it’s never going to happen and I should go for nursing, and I’m thinking, “fuck you, I’m going to be a doctor!” Then I don’t actually get the grades to get into med school—they’re all a grade below what I need—and in order to fix them I would have to repeat another 1-2 years, which isn’t a possibility. I then think about going to the nearest bar to drink myself to death, but I don’t, so off I go to study psychology with some health studies thrown in. I’m now in the 2nd year of course and need to get interested in becoming a clinical therapist, otherwise I won’t have the motivation to get a good grade. My goal is to figure out how to become interested in becoming a therapist other than gritting my teeth, giving up on my dream/accepting that I’m stupid, and getting on with my shit.
WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on July 7, 2016
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If, like our reader from earlier this week, you’re often plagued with uncertainly that’s beyond problematic and into the realm of downright paralyzing, here are five tools you can use to fight crippling self-doubt.
1) Compose Your Personal Code of Conduct
Pretending you’re judging the work or moral conduct of a friend, define standards for deciding whether his or her performance and character are good enough, avoiding the impossible standards of perfection you usually impose upon yourself. Spell out the standards you’re using to making your decision, and make sure to account for you/your friend’s circumstances, shortcomings, etc. when deciding how high those standards should be set.
2) Generate An Internal Judge Judy
Become the judge in your own internal court of perfection, using your new code to consider and rule on whatever nasty accusation your brain throws your way. Don’t hesitate to confer with a friend or therapist, but remember, once you’ve rendered a decision, it carries the weight of the Authority of your Code. As in Judge Judy’s court, all decisions are final.
3) Push Back Against Persistent Doubt
If your inner-Judy disagrees with persistent accusations made by the Prosecuting Center in your brain, use that gavel to talk back. Don’t expect the prosecutor to shut up or go away, but do take the time and effort to state your own opinion and do so with sincerity, confidence, and conviction. Your job is to stand up for yourself and the firm values that you’ve established (and not tolerate any nonsense).
4) Shut Out the Ceaseless Retorts
Having done what you should to discredit your brain’s unfair accusations and criticisms, and knowing that your mental prosecutor never sleeps (which is why your nastiest doubts appear in your nightmares, and why people still show up to Judy’s court in ripped dungarees), don’t give your doubts more attention than necessary. Whenever you recognize an old criticism you have previously reviewed, judged, and declared invalid, ignore it using whatever technique works for you, e.g., meditation, exercise, a distracting binge watch, etc.
5) Self-Respect is Your Standard
Keep in mind that your primary goal is not to quell your self-doubts but to meet life goals despite them, which can include educating yourself, working your dream job, building friendships, finding the right partner, and possibly raising kids. If you’re able to do those things while dealing with the pain of self-doubts and the extra work required to manage and deal with them, then you deserve respect and should consider yourself a success, no doubt about it. On to the next case on the docket.
Posted by fxckfeelings on June 27, 2016
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Like pooping our pants, biting our enemies, and enjoying Disney Channel shows, self-doubt is a regrettable aspect of childhood we’re supposed to grow out of. If, however, years of learning, practicing, and getting older don’t keep persistent self-doubt from pestering you on into adulthood, it’s usually taken as a sign of low self-esteem and possible failure in normal maturation. In actuality, it can also be a trait that, for reasons we don’t understand, afflicts mature people who have worked hard, gained skills, and deserve much more confidence than they ever experience. We don’t think these traits can be changed by treatment, prayer, or, as always, anything short of lobotomy, but we have many ideas on how you can manage self-doubt almost as well as you do your bowels.
I am constantly plagued by negative self-talk. Most days I lack confidence in nearly everything I do. No matter what it never seems to be enough for me. How can I let go of the constant self-judgment and self-criticism? These mental habits sabotage my day–stirring anxiety, panic, and impulsiveness. My goal is to change this internal negativity into something positive, nourishing, and/or helpful. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on May 19, 2016
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All of us have insecurities about our looks, but some people, like our reader from earlier this week, have insecurities that can be crippling, overwhelming, and totally undeserved. If you can’t help but obsess over perceived flaws in your appearance, here are five ways to suppress those horribly negative thoughts about your body.
1) Busy Your Brain
The more absorbing the activity, the less opportunity you’ll have to examine your body, think about its shortcomings, and come up with ideas about what you did wrong. If it’s work, you’ll also get paid, and if it’s exercise, you’ll get healthy and improve your body in other ways. In any case, it’s do-it-yourself therapy that’s far cheaper than the conventional kind with other incidental rewards.
2) Stay Social
Socializing with close friends keeps you busy and distracted while also giving you comfort and social feedback that contradicts your sense of repulsiveness. Through those friends you may actually find other people who like to be with you and even look at you. It won’t stop the thoughts, but it is a good distraction from them that also gives you ammunition to contradict them.
3) Train Your Thoughts
Therapists can give you fact-based ideas to use to contradict your negative thoughts with positive truths. When the negative thoughts creep in, repeat these truths to yourself in order to repel or even prevent those negative thoughts from invading your beliefs and devaluing what you should be proud of.
4) Prioritize Peace of Mind
If you want something less strenuous than exercise to keep your brain busy, you can learn how to meditate, shut off your mind and, if possible, hypnotize yourself into a relaxed state. Become expert on the various techniques for inducing relaxation and pursue whichever ones seem to best suit your style. Then do them regularly, no matter what your state of mind.
5) Observe Self-Censorship
Prevent yourself from indulging your negative thoughts out loud and talk about your body with nothing but respect, even when you’re letting others know about the negative thoughts you’re having. Never repeat those negative thoughts in a tone of affirmative belief. Make it clear you’re not looking for reassurance and that you won’t let your body-part-abhorrence change the way you behave or how you socialize, just that this is what goes through your mind and you’re doing what you can to keep it under control and away from your day-to-day life.
Posted by fxckfeelings on May 4, 2016
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Maybe it’s an extension of normal perfectionism, but obsessing over perceived physical imperfections is an affliction that sometimes happens to very good people. Unfortunately, doctors have neither been able to find the reason behind nor the cure for these obsessive thoughts, but if you’re one of those unfortunate people, you aren’t totally without hope. Though feelings of ugliness are painful and hard to bear, there are ways to remind yourself that they aren’t the truth, and that your future never need be as ugly as the thoughts in your head.
My concern has to do with feeling ugly. I often feel quite not-OK with how I look, specifically my face, and it causes me unease and unhappiness. I also feel I was very unhealthy and underweight in my late teens (from eating very little and working way too hard at school), and that I could/should look better/like my handsome brother, and often just feel kind of this general malaise and shittiness when it comes to my appearance. I can’t imagine ever even wanting to date somebody given how almost guilty and unhappy my looks make me feel. Every mention of attractiveness and even the sight of a pretty girl quickly triggers a twinge of sadness and a kind of sigh and a drive to ruminate, which I’m finding it hard to deal with now and I’m and worried about coping with it in the future when life gets much harder. Right now I live with my parents and am quite comfortable, but I don’t know how I’m going to function when I’m on my own struggling in the real world. I can’t imagine happily meeting friends for brunch and not getting weighed down by the whole, “I look gross as hell and it’s probably my fault and things might very well suck forever and I might be screwed” train of thought. My goal is to be less affected by my feelings about how I look and have some sense of hope about the future.
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