Showing posts with label Self-Disciplining. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Self-Disciplining. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Piece of Advice #67: Admit when you're wrong

To err is human.  Humans are experts at getting things wrong, doing wrong things, and/or otherwise messing things up.  We estimate, extrapolate, or interpret things on a regular basis in order to get things done.  We observe and dissect our friends, family and coworkers in an effort to get along with them more effectively (or better manipulate them).  We react continuously to our neighbors and surroundings based on varying amounts of information, and we constantly misread the data.  Sometimes it isn't a big deal.  If you guess wrong on how much paint you need to touch up your bathroom walls, you run to the hardware store and buy some more.  If you guess that rush hour traffic will ramp up at 5 PM and it actually begins earlier, you sit in traffic for a bit.  But if you misinterpret someone's emotions, intentions or situation and react based on those wrongly interpreted cues, you will very probably anger them, hurt them, or degrade your relationship.  The best thing to do is just admit that you were wrong.  And then apologize.

This sounds really simple.  It's amazing then that more people don't do it and will instead make myriad excuses for why they were really right or why even if they were wrong, the situation merited an explosion of temper.  Pride.  It's all pride - which is a built-in to the human condition, but as our culture becomes simultaneously more individualistic and narcissistic, it's actually cool now to be wrong and refuse to admit it.

(A side note: I have to wonder if the punctuation omission on this t-shirt is intentional and ironic.)

Whatever your reason, refusing to admit it when you're wrong and, worse, when you have hurt someone by being so, is immature and selfish.

The easiest and fastest way to diffuse an angry situation in which you are at least partially at fault is to say, "I'm sorry.  I was wrong.  I shouldn't have _____.  Will you forgive me?"  These words will calm down nearly any reasonable person and some unreasonable ones as well.  Often they will be open to discussing how they might have also contributed to the situation, if you take the first step in admitting responsibility or culpability.  Insisting that you are right and that the other person has offended does the opposite - it ramps up the anger and the defensiveness and keeps all involved parties from addressing any underlying problems and solving them.

Part 1 of admitting when you are wrong is, of course, continuously scrutinizing your own behavior and not giving yourself a pass because, well, it's you.  Also you have to refuse to use excuses such as, "I was tired" or "I was hormonal" or "I had a hard day."  Everyone has hard days, and all women are sometimes hormonal.  Neither of these are a reason to abuse other people.  If you do, you should apologize.  Scrap your pride and say, "I had no call to treat you that way.  I'm sorry."

We all fail.  We all say things that are uncalled for or unkind, and this isn't going to change.  But accepting that as fact and accepting it as a satisfactory excuse are two different things.  We owe the people around us at least the attempt to be our best selves.  If you fail at this, apologize.  It will go a long way to diffusing anger and bitterness and keeping your relationships strong and healthy.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Piece of Advice #63: Don't trade something for nothing

The comments on Jaclyn Friedman's "My Sluthood, Myself" are quite revealing.  It's hard to know how representative the audience at Feministe is of women in general - obviously it is an echo chamber, but how commodious is that chamber?   Numerous indicators reveal that women have more sexual experience and more sexual partners than women did twenty, thirty, forty, or fifty years ago.  The "slut" label seems to have some built-in elasticity to it.  But how many women are journeying down that path?  I really don't know.

In any case, one of the comments made an impression:
AMAZING writing. I really appreciate having stumbled upon this, as it has really made me wonder about my own life – I am 22 and have been in a serious relationship for two years. He’s amazing, and I think he might be “the One”, but he is the only man I have ever slept with. This bothers me because I am quite confident that if we were to ever break up, I would undoubtedly embrace “sluthood” – and I really feel like I may be missing out on something that is important for defining who I am. I discovered who I am sexually through my relationship with him. But I love him to bits so this is just something I will need to wonder about for the rest of my life? *Sigh* if only I had slutted it up earlier.  
I find this so sad.

Dear Ahria: There are innumerable women who would love to find "the One," just one [1] man who is amazing and build a life with him.  That you've done so at 22 means you are ahead of the curve.  Be grateful.  Be happy.  Treat him right, make a commitment, raise some kids.  Do not spend even one minute regretting the fact that you were never an unpaid prostitute or that you didn't spend your young womanhood under sweating strangers who care nothing for you.  The fact that you've thought about this, that you've gone so far as to put this desire into words and post it on a public forum tells me that you are tempted.  But do not - do NOT - toss away respect and love for cheap - or, rather, very expensive - sex.  Sex does not define you.  You define you.  Your good choices will make that definition worth reading.

Recently there have been several books published highlighting the effects of women who made the choice you are thinking about making.  These are cautionary tales.  They do not have happy endings.  You have something great; don't get greedy now.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Piece of Advice #62: Cheat not

When I was in college, I lived in a women's dorm; rooms were closed to male visitors for all but a few hours of the week.  All of my roommates and suitemates were from middle class, mostly intact families, and the admission standards for the university I attended required a certain level of intelligence and self-discipline.  So I was a bit surprised at all the cheating going on.

In one calendar year I saw three incidents of cheating/near cheating.  One of my roommates cheated on her fiancé with her fiancé's best friend who also happened to be engaged to one of her best friends.  Two couples, two cheaters.  My roommate knew what she was doing was wrong and would probably hurt two people she cared about very badly, but she was addicted to the thrill of sleeping with her illicit lover.  He was apparently very exciting.  I was lucky enough to exit that living arrangement by the time everything blew up.  I heard it went down ugly.

Another roommate moved out of the dorm and went to live with her boyfriend.  They had the worst relationship I had ever seen. She was so abusive to him, calling him ugly and stupid and telling him that he was going nowhere and that his mother was right when she told him he was a loser.  He stayed, as far as I could see, because her father's VISA card paid the rent and perhaps because he'd been trained at home to take this sort of vitriolic commentary on his shortcomings.  It was awful.  In any case, one night he brought home a friend - a guy he introduced me to and whom I dated for a short time - and my roommate and this friend got it on in the bedroom while he stayed and got drunker in the living room.  She confessed this all to me tearfully.  She was afraid I would not forgive her for sleeping with this loser.  After all, we had gone out.  She didn't care what her boyfriend thought or felt about what she'd done.

Another roommate flirted with cheating for two semesters.  Her boyfriend had graduated and moved far away, but they were still a couple.  She had a really hard time staying faithful.  She kept hooking up and telling herself she needed this, and then her boyfriend would fly back for Christmas and she would vow to do better because he was such a great guy, and then inevitably, she'd be getting lots of calls from "Steve" or "Mike," and the whole cycle would start over again.

What I didn't understand about any of the above is why these women didn't just break up with their boyfriends.  None of them were married, and all of them were in some way unhappy with the terms of their relationships.  These weren't women with no other options either.  In the last case, my roommate was literally flooded with options.  The phone never stopped ringing.

Here's the thing: cheating is bad.  It's bad when guys do it, and it's bad when girls do it too.  It's cruel and selfish, and it sets up someone you have publicly professed to have feelings for to be humiliated.  It amplifies the sadness of a break up, and that can have further consequences that can't always be predicted.  Lovers who are cheated on sometimes get violent.  Sometimes they get even.

It also makes you look really, really bad.  I would insert the old adage, "Cheaters never prosper," here, but I'm afraid that they sometimes do.  It's still a bad idea to tell the world that you are untrustworthy, that you do not keep your promises or mean it when you profess to love someone.  Because sleeping with some other guy is not a loving act; it's not the act of a woman of integrity.

Break it off with your boyfriend if you aren't happy - before you get involved with someone else.  If you are married, shake off temptation and stay married.  You made vows.  There's a certain satisfaction in becoming and being the kind of person who keeps the promises she makes.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Piece of Advice #56: Pay your bills

This may sound like very elementary advice, but I've know a number of people who didn't pay their bills, and it was stressful, chaotic, and really, really hard on their credit score.

We're coming off a decade of "magic" money, a time when people had money who didn't actually have any money.  They bought huge houses with mortgages far beyond what they could pay and financed new cars, vacations, shopping sprees, etc. via a sort of legal check kiting made possible by banks who looked the other way as long as they were making lots of magic money too.  Then it all crashed.  We are still wading through the rubble and will be for quite some time.

Somehow in all the euphoria we lost track of the idea that people need to pay real money for the real things they buy.  It's better when it works that way.  Businesses get to pay their employees, and people are not turned into debt slaves.  Bills are unexciting, and we get them for stuff we often take for granted - heat, water, electricity, food - so paying them when the alternative is buying something new is a buzzkill.  But not paying them is both unethical and, as I mentioned before, stressful.  Debt collectors will demand payment and will start to stalk you and invade your privacy, and it will be harder to enjoy your new purchase because you are feeling stressed and (probably) guilty about not paying for stuff you owe money on.  Additionally, if you don't pay what you owe, you will not be extended credit to buy things you can't afford to pay in entirety - such as houses or cars - and your bad credit may spill over onto a future spouse as well.  It can affect your ability to get a job or rent a place to live, and will also affect the terms under which you borrow money.  If you don't pay now, you will pay later.

I recommend always paying your bills first, even if that means you don't have much (or any) money left for fun or splurges.  It's the first step in getting disciplined about your money.  If you do not have enough money to pay for everything, you will have to get creative and organized.  Make a budget and stick to it.  Once you start paying your bills and tracking your income, you will have a better idea of what you can and cannot afford.  With that realization and some self-discipline, it will be easier to make smart money decisions and you will likely find that some of the things you've spent money on aren't necessary and can be cut out.  If you isolate those things and eliminate them, that will leave you with money you can spend on things that you do actually need, want, or find meaningful.

Obviously this is only the tip of an enormous iceberg of money advice.  Just the basics could take up a whole book.  But taking control of your finances starts with taking responsibility for your financial activity, and that starts with paying your bills yourself on time before spending any further.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Piece of Advice #55: Keep your nose clean

Gossip - don't do it.  Especially avoid it at work or in situations that depend on your maintaining your reputation. And absolutely don't get involved in group gossip sessions because women who get taken down because of their gossiping don't go down alone.  They'll drag you down and through the muck with them.  Misery demands company.  The only way to avoid this is to keep your nose scrupulously clean.

I realize this is hard.  Gossiping is a default social activity.  It serves to maintain the hierarchy.  Women who act in ways others don't approve of or who get above their station either socially or professionally and don't balance like a high wire acrobat can easily be taken down with gossip.  It also serves to make the gossipers feel superior about themselves.  They might have problems, but at least they're not doing that.

I'm guilty of this one.  I have not always kept my nose clean.  I have said mean, cutting things for the sheer pleasure of displaying how clever I can be.  I've tripped on the carpet on occasion in my haste to make it to the water cooler. I'm not proud of it.  Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.  I could have done better.  Been better.  I'm learning with age and experience.  It's also quite a lot easier to avoid the gossip dynamic when you are a stay-at-home mom.  The regular pitfalls are just not there.

I'm writing this so you can learn from my mistakes.  Skip the water cooler.  Avoid like the plague the girl who falls into gossip at the first opportunity and who loves to rips others to shreds.  Again, do not - do not - do the group thing.  There are too many witnesses in groups, and witnesses talk.  They may wait awhile - like until you are up for a promotion or get a nice boyfriend or a boost in social status - but they will talk.  And you will not remember all the things that you said or to whom or in what order and will have to bear the embarrassment and the shame of having been a Mean Girl.  For some people the exhilaration of gossip is worth the periodic exposure, but if you want to really succeed in something, it's better to rise above and not provide anyone with ammunition to use against you.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Piece of Advice #54: Limit your liquor

Drunk women aren't pretty.  They aren't alluring.  They aren't professional.  They aren't proving themselves.  They're just sloppy and obnoxious and generally on the verge of making poor choices.

I'm not going to turn this into a rant about the evils of alcohol.  If you want to have a glass of wine with dinner, go ahead. If you're with friends relaxing and having a good time, have a few beers.  Alcohol should not be your buddy, though, and it should never be your excuse or your permission slip to commit bad behavior.  It should be handled with care for at least three reasons:

  1. Alcohol is expensive.  Unless you are drinking really cheap beer alone or mooching out of someone's fridge stash, drinking is going to hit your pocketbook hard.  The trendy urban social scene drinks are really pricy; if everyone else is ordering, you will feel pressure to keep up.  If you get attached to that lifestyle and are working in the cube farm, prepare for bankruptcy.  
  2. Alcohol is caloric.  There's a reason rookie college students gain the "freshman fifteen," and it's not just because the ice cream station at the cafeteria is all you can eat.  All of those margaritas will not help you to lose the weight, that is for certain.  Binge drinking is like carb overloading; it will kill your waistline.
  3. Alcohol is death on inhibitions.  This is very likely why many people drink so much - because they want to do things they would be too smart or scared to do when sober.  But it has a tendency to backfire, and I'm not just talking about sex.  Yes, young women will sleep with guys they don't know when fully fueled up on mimosas, but they will also fall over balcony rails to their deaths or crash into trees on the drive home.  They will get disorderly or commit property damage and get arrested.  They will wander off to unsafe places with unsafe people.  They will take off their clothes and dance on bar counters (and get photographed and tagged in pics on Facebook and those photos may never go away).  They will get alcohol poisoning and end up in the ER.  And they will completely turn off people whom they otherwise might like to impress such as their coworkers, friends, or potential dates.  This is all bad.  
Again, if you can and will drink responsibly, go ahead.  But do so cautiously.  There are pitfalls, and you have nothing to prove.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Piece of Advice #53: Cultivate dignity

Merriam-Webster online defines this as:
Main Entry: dig·ni·ty 
Pronunciation: \ˈdig-nə-tē\
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural dig·ni·ties
Etymology: Middle English dignete, from Anglo-French digneté, from Latin dignitat-, dignitas, from dignus
Date: 13th century
1 : the quality or state of being worthy, honored, or esteemed
2 a : high rank, office, or position b : a legal title of nobility or honor
3 archaic : dignitary
4 : formal reserve or seriousness of manner, appearance, or language
Susan Walsh recently wrote an excellent piece entitled "5 Steps to a Relationship Commitment."  The fifth step includes what to do if all the other steps fail:  Be gracious in defeat.  She writes:
If he says, “NO RELATIONSHIP,” you are going to pick up your toys and go home. You are going to stay cool and thank him for a fun playdate. You are going to say “no hard feelings” and you are going to mean it. You are going to hold your head high. No shame, no embarrassment, no weakness, no weeping, no anger. No insults or name calling. You are going to calmly exit the situation and proceed to your bed, where you will crawl under the covers and weep. But that is just for you and your loved ones to witness. He is not a loved one. He does not get to witness your pain.
This is dignity.  This is respecting yourself.  You played the game and lost.  He has decided he doesn't want to be with you.  He gets to make that decision.  If you follow Susan's advice, though, he doesn't get anything else. You keep your pride.  You may feel like a loser.  You may feel like nothing.  But time will pass, and after you've crawled out from under the covers and are able to peel off the duct tape you wrapped around the phone to keep your fingers from calling his number and begging him or demanding an explanation or drunk dialing or prank calling him, you will remember your worth and be glad you didn't show him or the world your weak side.

This is a test.  This is not just acting; it's a true "Fake it till you make it" deal.  Acting dignified makes you dignified because dignity is about self control and self respect, and you can only have self control and self respect if you practice them (and practice and practice and practice some more).

Dignity is letting the other person have the last word - even when you are sure you are right - rather than verbally bludgeoning them in an attempt to get them to agree with you.  Dignity is resisting the urge to badmouth an ex-lover or friend when you have have a receptive audience who will trade good gossip for meaningless reassurances of your greatness.  Dignity is resisting the urge to post pictures of yourself belly dancing on Facebook after a bad break-up.  We all need an audience some times, and we all need praise and pats on the back and reassurance.  Dignity is having the patience needed to wait until those compliments come in their own time from people you respect.  In a world that encourages immediate gratification of any and all needs and wants, dignity is dying.  Let's try and revive it a bit, shall we?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Piece of Advice #8: Lose the weight

There is no way to pussyfoot around this one: if you are fat and you want a decent future, you have to lose the weight.  Visceral fat is just death on the body.  It will make you slower, it will make moving more painful, and both of these will just compound the problem.  If you want to avoid diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, joint pain, and respiratory issues, you must lose the weight.  No, 10 pounds won't make you an invalid, but let's not kid ourselves.  It's 10 pounds now.  It'll be 10 more pounds next year if you do not address the problem - your overeating and lack of exercise.

The tone of this blog is somewhat no nonsense, I realize, but I do have sympathy for women fighting the weight battle because I fight the weight battle and I've been fighting it for over a decade.  Every day.  I exercise more than any other person my age that I know.  Every day, rain or shine, I go out into the weather and walk for at least and hour and fifteen minutes.  Where I live this is not always pleasant.  In fact, for 5 months of the year it's either unpleasant or extremely unpleasant (as in freeze-your-ass-off cold and risk slipping on treacherous sidewalks at all times).  Yet I do it - every day.  Rain or shine, cold or hot, sick or healthy, I go out there and walk the good walk with my dogs, or my son or my husband.  I walk because 11 years ago I realized that I was putting on weight faster than what I'd previously thought possible and was afraid of where it was going.  I started walking 30 minutes a day which staved off further weight gain, but didn't cause me to lose anything.  Then it was 45 minutes, then an hour, and now most of the time it's an hour and a half.  I lost the weight.

I walked when I worked full-time - on my lunch hour or after work.  I walked with an infant, with a toddler, with a preschooler.  My son can easily walk for 45 minutes with me with minimal complaint and does so fairly often.  I've played more games of "What kind of pirate do you think is hiding behind that tree?" and "What does your pig have in his lunchbox?" [answer: a  sloppy joe and a slopsicle] than I can count because he won't trudge on without entertainment but he's a little walker now like his mom.  And we've spent plenty of one-on-one together because of it.

If doing it for your health isn't enough motivation, I'll give you one more: neither men nor women respect women who are overweight.  And all of the fat positive propaganda in the world isn't going to change that.  Women like to feel superior to each other, and nothing makes that easier than having a fat friend.  Men are repulsed by fat on women, especially on young women who should still retain a girlish figure.  If you are looking for a relationship, being fat will be a huge barrier for you.  Most men just do not dig fat girls.  Period.  Skinny average looking girls will do better in the dating market than fat pretty ones.  If you are pretty and you are fat you have sabotaged your chances for finding a really good long term relationship.  Reverse that.  Lose the weight.

Now, I know this isn't fair.  There are plenty of guys out there that are fat and they can still get dates.  There are also guys who can eat anything they like and not gain weight.  My husband is one of them, and it is kind of infuriating.  And it isn't that a women's value is or should be only exterior.  Also, your food options work against you.  Fast food is cheap and tasty, but it is death in a bag - death for your body and death for your social life.

Unfortunately, none of this negates the fact that being fat will destroy opportunity after opportunity for you - chances for health and love and career success.  So knuckle down and lose the weight.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Piece of Advice #2: If you're going to prostitute yourself, at least charge

There are reasons that prostitutes have historically charged for their services.  Prostitutes:

  • are in physical danger due to their extreme proximity to men they don't know
  • risk acquiring a sexually transmitted disease
  • risk pregnancy
  • have low value on the marriage market because men are not attracted to women who have had sex with many men.  This means they are more vulnerable in terms of their financial security in the long run.
Ultimately, I would advise women not to have sex outside of marriage so as to maintain their value among men they may seek to marry.  However, if you are the type of woman who wants or needs to have casual sex, prostitution seems like a more practical outlet because you earn money in addition to having sex, money that may help to moderate the above complications.  Additionally, business transactions require more direct communication about services to be rendered.  This means less confusion between men and women about the sex they are having, and no one need feel used afterward except the one who did a job and was paid for it.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Piece of Advice #1: Stay married.

If you are married, first of all congratulate yourself.  You have managed to accomplish something many women of our generation and future generations have not and will not: persuading a man you are valuable enough for him to take himself off the sexual market and render himself vulnerable to a legal/economic system that favors women.

Now that you've congratulated yourself, don't screw it up.  Don't get complacent.  Don't get bored and have an affair.  Don't take him for granted.  And for God's sake, don't leave him and screw him over financially in family court.  Think long term.  Divorce is expensive, but separate lifestyles are financially ruinous.  Your children need a father (who doesn't hate their mother) living in their house parenting them, and you will not be happier divorced.  If you think Prince Charming is waiting on his white horse right around the corner to swoop you up in his arms and take you to the palace, think again.  Odds are, ten years ago you were better marriage material: younger, thinner, hotter, less desperate, and less bitter.  If Prince Charming wasn't making a bid then, why would he now?  Divorced you will be lonely, poorer, and harried taking care of your children on your own.  Your vacations and holidays will be exponentially more complicated since your ex-husband and in-laws will still want to see your children.  People get married because it is the least expensive, least complicated way to raise happy, healthy, successful children.

If he is not beating you or your children, sleeping with an army of skanks-on-the-side, or spending himself into an abyss of debt and taking you along, don't get divorced.  Trust me: happiness is cyclical, poverty lingers, and your kids have a better chance of staying out of jail or trouble if their father is present in their lives.  Isn't that worth staying for?