Tips, Tools and Perspective for Being More Empowered

Welcome to my self-empowerment blog--as seen in The Huffington Post Guide to Blogging! I used to be a wimp and never got taken seriously. When I became one of the first chicks to start a record label, I learned to navigate the male dominated music industry and earned respect, without raising my voice or getting overtly tough. I transferred those skills into all areas of life and now get what I want from most people. I'll share those lessons here by talking about my observations of situations and habits that hold both men and women back from being as empowered as possible. I'll also give tips for more effective communication, handling yourself with more confidence, and in general, how to come across as more serious--whether it's at work, dealing with an annoying phone company, your mother, a romantic partner and anyone else you want to feel more in control with. Everybody can use more tools for taking control of their lives, like in my latest book, Nice Girls Can Finish First (McGraw-Hill). Please subscribe if you'd like more!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Do You Have a Toxic Friend Like Lindsay or Britney?

Britney Spear’s friends go in TV talk shows to discuss her private business. On New Year’s Eve we saw pics of Lindsay Lohan being passed a bottle by people knowing she was in recovery from alcohol. It’s said to have happened again on Friday, when Lindsay was spotted sipping vodka cocktails, with “friends." Hmmm…. Not exactly the kind of support I’d want from my friends.

A real friend is someone you trust, who supports you and wants what’s in your best interest. Yet these pop stars can’t trust their friends to watch out for them. That certainly doesn’t bode well for their recovery from all the problems that plague them. People grab onto them for the wrong reason. Friends can become enemies fast in the world of pop stars. Toxic friends are exactly that. I do believe that both Lindsay and Brit have more problems than someone like Paris Hilton because they don’t have a solid support system of healthy friends and family.

It’s not just people in the spotlight that attract toxic pals. I’ve cut some off over the years. It can be painful but necessary for your happiness. Just as pollution is toxic to your lungs, friends can be toxic to your soul. When you recognize the people who pollute your life, you can take action to change it or cut them off.

My colleague Irene S. Levine, PhD, has a blog called Fractrured Friendships. She’s a freelance author and journalist who blogs about female friendship and is on the faculty of the NYU School of Medicine. Irene is currently writing a book about friendship and how it affects us. I asked her to be a guest today and share some signs that your friend may be someone to reconsider. She created a list of things to ask yourself about a friend who might not be good for you.

Twenty Questions: Spotting a Toxic Friendship
By Irene Levine, PhD

While most friendships have their highs and lows, toxic ones are characterized by consistent patterns of negativity.

Yet, the signs of a toxic friendship aren’t always obvious. Women tend to overlook, forgive, and forget to keep up our friendships---but here are some ways to determine if one of your friendships may be bad for you, either mentally, physically, or both. Ask yourself:

1. Does scheduling time to see your friend feel like an obligation rather than a pleasure?
2. Do you ever feel trapped when you are together?
3. Do you feel tense in her presence?
4. Does she often show off at your expense?
5. Is she never reliably there when you need her?
6. Is she self-centered, sneaky, deceitful, or disloyal?
7. Does she have habitually bad judgment?
8. Are you giving more than you’re getting?
9. Does the relationship feel out-of-sync?
10. Do you feel emotionally drained when you are with her?
11. Do you come away from her feeling depressed?
12. When you talk, does it feel like she isn’t listening or just doesn’t get it?
13. Do you dread her phone calls?
14. Do you hate when you see her screen name online when you look at your buddy list?
15. Are her emails too long to read?
16. Does she always choose to spend her time with men, over you, given the opportunity?
17. Has she flirted with the man in your life?
18. Has she done anything to undermine your position at work?
19. Can you trust her to keep your confidences?
20. Has she betrayed you?

Check out Fractrured Friendships to learn more about the dynamics of how friendships affect you in order to create healthier ones!

If you enjoyed my post, please leave a comment and/or click on the bookmark and write a short review at some of the sites, especially Stumbleupon and Digg. Thanks!

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Monday, January 28, 2008

Live for YOU, Not a Romantic Partner

Last week a reader asked a question in her comment. She and her boyfriend just finished school and are looking for jobs. They’re both twenty-five. He’s gone back home till summer. Her dilemma—move to his small town under uncomfortable circumstance with few job opportunities and then relocate when he moves back to the larger city to continue his education. Or, settle in the city on her own and get a good job that can help her career grow now.

The first choice means putting her career on hold until August to be with him. I know how hard it would be to make a choice to leave the love of your life in another city. When I was in love in my earlier days, I made being with the guy more important than what was good for me. I believed that this was the love of my life and didn’t want to waste a minute of time with him. HE came first. I’d be the flexible one, which meant doing what he needed. Then we broke up and I was left with regrets for what I hadn’t done when I was with him.

Love is important. Don’t get me wrong. And in my reader’s case, her boyfriend is good to her and can’t help having to live with his parents until August. Financial circumstances make us do what’s necessary. But in the long run, it’s healthy to take care of self first. I advised her to take the second choice, which means they’ll be apart for months and visit on weekends. When you’re in love, being apart for any time can seem tantamount to death. But it’s not!

A separation can be healthy for a relationship. It provides a chance to focus on YOU and develop a stronger sense of autonomy.

My reader said she knew that living in the bigger city made sense. Friends and family encouraged it. But our hearts can keep us from making sensible decisions. This goes for men too! Wanting to be with someone you love trumps sense. I’m sure my reader would have been much happier if I’d encouraged her to stay with her guy. But I can’t do that. I will say that if she does stay with him, it won’t be the end of the world. Putting off your career for eight months won’t cause irrevocable damage. The downsides are:

* Being uncomfortable living with her boyfriend’s parents, which she feels too grown to do.
* Having to take whatever job she can find for now, which won’t look good on her resume when she looks for her career job.
* Loss of potential networking and job opportunities by being stuck away in a small town.
* Dealing with guilt that her boyfriend may feel for keeping her in otherwise unhappy circumstances.
* If all of the above happens, being unhappy with him, except for the moments of sweetness when they’re alone.

Putting your career on hold for a romantic partner makes your life revolve around HIM or HER, not YOU. What about you—beyond what you get from your partner? I always advise that if you want a healthy relationship, get a life! Develop your own interests and do what’s necessary to grow as a person. It gives you a lot more to bring back into the relationship.

When you’re in a long distance relationship, treasure the time you have together, and make the most of the time when you’re apart. In the old days a woman pined away for her man when he wasn’t there. Nowadays, there are many more opportunities to grow. If being apart from your romantic partner seems like your worst nightmare like it does to my reader, all the more reason to do it! Being on your own isn’t a nightmare. It’s a chance to get in touch with yourself, your needs, and your pleasures, IF you can get past believing that you can’t be happy on your own.

Being solo for a while is a chance to develop as a healthier adult by getting to know and like yourself better. Pursue some solo interests, be more loving to yourself, make some new friends, catch up on interests, like reading, museums, etc. As you grow as a solo person, you have more to offer a romantic partner. Autonomy makes you strong. It’s not so much being independent as it is about feeling whole on your own.

Thinking you need to be with someone to be happy is the best reason to be apart.

While it doesn’t make you a DoorMat, it does make you dependent on being with someone for your happiness. The best relationships are between two people who feel whole on their own. You don’t have to always be unhappy while apart. That’s a choice! Get excited about getting a new job, making new friends and creating your own adult life. Don’t just focus on missing your love interest. See it as embracing your solo company instead of dreading it. Real happiness is feeling happy with or without a partner.

When I finally left DoorMatville, I learned to look for the pleasure, not the pain, of being in my own company. When you find the joy in being alone, you go to a whole other level of happiness. That’s an amazing treasure to share with someone you love when you come together!

If you enjoyed my post, please leave a comment and/or click on the bookmark and write a short review at some of the sites, especially Stumbleupon and Digg. Thanks!

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Friday, January 25, 2008

Getting Good Cable Service

I always put the TV on after I wake up. I like to catch the news and the morning shows help perk me up. This morning I was doing some stretching exercises and almost hurt myself when I was jolted by the TV getting VERY loud suddenly. The cable box showed the channel I’d been watching but I had a very fuzzy loud Today show on my TV, which wasn’t what I was watching when it happened. I grabbed the remote but the volume buttons didn’t work and all the channels had the same show.

Aggravation set in. Not as much at the TV but at the thought of having to deal with calling the cable company and dealing with the service people. For me, that can be torture. I know many others feel the same way and see having to make calls to people who are supposed to give us service as pain and suffering. Trying to get service can mean:

* Being prompted by a recording to push lots of buttons.
* Screaming at an electronic woman who wants you to talk to her and you want a real person.
* Waiting on hold for what seems like hours (and occasionally getting disconnected after all that).
* Finally getting someone who says she has to transfer you to someone else, and waiting on hold again.
* Getting someone who’s clueless about your problem. Grrrrr…..

What’s a nice girl to do? When I called my cable company, I pushed the buttons after screaming “agent” at the electronic woman. Then I got a real woman who just didn’t understand my problem. She kept repeating the wrong things as I very clearly explained the problem. She was impatient and acted like it was all my fault. She tried to reboot my cable box as I kept thinking, “she’ll never fix it.” Hmmm… my thoughts made me right. She said she had to schedule an appointment for someone to come in. My gut told me not to accept anything this clueless woman said.

So I asked to speak with a supervisor. She insisted that a supervisor would just schedule the same appointment for next week as she would but I firmly stressed that I wanted one.

In my DoorMat days I wouldn’t have questioned what she said. I also wouldn’t have remained calm the way I did this morning. I’ve learned that once you let your anger take over, you’re not in control of your situation. You feel out of control. Plus nobody likes to deal with an angry person. I help folks who are nice to me much more than those who have an attitude. So do other people! I was exasperated when I was on hold, waiting to speak to a supervisor about my TV problem. A double grrrrrr….. feeling.

But instead of giving into to the anger, I changed my thought to, ”Everything will work out fine and easily.”

It calmed me down and allowed me to do what I try to do these days—have a friendly attitude toward the supervisor. I didn’t make insults about the first person I’d spoken to but let the supervisor know the woman couldn’t understand what I explained happened to my cable. And, I made it clear that I couldn’t wait till next week for a service person to come here. She immediately said she’d try to get someone to come over today. I thanked her profusely. She put me on hold to try to schedule it but then said she had a tech who’d talk to me first and see if he could help.

Sure! He was friendly. So was I. He went the distance for me. He was happy to have a customer with a positive attitude. He guided me to do some things the other person hadn’t and voila! My cable was fixed and I didn’t have to wait home for a repairman. He was extremely helpful. I expressed my gratitude and can contact him again with future problems.

Next time you have to deal with a service type of situation, calm down before making the call. Smile first too, so you can diffuse your bad mood a little. People can hear smiling over the phone, even if it’s forced. If you’re dealing with someone who seems incompetent or unhelpful, ask firmly to speak to a supervisor. Don’t take NO for an answer! I always get the person’s name on paper at the beginning of a conversation so I can report them if they don’t heed my wishes. I refused to accept her arguments about speaking to a supervisor and she got one for me.

The BIGGEST tool is to be NICE. Friendly and respectful will get you a lot more than venting your anger. It makes people go the distance for you. Time and time again I’ve gotten refunds, service and other perks that were above and beyond what was necessary, all because the person appreciated my friendly manner. Since being nice is in my nature, I prefer to behave like that then speak in an agitated way. I have the direct number for several customer service people for future problems, because they like me.

Down the road I’ll give more tips for dealing with bureaucratic nonsense within large corporations that put up walls against complaints. You can conquer them without having a nervous breakdown like I used to have. It begins with being resolute about getting satisfied, and a smile!

If you enjoyed my post, please leave a comment and/or click on the bookmark and write a short review at some of the sites, especially Stumbleupon and Digg. Thanks!

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Learning Self-Control

I'm delighted to have my friend Tina Tessina as a guest blogger. She’s a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who has written lots of great books and articles. I asked if I could put a sample of her new book in my newsletter. She kindly sent me a sample. With the breakup of relationships rampant, Tina identifies three main factors that can ruin a good one. These tips work for people who aren’t married too and can also help with non-romantic relationships with friends and colleagues. She has a new book, Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting about the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage (Adams Media, 2008).

Learning Self-Control
Adapted from Money, Sex and Kids
By Tina Tessina, Ph.D

One of the most powerful ways I found to stop being a doormat in relationships was to learn emotional self-control. When you’re too reactive to your partner, he or she can easily draw you into a fight that stops you both from focusing on fixing the problem.

When you’re faced with an emotional situation, self-control is not easy. In the face of your partner’s actions, it’s difficult not to react. Learning to stop and think, to respond thoughtfully and carefully rather than quickly and automatically, is hard. However, mastering self-control, no matter how difficult, is always worthwhile, because it makes every moment of your life easier.

Using Self Talk
If learning self-control is difficult for you, one of the most powerful tools you can use to change is self-talk. We all have a running dialog in our heads, which often is negative or self-defeating. The good news is that you can choose to replace this negative monologue with something more positive. The brain tends to repeat familiar things over and over, going again and again over established neuronal pathways. Repeating a mantra, an affirmation or a choice over and over creates new pathways, which eventually become automatic.

The new thoughts will run through your head like the old thoughts did, or like a popular song you've heard over and over.

If your self talk feels "naturally negative," you may be creating a self-fulfilling identity, which saps your ability to choose your responses. One thing you can do is to monitor your self-talk: what do you say to yourself about the upcoming day, about mistakes, about your luck? If these messages are negative, changing them can indeed lift your spirits and your optimism. Know yourself: if you love silence, tend to be quiet, like quiet conversations and not big parties, this may be a genetic trait -- your hearing, and nervous system may be more sensitive than others, and this trait will not go away.

You can, however, make the most of it, and learn that creating plenty of quiet in your life will make you a happier, calmer person. If, on the other hand, you’re a party animal – social, enjoying noise and excitement, you can also use that as an asset. Positive, happy people do have an easier time in life, and bounce back from problems faster. There are things you can do in every case to increase your level of optimism, even if you can't change who you are.

Your thoughts affect your mood, and how you relate to yourself can either lift or dampen your spirits.

Neuronal activity in the brain activates hormones which are synonymous with feelings. Constant self-criticism results in a "what's the use" attitude, which leads to depression and a cranky attitude, which doesn’t work well in your marriage. Continuous free-floating thoughts of impending doom lead to anxiety attacks. Negative self-talk creates stress.

What I do to help clients become aware of self-inflicted stress is first, to ask them to become aware of what they're saying to themselves—if there is a constant stream of negativity, it will create stress—just as being followed around by someone who's constantly carping on you would be stressful. Also, if they're fighting within themselves—not able to come to a solid idea of what they want—that will make it difficult to make decisions, and increase the stress.

Dysfunctional relationship patterns also are stress-building. For example, if you are constantly guilt-tripped by someone else, or you and your spouse fight, or you are too worried about others' opinions of who you are and what you're doing, you'll be a lot more stressed than if you know how to get along with others, when to listen and when to trust yourself. Most of my clients don’t realize that they are responsible for their own feelings, and no one else is responsible for making them feel better.

To move from powerless about yourself to being in charge, try the following suggestions:

*Make a note: Write positive comments on your daily calendar to yourself for jobs well done or any achievements you want to celebrate. Or you can paste stickers on your daily calendar as you accomplish goals daily frequent positive commentary is a very effective way to reward yourself and remind yourself of your success.

*Look to your childhood: To celebrate success in self-control, use activities that felt like a celebration in your childhood: did your family toast a celebration with champagne or sparkling cider, a gathering of friends, or a thankful prayer? Create a celebration environment: use balloons, music, flowers, candles, or post-its to say hooray!

*Visible reminders: Surround yourself with visible evidence of your successes. Plant a commemorative rosebush or get a new houseplant to mark a job well done, or display photos of fun events, and sports or hobby trophies. It's a constant reminder that you appreciate yourself and each other; and when you see them daily, you'll be reminded how powerful you can be.

*Reward yourself: When you succeed at self-control, celebrate with an impromptu lunchtime picnic and a balloon, celebratory sex, tickets to a movie or a ball game, or bragging to understanding friends over coffee. Look in the mirror and tell yourself how proud you are of the new you.

Tina Tessina, Ph.D. is been a licensed psychotherapist in private practice in California. She is the author of eleven books, including the best selling, The 10 Smartest Decisions A Woman Can Make Before 40 , and her newest, Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting about the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage (Adams Media, 2008) Tina also writes the "Dr. Romance" column on Yahoo! Personals and MUCH more! You can subscribe to her free newsletter: "Happiness Tips from Tina" on her site.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Music — My Drug of Choice

Music is many things to many people. As a music journalist, I’m privy to a lot of CDs. Depending on what I listen to, music can energize, relax, lift my spirits, make me melancholy, help me heal. Lola Fayemi at Real World Spiritual and Personal Development tagged me for her meme about inspirational music. Since I feel music has a lot of power over moods, emotions, and spirit, I’m delighted to participate. My music passion is very diverse.

I’ve used music as my drug of choice for as long as I can remember.

Drugs or more than social drinking has never been part of my life. But I’ve always been into music—as a music lover and as a stimulant for my various moods and needs. Years ago when I was still an unhappy DoorMat I lived on Long Island, outside of NYC. At least once or twice a week I’d ride my bike the 20 miles to Jones Beach and back. My only companion during those rides was my little cassette player.

Part of my route was along the water. No matter how unhappy I was, I lapsed into joy on those rides with the help of loud rock music. Arrowsmith. Def Leppard. Scorpions. Good old rock and roll that got my heart racing, my blood flowing, my soul energized. For a few hours, it was just me on my bike as I inhaled the energy of loud guitars and driving music. It was like a vacation from DoorMatville. All my cares were left behind as the music pulsed through me. When no one was nearby, I’d sing along out loud. Those were happy times in an unhappy existence. As life got better, my repertoire of music widened.

My mood dictates what I listen to. I usually have music playing wherever I am. It gives me the adrenaline rush that folks get from drugs. Or the sedative they get from taking pills. Under normal circumstances, I’ve got a variety of current music playing. As I write this I’m listening to the Taking the Long Way album by the Dixie Chicks. My taste varies with my needs. When I’m happy, all music works for me. But when something’s going on, I reach for a CD like some people reach for alcohol or drugs. If I’m wound up and want to relax, classical music soothes me. It also works well when I’m trying to focus on writing the final draft of something important.

For times of calming me down and keeping me focused, I prefer instrumental music. Vocals distract me from concentrating. While I have many CDs that I love, the ones I play the most are by 2 musicians that I know. Robert Stallman’s wife Hannah has been to several of my music industry workshops and turned me on to his brilliant Mozart. I just LOVE his CD, Mozart-Stallman: New Quintets for Flute & Strings A CD that I love by another musician I know is David Stellmach’s Piano Solos. Jazz instrumentals also work well for me. The melodies flow through me, helping my writing and thoughts flow along in a lovely way.

Often we associate music with happier times or incidents that made a big impression.

Sometimes I hear a song or album at just the right time to feel its energy and be nourished by it. That’s the case with Live’s Throwing Copper album. I’d been a fan of Live for a while. Lead singer Ed Kowalczyk’s voice exudes a passion that rocks my soul. I went crazy when I heard Throwing Copper. I was on the move with my career and the CD revved me. It seemed like all my stars were aligned when I heard it.

I played it over and over as good things happened. I loved all the songs and my life kept getting better. It’s a wonder the CD still plays after all the times I’ve listened to it. Whenever I feel down, or things don’t seem to be going well, I play that CD a few times and my stars realign. My mood ALWAYS turns around. ALWAYS! It kicks in the Law of Attraction since I feel more positive and positives come to me! Throwing Copper is definitely my album drug of choice! Lifehouse’s No Name Face album is a close second.

The artist whose songs have probably had the most profound affect on me is Pat Benatar. I fell in love with her vocals, music and lyrics many years ago. They’re still very moving and relevant today. When I give a workshop for women, I often play Promises in the Dark. It’s a GREAT reminder for women about how they can get caught and stuck in a bad relationship. When I had to break up with someone I was crazy about, I played it over and over, singing along for strength.

Many times on my road out from DoorMatville I sang along with Pat’s, Hit Me with Your Best Shot. It always reminded me that I’m strong and capable, even in the face of adversity. As I scream (in private!) “hit me with your best shot, fire away!” I’m talking to life. It reminds me that I’m ready for and can handle anything. It became my success anthem when I needed it and I still smile and get revved when I hear it.

I wasn’t as wild about her last rock album but loved the cut, All Fired Up. I first heard it right around when I was starting to see that I could accomplish great things, on the cusp of moving into a new lifestyle and career. I was running my record label and finally feeling like I had worth. I heard All Fired Up and went crazy! I sang it over and over out loud. I’d play it in the car and scream the chorus:

“I believe there comes a time.
When everything just falls in line.
We live and learn from our mistakes.
Our deepest cuts are healed by faith.”

The lyrics and driving music really did light a fire under me. My faith was in its infancy stages then but growing steadily. I felt spiritual support and the song reinforced it. Shortly after, I was interviewed for a feature story in NY Newsday about being a rapper and starting a record label. As we chatted, I told the writer how Pat Benatar’s songs had been like a drug for me. A week later, the writer called to say that “coincidentally” she’d just interviewed Pat and told her what I said. Two weeks later the writer and I sat in the Chrysalis Records box seats at a Pat Benatar concert. Pat had invited me to come and also to be at her after-party to meet her.

That night was a turning point. It showed me that dreams can come true and my faith in God increased because I knew it wasn’t all a coincidence.

With all of that, the winner of my all time favorite good mood making song is No Rain by Blind Melon. I wanted to see the Banff and Calgary areas in Canada, and Montana since I was 20, when a friend showed me the pics from his trip to both places. I waited for years for someone to take me there. Since I was a Doormat then, I thought I needed someone to go with and lead me. Many years later I decided to go by myself. It was my first road trip solo and I was nervous. I flew into Calgary, stayed a few days, and then drove down to Montana.

The ride from Calgary was long, flat and boring. The Rocky Mountains loomed way in the distance, too far to feel them. As I crossed the border into northern Montana, the terrain changed dramatically. There were rolling hills, lots of green and gorgeous cloud formations. Just as all of this scenery and the emotions of being there hit me, No Rain came on the radio. It has such a happy melody that I began to dance in the car with the joy of the song and the experience I felt.

I’d made it to Montana!! After all the years of dreaming, it was a reality. No more scared DoorMat! I was a happy, courageous warrior girl, meeting a challenge from years ago.

My joy was so strong that I had to pull the car over to stare at the scenery and dance. I pictured the dancing bumblebee girl in the video and danced with her in my head and on the side of the road. Fortunately I wasn’t arrested for loony behavior. EVERY time the song comes on the radio when I’m home, and it seems to still be played a lot here in NYC, I get up and do what I think of as a happy dance. And smile and smile. Every time I hear it! I think God programs it to come on often as a reminder that I can achieve anything I choose.

So you see, music is definitely a big drug for my moods and well-being. I want to thank Lola for inviting me to participate in her meme about inspirational music. A funny thing just happened. I had such a strong desire to get all fired up that I treated myself and downloaded Pat Benatar’s song onto my computer and I’m playing it over and over. It still has the affect on me that it did when I first heard it. I hope that you all pay attention to music that moves your spirit and play it as often as you can. Music sure is better than the kind of drugs you ingest!

If you enjoyed my post, please leave a comment and/or click on the bookmark and write a short review at some of the sites, especially Stumbleupon and Digg. Thanks!

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Friday, January 18, 2008

I Insist You Understand!

I got a large response for my post that addressed how compassion can help you temper the buckets of anger we often have when someone does us wrong. It’s a great anger-buster! But developing it also manifests many more blessings. It also helps you to be tolerant of others. As I said earlier, compassion allows you to deal with someone by understanding and acknowledging the person is hurting him or herself more. Situations that create anger are usually very emotional.

But compassion can also serve you well in situations that make you frustrated or at times when someone you care about is doing annoying things you don’t understand.

Developing it can help you refrain from being judgmental about what someone is saying or doing or asking. Have you ever tried to get someone to see your way and they just don’t? Do you try again and again to no avail? You KNOW you’re being clear, yet you also know the person isn’t getting it. That can be very frustrating. Often the problem is someone’s inability to see any way but their own. You might do that too. Believing you’re right about something closes you off to being objective about someone else’s response or needs.

We often only see one way—our own. Frustration with not getting your point across is often also a need to make YOUR view the RIGHT one or to change the person’s view to YOURS.

I’m very guilty of this. I admit to sometimes being a know-it-all about some topics and at times have gotten crazy when I try to help someone by telling them what to do and they refuse to see I’m right. It seems so obvious that my suggestion would solve their problem! I used to get aggravated in these situations. Now I accept—with compassion—that they have issues that keep them from taking healthier action. I no longer want to wring necks or shake people up. Instead, I try to understand.

The history that often gets you into bad situations can also keep you from taking appropriate action.

When I was a DoorMat, I was refused to take advice. Friends pushed me to say no to what ended up annoying me, and to blow off guys who didn’t treat me properly. I endured sarcasm, broken promises, punishment for all sorts of issues that I wasn’t responsible for. But I’d hang in, making excuses because I was scared of being alone. Friends insisted I take action. But I ignored them. I did know what they said was true, just as the person you might be trying to help knows, at least deep down.

But when you’re hurting, you look for the easiest way to momentarily ease the pain instead of taking long-term action.

People stay in abusive relationships, making excuses for their physical beatings or verbal tongue-lashings, while friends scratch their heads trying to figure out why. When you feel unworthy of love, you stay in unloving situations and don’t speak up to people that hurt you. It sounds lame but many people (I was one) are scared to take action and lose the person who hurts them. Since I’ve walked in those shoes, I can now show compassion instead of trying to push others to do what I accept they’re not ready to.

You can give love and support while stepping back from someone doing what you know they shouldn’t. You can’t convince them you’re right if their minds are closed by their limitations.

Understanding the other person’s situation is a key to developing compassion. You don’t need to agree with the person to have it. But it helps to temper anger or frustration at someone’s actions or reactions to you. This works especially well in romantic relationships. Men and women tend to think, communicate and respond to situations differently. That doesn’t make either right or wrong but it does cause problems if we treat the other person like he or she is wrong.

When you recognize where behavior comes from, you can step into the other person’s shoes and feel compassion for their annoying behavior, instead of getting angry or frustrated. This understanding and compassion can allow you to tolerate more and have less negative emotions about it. You still may not like it but it won’t irritate you so much. That helps you find the compassion to develop alternative responses.

Compassion and understanding can create peace instead of always feeling at war with a family member, romantic partner, friend, colleague’s, etc. with expectations, responses, and style that seems counterproductive, silly, or irrational.

For example, in my book How to Please a Woman In & Out of Bed, I try to provide men with the reasons behind some behavior they find so annoying in women. Then can respond with compassion instead of annoyance or labeling a chick with a negative term. I’ve heard from many men who thanked me for explaining how much pressure we have to look or act perfect, which leads to needing so much positive reinforcement or asking those dumb—“Do I look fat?” questions—for which there seem to be no right answer.

MANY people don’t know how to express their needs so they do a little dance around it, hoping you’ll figure it out. Women get insecure over the messages given about our bodies. Yet it’s hard to directly ask for positive reinforcement so they may come across as being too needy. Many men need to feel needed, useful, which may come across as being controlling. EVERYONE has reasons for their behavior. When you try to find them, you might be able to have the compassion to find more effective ways to get along.

In my book I ask men to step into a woman’s shoes to grasp how body image in the media and expectations for looking very good can make women a woman question whether she’s good enough.

The biggest factor that kept me living as a DoorMat was feeling that my body was never good enough. I went to the extremes that women commonly go to—if you’re not perfectly thin, you’re fat. Yet there are reasons why we feel this way. Spelling them out in my book helped many men understand what women need, and why. That helps them do what will get the most mileage with their chickies. The key is having compassion for why women need certain things.

Sometimes you may refuse to cooperate with someone because you just don’t understand why they need certain things. Having compassion allows you to satisfy some of the needs you don’t understand but can do without a big effort. It’s better than fighting or walking around angry. Compassion for a woman’s insecurity allows for kinder responses that actually work. Compassion for a man’s needs to feel in control allows you to let him take the reins a little without an argument.

You can’t insist someone understand your point. Okay, you can try but it will probably make them even less receptive to what you think. It’s better to try to understand why he or she is stuck in old ways or negative patterns and accept it. You don’t have to like it but it’s the way it is. When a woman insists that her guy think or act a certain way, it often turns him in the other direction and the invisible cotton goes in his ears for future discussions. Instead, have compassion for the person’s inability to change right now.

Compassion allows to you agree to disagree. I highly recommend it!

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

What’s the Worst that Can Happen? No, Really, the Worst!

I have a terrific guest blogger today—Laura Vanderkam, a New York-based writer and author of Grindhopping: Build a Rewarding Career without Paying Your Dues (McGraw-Hill, 2007) Grindhopping details alternatives routes if you don’t want to stay in a job you don’t like, that doesn’t pay well and keeps you working too many hours. Whether it’s freelancing, starting your own biz, consulting, etc., the book details how to blaze a trail to achieving a way to earn a living that you find rewarding and that adds to, not depletes your happiness.

I’ve written about earning a living doing what you love in previous posts. Often the hardest part is figuring out what to do. Deciding What Do You Really Want? begins your path. Then you must begin the process of Finding Your Passions. Can You Really Live By the Grace of Passion? YES you CAN! There are enough successful Grindhoppers who prove it’s possible. Laura interviewed some of them.

Grindhopping gives you many details and examples of how to do that. Reading about how other folks chose to take their destiny into their own hands can give you many tips for your own path, and motivate you at the same time! Laura’s post below discusses how to get up the courage to take a big risk, based on a chapter of Grindhopping. That’s often what most of us need to get going—the fuel to light your fire to go for career happiness. If you have the ability, the ideas, the DESIRE to choose your income path, etc., ask yourself:

What’s the Worst that Can Happen? No, Really, the Worst!
by Laura Vanderkam

About two years ago, I interviewed a rather precocious young entrepreneur named Mena Trott. Not yet 30 at the time, she and her husband Ben had been getting a lot of attention for their blogging software company, Six Apart. They already employed well over 100 people, and Mena had been named one of PC Magazine’s 2004 People of the Year.

But, Mena informed me, things had not always been easy for the Trotts. She and her high-school-sweetheart-turned-husband went to work for a dot-com during the Silicon Valley boom. Then they got laid off. During their protracted period of unemployment, Mena started keeping an online diary about her life that she shared with friends. She wasn’t particularly happy with the available web-logging software, so she and Ben developed better tools for themselves and their friends to use. They didn’t plan to start a company, but if people liked the software, well, the Trott Rent Fund would take donations.

They launched Movable Type version 1.0 on October 8, 2001. That was not a particularly auspicious time for Internet businesses. But a reasonable number of people downloaded the software. They got a lot of positive feedback, and the donations coming in actually did pay their rent. Since the couple had some savings, they continued to work on their product.

But that summer, they had to make a choice. Ben was offered a “good” stable job. You know, the kind with a career track, benefits, etc. Should they go with the easy way and take the steady paychecks? Or should they stick with the 70-hour, underpaid weeks?

In the end, they decided to commit themselves to Six Apart. That turned out to be a wise choice. As blogging took off, so did their software. An investor actually dragged them to Japan to tell them why they needed funding. Headcount began to rise. Millions of people now share their wit and wisdom online with Six Apart’s tools.

But none of that was clear when Ben decided to turn down his job offer. I asked Mena how she and her husband had been able to take that risk. What was their philosophy? “It’s important not to be fearful of things,” she told me. “It’s easy enough to recover from minor mistakes that you don’t have to be paralyzed into not doing anything.” Along the way, she also started making a calculation: What’s the worst that could happen? “If this company failed tomorrow – God forbid – I’d still feel like I’ve learned so much that I couldn’t have learned otherwise,” she said.

After interviewing approximately 100 young entrepreneurs for my recent book, Grindhopping: Build a Rewarding Career without Paying Your Dues, I realized that Mena isn’t the only successful young person who’s adopted this philosophy. Most of my “Grindhoppers” had recalculated their approach to risk. When faced with a big choice, they asked themselves five questions:

• What is the worst that can happen if I don’t take this risk?
• What is the worst that can happen if I do?
• Is the worst that can happen if I stretch myself really all that bad?
• What is the upside of taking this risk?
• What can I do to hedge against the downsides?

The order of these questions is important. Most of us ask the second one first. When we’re considering a big risk, we think of all the horrible things that can happen. If we quit our mediocre jobs, we’ll soon be broke and living on the street. If we audition for a community play, we’ll be laughed off the stage. If we bicycle through Europe alone, we’ll get lost, get robbed, and probably get horrible food poisoning to boot. Humans are risk averse; it’s natural that we’d worry about these things.

But the problem is that we underestimate the pitfalls of not taking the risk we’re considering. Sure, if you quit that job you don’t like, you might wind up broke. But if you stay for years in a job that doesn’t make you happy, you’ll grind down a little of your soul every day. You might never have the life you want. And that is a big risk, too.

Indeed, it might be a bigger risk than the actual change you’re considering. I finally came around to that third question – is the worst that can happen if I stretch myself really all that bad? – when I faced a big choice a few years ago. I’d always wanted to be a writer living in New York City, so when I found myself, at age 23, with no job, I realized I could give it a shot. I didn’t have a lot of money. New York is very expensive. My mind wandered, naturally, to the second question. I had images of myself squeegee cleaning windshields of my college classmates who’d made "smarter choices", like going into finance.

But then I forced myself to ask the third question. Did I really think I’d be stuck squeegee-ing windshields for spare change? Even as a kid I’d always figured out ways to earn money when I needed too. I could make my rent babysitting, slinging lattes at Starbucks, or writing press releases at a travel marketing firm. I actually did the latter part-time for three months until I got a book contract and didn’t need the safety net (see question five – if you’re bicycling through Europe alone, for heaven’s sake, take a map and stash some extra cash in your sock!). The worst that could actually happen, I decided, is that I’d eventually be older, have missed out on a few years of the savings I might have accrued while working a corporate job, and I’d be jaded about the writer-in-New-York thing. But at least I would have tried it. I forced myself to look rock bottom in the face, and decided it wasn’t that bad.

And maybe, just maybe, I wouldn’t have to experience rock bottom first hand. The nature of risk is that big risks can bring big rewards – something we often forget when we’re weighing big choices. Yes, the worst could happen. Mena and Ben could have watched their company fail after another year. But the best can happen, too. I stepped off the train at Penn Station on September 2, 2002, and within a few months, realized I’d made the smartest decision of my life. In my first full year of freelance writing, I doubled what I’d made in my previous “real” job. Because I was living in Manhattan, I got to do such only-in-New-York things like sing in Carnegie Hall with one of my choirs. I even met my husband in a bar in Greenwich Village. None of that would have happened if I’d let the squeegee image dictate my decision.

So now when I’m faced with big choices, I try to remember what Mena Trott and other entrepreneurs like her have realized. You don’t have to be a gambler to take a big risk. You just have to realize that not taking a risk is a decision too—a decision with its own downsides. Viewed that way, there really is no reason to be fearful of things.

Check out Grindhopping by Laura Vanderkam if you're looking to change your work life!!

If you enjoyed my post, please leave a comment and/or click on the bookmark and write a short review at some of the sites, especially Stumbleupon and Digg. Thanks!

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

I Spent a WHOLE Weekend WITHOUT My Laptop

I never thought it would happen. I check email several times a day, 7 days a week. I also write for at least some portion of every day because I love to write. My laptop goes everywhere with me. It’s like my baby. ☺ My eyes don’t know what it’s like to get a rest from the computer screen. Until now!

I went away for the weekend and left my laptop home!

I didn’t plan to. Bringing it almost everywhere is automatic. But, for months my electronic companion has made funny noises and I didn’t know why. I brought it to the Apple genius bar in the summer. The guy recommended I leave it for a diagnostic check. Said it would take 2-3 days and would check for any problem. But how could I be without my laptop for even one day!!?

So I waited and got more aggravated with the odd noises. Since I was going away over the weekend for some R & R, I decided to bite the bullet and leave my laptop with Apple. For weeks I stressed about it—like I’d be leaving an arm behind. My lap is part of me in many ways. As a professional writer, I’ve been using laptops for more years than most people—a way of life. So I prepared for my separation from mine.

First, I signed up with Mozy, an online backup service. It took over a week to download everything. Now it backs up new documents every day, without me doing anything. I can tell it’s on by the color of the button but it doesn’t affect my computer. I LOVE it! For $4.95 a month, I don’t have to worry about losing documents from a crash or if a fire burns my computer and backup discs. Everything is safe with them. That gave me one level of relief.

Then I convinced myself I’d be okay without my electronic other half for the weekend. I got used to the idea of some time off the screen.

As it turned out, when I brought my baby into Apple, they said because it’s the busy season it would take 7-10 days. I couldn’t handle leaving it for that long! Fortunately, the tech support person I got found some things that she could fix and it might be all the laptop needed. So Mac went home with me. Happily! I started thinking about how to pack it on my mini-trip. I planned to just take a backpack and the laptop would make it heavier. Hmmm…. Should I still leave it home?

Yes! I CHOSE to go away without the laptop after deciding it was the best thing for me to do! I felt so proud that I made that choice. It was a mini act of self-love!

I didn’t miss it. Can’t imagine how my back would feel had the added weight been along. I felt free without dragging a laptop around! And, I didn’t miss it at all. Of course I was only away for 2 days and might have gotten itchy had it been longer. But I learned how important it is to have a total vacation from regular life once in a while.

It was a nice break. Since it’s close we went to the Atlantic City area, but not to gamble (okay, just a little as I love to play!). I just wanted to spend time at the ocean. I’m one of those oddballs who loves being at the beach in winter. The weather was actually quite mild so Saturday was spent walking and walking and walking. Some was even on the sand along the water! I find watching the waves very peaceful.

Though there are many hotels with casinos on the boardwalk, we chose to stay out of the city, on Brigantine Island. It’s a 10-15 minute drive, but a world away. Speidel House Bed & Breakfast is the only B & B in Brigantine, NJ. It’s a lovely old restored house, decorated with antiques and beautifully restored furniture. There’s also a lot of war memorabilia that I found fascinating. Glenn, the owner, is more than hospitable. He wants his guests to be happy. And happy we were.

Our room had a deck overlooking water. There are other decks around the house. It’s a lovely place to just hang and relax. We were offered cozy robes to wear and jump into the hot tub. That night was below freezing so I wasn’t in the mood for it. But it’s there for whoever wants to use it. I HIGHLY recommend a visit to this lovely B & B if you have access to the area and want a pretty place to chill for a few days. I never thought about my laptop sitting home—not once! ☺

When I left DoorMatville, I learned that part of loving yourself includes doing things that make you smile. You can learn that for yourself by planning something special. A weekend away is a loving gift for you. Pick your own pleasure but pick something! Don’t just daydream about doing things. Make at least one a reality! Sometimes you have to consciously break a habit, like I did with taking my laptop everywhere, to find a great alternative.

A break from day to day life is a wonderful boost. I’m tired but feel more relaxed than I have in a while. Try it! You’ll definitely enjoy the benefits!

If you enjoyed my post, please leave a comment and/or click on the bookmark and write a short review at some of the sites, especially Stumbleupon and Digg. Thanks!

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Friday, January 11, 2008

Let’s Be Happily Naked! Part Trois

Watching How to Look Good Naked got my brain humming more than usual. It’s so easy to tell someone to lighten up on their body issues. But it’s an uphill battle against all of the factors that reinforce feeling like your body isn’t good enough.

I’ve had clients moan about how fat they are in their size 2, 4 or 6 bodies, while I sit there saying, “excuse me but if you call yourself fat, then I must be a huge blimp in your eyes.” They always seem horrified that I’d think they see me that way, since they do see me as the beautiful, sexy woman I am! Yet they’re so hard on their view of themselves. I believe them.

Many of us see ourselves in a distorted mirror that magnifies every bit of excess skin, pound, or cellulite dimple. When I was a DoorMat I had a big distorted mirror that highlighted every bit of cellulite and other imperfections. And it minimized the wonderful things about me. Fat! Fat! Fat! That’s what those mirror radiate. So I know that since these clients don’t see me in that distorted perception mirror, I look fine to them.

Few ever get the irony of ranting to me about being fat since I’m much larger.

Each comparison to someone thinner — each person who comments negatively on our weight — each time we look in the mirror and notice a roll of cellulite in the waistline or skin hanging on the upper arms — each negative view of your body makes self-esteem goes down another notch.

People feel too fat, too skinny, too pale, too dark, too frizzy-haired, too straight-haired, too bald, too flat-chested, too voluptuous, too bottom heavy, too top heavy, too—too—too! VERY few people are satisfied with how they look. The quest for perfection is strong, yet impossible. We focus on what we don’t like instead of good qualities. You all have them!

Nobody begins life with good self-esteem. It develops, or not, as you grow and create your self-perception. Unfortunately, many outside factors can dampen even the brightest intentions of loving yourself as you are. It happens to guys too, more often for reasons related to income or achievement. I see lots of very portly men (and I’m being kind!) with beautiful women. A fat wallet can compensate for a fat belly! Men tend to be more body oriented about a romantic partner. Women tend to look for someone who can provide security. No all. But these stereotypes are common according to the many men and women I’ve interviewed.

I meet few people of either sex who have a truly good self-image, and a minimal amount of insecurity about something. Why do we judge ourselves so harshly?? There are some common reasons:

* Fat is used generically: We call ourselves fat for the slightest imperfection. You’re bloated for a few days and feel fat. You ate a big meal and consider yourself fat. It seems like anything that doesn’t feel right with your body can elicit feelings of fat. That word has way too much power! And way too little true interpretation of the word. Most of us self- proclaimed fatties aren’t fat. We’re just no perfectly thin. But every time you refer to yourself as fat, the word stabs you. You may not be conscious of it if you’re used to the pangs of shame or self-hatred.

* The media: You all know the drill. We see the airbrushed, buff celebs—men and women—in magazines, on TV and in films and strive to be like them. Many men like that standard in women and push their partner to look like the images they see. Women want the men they see in the media. It’s so unreal yet it drives us. Crazy!

* Painter Peter Paul Rubens would be considered a chubby chaser if he lived today: The voluptuous women he painted in the fifteen-sixteenth centuries—considered the standard back then—are fat by today’s standards. Yet that’s how a vast majority of women actually look. If I lived back in the sixteenth century, many more men would lust after me. ☺

* Words that used to mean a sexy woman now mean fat: I’ve heard men say that if they read a personal ad and see the words curvy or voluptuous, they assume that the woman is fat. Hello! These are NICE words! Lack of appreciation for a womanly body is sending many chicks to surgery, and eating disorders. I AM curvy and voluptuous, and proud of it! ☺

* Comparisons: There will always be someone with a better body. Yet some of us torment ourselves by thinking we won’t be happy until we’re more like him or her. So we go after their bodies and feel inadequate for never quite getting it “right.” Yet no one can be a clone of another. That person you envy for his abs or her legs might envy you for your gorgeous head of hair—which you ignore in your quest for what you don’t have!

* Unhealthy dieting: In the struggle to lose weight, many people go on fad diets that don’t bring long-term results. That just reinforces feeling like a loser, a fat one.

* Cultural standards making the average sized woman feel like she’s unacceptable: Size 12+ women have the majority but allow we allow ourselves to be treated like a substandard minority. Plus size women are often normal size. But being called plus-size can create shame.

* MANY men and women have dated at least one person who criticized some facet of their body: I know few women who haven’t been told by at least one guy that they need to lose weight, firm up, get more buff, etc. Many men say they’ve been put down by a girlfriend for not being buff enough, having a pot belly, being too short, etc. That criticism can stick to your memory like crazy glue and nurture an insecure body image.

* Criticism by friends and family: They say women can be their own worst enemy. Girlfriends criticize each other and may be the first to notice a small weight gain. Men tease other men to make themselves feel better. I’m amazed at how often someone comments on my weight, good or bad. It can feel like you’re under a microscope.

* Less fashion respect for sizes 12 and up: I HATE when I go to a store, see great clothing and then feel down because they don’t have my size. It feels like many stores want to punish those of us who aren’t small by making us wear more dowdy clothing. Thinner women are catered to and the rest of us must settle for what fits. That feels LOUSY!

On a bright note—Sarah Jessica Parker recently began a line of inexpensive, fashionable clothing called BITTEN and sold at Steve & Barry’s. I just checked. Her clothes go up to size XXL. Bless your heart Sarah Jessica! While my size is smaller, I’m glad to see that she respects the rights of larger women to look fashionable and not pay an arm and a leg for less attractive clothing.

If you become more aware of these factors, you can try to slowly find ways to deal with them. Body image issues will always be there. It’s YOUR choice to internalize them or keep them outside of your perception. You can love and appreciate yourself as you are, or make yourself miserable chasing what you’re not. Use some of the tips from my last post to practice loving and appreciating the packaging you come it. Do what you can to improve what’s possible and make the most of what you have.

GO GET NAKED. RIGHT NOW! If you’re at work, wait till you get home. ☺ Otherwise, take off your clothing—all of it! Look in the mirror and say, “I love you the way you are.” Run your hands up and down your wonderful body and appreciate all that you are. Remember, walking around comfortably in your own skin is the sexiest act for many people.

Being naked is being free in your own skin. It’s a loving act. You might feel uncomfortable at first, or for a while. But practice eases discomfort. And as that happens, you may come to appreciate your body more. It’s the only one you have so treat it lovingly, not with scorn.

So go ahead—I dare you to get naked. Let me know how it feels to you!

If you enjoyed my post, please leave a comment and/or click on the bookmark and write a short review at some of the sites, especially Stumbleupon and Digg. Thanks!

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Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Let’s Be Happily Naked! Part Deux

Many folks are obsessed with weight—their own and other people’s. I do believe that the ones—who point out extra pounds, or who are out and out critical, or who always notice if you’re body looks good or you’ve gained an ounce, are those who have issues with their own bodies. Since they’re so self-conscious about their own bodies, they also pay more attention to everyone else’s.

When I was growing up, few cared about my dreams and goals for the future. But, it felt like everyone noticed what I ate. There I’d be on a visit with family, enjoying my meal—until I reached for more potatoes or another cookie. Then, it felt like the room stopped and all eyes were on me. I was questioned about whether I really needed it. Sure I did, at seven years old, when I didn’t quite understand why there was so much fuss.

Someone always explained, “If you eat too much you’ll get too fat to attract a husband.”

I didn’t understand why a cookie would make a difference, nor was I concerned about finding a husband. But the intensity of the warnings stuck. It made me guilty when I ate goodies. There was always an attitude around eating. Fat. Fat. Fat. That set the tone for me believing that I was fat. When you hear a message often enough, it becomes your truth.

Being an independent thinker back then, I’d occasionally risk sharing my hopes for the future and explained that maybe I wouldn’t need a husband to achieve them. So I didn’t have to worry about my eating. Wrong! I was called fresh and told to stop eating. Looking back, I realize the women (never men!) who monitored my eating were always on diets themselves. A lot of their conversations revolved around food, and how to lose weight.

Weight conscious folks become weight conscious of others too. They can’t get their own bodies the way they want so they make others feel bad or try to tell them what to do. I’ve noticed that slim friends or those with great self-esteem rarely comment on whether I’ve lost or gained weight and tell me how great I look when I say I’m watching my diet. Yet the ones who always feel fat notice every pound I lose or gain.

Have compassion for those who make comments about your weight. Like I said in my post, Trading Anger for Joy with Compassion, folks who do things that hurt you are also hurting. People who need to focus on your weight are unhappy about their own. I’ve actually, in a kind manner, told someone who’d made too many weight comments, “I’m sorry you have issues with weight but I don’t, and would appreciate your not pointing out mine.” Sometimes it leads to helpful discussions.

Being an 8+ size woman, I’ve learned to do some of the things that Carson Kressley did on How to Look Good Naked. You can do them too!

I’ve found that carrying yourself well makes a big difference in your appearance. Woman or man, walking with your shoulders back and head held high makes you look better. It elongates your body, which can camouflage some of the ripples in the middle, and it makes you look more confident, which is always attractive. A confident stance takes the attention off your love handles and onto your overall demeanor.

Years ago, I had a friend who was short and somewhat chubby. Ari’s legs were chunky yet she wore skirts that were a little above her knees and felt good about herself. She was a confident chick and wore her skirts with pride! Yet people suggested I have a talk with her about not wearing such short skirts with her stubby legs. I couldn’t believe it the first time, yet it happened a bunch of times. Women who barely knew Ari were concerned that Ari’s skirts didn’t flatter her legs!

I always replied that Ari had good vision and could see herself in the mirror. If she was fine with how she looked, I was too! I did agree that she’d look better with something longer, but ya know what? Ari liked her skirts and her confidence showed. She had no shortage of boyfriends, even with her chunky legs showing. Because she carried herself with pride, people found Ari very attractive. The only ones who didn’t were those who didn’t like themselves.

Wear clothes that make YOU feel good, like Ari did. Clothing that fits well makes a big difference. It doesn’t matter what size you are—wearing clothes that look nice on you makes you look and feel much better. Often when you feel fat, you don’t feel worthy of wearing nice clothes. You are worthy at any size! Being well-dressed makes you more confident and the compliments that might come can make you feel good! Why not dress nicely? Yet women who feel fat try to cover up, not doll up.

There’s a false belief in people who are overweight that if you wear big clothing, it covers the fat. On the contrary, it calls more attention it.

When I was a DoorMat, I had some illogical dress habits that seemed very rational then. Mind you, I was NEVER fat. But feeling overweight made me seek ways to take the attention away from my fat. At one time I wore VERY bright colored clothing, thinking folks would notice the fabric instead of what was under it. Sometimes I’d wear boobalicious shirts that emphasized my breasts, hoping it would keep attention from the rest of my body. Sometimes I’d bag my body in bulky clothing. Looking back, I think OMIGOD!

Fat on the brain rattled my senses!

Now my style is MUCH more low-key. I’m not slim but I have a very shapely body and emphasize that with form-fitting outfits. It’s much more flattering that oversized ones. I’m no longer wild about anything low cut, even though I have a rack that could be flaunted. I’ve outgrown my need for that since I’ve lost my body shame! I’m so comfortable in my skin, cellulite and all, that I prefer to just wear nice clothing instead of camouflage.

The truth—when I was a DoorMat I weighed more than I currently do, but my body image rocks now!

How to Look Good Naked is called that for a reason. When you feel fat, you hate your body and don’t want to be without clothing. Yet a naked body is awesomely empowering! Appreciate the sexiness of being naked. Trust me, my body is far from perfect. But hey, it’s mine! And in that spirit I walk around naked with pride, not shame. I’ve never had a boyfriend who didn’t love it.

Since self-assurance is very attractive, walking around confidently naked is hot.

While I’ve never found a boyfriend’s body to be perfect, I’ve always been delighted with each one. I don’t get naked with a guy unless it’s someone I really care about, who I have a strong connection with. At that point, nakedness is wonderful because it’s part of someone who means a lot to me, which makes it beautiful.

Start by walking around naked when you’re home alone. Get used to it. It’s a very freeing feeling. I HATE wearing clothing at home, so I tend to have very little on when I’m in, which is often since I work from home. The only complaint I ever got from a boyfriend was concern that someone might see me since I keep my window blinds open. I’m on the tenth floor in midtown Manhattan, so it doesn’t concern me at all. There are no windows too close to mine to see details. And if some guy finds enough pleasure to watch me with binoculars, oh well. I’m comfortable enough to not care. There are too many things to worry about that are more important. Since I learned to love my body, I love the freedom of no clothes.

I’ll continue Let’s Be Happily Naked week in my next post. Stayed tuned for more later this week!

If you enjoyed my post, please leave a comment and/or click on the bookmark and write a short review at some of the sites, especially Stumbleupon and Digg. Thanks!

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Monday, January 7, 2008

Let’s Be Happily Naked! Part Un

Three cheers for the TV show, How to Look Good Naked with Carson Kressley on the Lifetime Network! Carson is illustrating what I’ve been saying in my books for years—whe you change your self-perception, you can become more beautiful and improve your body image.

I joke that my body got MUCH better as I left DoorMatville—without losing a pound! ☺

When I was a DoorMat I hated myself for not being perfectly thin. Since we often go to extremes, anything that wasn’t thin was fat. I was tall for my age when I was young, and that translated into feeling fat. When I look back on photos of me during those years, I’m amazed at how slender I was. But, it set a tone for me to always feel like I wasn’t good enough. No matter what other nice things there were about me, I never noticed, because I had cellulite blindness—my fat perception was all I saw in the mirror.

When you feel like you aren’t good enough, you can become a People Pleaser to make up for it like I did. That’s how DoorMats develop.

I believe that body image is the top catalyst—by far—for insecurity in women and it also makes men self-conscious too. So now there’s this new show—How to Look Good Naked On the first episode that aired on Friday night, Carson gave Layla, a woman who has always felt fat and tried many diets, a body perception makeover. It began with her assessment of herself. I cried along with her because I remember how awful I used to feel when I looked at mine.

Carson helped Layla to find proper fitting undergarments to make her body look better with clothes on and also better styles. He also showed her a video with 3 women walking in different styles and outfits. He asked Layla to assess which one weighed the most and which was the sexiest. She had definite picks but SURPRISE! The were all the same woman in different styles. He showed how what you wear and how you carry yourself makes a big difference in your appearance.

Feeling fat makes us try to cover up, wear big clothing in hopes that people won't see the fat so much. But Carson showed it actually makes your body look worse! I remember the days of covering up, not caring what I wore, since I assumed nothing would look good on me. Layla learned how untrue that is!

By the end of the show, Layla was getting into the groove and feeling good about her body. All her new inner and outer garments helped to change her body image. She said she now felt attractive! The time came for the title of the show to pan out—looking good naked. Layla posed for a photo, sans clothes. The verdict? She looked lovely according to all the people who viewed her in all her naked glory. I agreed! Once Carson knocked all the distorted perceptions from her self-image, she was able to appreciate herself.

Perception. Your perception decides if your glass is half empty or half full; if you’re a failure or you just made a mistake; if you’re fat or just not thin. That’s why I advocate working more on being loving to yourself. The more YOU love YOU, the more you’ll be open to having a more positive perception of how your body looks. The DoorMat me labeled herself as fat and didn’t see her good qualities. It took me years and someone pulling me in front of a mirror to recognize that I have beautiful green eyes.

I greatly related to what Layla went through with Carson. I remember my awakening to see myself as the beautiful, sexy hot woman I know I am. I’m still far from size 6. But it no longer matter. I love me and my body now. I think that watching this show will help a lot of people. Good for you Lifetime and Carson Kressley!

I’m going to make this Let’s Be Happily Naked week on my blog. This post is part one. Stayed tuned for more later this week!

If you enjoyed my post, please leave a comment and/or click on the bookmark and write a short review at some of the sites, especially Stumbleupon and Digg. Thanks!

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Thursday, January 3, 2008

Trading Anger for Joy with Compassion

Albert at Urban Monk invited me to participate in a writing group project about compassion called Spread the Love NOW! created by The Three Monks---Albert at Urban Monk, Wade of The Middle Way, and Kenton of Zen-Inspired Self Development. I love to write about compassion! I’ve found it to be the lubricant for a happy life. Instead of my road being rough with anger and frustration, being compassionate makes the way smoother.

I used to be an angry girl. Whenever someone did me wrong—grrrrrrrr! I complained to anyone who’d listen about what people had done to me. The anger kept me fuming instead of smiling. I saw some people in my life as bad, which in turn, attracted more people to complain about. Then I read a book by the Dalai Lama. It blew me away because his philosophy about compassion made so much sense.

When I read the book I was feeling anger and frustration toward Mike (not his real name!), a guy I’d been dating. We were friends for months before we crossed the line to more than friends. He couldn’t do enough for me. But when he got the flu, with high fever, and I offered to bring him some food (he literally had NONE in his apartment), he fervently refused to let me. I argued that I wanted to help him out. He got angry. And angrier, and then accused me of being a typical nagging woman.

All because I tried to convince him to let me drop off something for him to eat so he could recover and not take Vitamin C on an empty stomach!

He yelled more and more as I reminded him how he insisted on bringing me food and keeping me company after I had oral surgery the week before. Now I wanted to support him. I even offered to leave the food outside his door if he didn’t want to see me. The more I tried to convince him, the more he accused me of fooling him into thinking I was different than many women. In his eyes I was now a nag. It was so irrational.

We talked a few days later. At first it was fine, but I wanted him to understand the difference between a nag and a concerned friend. When I commented that it was a shame he misread my desire to help him, he went off on me again. More irrational accusations about how terrible I was for trying to help him. Yelling. Anger. I knew that Mike’s background included an abusive mother, two bitter divorces and cutting himself off from his whole family. He’d been badly burned by his last girlfriend.

Since I write about relationships I’d been aware that his issues could ruin what we had together. But calling me a nag for being concerned about the health of someone I cared about still seemed ridiculous!

I was furious with Mike for judging me so harshly. I wasn’t nagging, and I tried hard to make him understand that. But he didn’t budge. I was furious about his accusations and meanness. Reading about the Dalai Lama’s philosophy of compassion opened me to a higher level of handling people who push my buttons. He emphasizes seeking peacefulness through compassion to those who hurt you by understanding that people who hurt others are suffering more. They do awful things because of pain they've experienced. And they hurt themselves each time they hurt others.

Wow! I already figured that Mike was being so illogical because he was scared of being hurt again. In his effort to do what seemed like self-protection, he hurt me. Past experiences gave him a bad attitude about women so when I didn’t just accept his negating my offer, it felt like the nagging he’d experienced many times from women who’d hurt him. He couldn’t make the distinction between women who’d tried to control him and one who cared. And, he’d never learned to receive.

After I finished the book, I decided to call Mike. I accepted that he’d never see my way and wanted to get closure it in a peaceful way, with the compassion I’d just learned about.

Mike seemed happy to hear from me. I knew he liked me a lot. Maybe he thought we could just ignore his outbursts and move on. But I knew he’d always be a time bomb, waiting to go off if I tried to return his caring. After chatting a bit, I again said I felt bad that he attributed nasty motives to my offer, since there were none. He immediately began to rage. This time I didn’t defend myself or try to convince him. I just gently repeated over and over,

“I know that you’re hurting and can’t help responding like this. I have compassion for your pain.”

Mike didn’t touch that statement. He calmed down a little. I explained that I felt very sorry that he had so much pain from others and needed to inflict it on me. Like a roller coaster he went up and down with other accusations and mean spirited comments, then calmed as I repeated my words, softly. I rode along with my seat belt fastened. He seemed to get spurts of rage about my remaining calm. Mike tried to create drama and I wouldn’t let him. Yet he never—not once—attacked or challenged my compassionate words.

For the first time I was in complete control of anger! He blustered as I smiled and felt incredibly peaceful afterwards, with no anger left.

The compassion I felt made me feel calm. The more he went on irrationally, the more compassion I felt. I barely said anything else but those words. When we hung up, I knew that was it for us. Compassion had taught me acceptance of a sad situation—for how Mike kept hurting himself. I was the best person in his life and he lost me since I couldn’t continue to be close to someone like that. So he suffered more! The next day, I emailed to wish him good luck and expressed my compassion in writing. No reply. I felt good.

Since then, remembering the Dalai Lama’s conception of compassion has helped me to minimize my anger in most situations.

Who provoked you recently? Are they happy? Happy people don’t need to hurt others. Insecure ones criticize and take advantage. People with a positive self-image are less likely to consciously do that. Insecure folks have been bashed themselves. Loving yourself makes it easier to be kind to unhappy souls. In situations that rile me, I now realize that what people do or say stems from their own unhappiness. Instead of anger, I feel sorry for them.

Choose to let compassion temper anger. Why allow someone’s dysfunction to debilitate you with complaints and rage?

People who are nasty and mean don’t love themselves. Their pain motivates them to hurt others. When you understand that they’re are hurting themselves more, you can feel sorry for them instead of getting hurt. This philosophy has nurtured my inner peace. I highly recommend it!

My compassion is on an individual basis. I still lose it sometimes. There are people who push my buttons too far and create short-term anger. But, then I look for their source of pain so compassion can take over. It makes sense. Compassion takes nothing from me and anger does no good. That doesn’t mean letting people get away with unfair behavior. I take appropriate action if I'm wronged. But my strong desire to take good care of myself motivates me to replace anger with compassion. I express myself in a nice but firm way and take appropriate action to rectify the situation.

You CAN choose not to absorb someone's negativity. Practice. It sure feels good!

Don’t give others power to affect you so much! This doesn’t mean you push anger aside because you feel sorry for the person. You can’t swallow anger without getting life indigestion. Have compassion but still express feelings. Get it out gently but get it out. Otherwise, anger multiplies at your expense. I feel so blessed with my life, my positive attitude, and my total faith in God, that I’m generous. But I’ll end negative friendships and do what’s necessary to move on when I must.

Just like forgiveness, compassion doesn’t mean forgetting or letting someone get away with unacceptable behavior. It’s for you! Why make yourself feel worse when you can feel better??!

Be true to your values. Yes, there are unkind or downright evil people. But those who do the dirty on others are not happy. Mean people NEVER have enough money; NEVER have enough power; NEVER feel satisfied. To me THAT is punishment. People may feel perverse pleasure by hurting others; they may be honored for something or become rich and famous. But I truly believe they can't be happy inside. They step on others to get more of what they're never satisfied with. I feel blessed with all I have and grateful as heck to be doing what I love.

I love being in a good mood most of the time. When you practice letting angry situations roll off you by showing compassion, you’ll understand why it’s such a blessing! Being generous about giving compassion to others is a gift—to YOU.

Check out the Dalai Lama’s latest book, How to See Yourself As You Really Are (Atria, 2007).

If you enjoyed my post, please leave a comment and/or click on the bookmark and write a short review at some of the sites, especially Stumbleupon. Thanks!

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