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 April 6, 2016
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Surviving a bad break-up of a worse marriage to the worst partner can certainly makes a new, reasonably decent partnership candidate look like a good choice. A better idea than jumping into something new, however, is taking the chance to evaluate the possible pleasures of single life and shortcomings of your new situation. So don’t let well-intentioned advice or social convention convince you to ignore your fears and reservations; weigh your alternatives carefully and choose the path that is really best for you.
After a long, messy divorce, I have been dating a man who has primary custody of his primary school-aged kids (my own kids are almost out of school and great despite the messy divorce). Dating in midlife stinks, to put it mildly, but he is a great, independent, financially OK guy. We have dated over a year and he wants to relocate to my town so we can marry and I can help with kids— his constant compliment is how great a mother I am/my kids are. Bottom line, however, is that I have very mixed feelings how I feel about him, and when I have doubts or change my mind, it’s frustrating for him and me. I just would like a guarantee that life will be perfect if I decide to go forward, or at least that there will be no problems from addict crazy exes and I can still accomplish my independent dreams…that I can do that even if I become a hands-on mom to my step kids (coach one of their teams, chaperone their school dances, etc.) and have fun doing all that stuff AGAIN. It will be fun, right? Come on, give me the guarantee, because single life is really boring, I still can’t work the damn remote by myself, and I loved the family mom thing first round. My goal is to decide what is right for me.
WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on January 21, 2016
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At the start of a new year, you don’t have to be like our reader from earlier this week—someone in an usual career going through an usually hard time—to feel motivated to get your shit together. Here are five easy steps anyone can follow to get back on track no matter how rocky the terrain of your life happens to be.
1) Get A List of Goals
Obviously, if you’re trying to figure out how to get organized and motivated, you need to know what’s important enough to you to work for. Define these goals in terms of values, not results, e.g., include making a living, not making a mint. Think about what’s necessary, healthy, and fun in the long run, not what your wildest dreams are made of.
2) Put Together Your Priorities
The hardest part of prioritizing is learning to both accept the fact that two or three things deserve highest priority and the skill of juggling them all at once. It gets easier over time, and in the process of learning, you also get better at figuring out whether some of your priorities are actually worth dropping or putting aside.
3) Choose a Coach/System
Without a domineering spouse, day job, or ticking bomb in the basement, most people have to develop a system for self-management, particularly when they have to juggle their own obligations on top of their spouse’s, kid’s, dog’s, etc. Since most schools don’t teach you executive functioning skills, take a course and/or hire a coach. It’s amazing how much better you can do with a good to-do list, a set of urgency categories, and an omnipresent schedule.
4) Suss Out a Schedule
Assuming you have lots of responsibilities, limited time, and a strong desire to have fun, you need to create a schedule. A schedule helps you develop habits and shortcuts, so that you can reduce procrastination, deal with top priorities first, and make time for the things you really want to do. Again, don’t hesitate to take a course or use a coach.
5) Learn Your Limits
Many people experience endless feelings of responsibility once they engage in a serious task and those feelings can become consuming, particularly if an outside source (boss, spouse, parent, etc.) believes your share of responsibilities is never big enough. Train yourself to judge your responsibilities objectively by comparing them to your job description, taking into account your resources, and determining what a good person should do. Then you can remain focused on what’s really important, not overextend yourself, and not only get your shit together, but get shit done with a real sense of pride.
Posted by fxckfeelings on December 31, 2015
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Whether you’re dating for fun or to build a future—or, like our reader from earlier this week, torn between the two—everybody has certain qualities they feel are crucial in any romantic partner. Problems arise, however, when the less important qualities are given priority over the better ones, like reliability, intelligence, and having such bad credit you can’t even rent a paddleboat. Here are five overvalued traits that people look for when looking for love.
1) Looking for Lookers
Dating someone with good looks is like having an emotional bodyguard; no matter how self-critical your brain is, you feel successful when you notice the envious looks you’re drawing from those who wish they were in your shoes. Unfortunately, good looks don’t necessarily come with a good personality, good values, or any of the things a good partner needs to have.
2) Finding Someone with Funds
Taking your future partner’s financial security into account isn’t totally unwise; money can make it possible to raise a family in a safe neighborhood, provide for your kids, and generally avoid the stress that comes with stretching a paycheck. On the other hand, focusing too much on money can also attract you to someone who can’t be a good partner, and the divorce will leave you broke forever.
3) Craving Charm
Charisma seems like a meaningful reason to be attracted to someone and a good trait to search for; it’s a part of his personality and won’t necessarily fade with age, so you’ll always be charmed and keep the flame burning. Unfortunately, it’s also often accompanied by restlessness and a need for exciting new relationships, which is why to be extra careful.
4) Eying Empathy
Empathy is always a worthy human quality, and an empathetic partner can make you feel like you’ve got wonderful communication and are well understood. Empathy often has a limited shelf life, however, as the truly empathetic can’t always limit their sympathies and attention to any one person, so you may wind up wondering where it’s gone and why you don’t get it anymore.
5) Envying Excitement
When dating has been tiresome and getting to know someone has taken on all the thrill and joy of a TSA screening, encountering exciting chemistry feels like an especially meaningful event that heralds the arrival of “the one.” Unfortunately, exciting people are often driven by intense emotion that has its downs as well as its ups, so make sure you check out steadiness, perspective, and all those other, more boring and important qualities before you start to relax.
Posted by fxckfeelings on December 29, 2015
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When you lose interest in the person you’re dating, it always feels like a failure, like you’ve actually misplaced your interest and if you could just find it under the couch or in your coat pocket, everything would be better. You feel like a disappointment because you’re rejecting someone who trusted you and now cares more than you do, even though such feelings are largely beyond your control. You then wonder whether you’ll ever be able to find and form a stable relationship, but examining your feelings often does little but make them more volatile. Instead, return to basics and consider what you want from a close relationship, other than magic and romance, and refrain from intimacy until you’re confident that you have found what you want. You can’t recover your lost interest, but if you can find your lost confidence, you’ll have few false starts and a better chance of finding something that lasts.
Along the road I’ve spotted a behavior that seems to ruin all my romantic relationships right before they start. Many times in my life (I’m in my 30s), I’ve met girls I found funny, high spirited, sharing my values and attractive. And I just liked spending time with them. But each time the relationship comes to the edge of being a proper date, or right after we actually date, I start being really cold. I make lists about all the details I don’t like in her, I start to think that she’s not so pretty, and I don’t like to receive her affection because I feel I can’t give her the same and don’t want to anymore. I think about the future and can’t see anything for us. I used to think it was because a few times in my life I came across some girls I was mad about at first sight, and that those other girls couldn’t compete with these feeling. But it seems there is a real pattern with me, and I start to think my mind is fooling me. I understand that I should not think too much about this and go for it, but it stops me from being happy. My goal is to break the pattern and make a relationship last. WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on October 27, 2015
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Ideally, being a grandparent offers the best of both worlds; all the fun of playing with kids with none of the pesky responsibility that comes with being directly responsible. If the actual parent isn’t responsible, however, then everything gets flipped on its head, and you’re in a worst-of-all-worlds scenario where you have all the protective instincts of parenthood without any of the authority to do something about it. So, if you feel a grandchild needs your help, don’t let your protective instincts take over, because charging in is never as effective taking small, careful steps. You may not be able to get the best results for you or your grandchild, but will certainly make things better.
My adult daughter and her toddler live with me and my husband because she has failed to maintain employment to take care of herself. She has had opportunities to work but always quits because of “issues” she has with the jobs. She is irresponsible, manipulative, and is a liar. If I put her out, my grandchild will suffer from poverty and lack of nurturing (the child’s father is not in the picture, so help from him is not an option). My goal is to find a way to handle this without hurting the child.
WAIT! There is more to read… read on »
Posted by fxckfeelings on September 13, 2015
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Earlier this week, we gave a reader advice about how to decide what to do about his broken marriage. Given the disconnect between the way you feel about a marriage and its true potential for benefit or harm in your life, it’s not an easy choice, so here’s a list of questions that will help you find its true value, regardless of your current feelings.
- Can I keep putting up with [habit that makes you nuts]?
Ask yourself whether there’s something specific about your partner you can’t tolerate—from the way he never replaces an empty roll of toilet paper to the way she never replenishes your shared bank account after spending too much money on booze—and whether it’s ever likely to change. Remember, people don’t change unless they decide they want to, for their own reasons, and, even then, trying hard is no guarantee. If it isn’t likely to change, consider whether it’s something you can put up with or not.
- Can s/he keep putting up with my [habit that makes your partner nuts]?
Ask yourself whether there’s something about you that your partner can’t stand—again, anything from just leaving your dishes in the sink to leaving for days on end without warning—and whether it’s in your power to change. If it is, decide whether you’re willing to change if changing might make the marriage work.
- Can I stop overreacting?
Ask yourself whether, under pressure from marital conflict, you’ve done things you think are wrong, passive-aggressive, or generally petty and destructive to your union. If so, consider whether you can clean up your act. Otherwise, you won’t know whether your bad behavior is responsible for ruining your marriage.
- Can I figure out the point of marriage in general?
Ask yourself, in a business-like way, what your goals are for a marriage, like companionship, acceptance, support during hard times, strengthened family ties, lower taxes, etc. Then rate your marriage according to these goals, and assess how your ability to reach those goals will be better/worse if your marriage ends, i.e., he might be a good companion and listener, but he’s not around when I really need him, so it might be better to find someone more reliable who’s less chatty and talk to a cat.
- Can I see through my rage?
Ask yourself whether your perspective is tainted by anger; a good partner may be infuriating, but also worth sticking it out with, while a bad partner may just make you sad. Instead, pay attention to your rating system, based on all the objective assessments above, which will tell you whether your marriage is good for your life, or whether you should start a new life as a single person.
Posted by fxckfeelings on September 7, 2015
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Whether you’ve been unjustly fired (like our reader earlier this week) or cheated on or just ripped off at the car wash, it’s takes some time to get yourself together after being taken advantage of. Here are five simple things you can do to get your head together after being duped.
1. Don’t blame yourself for being a train wreck
After you’ve been hit hard, you can’t help feeling wounded and sensitive; when somebody punches you, they should feel guilty about the bruise, not you. Remind yourself that you’re not a loser, no matter how thoroughly you wiped out. Life is sometimes unfair to all of us, and unfortunately, your number came up.
2. Don’t mistake rumination for self-understanding
You won’t learn good lessons until later, after you’ve accepted the unfairness of life and recovered your abilities. So if you spend too much time in the aftermath dwelling on what happened to you, you’re just stewing and sulking, not making any inroads to self-discovery. Better to focus on moving forward and leave the learning until the dust has cleared.
3. List your priorities
Figure out what your most important, post-getting-screwed goals are; these usually involve work, friendship, independence, and healthy activities. Do not include getting a fair outcome, changing other people’s opinions, or feeling better soon, because none of those things are included in the whole “getting screwed” process, and aiming for them is bound to prolong your feelings of being cheated and wounded.
4. Get busy on a recovery plan as soon as possible
Once you’ve made your list, start figuring out what you need to do to reach those goals and start taking actions as soon as possible, using a coach or therapist if necessary. Getting going will help you stop thinking about what you’ve been through and get you focused on a whole new area of positive problem solving.
5. Take your time
Don’t rate the success of your recovery by how soon you recover your happiness, wealth, or reputation; you can’t control those things, so they aren’t an accurate reflection of your efforts or a reliable measure of results. Instead, take into account the amount of work you put in, despite how unhappy or humiliated you feel, and take pride in pushing yourself to get back to normal, even if it’s taking longer than you’d like.
Posted by fxckfeelings on August 27, 2015
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Whether you’re an independent adult or stuck living with your family due to age or poor finances, your techniques for avoiding conflict begin with the same premise; you can’t change family and you’ll make things worse if you try. Once you can accept that, you can take these steps to make a bad situation/gene pool more bearable. It’s not an easy process, but if you want to keep your family intact/alive, it’s worth it.
Step 1: Learn to keep your mouth shut
Remind yourself that further communication and efforts to change your family are not only useless, but harmful. After all, you’ve probably tried many times to argue your point, and all it’s done is create resentment and excuses to slam doors and break plates. Try once more if you’d like, just to drive the message home, but then it’s time to step out of the ring and stay silent.
Step 2: Don’t be a jerk
You may have reason to feel hurt, wounded, and even abused, but acting like a jerk will undermine your confidence and give your enemies an even more solid opportunity to claim victimhood themselves. So try to act according to your own standards of decency, even if your feelings are screaming for revenge, or at least a loud tantrum or protest. You might share their genes, but you don’t have to share their attitude.
Step 3: Focus on your own goals
Get busy doing whatever it is that advances your own priorities, like making money, seeing friends, and building your own independence. The more you do, the less opportunity there is for family interactions, and the less important they’ll be when they occur. This is obviously harder if you’re still living at home and your family is on your case, but when they try to accuse you of being distant, self-important, etc., remember Step 1 and don’t take the bait.
Step 4: Memorize your lines
If you’re challenged by questions or accusations that stir you up, prepare scripts for answering briefly and without anger or defensiveness. For example, if your mother is always on you for being uncaring or your brother constantly makes nasty remarks about your supposed attitude, say some variation of, “I understand you feel worried/angry/devastated/ill-treated and I’ve thought it through carefully, because your opinion is very important to me. I really disagree however, and, without getting into it, think we should just leave that subject alone.” Then the subject is closed.
Step 5: Set limits and stick to them
The best way to keep visits and phone calls pleasant is by keeping them short; either set an amount of time that you think is long enough to fulfill your obligation but short enough to avoid conflict, or have an excuse lined up to peaceably end a call or visit if things start to take a bad turn. Even if you’re living together, never let yourself be trapped for very long; if all else fails, physical escape is a surefire way to escape an argument, so keep your exit open, whether it’s to the next room, a locked bathroom, or the coffee shop down the street.
Posted by fxckfeelings on August 21, 2015
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Back-to-school time can bring emotional issues bubbling up to the surface as personality conflicts and intense power dynamics pop up and throw you and your family off-kilter.
Here are five all-too-common back-to-school issues and our advice for dealing with them.
1) Your Kid Hates His Teacher
It’s terrible to imagine your child feeling miserable for an entire school year, but as your kid’s number one teacher (tenured in perpetuity), you’re the one to help him manage frustrations and make the best of them. So take time, gather facts, and see if there’s something you can do to improve teacher-child communication or their attitudes towards one another, or have a positive talk with the principal about finding a better match for your son. Otherwise, do your best to teach him that learning is more important than any single teacher, that surviving the year is more important than showing your teacher he can’t get away with being a jerk, and that he can get through tough times like these with his family’s support.
2) You Hate His Teacher
Of course, if you hate your kid’s teacher as much as he does then you can at least validate his views, although it will take a lot more discipline and self-restraint to get through the year. If your kid is fine with his teacher but you aren’t, then you’re stuck keeping your feelings to yourself, at least at home. You could try having another positive pow-wow with the principal, listing reasons why a different match would be more successful. If your kid seems happy in the class, however, then you’re probably better off following common logic and avoiding the principal’s office entirely. If your kid can survive a year with this jerk, so can you.
3) You Hate The Other Parents
If you don’t like the values or characters of other parents in your neighborhood—and, given how passionate some parents can be about their specific choices and yours, this is not an uncommon scenario—school can be more alienating for you than for your kid. Your job is to keep your frustration to yourself and help him feel he belongs in class, whether or not you feel you belong. Your hope is that the kids are better than their parents and that your kid will find friends he likes in his class, even if you can’t.
4) The Other Kids Hate Your Kid
If your child is being picked on, definitely try to work with the school and other parents to stop bullying, but be prepared to get a lot of defensive responses because no parent wants to admit that they’ve spawned a bully and schools often lack the resources to really tackle the problem. Coach your child on how to handle bullies or just avoid them, but be sure to let your child know that you think he’s fine, even if he’s a social outcast for the time being. There may currently be no friends at school, but there are always friends at home.
5) You Hate Your Kid
Every parent fears having a kid s/he really doesn’t like, so commend yourself on surviving this living nightmare. You can see a therapist or ask yourself whether you’re overly irritable with everyone and need to improve your behavior and/or try medication for improving your mood, but if the answer is that it’s just your kid that’s a jerk, then you’re stuck. So if you’re burdened with unavoidable negative feelings, build up your ability to be a true professional, regardless of how you feel. Teachers have to spend huge amounts of time with kids they hate, so you can, too.