Tag Archives: Friendship

You Teach People How to Treat You

You teach people how to treat you. This is important enough that I am going to say it again – you teach people how to treat you. If you are frustrated because you feel like the people in your life treat you poorly, maybe it is time to consider why this happening. You are an active partner in their dynamic – what are you doing to perpetuate this relationship? It is critical you figure this out if you want the situation to change because you cannot change something you aren’t aware of.

You can (and should) set limits and boundaries with others. If you have a friend who cancels on you often or blows you off, it is perfectly reasonable to tell them this isn’t OK. Explain how this makes you feel like you aren’t important to them and your friendship doesn’t matter. You friend is given fair warning their behavior is not OK, if they do not change you have a choice. Accept the relationship as it is or leave it. This is 100% your choice and you are responsible for what happens after that. You can’t continue to complain if she bails on you, you’ve accepted her as is.

If you allow your boss to call you at all hours regarding work or to demand long hours of overtime or to belittle you at work or to overwhelm you with unrealistic workloads, you are indicating (even silently) this is acceptable to you. This is a tricky situation. You and your boss are not equals. It is more difficult to set limits with her since she can fire you. If her behavior violates the law your situation might be clearer, but this is often not the case. You can attempt to discuss with her what you are willing and not willing to do, but she may tell you to go pound sand. You then have a choice – accept it or leave. If you choose to accept it, stop complaining or get out. (Reference previous blog on this topic: https://psychobabblechat.com/2014/12/11/you-have-no-right-to-complain/ )

You teach your mother whether or not it is OK to show up unexpectedly at your house. You teach your loved one if it is OK to be out of contact for a few days. You teach your friends if it is OK to make “jokes” at your expense. You teach your boss if it is OK to publicly chastise you for your mistakes. You teach your roommate if it is OK to have regular parties at your apartment. How do you teach them this? By allowing the behaviors to occur (often). Notice a pattern here? When faced with a situation where you are not happy with how someone is treating you (no matter the situation), you only have two choices. Accept it or leave it. If you accept it you are telling the other person it is OK to continue treating you the way they are. You are teaching them how to deal with you.

You Have No Right to Complain

This is a wee bit of a rant. I apologize in advance if you are offended, but sometimes things need to be said anyway…

You have heard people say something like, “If you don’t vote, you have no right to complain”, right? (Don’t worry this is not a commentary about politics or people’s political participation.) Well, what does this mean? It means you can only complain about something for so long before people expect you to start doing something about it. If you don’t try to do something about it, you lose your right to complain. I see this a lot, both personally and professionally. (Heck, I am guilty of it myself sometimes).

  • You don’t like your job? Start working to find something else. Search the job listings. Get some additional training/education. Do something!
  • Lonely? Find ways to meet more people. Get a hobby. Go to church or temple or mosque. Online dating. Invest in getting to know people. You cannot wait and expect a great group of new friends to knock on your front door – unless you are really into Jehovah’s Witnesses. (If you are, cool, maybe they will ring the bell).
  • Think you’re fat? Exercise. Eat Less. Go to the doctor to discover if there is something contributing to your weight retention. Check yourself – are you being unrealistic about your weight. You may be fabulous the way you are.
  • Tired of being broke? Find a way to make more and spend less. Maybe you need a second job or a better budget. Consider training for a position that will pay you more. (If you don’t have a terminal rich aunt, you are the only one who can make this better for you.)
  • Bad relationship with your mother/father/sister/brother/friend? Work on making it better. Go to therapy. Talk things out. Consider moving on. Figure out what you need to do to find peace in this relationship.

Look, there is a certain timeframe in which you are free to complain – bitch and moan until your heart’s content. Get it out, but then you need to move on. It’s time to either accept it as is (without any more complaining) or do something about it. No one can tell you exactly how long you are free to complain, but once you have crossed that line, your audience becomes a lot less sympathetic and it is time for you to start taking steps. Have you ever had the experience when you have tried to keep bitching way too long and it felt like people began to turn on you? Felt like crap, right? Avoid this when you can – start planning on how to make your life better. The people around you will thank you and you will feel better, too.

Introduction to Life Lessons for the Teenage Girl

Final Cover

In my professional life, I’m a psychologist and frequently get the privilege of working with teenage girls like you. I’m constantly amazed by the strength you show in overcoming life’s difficulties. Sometimes, though, you get just a bit lost. I know you’re not stupid. You’re far from stupid as a matter of fact. You’re so much savvier than I was at your age (eons and eons ago, but, despite what my daughter thinks, there were no dinosaurs). Despite your obviously superior smarts, many of the challenges I faced during my teen years continue to frustrate you and your friends today. A primary struggle may be knowing which people you can believe in and trust. Who can you look to for advice when you’re struggling? Often you may not want to discuss your problems with your parents—it’s OK; that’s how it’s supposed to be. You’re learning how to find your own way and can’t do that if you’re looking to your mom and dad for everything.

I frequently hear that parents can’t relate any longer and are too old to understand. Unfortunately, your parents do sometimes know what they’re talking about, and you may miss out on that guidance. It may be incredibly hard to believe, but your parents were actually teenagers once dealing with love and friendships, parents, and problems much the same as you are now. Your mom may be able to understand what it’s like to get your heart broken and tell you how she got through it when it happened to her. You dad might have had a jerk teacher who treated him like crap and may be able to talk with you about how he handled it.

So, if not your parents, where else can you turn? Can you look to your friends? Well, they can be a source of phenomenal support and may be insightful in many ways—they’re in the trenches with you and can relate in ways others may not be able to. The trouble is that they don’t necessarily have any more life experience than you do. There’s something that can be gained from learning from those who have gone before you. So…where do you go?

Frequently, this insight may come from celebrities. These can be people older than you who have had more life experiences than you—all good, right? Well, maybe. The problem is that articles about them rarely contain any real advice. In interviews they are asked about fashion, how they stay thin, and the details of their love lives. These topics may make you feel worse rather than better. All too often the details of the celebrities’ lives are glamorized, which may cause you to feel as though your own life is insignificant. Articles discuss the exciting places where they travel or the other celebrities they date. Some will discuss the fitness regimens the celebrities use to stay in shape, but it will fail to acknowledge their personal trainers or chefs who prepare their meals.

How are you supposed to feel like you can compete? Celebrities are also rarely asked real questions in their interviews that real people can relate to. Maybe they’ll be asked what guidance they might give someone who is trying to break into their industry. Helpful to some, but most of you are not planning a career in the entertainment industry. It also fails to account for women who have achieved success in other industries (for example, business, politics, and sports).

That is where I got the idea for this book. I wanted to ask these successful women what advice shaped them during their teen years or for a piece of advice they wish they’d received when they were teenagers. I left the topic wide open for these women—they were free to write about whatever they wanted. I wanted this book to include women from a variety of industries as well as backgrounds. I wanted to include women whose names might be immediately recognizable to you because they’re actresses (like Kat Graham) or musicians (like Elie Golding), but I also wanted to include women you may have never heard of but definitely should, including politicians (like Janet Nguyen or Mimi Walters) and businesswomen (like Becky Quick).

You may be wondering how I picked these specific women in the first place and how they went from my dream list to actual participants in the book. This was trickier than you might think—it definitely was harder than I thought it would be. Initially, I brainstormed a list of women who I thought would have something useful to contribute. I searched the Internet and picked the brains of my friends and family. I made a list of their agents, business managers, public relations team, attorneys, personal assistants, and corporate contacts.

I then did something somewhat boneheaded. I mailed these contact people a letter explaining the project and why their person should participate. Interestingly, I learned almost no one reads letters anymore—especially unsolicited letters from a complete stranger (me). When I received little feedback from the letters, I realized email would be simpler. I again scoured the Internet to get contact information for those same agents, managers, and publicists, etc., and emailed a similar letter explaining the project. A few more responses began trickling in. Then I remembered the joy that is Twitter. I began tweeting like an idiot, trying to explain the project in 140 characters or less to women who have thousands of followers. This was key. Responses began flooding in.

So why would these amazingly successful women take time out of their busy schedules to participate in this project? Well, it definitely wasn’t for the money. There was none. They didn’t get a dime for their time and efforts. They did it for two reasons: First, they care about you. These women wanted to offer guidance to you as you navigate the difficult teen years. They also wanted you to know that you are not alone in your struggles; they’ve been there too and made it through to the other side. You can survive it too. The second reason was these wonderful women care about charity. I’m donating 50 percent of any royalties received to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA).

CHLA is a nonprofit hospital that depends on generous donations to help heal children in an environment that lets them thrive. Each year, more than 96,000 sick children come to the hospital for care. I worked at CHLA for a number of years and was consistently awestruck at the quality of care they were able to provide, and I wanted to find a way to contribute to that care. These women saw contributing to this book as a way to also contribute to CHLA. Follow the examples of these amazing women and find ways to give back. You can volunteer your time (or money) to a good cause (anyone you like) and Pay It Forward. You too can positively impact the lives of others.

All of the direct quotes that appear in this book appear entirely as I received them. They weren’t edited for content.

Young Adult Apathy

A colleague and I were talking recently about the number of clients we were seeing with a similar complaint – uncertainty about what the hell to do with the rest of their lives. These are typically people in their early twenties who had either finished or nearly finished an undergraduate degree of some sort. Often, they studied some general type of program, like Communications or Psychology, and had no current plans to attend graduate school. Because of this, their degrees may not have prepared them for any specific career path. These patients often present for treatment with a mixture of anxiety and depression and are looking for some help determining the best direction. They live with their parents (or are supported by their parents outside the family home) and rarely are working for any type of pay. Every possible career option is quickly shot down with complaints of not being interesting, being boring or “not sounding very fun.”

What do we have to say to these young adults? Get a job – any job. I don’t care where – Target, an office, the library, a restaurant – anywhere. You need to be doing something while you are figuring it all out. Your temporary job may help you figure out what you want to do (or at least what you don’t). You are not likely to achieve clarity sitting at home playing video games. You do not get to be a burden on society or on your parents. Sitting at home will only make you more depressed. Get out of the house.

Actually this is a good rule for life – if you aren’t 100 % sure what you should be doing, take small steps until you figure it out. Even if you aren’t taking long strides, short steps keep you moving forward.

When Letting Go is Good for You

I have been talking with clients a lot lately about the importance of letting     go. (Please do not break into a song from frozen – I have a 9-year-old and, therefore, have heard it too, too much.) What I have been noticing is we hold onto things unnecessarily for a number of reasons, but, most of the time, the unfortunate outcome is damage to ourselves. What I want for you is to take a moment and carefully think about what you are holding onto so tightly and really think about whether it is negatively impacting your life.

  1. Are you holding onto a past relationship (either because it was so good or because it was so bad)? This happens… a lot.
    1. When a prior relationship was a good one we can focus so much on the positives we received from it that we have no hope of being satisfied by any future relationships. I see this especially when a spouse or partner passes or when a relationship ended against our wishes. We have a tendency to create a fantasy memory of this relationship and focus only on the good and seem to forget the bad. What future relationship (with real life human people – farts and all) can ever hope to compare to a fantasy?
    2. When a relationship ends badly we have a tendency to get so lost in our hurt and anger we cannot move on. There are many revenge fantasies about how to get back at the partner who wronged us. I see this most often when a partner is recovering after a partner has cheated. There is such a focus on retaliation that the person gets stuck. There often is no room for anything (or anyone) else in their life.
  2. Are you staying in a battle just to win even though the outcome isn’t terribly important to you? This can be big or small.
    1. If you are a parent – you have probably faced this…often. Imagine my daughter and I in an epic stare down over whether or not she can stay up an extra five minutes to watch the end of a TV show. You can imagine which side she was on. This battle can last much longer than the contested five minutes and end up about being right rather than getting enough sleep for school.
    2. Many times these disagreements are much larger – arguments with friends and family about politics or religion or money. These can turn to epic battles with each person being so set on convincing the other they are right, they end up destroying the relationship in the meantime. Choose your battles – what matters more the relationship or being right?
  3. Staying in a situation when its expiration date has clearly passed. This includes staying in an unhealthy relationship because you “don’t give up”, staying at a job where you are miserable, and maintaining friendships that cause you hardship and pain.

How do you let it go? Well, the first and most difficult step is deciding to let it go. Sounds simple, right? Not really. If it were that easy I would have a lot fewer patients on my caseload. Many people view letting go as “quitting” or “losing”. This is not the case.  Letting go comes from a place of strength, not weakness. You are choosing the healthier life where you are able to look to the future and not be stuck in the past. Focus on yourself, not those who have done you wrong. Decide what is most important to you and work toward strengthening that path.

Why I am Thankful for a Social Media Free Adolescence

There is at least once a week where I take a moment to give thanks that social media did not exist when I was in high school or college. I wasn’t a bad kid (well at least not a terrible kid), but I was no saint. I was young and impulsive and, at times, full of my own convictions and beliefs which I would have had no problem sharing with the world. I can just picture myself sitting back waiting for the adoration to roll in about how profound and insightful I was. Gah – I was a dork. So… there are many reasons why I am glad my teens and 20s existed in a social media free zone.

  1. Embarrassing pictures. No employer I have or will ever work for has been able to search tragically embarrassing photos of me on the internet. There are pictures out there, but they are not digital and, fortunately, the friends who are in possession of them are now mature enough to recognize posting them would be traumatic and hurtful. There is also the fact it would be a mutually destructive act as I have just as many photos of them. 😉
  2. Bullying sucked when I was a kid. I was lucky and survived relatively unscathed, but the bullies of my era had to know you personally and say it to your face. It was still terrible for those who experienced it, but it did not approach the scale of nameless, faceless people attacking you by the thousands. There is such a cowardice to online bullying and so many are never able to identify or confront their attackers.
  3. The public forum of your life. People know who is dating or breaking up or where they are going and with whom. There is no privacy in the world of social media. Teens typically lack the impulse control not to “overshare” and, therefore, everyone knows everything about everybody.
  4. Social media becomes a popularity contest, but it is an artificial one. The battle can be who has the most friends on Facebook or followers on Twitter or Instagram as if this means there is a genuine relationship. We know this is artificial and, unfortunately, it can turn people away from real relationships with flesh and blood people.
  5. Peer pressure is hard enough to overcome face-to-face. Now pressure can come from multitudes who are not always acting with your best interest at heart.

Look, even without social media during my teens and 20s, I still have no chance to run for President of the United States. There are enough skeletons in my closet and I have friends who know too much, but at least it is not easily accessible though an internet search. I am happy social media became a presence in my life once I had already learned some restraint and became aware of the value of my name and “reputation”. I wonder how that is going to work for today’s teens and young adults as they have already put too much online and there is no way of taking it back. Will it matter or will it become a moot point since they will be on an even playing field with all of their other classmates?

When “Looks Good on Paper” Feels Wrong

Have you ever had that experience where you were presented with the perfect job or person or situation or house or “whatever” and it just didn’t feel right? This is the Looks Good on Paper Fallacy and this is when we are often tempted to go with something just because it looks right even though it doesn’t feel right.

Let me give you an example – way back when I was in college I had dated a bunch of random guys who were never going to be my forever person. You know the types – not very nice, no real future, not incredibly smart, drank too much and/or habitually unfaithful. I was determined to change these men into guys who did meet my dream list which was a lost cause. You need to fall in love with someone for who they are, not who you are trying to make them become. These less than stellar gentlemen, who looked bad on paper, were definitely bad news for me (though I learned a lot about what I DID want in a relationship, so not a total waste).

This led me to attempt a change in my dating philosophy – I was going to choose men who met my dating criteria – who looked good on paper. Everyone has their own definition of what looks good on paper, but I was looking for nice, but with a strong spine; educated and intelligent (two different things); funny; and driven for “more” in his life. I dated a few of these guys and “eh”- it was alright, but not exciting. The difficulty? I had forgotten to take into account that special something that pulls two people together – call it chemistry or passion or whatever. Sometimes looking good on paper is simply not enough. It just makes it harder to explain it to ourselves and others when it doesn’t work.

Looking good on paper isn’t just about romance. Have you ever had a job that fits all your criteria – good hours, decent pay and doing something you should enjoy and you are simply underwhelmed. There is something missing. Or when you are looking to purchase or rent a home, you give your realtor a set of criteria you are looking for. They may show you place after place which meets that criteria and they just don’t “fit”. You are waiting for something to just feel right.

OK – so what is the point of all of this? It is important to remember that just because someone or something looks good on paper, doesn’t mean it is right for you. It is important to know what is important to you (your good on paper list), but also to know there is more to it for you to feel satisfied with the outcome. It is important to include your gut in your decision making process.

The Danger of Relationship Overconfidence

Lately on TV, I have been noting a number of shows are dealing with individuals in couples who are taking their relationships for granted and suffer as a consequence of this overconfidence in their partner’s affections. In discussing this I am going to have to acknowledge I watch a lot of ”chick TV”, but be nice – it is entertaining.

On Grey’s Anatomy – the couple in question are Drs. Arizona Robbins and Callie Torres. They have been a couple for a number of years and have experienced a number of struggles (Google the show if you need specifics – or just trust me), but throughout it all it has been Callie who has been fighting to keep this relationship afloat. Recently, Arizona asked for a “break” to figure things out and the ladies took 30 days apart. Imagine Arizona’s surprise at returning to the relationship ready to re-commit only to find Callie’s discovery she was happier apart and ready to move on.

On Parenthood – the couple in question are Joel and Julia Braverman. Again, this couple had been through their share of trials and tribulations (again Google it) culminating in Joel leaving and refusing to “work on it” despite Julia’s pleas. What happens? Julia moves on and finds new happiness, which rocks Joel’s world and now he is begging for her back.

There is an inherent danger in being overly confident your partner will always want you. It can cause you to behave recklessly and to jeopardize that love. I’ve obviously seen it on TV, but I have also observed it professionally. Too many of my clients (after the break-up) acknowledge there were things they could have (relatively) easily done to please their partner and only refused to do so out of laziness and/or spite. Our relationships (not just our intimate ones) require love, care and tending much like a garden. When you become complacent in a garden, it becomes overrun with weeds and your fruit, vegetables, flowers, whatever you are growing get choked off and begin to die. Relationships are much the same way. Do not assume everything will always be OK just because it is now. Don’t assume your partner will always love you, just because they do now. Work at your relationships much in the ways you did early on – dress with care, woo each other, make your partner a priority, listen when he/she speaks, hold hands, snuggle – the list could go on forever. You worked to get together, now you must work to stay together.

Friendship Shock

Have you ever had a friend shock you? You thought you knew them pretty well, they seemed like a good person, you enjoyed your time together and you were interested in further developing the friendship only to have them do something which proves they were not who you thought they were to begin with? This can cause a number of feelings – anger, sadness, guilt, confusion, and betrayal to name a few. It can be tough to decide what to do. Do you accept your friendship in this new changed capacity? It may be possible if you can accept your friend as she is and if your differences are not insurmountable. Do you walk away from the relationship? This may be necessary if you are not going to be able to move on from whatever she did (or didn’t do). You are the only one who can make this decision. It is important to consider your options and make a decision based on what you realistically can do. It isn’t good for either of you to pretend everything is OK, but have lingering resentments and hostilities.

There is a decision tree you can follow:

  1. How likely are you to have to interact with this person in the future?
    1. Do you work together?
    2. Are you related?
    3. Are your kids in similar activities?
  2. Can you accept them information you have learned about them and still like them?
  3. Are you going to be able to let go of your hurt/anger about whatever it was that happened?

Let me give an example and walk through the decision tree. My husband, Jason, works in the restaurant industry which means he works ridiculously long hours. This means he often becomes good friends with his co-workers since they spend so much time together. Back when we were in our 20s and childless, he worked with a guy I’ll call Jim. Jim and his wife, Michelle, were close to our ages, newly married like us and dealing with establishing new careers. We went out with them a few times and had a lot of fun. There weren’t serious conversations during these night outs, just concerts and having fun. Well, one night on our third (or so) double date we decided to go to dinner. We were about 20 minutes into our meal when Jim started sharing his views on other races. I won’t go into detail, but let’s just say he was one very small step away from White Power and “Heil Hitler”. I was immediately nauseated and Jason and I kept looking at each other in horror trying to figure out how to get the hell out of there. I can’t remember how we got out of there, but it was definitely an abbreviated evening that was not repeated.

Using the decision tree, we had to determine how best to proceed. In our situation, we (my husband at least) were going to have to continue to interact with Jim – at least at work. Based on this outcome, he had to determine if he could tolerate this new information about Jim – accept it and move on in the friendship. The answer was a resounding, “Hell, no!” This meant Jason was forced to limit their relationship to a purely professional one and set limits and boundaries about their interactions. We never saw them socially again, Jason stopped any conversation that became racist immediately, and chose to hold onto his anger at Jim’s horrible views as a means of keeping him strong against the pull of future friendship. Once Jason and Jim no longer worked together, we never talked with him in any capacity again. If I could have done one thing differently, I would have liked to have been more verbal in my rejection of his crap.

Not all situations will be this extreme. You may learn something else about a friend you are able to forgive and move on from. Maybe the relationship will not be exactly the same, but it may continue in some different (maybe even limited) capacity. You are the only one who can make this choice. Walk through the steps, talk it over (in a non-gossipy way) with someone you trust. You choose whether the relationship continues one, takes a pause, or is over for good.