Category: Positively Positive

It’s You, Not Me

How many times in your life have you heard the famous, vague break up line?

It’s not you, it’s me.

This phrase is often used jokingly, when someone wants to avoid telling someone why they no longer want to be in their life. There’s rarely honestly that follows that line. The real version of this line should be, “It’s you, and it’s me.”

Whether or not you’re in a relationship with someone, and needing to leave, or set boundaries, the reality is that who they are is about them, and what you want or need in your life is about you.

I know too many people that struggle with setting boundaries with people they are close to- family members, co-workers, bosses, and friends. It’s easy to pretend, or let things go, because you don’t want to upset them and stand your ground. In some cases, you might even believe you don’t deserve to set healthy boundaries, and commit to living a better life for you. It’s hard learning to set boundaries, to give yourself a better chance of living a more relaxed life. I struggled for years with this.

So much of life, for so many people, is about doing for others what they need you to do for them. It’s all about what you can give, and give, and give. Some personalities will happily drain you of all you can offer, and still you give. It’s almost like a prized trait if you’re someone that will let people project onto you, and take it.

I urge you, as we near the end of this tumultuous year, to make a commitment to yourself to stop owning what other people project onto you. People act, and react, because of who they are, and because of their own journey in life. Life gets a lot easier when you become comfortable with letting people be them, and focusing on being comfortable with you being you

They are who they are. Let yourself be who you’re meant to be.

When you feel like you’re carrying the weight of other people in your life, when you’re taking hold of things that you’re not meant to carry, remember to stop and breathe. Remind yourself that you should only carry your own stuff. You alone are responsible for your emotions, for your journey. Breathe into it, and let things go

For our healing journey to continue, and for it to be authentic, we have to frequently remember to pause, breathe, and check in with ourselves. It’s critical that you take time to listen to your Heart, and be aware of what you’re really feeling. What do YOU want out of YOUR life? What feels right to you, and how can you make choices or changes to have those future dreams become a reality?

It’s hard to tune into all of these things when you’re more focused on how your parents don’t understand your journey, or how your boss wants you to give up your entire life to be shackled to your job. Yes, there are absolutely times when loved ones opinions are valid. But mostly, other’s opinions are about them and the life they’ve lived.

You are not them.

You are you.

Read that again, and really think about it. Everything everyone does is a culmination of the life they’ve lived up until that point, including you. Worry about you and your journey.

At the end of each day, what other people do, or feel, isn’t really about you.

Be you. There’s no one else that can live your best life but you. Letting other people in the way, caring too much about what other people think of you, it’s only going to drag you down. Respect people as they are, let them be who they are, and turn your focus into owning who you are meant to be.


Because you are an incredible piece of the universe, and you are amazing. You are beautiful. You are worthy.

Be you.

In Gratitude,



Robin Lee is a medical intuitive, author, mentor, gratitude advocate, and speaker who has helped thousands of people around the world understand the language of their bodies. Robin believes that our bodies innately know how to balance and heal themselves if given proper care and support. Visit her website and follow her on Facebook and Twitter, where she shares tips, tools, and techniques to honor our bodies and heal our lives!

Image courtesy of Jonathan Borba.

The One Question I Ask to Bring My Priorities into Alignment

I’m playing a game on my phone while “watching” a Netflix movie. I’m not the only one who does this. I know I’m not paying attention to the movie if my eyes are glued to the phone in my hands. The fact that I’m trying to do this is a warning sign that my anxiety is elevated. I take a deep breath and ask myself one important question:

Is this really how you want to be spending your time?

I’ve been asking myself this ever since I got back from visiting my grandmother in hospice care. While I was there, I turned my phone on silent, turned off the vibrate option, and flipped it over. I wanted to be there for every single breath she had left. I spent that time massaging lotion into her skin, telling her stories, and lying beside her holding both of her hands in mine. I was completely present in a way I so seldom am, and I came home feeling that difference.

It’s About Purpose, Not Pleasure

Asking this question isn’t about focusing on my pleasure in the moment. I never want to be doing laundry, but I know it’s a worthwhile endeavor to have clean clothes and a tidy home. But did I want to spend my time playing a game on my phone while a movie I’d never seen was ignored in the background? I really didn’t.

I’m not trying to cram meaningful activity into every corner of the day, but I am asking myself if what I’m doing at any given moment aligns with my higher purpose. Sometimes, the answer is yes. A nap on the couch could be what my body needs. A mindless game could be a form of stress relief. I’m not judging what I’m doing when I’m doing it, but I am getting curious about what I do from habit versus intention.

Cultivate Mindful Presence

The other day I watched a movie with my children without simultaneously playing on my phone. I just tuned in. I keep showing up for my life and deciding to be present in a way that maybe I wasn’t before.

I know that life is far too short, and I just don’t want to waste it. I’m applying this same question to everything — to how I spend the holidays, to what activities and obligations I commit to, and even to who I spend my time with along the way. I’m paying better attention, and life keeps revealing more of my priorities every time I answer the question.

Create an Intentional Life

We live our lives following familiar, comfortable patterns. But for a whole day, life slowed down, and I listened to my grandmother’s soft breathing paired with the ambient sounds of the oxygen machine. I felt every minute because I knew that one of them would be her last.

This question isn’t meant to cause an existential crisis or to shame us for the sometimes-meaningless activities we engage in for stress relief. It’s meant to re-center priorities and bring them back into alignment.

Every time I ask the question, I’m not placing a value judgment on what I’m doing but asking if it resonates with what I want out of life and if there’s something else I’d rather be doing. I ask it reflexively throughout the day, and maybe there will come a day when I don’t need to ask because I stay in alignment with what I want and need without having to keep checking.

Be Reminded of Your Purpose

Until then, I use it as a touchstone. It’s a part of a larger mindfulness practice. It add meaning to my time and the way I choose to spend it. It guides me back when I start falling into mindless habits that don’t serve my best interests.

Be Open to Learning About Yourself

The answer can yield so much information about the ways we choose to spend our time and how those choices fit into the larger picture of our lives. Sometimes, it makes me stop and do something else. Other times, it helps me tune into what I’m doing so I don’t miss out on the full experience. More of who I am and what I want keeps being revealed, and I stop reflexively doing what I think I should do and start thinking about the whys of what I’m doing and if it still fits into the life I’m creating.

Ask Why, Not What

Sometimes, we don’t need to look at what we’re doing but why we’re doing it. Playing a game on my phone is something I do when I experience anxiety. Instead of focusing on what I’m doing, I ask myself why I’m doing it. Once I identified the underlying cause of what I was doing, I could figure out if there was a better way to address it.

I turn off the game and put my phone away. I know that this isn’t how I want to spend my time. I take a few minutes to care for my houseplants. I feel better about this choice, and nurturing my plants soothes the anxiety I feel.

I’m shaping my life with more intention than I ever have before. I feel it coming into alignment. A simple question is all it takes to remind me, and I’ll keep asking it as long as it’s needed to cultivate an intentional life.

Crystal Jackson is a former therapist turned author. Her work has been featured on Medium, Elephant Journal, Elite Daily, and The Good Men Project. She’s also the author of Left on Main, the first book in the Heart of Madison series. When she’s not writing for Medium and working on her next book, you can find Crystal traveling, paddle boarding, running, throwing axes badly but with terrifying enthusiasm, hiking, doing yoga, or curled up with her nose in a book in Madison, Georgia, where she lives with her two wild and wonderful children.

Image courtesy of Thirdman.

Where Are You Missing the Obvious?

When our new Baby Girl was four weeks old, our midwife reminded me that it was time to introduce bottles. (Though I planned to continue nursing, introducing bottles would give me the option to be away for more than a few hours if I needed it.)

So, I dug out the box from when our toddler was small, washed the pump and bottles, and set them up on the drying rack.

But when it came to actually assembling a bottle, I could not get it to work. I tried multiple times on different days, but the bottle top would not stay upright. Increasingly bewildered, I asked Jonathan to help. He had the same experience.

We talked about whether the materials had degraded, whether we needed to buy new parts. We talked about whether we’d had this issue before (we didn’t think so).

We tried again and ended up with spilled milk and a screaming baby.

In that moment I felt deeply defeated. I did not want to buy new bottles; I’d already researched these bottles two years ago and they were supposed to be excellent. Resigned, I started looking for new bottles online.

I’m sure you know where this is going.

While hunting for new bottles, I saw a picture of the ones we already had. Suddenly it was obvious.

We’d been trying to put the bottle ring on over the top, as you do with most bottles, but with this bottle, you were meant to put the top on OVER the bottle ring.


(Left is incorrect, right is correct. Clearly!)

When I assembled the bottle the way it was designed, it worked like a dream.

It was simple.

I could not believe that both my husband and I had missed something so obvious. We were both intelligent, capable adults!

But then I talked to a close friend, a whip-smart, wonderful human whose baby ended up in the emergency room because he couldn’t drink from a bottle. Turns out, that bottle still had one of those little storage lids on the top.

I was fascinated by the idea that both of us had had this experience. That’s when it dawned on me that this wasn’t really about baby bottles. This was about human nature.

It was about how we second-guess ourselves constantly, yet we rarely question assumptions such as, “It should work this way.”

How often do we miss the obvious?

How often do we try harder, rather than stepping back and seeing the bigger picture?

How often do we force ourselves to work in ways that we were never meant to work?

Here’s what I want you to consider today:

Maybe the reason you’re feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, or defeated has NOTHING to do with your worth or value as a human being.

Instead, maybe you feel that way because you’re doing with your life what I did with those bottles. Maybe you’re forcing a fit.

So, what if you flipped it?

What if you took one assumption that’s causing you grief, and tried the opposite?

I should get more done becomes, I shouldn’t get more done.
I have to make this relationship work becomes, I have to stop trying.
I can’t slow down becomes, I must slow down.

Flip the script. Change things up.
See what happens when you try the opposite.

You never know – you might just end up getting the nourishment you need.

Caroline Garnet McGraw is the author of You Don’t Owe Anyone: Free Yourself from the Weight of Expectations (Broadleaf Books, 2021). Read the first chapter for free and start living your life without apology.

Image courtesy of Nina Hill.

Blank Canvas

Here I am.

Kid’s at school: check.
Housework done: check.
Errands complete: check.
Meals prepped: check. (Who am I kidding?  I’m much more an ‘assemble’ food person than a cook, but you get my point!)
Bills paid: Check.
Dog fed: check.

Everything I needed to do, I’ve finally completed. And here I sit. Nestled on my couch. In the blank space. Metaphorical white canvas before me. I take a deep, long breath.

And ohmygoodness this is hard!!!

Empty space can be overwhelming.

Imagine having a job for the last eighteen years or so when suddenly, without cause from anything you’ve done, your job is taken away from you. Well, to be more accurate, your job has dramatically shifted in a way you hadn’t imagined, leaving you to bib and bob, adjust, adapt, and find a new way. A new way to be with yourself because life as you knew it has now changed.

In my silence, I can almost hear the collective weeping that’s occurring in so many cars, houses, and rooms, as we parents drop off our kids at college, high school, middle or even elementary school and come home to this empty space. I haven’t reached the dreaded college drop off yet, but it’s quickly approaching. So I watch my friends who have college age kids closely. Taking notes. Preparing.

Am I being a tad overdramatic? Possibly. But whether you’re a career mom or a mom who works outside the house, (or a Dad!) this change creates an open space, a void. And while I’m so incredibly grateful for the opportunities this newfound space will (ultimately) present me, this in between phase – read: TRANSITION- is really tough.

Sitting in the unknown has always been super challenging for me.

Some people thrive in uncertainty. They move through it with grace and an exuberance that I admire. But not me. Nope. I meet the unknown with a ton of reservation mixed in with a dash of fear. (Yeh, you’re right- there’s definitely more than a dash!) Lord knows we’ve all had plenty of opportunities to deal with uncertainty over the past couple years, but I still seem to struggle.

Just about now I’m hit with a wave of guilt around my privilege. I can’t ignore the gift of choice I have to stay home. The consequences for us are minimal: we live on a tight budget, in a small rental house. But I’m painfully aware that most of the world’s population doesn’t have nearly as much as we do. When I consider the numerous women who are fighting for their rights to education and freedom, I’m humbled. But I also have to recognize an old pattern present of ways I find to diminish and dismiss my own experience. So I acknowledge both the blessings available to me and my experience in relation to these opportunities.

And I sit in the quiet, empty, blank canvas space. It’s not long before I sense the need to get busy doing things. My natural inclination to get busy; it’s a pattern that allows me to avoid sitting in the discomfort of the unknown. It can show up in small ways like when I convince myself that the drawers (files, cabinets, oven, microwave or fill in the blank with anything in my house!) need to be organized or cleaned. Or in larger ways like when I’ve jumped into jobs that aren’t in alignment with my passion or purpose to assuage my money fears. The result is always the same, leading to frustration and dead ends. I see you, old friend, and this time I’m not going to cave to you. I’m going to ignore my urge to create busyness and instead, make myself just be.

I also notice a shift in my eating patterns. I’m turning to food to comfort me, fill me. That’s a tough one with a lot of history. For now, I’m choosing to be gentle with myself around the food stuff, acknowledging the challenge of this empty space and trusting that as I move through it and remain conscious, my eating will shift back to the balance I’ve experienced over the last several years. (Because in my mind, I’m on a slippery slope that’s going to lead to tremendous weight gain and I will return to the fat girl I was, oh so many years ago.) Guess there’s still some work to do around that, huh?

But for now, I’ll do my best to just hold in this empty space.

Use it to my benefit to begin to imagine and dream what the next chapter of my life will look like. History has shown me that as I gain clarity and really attune myself to aligning my will with Spirit’s, I can manifest the most wonderful miracles.

So one more deep breath. And release.

My next miracle awaits.

In loving,


Sarah Altman worked in the entertainment industry before becoming a career mom. With a curiosity in the human inner experience, Sarah earned a Master’s Degree in Spiritual Psychology and her writing has evolved as a way to share her learnings. When she’s not busy with her mom duties, you can find Sarah nestled up, writing on her computer or indulging in a British period piece on television. Sarah lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two boys, who bring her love, joy and laughter every day. Her book, My Breast Life, One Woman’s Journey Through Cancer Blog by Blog, is available on Amazon.

Image courtesy of Sam Lion.

How to Build a Personal Brand & Establish Credibility

If you want to make a real impact in the world, people need to know who you are. 

That’s why aspiring leaders and changemakers learn how to build a personal brand so others can easily understand exactly who they are and what they stand for — and what makes them great.

But if you’ve been busy focusing on honing your skills and figuring out the best ways to share your magic with the world, chances are you haven’t had the time to put much effort into creating a thoughtful, well-considered personal brand for yourself.

Maybe you’re feeling stuck, uncertain what to do beyond posting inspirational quotes on Facebook and Instagram. Or maybe you’re afraid that putting yourself “out there” will take up too much time and effort without doing much to grow your business.

The good news is, learning how to build a personal brand can be much easier than you think. This guide will show you how to create your own brand that will leave a positive and memorable impression, plus see how to get people excited to work with you in person.

What is Personal Branding?

Every time you interact with someone online or off, you are creating your personal brand, whether you’re conscious of it or not. That’s because your “brand” is basically how you show up in the world and how people perceive you based on your words and actions.

Personal branding is the process of consciously cultivating your brand to make sure it does a good job of communicating who you are and what you stand for.

If you want people to perceive you as someone who is great to work with and incredible at what you do, that’s what your brand should reflect: your skills, knowledge, and the experiences that have shaped you into who you are – not only through your interactions with others, but also in terms of what you post on social media, how you communicate in your emails, the images and graphic elements you use for your website, and so on.

By learning how to build a personal brand that catches people’s interest and builds confidence in your ability to get results, you make it easier for yourself to stand out from others in your field to create a lasting impression.


How to Build a Personal Brand

Here are seven proven steps you can follow to learn how to build a powerful personal brand – plus personal branding tips to help you establish your credibility and get people excited to work with you.

1. Establish a Foundation

To create your own brand effectively, your first step should be to lay a solid foundation with a compelling personal story that describes how you came to be where you are in life.

What dreams and life experiences have determined the direction of your journey so far? 

Have you experienced epiphanies that have liberated you? 

Do you have mentors that have helped you along the way? 

When you are clear on your personal story and able to share it in a way that allows people to see the real you, you’ll do a better job of creating an unforgettable impression while also inspiring your ideal clients to connect with you on a deeper level.

2. Lead with Your Purpose

In his incredibly popular TED Talk, “Start with Why,” bestselling author Simon Sinek said:

“People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” 

In other words, the reason why people will choose you over the competition is because they resonate with your values and sense of purpose — the things that drive you to do what you do.

That’s why, when you create your own brand, it’s crucial for you to get clear on the ‘why’ behind your business. What is your purpose in life? — and how are you manifesting it in the world through the work you do? The more clearly you convey this in your words and actions, the easier it will be for you to attract clients and other people who are eager to support you in your mission.

Getting clear on your ‘why’ will also allow you to identify your Unique Value Proposition (or Unique Selling Proposition) and more effectively communicate what makes you stand out from a crowd – and demonstrate to people that you are a leader worth following.


3. Align Your Purpose with Your Passions

To lead with your purpose, first, you must get clear on what your purpose is! The best way to do that is to pinpoint your core values and beliefs and explore how they might intersect with your passions and interests.

For example, maybe one of your core values is to protect the environment and two of your passions are creating art and working with children. Then your purpose might be to use art to teach children about the importance of the environment.

That way, your purpose is based on values that are important to you as well as things you love to do, which will help you build a personal brand that genuinely reflects your true self.

Remember, you are the only “YOU” there is, and the world needs your unique contribution to thrive! The best way to identify your unique contribution is to explore what makes you, YOU.


4. Define Your Audience

One of the most important aspects of your “brand message” is the audience to whom you are speaking. That’s why, as you develop your understanding of how to build a personal brand, it’s important to get really clear on who your ideal clients are, so you can do a great job tailoring your communications to their wants and needs.

Ask yourself: “Who is most likely to not only need and want what I offer but actually use it to make their lives better?”

Be sure to consider their demographics (their gender, age group, income bracket, etc.) as well as their dreams, desires, and passions. Think about how you personally can help them live their passions and achieves their dreams and desires.

Additionally, be sure to consider the kind of people that you personally want to have in your life.

What kind of people do you want to work with most? Think in terms of their personality, habits, work ethic.

Who makes you happiest to spend time with? The more you speak directly to them, the more they will pay attention to what you’re saying!

5. Create a Successful Strategy

In today’s connected world, if you want to know how to build a personal brand that creates an unforgettable impression, you have to get online. This includes creating an attractive website for your business as well as being active on at least one social network where you know your ideal audience tends to hang out, such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, or Twitter.

If you’re unsure where to start, do some research to discover where your ideal audience spends most of their time. Look at competitors’ social platforms and see where their audience engages most with them.

It’s better to focus on one social network and get really good at engaging with people there than to try and be everywhere and do everything all at once.

As you develop your online persona, be sure to showcase testimonials and other forms of social proof that provide solid evidence that your work makes a huge positive impact on the lives of others. This is some of the most powerful content you can share because it uses the words of real clients and customers to showcase the value of what you offer.

If you don’t have a lot of testimonials or reviews for sharing purposes, the best way to get them is to ask! Asking is a powerful tool that will help you grow your business.


6. Build a Community

Another effective way to learn how to build a personal brand that stands out is to develop a community around your business and the values on which your business is based.

Create a space where people can talk with each other about their challenges, triumphs, and experiences — then invite them in and engage with them. By encouraging and becoming a part of those conversations, you will create countless opportunities to build relationships with people who will help establish your brand and extend its reach through word of mouth.

It’s also a good idea to become an active member in other people’s Facebook communities. Participate in conversations. Ask questions and offer helpful advice when appropriate. Take advantage of whatever networking opportunities come your way.

Look for opportunities to interview other subject matter experts then share the interview far and wide, encouraging the person you’ve interviewed to do the same (thus, introducing you to their communities as well).

Let it be known that you are available to be interviewed or appear on other people’s podcasts or guest-write articles for their blog. These are great ways to make a name for yourself and extend your brand reach to a larger audience.


7. Begin a Training Business

One of the best ways to establish your credibility as an expert in your particular industry is to teach what you know to others. No matter what your niche or area of expertise may be, there are countless people out there who want to know what you know and are eager to learn from the best!

Learning effective training skills allows you to empower others and create a community of successful clients who will sing your praises to others. To support your business, you could offer workshops or online programs, or deliver your teaching in other ways such as working one on one with clients.

You might also want to consider the idea of writing a book. Being able to say that you’re a published author is a powerful way to enhance your personal brand image. At the very least, it shows you know enough about the subject matter to write an entire book about it!

It’s also an effective networking tool as you can send copies of your book to potential new clients or networking partners who may be interested to work with you and will need a final credibility-building push to make a decision.

It’s also beneficial to grow your brand reputation through online and in-person events, such as webinars and public speaking engagements that allow you to share your skills and expertise with people around the world.

The more you showcase your self-brand, the more likely people will know who you are and share your work with others. Become a great leader using this process and you will not only have a successful brand establishing you as an authority in your field – you’ll have a successful business as well!

Build Your Brand & Be Yourself

If you want to grow your business and be successful doing what you love, people need to know you exist. That’s why it’s so important for you to build your own brand and put in the work to get your name out there.

If you’re just starting out, the idea of self-branding may be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be an overwhelming process. You can make huge traction by investing as little as 15 minutes a day to your branding!

In the process, you will be able to clarify your true life’s purpose and build a personal brand that will inspire others and help them leverage your expertise to get better results in their own lives. The gratitude they feel will motivate them to talk about you and share your work with others, which in turn will effortlessly help grow your own community.


As the beloved originator of the Chicken Soup for the Soul® series, Jack Canfield fostered the emergence of inspirational anthologies as a genre—and watched it grow to a billion dollar market. As the driving force behind the development and delivery of over 100 million books sold through the Chicken Soup for the Soul® franchise, Jack Canfield is uniquely qualified to talk about success. Jack is America’s #1 Success Coach and wrote the life-changing book The Success Principles: How to Get From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be and Jack speaks around the world on this subject. Check out his newest book The 30-Day Sobriety Solution: How to Cut Back or Quit Drinking in the Privacy of Your Own Home. Follow Jack at and sign up for his free resources today!

Image courtesy of Ivan Samkov.

Emotional Kryptonite: The Feeling You’re Most Afraid to Feel

My introduction to the concept of emotional kryptonite came early in my graduate school training. I was consulting with a supervisor about a particularly intense case of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Or so I thought…

After 20 minutes or so laying out my client’s struggle with anxiety, my supervisor leaned back in his chair, gazed off dreamily toward the corner of the room behind me, and said:

You know Wignall, here’s the thing most therapists go their whole careers without ever realizing… If you dig far enough beneath depression you’ll find anxiety. And if you dig far enough beneath anxiety, you’ll find depression.

(… long pause…)

See you next week.

I was a little stunned. But it also seemed fitting that we should end our supervision there so that I could chew on this nugget of therapeutic wisdom he has tossed at me…

If you dig far enough beneath depression you’ll find anxiety. And if you dig far enough beneath anxiety, you’ll find depression.

At the time, I remember interpreting it to mean that my supervisor thought I’d somehow got the diagnosis wrong—that my client wasn’t anxious but actually depressed. And while there was some truth to that in this particular case, there was a lot more wisdom in my supervisor’s quip than I appreciated at the time.

Emotional appearances can be deceiving

What I’ve realized over the years working as a therapist isn’t so much that it’s easy to confuse anxiety and depression—although it certainly can be. Instead, my supervisor’s comment contains a much more universal truth about the nature of emotional suffering:

What appears to be the problem is very often a symptom of a deeper issue and our long-standing habit of ignoring it.

In the case of my apparently-anxious client, what I realize now is not that I got the diagnosis wrong—he certainly was dealing with OCD! But I missed the forest for one particular tree…

In addition to his struggles with anxious obsessions and compulsions, this particular client also felt stuck in a very unhealthy relationship and had for many years. Because of his religious beliefs, divorce was not an option he could entertain. But he literally dreaded every moment he spent with his wife who was abusive and struggled with chronic and severe drug issues, and yet, was unwilling to get help.

In retrospect, I can see now that my client’s struggles with anxiety and OCD at his work (which initially seemed unrelated to his issues with his wife) were in fact directly related to his marriage: Because he felt helpless to address this major cause of suffering in his home life, his need for control spilled out into his work life in the form of perfectionism, OCD, and anxiety.

This isn’t to devalue his struggle with OCD which was very real. It’s just to say that the anxiety evolved out of his helplessness and hopelessness in his marriage.

And what do you get when you combine chronic helplessness and hopelessness… Yup, that’s a pretty good recipe for depression.

Emotional sleight of hand

Taking a step back, here’s what I think was going on with my client and why it was a perfect example of my supervisor’s idea that If you dig far enough beneath depression you’ll find anxiety. And if you dig far enough beneath anxiety, you’ll find depression.

My client felt profoundly unhappy in a major aspect of his life—his relationship with his spouse. And because he also felt powerless to ever change that, he was understandably hopeless about things getting better. However, it was too painful for him to actually acknowledge this depressing state of his life—that he either had to get out of his relationship or resign himself to a lifetime of marital unhappiness—so he “chose” to ignore it.

I put “chose” in quotes because it wasn’t like this was one decision he made. It was the accumulation of many tiny and subtle decisions to avoid thinking about a particularly painful aspect of his life, and instead, choosing to focus a little more on another aspect of his life.

In other words, because both possible endings in his marriage were unacceptable to him, he refused to play the game. Or better yet, he put that game on pause and started playing a new game.

He poured all of his desire for control and agency into his work. But eventually, his work couldn’t “handle” the full burden of his need for control and agency in his life, so he ended up developing a kind of perfectionistic attitude about performance, and eventually, a pattern of obsessive-compulsive behavior.

Now, this story might sound somewhat extreme to many of you—after all, the majority of people don’t find themselves utterly unhappy and hopeless in their marriages or developing anxiety to the point of OCD. But that doesn’t mean this same basic dynamic doesn’t play out in our lives…

Here are a couple somewhat less extreme examples of the same emotional sleight of hand we all play on ourselves:

  • Procrastination. You sit down to finally start working on that creative project you’ve been meaning to finish. But as soon as you do, some nasty negative self-talk pops up telling you how lazy you are for only starting now instead of three weeks ago like you planned. You immediately feel ashamed of yourself. And in a kind of semi-conscious instinct, you hop over to Facebook as a way to avoid the shame associated with feeling lazy. Of course, later on you end up feeling depressed and disappointed in yourself for procrastinating. But if you think about it, procrastination isn’t the real issue here—it’s just the result of being unwilling to look at and deal with that shame.
  • Burnout. You’re getting ready to leave work for the weekend. And for once you’ve got no extra work to do over the weekend. But literally on your way out of the office, your manager asks you to run some numbers for a report and have them in by Monday morning. Your immediate reaction is anger and annoyance that your manager keeps unfairly burdening you with extra work. But because you’re afraid to express your anger with him, you say “sure” and once again take on more work than you should, leading to chronic stress, fatigue, and burnout. Now, if you think about it, the stress here isn’t really the underlying problem—it’s just the result of not being able to assertively say no, even if it means a confrontation.
  • Chronic Worry & Anxiety. You watch your 18-year-old daughter walk away from you and into her new dorm on her first day of college. Quickly, a wave of sadness and regret flows over you about all the things you won’t be able to do with her anymore and all the things you wish you had made time for when she was younger. But like a reflex, you find your mind worrying about all the things that might happen to her now that you’re not able to be there. Two hours later on your plane flight home and you’re still worrying, overloaded with anxiety and stress. Because you didn’t want to deal with the sadness and regret you felt (which by definition involves a sense of helplessness), your mind turns to something that does at least give the illusion of feeling in control—worry. Running through hypotheticals and planning for negative outcomes makes you feel like you’ve got a job to do and alleviates that sense of helplessness and regret. Unfortunately, the side effect—perpetual anxiety—is starting to become debilitating.

In all three of these examples—and the case of my former client—the same pattern emerges: Our immediate emotion feels too painful so we instinctively avoid it and preoccupy ourselves with something else that, while initially serving as a distraction, eventually creates its own set of problems.

And whether it’s the result of early life struggles or sheer force of habit, the core problem here is simple enough:

You’ve trained yourself to believe that certain emotions are intolerable.

You’re so allergic to a particular painful feeling that you’ll go to some pretty extreme lengths to avoid even acknowledging it—much less working through it.

I like to think of these “too painful” emotions as emotional kryptonite.

What is Emotional Kryptonite?

Emotional kryptonite is the specific emotion in your life that you’re most afraid of feeling and try hardest to avoid—often to the point where you do so unconsciously and habitually.

Frequently, this excessive fear of a particular emotion comes from your early life experiences. For example: If you were criticized and punished each time you got angry as a kid, you might grow up becoming especially afraid of anger.

Emotional kryptonite becomes a problem because of this:

The instinctive avoidance of any emotion often leads to a set of behaviors and habits that produce even greater emotional suffering in the long-run.

In other words, the side effects of the cure become worse than the disease.

For example:

  • Feeling ashamed of procrastinating feels bad. But the cycle of avoidance, further procrastination, and the disappointment that follows is often a lot worse than the initial feeling.
  • Getting angry can be scary in the moment. But the years of chronic stress, resentment, and burnout that result from avoiding that anger and being unwilling to have difficult conversations are likely a lot worse in the long-run.
  • Confronting and working through your sadness at your child leaving home is tough, no doubt. But in the long-run it’s probably easier than the chronic worry and anxiety you use as an avoidance strategy to get out of feeling sad.

The solution to the problem of emotional kryptonite is conceptually simple but practical challenging:

Developing the courage to tolerate seemingly intolerable feelings.

Again, easier said than done. But with a few basic principles (and plenty of practice) you can learn to confront those painful feelings in a healthy way—and as a result, eliminate the need for those avoidance behaviors and all the excess emotional suffering they produce.

NOTE: If you don’t get the kryptonite metaphor, this page should catch you up.

How to Deal with Your Emotional Kryptonite: Six Practical Steps

Of course, there are many ways to deal with difficult emotions. But I’ve found the following steps to be helpful for many people who struggle with some form of emotional kryptonite.

1. Read between the lines to identify your emotional kryptonite

Some people are perfectly clear about what their emotional kryptonite is. If that’s you, just skip to step two below.

But if you’re not quite sure, this little technique might help…

First of all, start by tracking your emotions over the course of a couple weeks. You can do this with pen and paper or electronically, but the idea is to simply keep track of what emotions you experience on a regular basis. Just like you would track your expenses before creating a budget, it’s important to get the “lay of the land” when it comes to your emotional life.

After a week or two of tracking, review your list and read between the lines by asking yourself: Which emotion is conspicuously absent?

It’s normal to experience a wide range of emotions on a regular basis, so if one basic emotion seems to be consistently absent, it’s possible that’s because on a less-than-conscious level, you’re avoiding it.

For example, let’s say over the course of the last week you noted plenty of times where you felt angry or irritated, a good amount of anxiety and nervousness, as well as smaller amounts but still a handful of times when you felt ashamed or embarrassed.

Well, looking at that list, the emotion that seems conspicuously absent to me is sadness. So you might ask yourself, did I really have no occasion to be even a little bit sad?

Of course, just because you don’t recall feeling an emotion over the course of a week or two doesn’t mean it is your emotional kryptonite. But it’s a good start if you suspect you do have an emotional kryptonite but aren’t very clear on what it might be.

2. Elaborate on your emotional kryptonite

A lot of people have a pretty limited emotional vocabulary, especially when it comes to the emotions we really dislike feeling.

This means that one of the ways we keep ourselves in the dark about our emotional kryptonite is through our language. If you really hate feeling anxious, for example, one way you might avoid anxiety is by using a term like stressed to describe how you feel when you are in fact anxious.

This process is something I call intellectualizing your emotions and breaking out of it is key to identifying and facing up to your emotional kryptonite.

To counteract this effect, you can work to build your emotional vocabulary by elaborating on your emotions with more specific and nuanced language.

For example, let’s say you’ve identified anger as your emotional kryptonite. Well, there are actually a lot of different forms anger can take: annoyance, irritability, rage, frustration, resentment, exasperation, bitterness, etc.

When you increase your emotional vocabulary around a particular emotion, you’re more likely to notice subtle variants of it. This is especially useful when it comes to emotional kryptonite because, by definition, it’s already subtle.

So, while it may be very hard to notice yourself getting angry, it might be a little easier to notice moments when you feel annoyed or irritated. Then, as you get better at noticing these variants of anger, you will start to get better at noticing stronger variants of it like resentment or frustration.

If you think you know your emotional kryptonite, pull out your thesaurus (or use one online) and type in your emotional kryptonite. Then, make a list of all the synonyms for that emotion so you can keep an eye out for them throughout your days.

3. Talk about your emotional kryptonite with a trusted person

Once you’ve identified your emotional kryptonite and armed yourself with a more nuanced vocabulary for thinking about, the next step is to actually confront it.

Of course, this will be understandably difficult: If you’ve spent most of your life avoiding this emotion, just facing up to it is going to be scary.

Which is why I usually recommend easing into it with a trusted person in your life. This could be a spouse, a best friend, a parent, a therapist/counselor/mentor, etc. But whomever you choose, make sure it really is someone you feel comfortable being vulnerable with. And if you don’t have someone like this in your life, it’s an excellent reason to get a therapist or coach.

If you’re not sure how to start talking about your emotional kryptonite, here’s a little script you could use with your trusted person:

Hey, so I read this article the other day about “emotional kryptonite.” The basic idea is that most of us have a particular emotion that we really don’t like and tend to ignore. But it’s helpful to explore it and confront it. I think I might know what mine is, can I run it by you?

So give that a shot and most likely a natural conversation around your emotional kryptonite will follow. And once it’s out in the open, it will be much easier to confront it in other ways.

4. Validate your emotional kryptonite

Once you get better at identifying your emotional kryptonite and start to feel more comfortable talking about it to yourself and being more open about it, the next thing you want to do is practice validating that emotion.

To validate your emotions means to remind yourself that it’s okay and understandable that you feel the way you do.

So, if you were to feel anxious all of a sudden, validating your anxiety might look like this:

I feel anxious right now. And even though I really dislike feeling this way, I know it’s not dangerous or bad to feel anxious. It doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with me for feeling this way even though it hurts.

Emotional validation is key because it builds your emotional confidence. By reminding yourself that just because something feels bad doesn’t mean it is bad, you will be more able to identify and face up to difficult emotions in the future.

5. Create an emotional kryptonite ladder

Our emotions come in various shapes and sizes and this is no less true of our emotional kryptonite.

As you start to become more aware of and open to your emotional kryptonite, what you’ll find is that it shows up in small ways, big ways, and many ways in between.

For example, if your emotional kryptonite is sadness it might well show up in a big way if you lose someone close to you—the death of a family member or beloved pet, for instance. But sadness could also show up in relatively small ways—when a good friend cancels a date you had set together, for example.

Creating an emotional kryptonite “ladder” means you get a sense for the full spectrum of shapes and sizes your emotional kryptonite shows up in your life.

So here’s what you do:

First, get a blank sheet of paper and list the numbers 10, 9, 8, etc. down the left-hand side until you get to 1.

As you go through your days being more aware of your emotional kryptonite, start to classify your experiences with that emotion in terms of how intense it was and then list it next to the number.

For example, if your emotional kryptonite is shame, and a coworker makes a sarcastic comment about you during a meeting at work, you would identify the shame, validate it, and then rank how intense it was on a scale from one to 10. If you decide it was a 7 out of 10, then you would briefly describe what happened and list it next to the 7 on your ladder.

Filling out your emotional kryptonite ladder is important because it will give you a way to slowly practice and get better at dealing with your emotional kryptonite.

This is important because if you’ve been terrified of a particular emotion your whole life, you can’t just expect to be able to deal with a huge burst of that emotion all of a sudden. You have to work your way up.

Like any skill, it’s important to start small and slowly build your skill and confidence. The emotional kryptonite ladder gives you examples of what 3/10 versions of that emotion look like so you can practice on them. Then once you get more comfortable and confident working with those 3/10s, you can move up to 4 or 5 out of 10s.

6. Slowly build your emotional kryptonite tolerance

If the core belief behind emotional kryptonite is that certain emotions are intolerable, then the only way to free yourself is to create a new opposing belief:

No matter how painful an emotion feels, I can handle it.

This is the essence of emotional confidence. And the only way to get there is to slowly practice tolerating your most painful emotions and proving to yourself that you can in fact handle them without resorting to avoidance or coping.

The key is to start very small and very slow.

Here’s an example: Let’s say your emotional kryptonite is anger. You’re at the grocery store and someone cuts in front of you in line. You start to notice the anger and immediately feel afraid of that anger and start pulling out your phone to check Facebook and distract yourself.

Instead, you could pause, acknowledge the anger, validate it, and then tell yourself: Here’s what I’m gonna do… I’m going to set a timer on my phone for 30 seconds. And for that 30 seconds, I’m going to allow my anger to just be there. I’m not going to think about it and what it means or do anything in response to it. I’m just gonna let it hang out for 30 seconds. And after that, I’ll check Facebook.

Do this a few times, and you’ll be able to bump it up to a minute. Get more confident with a minute and you’ll be able to do a few minutes. And once you can tolerate your emotional kryptonite at a certain level for a few minutes, that means you can work on tolerating a higher level of the emotion—in other words, you can start working your way up your emotional kryptonite ladder.

If you think about it, this is the exact same process we use for learning any kind of hard skill whether it’s playing the piano, running a marathon, or learning how to write code. You only become confident and proficient by slowly and surely working your way up through harder and more difficult challenges.

It’s no different when it comes to responding confidently and competently to your most difficult and painful emotions—even your emotional kryptonite.

All You Need to Know

Emotional kryptonite is the specific emotion in your life that you’re most afraid of feeling and try hardest to avoid—often to the point where you do so unconsciously and habitually.

The problem is that the cost of chronically avoiding this painful emotion ends up becoming worse than experiencing the emotion in the first place. Many of our most common self-sabotaging behaviors are the result of not dealing with our emotional kryptonite head-on.

In order to build your emotional confidence and deal with your emotional kryptonite in a healthy way, I recommend these six steps:

  1. Read between the lines to identify your emotional kryptonite
  2. Elaborate on your emotional kryptonite
  3. Talk about your emotional kryptonite with a trusted person
  4. Validate your emotional kryptonite
  5. Create an emotional kryptonite ladder
  6. Slowly build your emotional kryptonite tolerance

Nick Wignall is a clinical psychologist and writer interested in practical psychology for meaningful personal growth. You can find more of his writing at

Image courtesy of Alex Green.

The World Doesn’t Need Your Explanation on Saying “No”

For a lot of people, the simple act of saying no is actually anything but simple. Disagreeing or opting out of something would seem like a low-effort act, especially since there are only three basic answers to a request, yes, no or maybe. However, when it comes to actually saying no in real life applications, people tend to struggle.

There are various reasons why saying no can be easier said than done. The most common issue is that we don’t want to seem confrontational or like we lack compassion.

Most of us like to come off as generally agreeable and friendly and feel as if turning someone else down is some sort of personal insult. Another common reason we don’t say no often enough is the dreaded fear of missing out.

We feel that if we don’t take part in or attend something, everyone else will benefit from the experience and we’ll only get to hear about it afterwards. The list of factors that make saying no more difficult than it should be goes on and on.

One fact that’s often neglected is that the ability to say no can significantly benefit our happiness and satisfaction in a variety of situations. Likewise, feeling a compulsive need to agree to everything leaves us susceptible for all kinds of problems. For this reason, we’re going to discuss some key points that will hopefully explain why you don’t owe anyone an explanation for saying no.

Standing Your Ground

One of the unfortunate characteristics of a lot of people is that they will take from you as much as you will allow them to have and then some. These types of people usually approach most situations based on what will benefit them without considering the needs and feelings of others.

Some individuals behave this way knowingly, while others simply lack the ability to realize when they’re taking advantage of someone. As you navigate your daily life, you’ll encounter more than a few of them.

Without the ability to stand your ground and say no to those who are constantly asking for favors or requesting your time and energy, you’ll quickly find yourself at the mercy of everyone else. In these situations, we’re often at a disadvantage from the start given our perceived responsibility to help other people compared to the self-interested nature of the person we’re interacting with.

A funny thing happens when you allow yourself to stand your ground and say no to these types of people, they quickly label you too difficult of a target and move on to the next person.

No To One Thing, Yes To Another

When you find yourself wracking your brain to come up with an explanation as to why you’re telling somebody no, ask yourself this; are you going to be dedicating their time and energy to the request or your own? Although the question is rhetorical, it’s an important one to consider.

When it comes down to it, time is the most valuable asset you’ll ever own. It can’t be bought, stored or created out of thin air. Therefore, it’s important that you treat your time with the utmost respect.

Remember that you only have a finite amount of time. For everything that you say yes to, you’re simultaneously eliminating the time required to do something else. Even if you aren’t consciously deciding to not do something in favor of agreeing to what someone else asks you to do, you’re still handing them a piece of your most prized possession, your time.

What you need to realize is that when you say no, often times you’re saying yes to something else. The free time you allow yourself that would’ve been expended by saying yes to another person can allow you to nurture your own life.

How much more satisfying would it be to spend this time with your friends or family, catch up on work around the house or even take a well-deserved nap?

Remember that every time you say no to something, there’s almost always a yes on the flip side of the equation.

Other’s Opinions Are Not Your Responsibility

One of the most liberating things you can realize is that not only are other peoples’ opinion of you mostly out of your control, you’re also not responsible for ensuring that everyone loves you.

Too many of us expend entirely too much mental and emotional energy worrying about what other people think about us. It’s really difficult to say no when you’re overly concerned with pleasing everyone.

Sure, we all realize that we should interact with others respectfully and as harmoniously as possible. In saying that you shouldn’t worry about the opinions of others, this doesn’t mean that acting like a jerk is fine because their perception is out of your hands anyway. However, no matter how careful you are to treat others the right way, there will always be those who form negative opinions of you.

As long as you’re interacting with other people in a respectful and civil manner, it’s not your job to cater to their every want and need. This means that if saying no to someone causes them to form a negative opinion of you, the problem lies with them.

To Care For Others, You Must Care For Yourself First

We all have people in our lives that depend on us. Family, kids, friends and coworkers all count on us to fulfill certain responsibilities. Taking care of other people is a foundational principle of social interaction that’s necessary to keep society going.

An important thing to realize is that you can’t give what you don’t have. As we previously discussed, you can’t create time and energy out of thin air. In order to care for the people who depend on you, caring for yourself first is a prerequisite. You’re the first step, the source of everything you do for anyone else. Taking care of yourself is not automatically a selfish act.

This means that saying no to things that consume too much of your time and energy is often necessary to selflessly care for others. The more of yourself that you give to things that don’t benefit your life and the lives of those who depend on you, the less you’re going to be able to give where it matters.

Upholding What You Know To Be Right

Finally, being able to say no is absolutely necessary if you’re going to stand up for your morals and the things you believe in. Whatever your personal values are, there will be times when you’re asked to take part in things that go against what you know to be right. Lacking the ability to put your foot down in these situations leads to sacrificing your sense of morality.

When saying no to things you know to be wrong, it’s completely up to you if you decide to explain where your morals lie and why you feel it’s against your beliefs to partake. Remember though that you don’t even owe other people that much explanation.

If you allow yourself to be pulled in every direction, especially in situations that go against your sense of right and wrong, you risk losing your sense of self in the process.

George J. Ziogas is an HR Consultant with 15+ years of experience across a number of industries with a specialization in Occupational Health and Safety (OHS). He is a qualified vocational instructor/teacher and personal trainer. George is also a blogger and top writer in numerous categories/tags on Medium. He speaks several languages (English, Greek, Macedonian), and enjoys working out/keeping fit, music, reading, and traveling. He is married and lives in the beautiful Southern Highlands of New South Wales.

Image courtesy of Polina Tankilevitch.

How the Exponential Power of Thanksgiving Transforms the World

There are so many levels to the beauty of giving thanks and each one delivers something deeper and more wonderful into your life. Like so many things, gratitude starts out so subtly, but then as the days go by, your life is enriched in deeper and more miraculous ways than you could have imagined. Today I thought I’d share a scenario with you, so you can understand the immense power of thankfulness to transform your life and your world.

Starting Out Small

It starts out small, like a breath of fresh air. You write your first thank you note. You address it and put a stamp on it, so you can send it off. Your Day one card is done! You don’t know what is coming but you feel a little lighter and happier as you head out, envelope in hand, and you drop it in the mailbox on your way to your busy day.

Life takes over of course. There is traffic and it’s snarled up. You realize you forgot your lunch. And then someone at work is out today and you have to do your own work and theirs too. But you take a deep breath and you tackle it. By two in the afternoon, the workplace is crazy, and you’re overwhelmed. But then Helena appears at your desk. She’s a new co-worker who started a couple of months ago.

She could see you were struggling so she jumped in to help you get the double-dose of work off your desk. More hands make for light work and within about an hour, you manage to complete the most important priorities with her help.

Feeling Good

Waking up now to Day two which you sincerely hope today will be less chaotic. You sit down to write your daily thank you note and you write it to Helena for her kindness in helping you out the previous day. You plan to drop the note on her desk while she is up to get coffee and it feels good when you do that. You head back to your desk, take a deep breath, and sure enough, the day goes more smoothly. You feel calmer, more centered, more aware of your day and you’re on top of your stressors. It’s a decidedly new feeling and it feels good. Could it be because you started your day in gratitude?

Then you see Helena coming over to your desk with a broad grin on her face. She wants to thank you for the note you dropped off and she is beaming with happiness at being recognized and appreciated. She shares with you how hard the transition to this new job has been for her, but in getting your note, she realizes that she has finally become a valued member of the team, that she truly belongs, and she feels wonderful.

You both smile and laugh about how much easier things are when you are in the flow, helping each other, doing your best work, getting things accomplished. And you feel an extra-double-dose of warm feelings, and you know that gratitude has brought this on for both of you.

Giving Thanks

Fast-forward a few months down the line, and you realize that the gift of gratitude is one that keeps on giving at so many levels. By this time, you are a pro at your process of giving thanks each morning. The finding of someone to thank and your writing of the notes is effortless and fun. You know each card transforms your life and positively impacts the person who is the recipient. You may not hear back from them, but you know their day is improved when they get your note.

But then you feel a whole other level of whoosh. A truly “aha” moment. It happens when you get to work one day, and you see your name on a small white envelope on your desk. It’s a thank you note to you from your boss. You had no idea he sent out notes like this but you love opening it up. In the note, he thanks you for your hard work and he thanks you for inspiring others within the office to be grateful as well.

Inspiring Others

It turns out that Helena has been writing daily notes and her kind actions in spreading thanks have inspired co-workers from all different departments to also put pen to paper. The boss became aware of it when he got a note from yet another person and he felt the good energy personally. He set out to find out where this all started, and with Helena’s help, he traced it back to you!

Thus you received a thank you note out of the blue from him — recognizing your leadership! He had seen that morale was up, co-workers were kinder to each other, and productivity was way up. He feels that your daily practice you set in motion was a big part of the transformation of energy.

Furthermore, he says he wants to encourage a company-wide gratitude day and hopes you’ll help with it since you started the ball rolling. Wow. Really? All you did was send a card to a co-worker and you both kept up sending notes to all kinds of different friends, family and strangers.

Transforming Lives

But such is the power of gratitude. You don’t know how far it will reach and how many lives it will transform, both in small ways and sometimes in big ways. The Day of Gratitude event was a big success and your bosses’ colleagues in his same industry got wind of it. They wanted to know how it worked so they can encourage it at their workplaces too. Really? Yes, really.

It’s a beautiful thing when you can see and feel the ripple effects in your life! It’s amazing how just sending out one thank you note each day has the power to explode and exponentially impact so many others. If you’re new to the concept of spreading thanks, just check out the resources on my website and the how-to steps within my book. Share your own ideas below if you can and thank you for spreading thanks each and every day.

Elena Anguita is a change agent, speaker, and author of Spread Thanks! Create Miracles Through The Power of Ink who supports education and passionately believes in the transformative power of gratitude. You can connect with Elena on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and

Image courtesy of Angela Roma.

He Didn’t Want a Partner, He Wanted a Mom

I remember the day I realized that was I was dating a “man-baby”.

My live-in boyfriend and I had gone for a hike. It was a rare sunny spring day in Portland. The hike was my idea, if it was up to him, he would have sat in the house with the drapes closed playing video games all day. I insisted we go outside and get some fresh air and exercise and he reluctantly agreed.

Once we started hiking, he whined the entire way. There was too much mud. I’d chosen a trail in the woods that was “uphill both ways”. We were not even halfway through when he asked if we could stop at his favorite restaurant on the way home so he could get a chocolate shake. By the time we finished our hike, I was beyond annoyed with his constant whining. We drove to the restaurant and got there at 2:10 p.m. only to find that it closed at 2:00.

“NOOOOO!!!!!” he shouted — seriously he shouted — “Why does everything bad happen to me?”

For a minute I seriously thought he was going to cry. And then I thought to myself, “Oh my God, I’m dating a toddler!”

The Urban Dictionary defines a “man-baby” like this:

They look like men but act like babies. A man in constant need of nurturing and attention. The manbaby thinks his problems are fascinating and far more important and tragic than anyone else’s.”

Later that night I lay in bed asking myself why I’d never realized I was dating a man-baby.

At first, he just seemed vulnerable. He was recently divorced and was full of stories about how mean his ex-wife allegedly was, and how she never took care of his needs.

I tend to be a nurturer, so I fell into the role of his caretaker. I overlooked the fact that he stayed over at my house one night and never left. I felt annoyed by the way he could never pick up after himself, how he never cooked dinner, or took my car to work when his gas tank was empty, leaving me to fill up his car when I had to go somewhere, yet I dismissed this as minor complaints.

I didn’t want to be that nagging girlfriend everyone hates, and he took advantage of it.

A few days after his milkshake temper tantrum we had this exchange:

Me: “If you’re going to live here, you need to start paying rent.”

Him: “I don’t live here.”

Me: “You stay here every night, you use my towels and electricity, you eat my food, you get your mail here, and your kid stays here with us every other weekend. Where do you think you live if not here?”

Him: “I live at my mom’s. That’s where my laundry is.”

Me: “You go there once a week for dinner and your mom washes your clothes like you’re a ten-year-old boy.”

Him: “Yeah, she loves me better than you.”

The relationship lasted for a few months after that, but the milkshake incident was the beginning of the end. When we broke up, he moved back in with his ex-wife. Apparently, she could take care of him after all. As for me, I realized that it’s better to be alone than to have someone take advantage of you. When I date now, I look for the man-baby warning signs.

According to an article in Psychology Today, there are five clear signs that you are dating at man-baby:

  1. You have to pick up after him.
  2. You incessantly nag.
  3. He avoids serious conversation.
  4. His interests and friendships carry a middle-school vibe.
  5. Talk of children or commitment brings panic to his eyes.

If you’re in a relationship with a man-baby, you might need to tell him it’s time to grow up for your own peace of mind. Or send him back to his mother. 

Rose Bak is a freelance writer, author and yoga teacher who lives in Portland, Oregon with her family and special needs dogs. As a dedicated multipotentialite, she writes on a variety of topics including self-care, aging, inspiration, business, and pop culture. She is also a published author of romantic fiction. In addition to writing, she teaches accessible yoga and sings. Sadly, she has absolutely no musical talent so she’s forced to mostly sing in the shower. For more of Rose’s work, visit her website at or follow her on social media @AuthorRoseBak.

Image courtesy of Ketut Subiyanto.

What to Declutter before the New Year (For a Happier Holiday Season!)


This time of year, I find myself instinctively flinching when I open my inbox or social media, because it’s already beginning: the deluge of pre-holidays sales and manufactured urgency.

It starts out as something I think I want: Half off! Free shipping! Buy now! But before I know it, I’m down a rabbit hole of buying things only because they’re on sale. Or worse, because companies have convinced me that I’m not good enough (or my holidays won’t be good enough) without them.

Save yourself the stress (and inbox clutter) by unsubscribing from any unwanted marketing emails or by unfollowing anyone on social media who makes you feel bad.


It’s no secret that there are a lot of people in need right now. And maybe you already have a holiday donation plan, which is great! Whether it’s donating to a food bank or giving your gently used things to Goodwill, do yourself (and others!) a favor by doing it early. The end of the year is a super-busy time for many non-profits, and one of the biggest challenges is getting in-kind donations (that is, material goods) turned around so they can make it to the people who need them most.

I like to get all my donating done early, giving folks the opportunity to sort it and get it to those in need in time. Whether it’s coats or canned goods—or even things you no longer use that could make someone else’s holiday that much more special—get those things out now, rather than waiting until after the new year or even spring cleaning.

Old Resolutions

Take this moment to reflect: Were there resolutions you made at the beginning of this year that never quite took hold? Did you start neglecting some of those almost immediately? (Don’t let this be a source of regret or guilt or shame. This is not a judgment, because we’ve all been there!)

Take some time to think about the new years resolutions, goals, or intentions that just didn’t pan out for you. And first, offer yourself some grace and forgiveness for not making them happen. Then spend some time thinking about why those particular resolutions didn’t work out. Were they too big? Too small? Or were they things that you thought you “should” want for yourself, but in reality weren’t actually important to you?

Then set some parameters for how you’ll make your resolutions moving forward. I like to pick an overarching theme for my year, and then to pick a few medium-sized, tangible goals that support experiencing more of that theme in my life.


The holidays can bring with them a whole host of assumptions and expectations. When you combine tradition, family, money, and advertising, things can get very complicated, very quickly. And the media can make it feel like if we’re not going completely over-the-top at every holiday, that we’re letting our family down. Somehow it means something (not good) about us if we aren’t creating Pinterest-perfect and unforgettable holiday moments every single day.

As a chronic holiday underachiever, I am here to tell you that this is simply not true. And whether the pressure that this holiday can create is external (from family, advertising, society, etc.) or internal (just from you), you get to set your own expectations, traditions, and even boundaries around this time of year.

It might feel strange to let go of the baking marathon or the gift-giving extravaganza in favor of something simpler, but notice what traditions you really love and where you’re just going through the motions.

“Just in Case” Items

By far, the things we hold onto most are the things that may still have some life in them that, while we aren’t using right now, we keep. Just in case.

The harsh truth is that if you didn’t use it this year, it’s unlikely you will. (This doesn’t count for things like emergency items, which you hope you won’t have to use!) Take some time to comb through your pantry, your bookcase, your closet and consider whether this is something you want to bring with you into 2022.

Again, no judgment on you—and no judgment on your stuff!—but note that if “someday” or that “just in case” time wasn’t this year? It might be okay to let it go.

Christy Tending is an activist, educator, and writer. She teaches online courses about sustainable self-care to students all over the world, and hosts the podcast Tending Your Life. She lives on occupied Ohlone territory (Oakland, CA) with her family. You can learn more about her work at

Image courtesy of Karolina Grabowska.