5 Ways Being Selfish is Actually a Good Thing

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In our society (or at least NYC), many people pride themselves on how busy they are. It’s considered a badge of honor to have too.dang.much.to.do. And, I am 1000% guilty of overscheduling myself (even if it’s all with really fun things). The modern lady has work happy hours, ALL the wedding events, social time with friends, and – if that’s the life path she’s chosen, a spouse and kids to fit into the mix. All those responsibilities suck up the precious free time left after work, and can often lead to putting your own needs on the back burner while you run around catering to other people’s – even if you truly enjoy everything you’re doing.

We can all remember a time when we RSVP’d yes to an engagement when we were dead tired and broke just because we love our bestie. Or even when we had managed a few quiet moments to ourselves, FOMO struck and we got up and off the couch.

I came across this post on Mind Body Green explaining why putting yourself first is not only important – but crucial! – to happiness, and I think they’re onto something. Take back some time for yourself, and turn that FOMO into JOMO with these five steps.

  1. Pamper Yourself: Think about it, would you rather give someone you care about a worn-down, tired version of yourself, or the you who has blocked out time to take a nap and go to the gym?
  2. Don’t Volunteer: In other words, wait for someone to ask for your help before throwing yourself into action. Then actually think about it. Do you really have the time, energy and resources? If not, is there some other help you can recommend, and still feel like a good friend?
  3. Take a Time Out: Of course we can all push through a cold, or mild sickness if we’re not on our deathbeds, but should we? Taking a well-timed day off can make you feel better, and act happier, which will have a positive influence on everyone around you.
  4. Do What You Love: Don’t let your schedule be so driving it’s soul sucking. Don’t get stuck in a position you hate. Keep moving towards the things you like.
  5. Work as a Team: Instead of trying to do it all yourself, work with all those great people you’ve surrounded yourself with. Remember that it’s ok, and often beneficial for the project if you have more intelligent minds working on it.

What do you do to make time for yourself when you’re in over your head?

Image by Roman Pfeiffer.

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What Story Are You Telling Yourself?

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I was listening to a podcast the other morning (As friends of mine know, I start sentences like that a lot.). This particular one was about not, “interviewing your child for pain.” Basically, it was saying if you only ask a loved one questions about what went wrong on Tuesday, or call up your friend to see what terrible thing her ex has done now, you’re putting all of your attention on the bad stuff in life (and that’s not good!).

It struck a chord with me.

I can think of hundreds of times when I’ve been at bitchfests with friends where everyone is trashing a certain thing or event or celebrity. Isn’t that what a lot of work happy hours are all about? Complaining as a unit really brings a group together.

And I’ve noticed that when I’m telling stories about dates gone horribly awry, they garner much more attention than when I am describing the really sweet moment when a date was hopping around imitating my favorite Instagram bunny.

It made me think.

If we’re spending so much more time talking about the bad stuff, does it really impact the way we feel? Michael Thompson and Catherine O’Neill Grace say Yes. “We live the story we tell ourselves – and others – about the life we’re leading.”

If that’s the case, don’t we want it to be a happy story? Shouldn’t we be spending more time noticing and talking about the little moments of brightness and joy we encounter in our days?

Then I read an article in the September issue of Marie Claire about a clinical trial to treat PTSD that is using MDMA (the chemical behind ecstasy and ‘Molly’) as a therapy drug. The piece described how it was having success because it let people access old, traumatic memories and reimagine them, interact with them, and put them back away with a different spin. It allowed them to heal and change a moment that already happened to them by changing the way they remembered it.

Studies show that we are hard wired to remember negative events – insults – for longer, and more intensely than our bodies respond to good events. Researchers say it’s due to the chemicals our bodies produce. Cortisol, the stress hormone, sticks around for longer and has a more dramatic impact than oxytocin, our feel-good hormone, that metabolizes more quickly.

If we’re constantly interviewing our friends and family about their heart ache, their bad days, soon they could begin to believe that’s all there is. Be empathetic, and by all means, be there for people who need you, but in day to day life, if we’re defined by what we focus in on, and our memories are changed by examining them in a different light, don’t you want to make sure you’re telling yourself a happy story?

Image by Mark Wathieu

Today is Going to Be a Great Day

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I have this awesome calendar that brightens my morning every day. It’s called Today is Going to Be a Great Day, and it’s full of gorgeous artwork like this one by Jill De Haan. Pretty, with an inspirational quote, and the best part is they have the artist’s name and site on the back so you can go to the site and purchase that page that caught your eye. And if you’re not really the tearaway-a-day type, they have the pages in book form: Think Happy, Be Happy.

Image by Jill De Haan

4 Ways to Deal When You Do Something Embarassing

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I do embarrassing things all the time. Wiping out in the middle of a crosswalk? Been there (more times that I would like to admit)! Walking around with deodorant marks on my black top? Sure. Totally misunderstanding what someone is asking me? Of course! The range of snafus is wide and the list is long. But what I don’t do? Walk around feeling all ashamed and humiliated most of the time. Chalk it up to having a mother who wasn’t afraid of making a public scene every now and again, but eventually I just stopped really caring what other people thought, especially when I’ve done something clumsy or a little odd. Here are 4 things that might help you cope next time potential humiliation knocks at your door.

1. Laugh or Apologize

If you’ve done something embarrassing to yourself, laugh at it. People will feel a lot less pity and a lot more admiration for how you handled the situation when they can laugh (at what is really probably a pretty funny situation) without you getting mad at them. It diffuses the tension from the situation when they’re waiting to see how you’ll react. Laughing works best when you’ve done something silly like trip in front of a crowd or tuck your skirt into your pantyhose. If you’ve done something that embarrasses you because you embarrassed someone else, like really putting your foot in your mouth in a meeting, the best route is apologizing publicly and immediately to show people that at least you realize your blunder. Then try to take corrective steps, and at the very least, just remember never to make that same mistake again.
2. Put it in Perspective
While it might seem like a world-ending humiliation in your eyes, to most other people, it’s a minor blip in one day where they’re really more preoccupied with their stuff. It helps to remember that most people (high school girls excluded) care more about their own lives than yours. If you don’t remind them of the embarrassing incident, they will probably forget in the time it took you to forget what the person sitting across from you on the subway was wearing.

3. Move Along
If you pick up acting normally like nothing happened, other people will take it as a cue that they should go back to normal business as usual as well. Even if you’re still cringing internally about how you could ever do such an embarrassing thing, regaining your composure, and pretending like you’ve gotten over it is the best way to deal until you actually have.

4. Remember that it Won’t Matter in 5 Minutes, Hours, Days or Months
I’ve found that most times I feel really humiliated in the moment, I end up describing the whole event in great detail a few days later to my friends with lots of laughs in between. While you might have to force the laugh when it’s happening, after the initial embarrassment has passed there’s usually a funny story there. And if your friends want to joke about it before you’re ready, a simple, “Too soon,” should quiet them down until you’re ready to laugh about it down the road. And trust me, eventually you will be.

How do you cope when you’ve done something really embarrassing?

Get It: A 5 Step Guide to Killing It in Life

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I was talking with a friend about asking for a raise at work – telling her she deserved it, and it wouldn’t hurt to ask. After all, the worst they can say is no, right? Her response, “It’s easy for you to do, you’re so confident.” Another day, another friend said, “It seems like you’ve been killing it lately – what’s your secret?” It made me stop and think.

Sure, I have an awesome apartment, and a job I dreamed about as a little kid, but was it really confidence or some special secret? What was it that helped me get what I wanted?

Because the truth is, when I go into a salary negotiation, I might seem calm and collected, but on the inside, I’m shaking in my pumps. And when I call my landlord to try to talk them down on my rent, it takes me a little while to work myself up to dialing the number. But somehow, I do it anyways.

Here’s what gets me over the I’m-so-nervous-I-can’t-do-it hump.

1. Don’t Quit

I have lived in neighborhoods of NYC that were less-than-ideal. My apartment was farther up town, or up a few more flights of stairs than I wanted. I had soul-stealing jobs that involved serving up food and beverages to strangers when I would rather have been penning a great American novel. Did I let it get me down? Sure. I was straight-up bummed out about my life circumstances for some long-ish periods of my life. Did I let it crush my dream? Nope.

Even when things aren’t how you want them to be, you have to remind yourself that sometimes, it’s not you, it’s them. It takes waaaay longer to get what you want than it seems like it should, but the only way to find out if you’ve got the right stuff is to keep your hat in the ring – especially when it seems like the odds are against you. (If we’re going with this whole gambling metaphor, that’s when the biggest payoffs come, right?)

2. Do the Work

Because no one likes it when someone has all these big life goals for themselves, but never does anything to move them closer to them, right? Right. If it’s a life partner you’re after, suck it up and go on 1 million OKCupid dates. Sure, a lot of them will suck, but you’re not going to meet anyone watching Netflix alone.  If you just can’t get the job you want, find a side hustle that moves you closer to that dream. Do it in your free time, on your weekends, do it for free until you have the experience to make a move towards getting paid in that direction. If you’re asking for a raise, you had better do some research in advance and have cold hard facts that demonstrate why you deserve it.

3. Have a Dress Rehearsal

Public speaking used to make me queasy. I would start most presentations by just telling the audience my face was going to turn bright red, so just expect it. I would be in a full sweat pretty much the entire time, and black out while I was doing it. Then, I had a job where I had to stand at the front of a room and teach groups of people. And the first few times? I would finish the class wondering what happened, happy I managed not to sweat through my shirt. But after I did it over and over again, I got better at it.

When I had to teach new material, I would say my presentation, out loud, while I was folding laundry at home. I asked my colleagues to let me do a practice run. When I had big interviews, I would call my sister and ask her to faux-interview me over the phone the night before. When I had my annual reviews, I would make a plan with an experienced aunt to present my goals and hopes. In short, I practiced what I wanted to say over and over and over so that when I inevitably got nervous the hope was I would go on autopilot and fall back on what I had rehearsed. Those actors who do this for every dang play are onto something.

4. Pretend You’ve Got This

I’ll never forget when I was out to dinner with a dear friend of mine who had been working for a couple years while I was still finishing up my Master’s. She said, “I have no idea what I am doing half the time. I just say OK, and then go figure it out!” When I started working, I tried to follow her advice- don’t be afraid to take something on because you’re not sure. Go for it, google the heck out of it, and ask questions as you go along. Most people prefer someone giving it a try than saying no out of the gate. When I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing, or that I’m not good enough, I just pretend that I do and that I am. Everyone else is doing it anyways!

5. Feel Entitled

Ok, so recently, entitlement has gotten a pretty bad name with all of the “Rich kids of X” shows, Instagram feeds, and celebrity coverage floating around. I’m not telling you to go out and demand a Ferrari that you didn’t earn, or brag about that expensive trip you had given to you.

But as a concept, feeling entitled to…[fill in the blank] is really what confidence boils down to – that feeling of “I deserve this.” (Just circle back to number 2 first, and make sure you’re justified in that feeling.) When I go after something I want, I remind myself – I’ve worked hard for this, I went to school for this, I put in the time dating all those weirdoes for this, I did the research for this, I followed a 10K training plan to do this. Now, it’s time to get what’s mine. You’d be surprised at how good it can make you feel asking for what you want when you start off by thinking you deserve to have it.

Now get out there, and start killing it already!

Image by Jennifer

Always Late? It’s Probably Because You’re Too Busy Looking on the Bright Side

4961717384_f4da868db6_zIn what is arguably, the most optimistic look at running behind schedule that I’ve seen, a recent article puts it out there that maybe non-punctual people are just victims of being too positive. The chronically late are not just inconsiderate, or poor planners, no! They’re just a touch too hopeful. They think they can accomplish more in the time they have (laundry! Breakfast! A workout….in 45 minutes) than they actually can, which makes them regularly miss their timelines.

And if that’s not enough of a silver-lining for you, this attitude tends to make them live longer, have lower stress levels, and diminished risk of heart disease. Think of your type-b friend who strolls into work cool and collected (albeit 10 minutes late) when you are still drying the sweat from your brow after rushing in 5 minutes earlier.

People who are always late tend to look at the big picture, and figure, “It’s only 10 minutes!” Getting over the small stuff, and seeing time as more fluid can help you live in the moment and enjoy all the wonderful things while they’re happening, not only when they fit into a timeslot in your schedule.

So, the next time you’re stressing while you’re stuck in traffic, take a deep breath and adopt the positive point of view. You’ve got plenty of time! And when you make it to your destination relaxed and clear-headed, you’ll have the wherewithal to make the most of it.

Image by Sean MacEntee.