Self Esteem amidst Fashion Week

fashion show

It’s fashion week in NYC, which means that my favorite cafe by Lincoln Center is packed with trendy people wearing strange clothing and tall leggy models towering over the rest of us like skyscrapers. I’m not at all a fashionista, but I have fun watching the eclectic parade of people, all looking so different.

I can certainly understand why some women’s self esteem plummets when the impossibly gorgeous women in magazines suddenly come to life and are walking among us.  But any insecurity just comes from playing the comparison game. (Game is a total misnomer too because it’s more a form of self-torture.) This painful comparison game consists of comparing yourself to someone else, whom you think is much better off than you, usually based on lots of assumption and little evidence. It’s not just comparison in the area of looks either, but also in terms of success, intelligence, wealth, etc. Such comparison can run rampant and wreak havoc on people’s self esteem.

But fashion week is fun to me because I appreciate how different and beautiful everyone is in their own way. People who fall prey to comparison are under the misunderstanding that there is only so much beauty or good fortune to go around and that it must always be of a certain type. But when you let go of comparison, then it becomes a joy to see all the different but beautiful shapes and sizes and shades we come in. And there’s so much to be appreciated even beyond looks. People are just fascinating. As a psychologist, I’ve been privileged to hear so many amazing life stories. Stories as full of beauty as they are of pain. Real life is certainly more fascinating than fiction.

I suggest that anyone torturing themselves by comparing themselves to others, especially models this week, practice a little self-acceptance. If we’re not all 6 feet tall and weigh 110 pounds, that’s just fine because we’re lovely in our own way and our looks are only a small part of that loveliness. Surprisingly, the easiest way to let go of comparison is through generosity. Really be happy for others’ success, good looks, or good fortune and know that there is more than enough to go around. You can be beautiful in so many different ways and successful in so many different ways. If you don’t believe me, look at some of our most beloved singers or musicians, who aren’t the most beautiful to look at, but once they start singing or playing, they transform into the sublime.

So instead of focusing on others’ success in comparison to your own perceived lack, focus on your own strengths and your good fortune in other areas. Focus on finding the thing that brings out the sublime in you. Ultimately, we all have our own form of beauty that is revealed in so many different ways.

If you need some help with your own self esteem, feel free to call me at (646) 596-6169 or email me at info@DrChristineNYC.com

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” ~ Albert Einstein

Dr. Christine Fernandez is a Psychologist in NYC, who helps professionals achieve more success in their personal lives and careers.

5 Tips on How to Be More Successful at Anything

smiling businessman

Here are some simple and straightforward tips on how to achieve your goals:

1. Write it down
Decide what it is that you really want and write it down. Studies show that goals that are written down have a much higher possibility of coming true. Write down your vision with as much detail as you can. Write down how it will look; imagine how it will feel. Really flesh it out. Make it as real and palpable as possible. This is why intelligent people write business plans before starting a new business.

2. Ask for help
Ask people, who are already successful at what you want to do, for help. You would be surprised at how happy and willing people are to help you, especially if it doesn’t cost them a lot of effort. But you’ve got to state what you want, and you have to be clear about the kind of help that you would like. No one is a mind reader and no one can know what you really want better than you.

3. Be willing to tolerate discomfort
Be willing to tolerate the uncomfortable feelings that come with trying something new because you’re not certain it will work. Be willing to do whatever it takes to get what you want. By that, I don’t mean anything that lacks integrity or goes against your ethics. What I mean is be willing to work hard, get less sleep, take courses, contact people who you don’t know to ask for help, etc. Be willing to learn, be willing to put aside your ego and be willing to be bad at something until you get good at it.

4. Plan and test
Chart a course and follow it and see what works. Review your plan and see what’s been successful and do more of that. See what hasn’t been successful and either figure out how to improve it or do less of that. (More common sense than rocket science, isn’t it?) Let’s use the example of social marketing. You don’t have to be on everything like Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Instagram, etc. Try everything, in some logical and measurable manner, and see what actually works for you and stick to that. This is your data, figure out what works best.

5. Lather, rinse, repeat. 
Repeat steps 1-4, over and over again. Review and continue to refine or broaden your vision. Talk to more successful people who can help you. Overcome your discomfort and try even more new things. Gather and analyze more data.

So dream big! These principles can be used in your career, your relationship, or your own personal growth to help you to achieve your goals and be more successful. If you need help fleshing out your dream or figuring out realistic plans, feel free to call me at (646) 596-6169 or email me at cffpsych@yahoo.com.
Dr. Christine Fernandez is a Psychologist and Life Coach in NYC, who combines the depth of psychology and the goal orientation of life coaching to help professionals achieve more success in their personal lives and careers.

Divorce Tall Tales: So What Really Happened?

fairy tale

“It’s like everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. Always. All the time. That story makes you what you are. We build ourselves out of that story.” ~ Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind

 

When someone hears that you’ve gone through a divorce or break up, they often ask the overly simplistic question, “What happened?” Yikes, how to sum up a meaningful and long-lasting relationship in a pithy statement? First, let’s address that it’s not so much about what happened in your relationship, as much as it’s about what meaning you made out of it. A million things happened in your relationship and there’s no way to concisely cover it all. But what is the meaning that you have made out of your relationship and why it ended? At the end of a relationship, we can think, “There were problems and we just couldn’t figure out how to fix them,” or, “I failed,” or, “He/she was horrible.” Each thought will evoke different feelings, and each is just a story. The first story carries the least amount of blame and the other two lots of blame. We don’t really know which story is true and how much is perception though. What we do know is that the more often you tell a story, the more you believe it.

The story you tell about your past relationship reveals a lot. Is your tale about allotting blame or about making peace with the past and lessons learned? It happened; the relationship ended and there’s no changing that. What you can change is the fabric of the story you weave. It can be really elaborate and melodramatic and keep you stuck in victimhood. For example, “He/she was a lunatic.” Or, it can be cut to the bone blunt, such as, “It didn’t work, I still can’t figure out why.” Or, even better, it can include some insight and peace, such as, “Didn’t work out and I now know why and if I had known back then, I would have done my part differently.”

What story do you tell about your divorce or last relationship? You can tell that you’re spinning a yarn if it makes you either a complete victim or a villain. But the truth is likely somewhere in the middle: that you both probably could have been more mature and loving at times, but at the time you were both doing what you knew how to do best and it didn’t work. Hopefully now you know better. You can also tell that you’ve let go of the past when your story becomes neutral and there’s no longer a big emotional charge as you tell it.

If your own story is still blame-filled or guilt-ridden, then you could probably benefit from some help with understanding and letting of what happened in your relationship. Letting go of the past will help you to have a healthier, lasting relationship in the future. If you think you could use some help in this area, feel free to contact me at (646) 596-6169. Whether in person or via Skype, I help people to let go of pain from the past in order to create a better future.

 

How to Make New Friends after A Divorce or Break Up

friendsThere are so many losses that you feel when you get divorced or go through a bad break up.  One unfortunate loss is friends, probably just at the time that you need them the most.  When a couple divorces, it’s not absolutely necessary for friends to take sides, but in reality it can be difficult for people to remain friends with both you and your ex.  You might think that it’s cruel and terrible timing for them to stop spending time with you, and there’s truth to that.  But from their point of view, it can be awkward and sometimes they are put in the middle hearing both sides of a story that they don’t want to hear.  Also, the fact that you’re getting divorced suddenly makes them nervous about their own relationships.  I’m not defending fair weather friends, just encouraging you to accept the facts if it has become obvious that a friend has stopped being a friend or chosen to side with your ex.  At that point, you will likely have to get out a bit and make more friends.

The easiest way for you to make friends after a divorce or break up is to join regularly meeting classes or groups in something that really interests you and is fun for you.  Classes where you go out on a limb, such as improvisation, acting, singing, and dancing are great for making new friends.  The act of being vulnerable and being willing to possibly make a bit of a fool of yourself unites everyone.  In these classes, people encourage each other and applaud each others’ efforts, because awkward as your attempts might be, they’re pretty courageous.

If you’re at all athletic, joining a softball, volleyball, or soccer group could be fun too.  Anyone who played sports in school can attest to the feeling of camaraderie that comes from being on a team.  Plus afterward, people usually go out together to enjoy their glorious win or commiserate over their loss.

Some classes like yoga and meditation, which encourage people to go inward, don’t lend themselves to chatting during or after class, much less going for a coffee or drink afterward.  So while they are certainly helpful for your emotional and physical health, they don’t necessarily offer the best opportunities for making new acquaintances.

Also, if you’re looking to start dating, the acting, dancing, and singing classes are especially good choices for men because the women tend out heavily outnumber the men in these classes.  (FYI men: There’s nothing women love more than a man willing to be vulnerable!)  As for women, go the sports route if you’re looking to meet men.  Meeting people this way also gives you something in common to talk about, such as each other’s scenes, songs, and missed shots.  Whereas with online dating, people often spend so much time just talking about how long they have been doing the online dating thing.

So after years in a relationship with a regular routine, your life may have revolved around your partner, your kids, your work, and a few friends.  Now that your spouse and a few friends are gone, you may not be used to meeting new people or trying new activities.  Joining a new class or group that interests you is an easy way to get to know new people and fill some of the social void left in your life.  Now go break a leg or score a goal!

From your own experience, do you have any suggestions for how to easily make new friends after a divorce or break up?

How to Survive Divorce while Making Your Dream Come True

I work wdreamith people going through divorce and it’s an incredibly painful time in their lives. One thing that I encourage people to do is to have some sort of hope or dream, something to inspire them while going through this difficult preriod. What I mean by a dream is that often, during marriage, you end up compromising on things and perhaps not realizing a dream of yours because it’s not feasible when you’re married. When you’re married, you have to take into account someone else’s wishes and you have to make compromises. But when people are getting divorced, I like to ask them about some of their secret aspirations and dreams; things which they didn’t consider seriously, much less bring to fruition during their marriage. Then I encourage them to try to add some of that dream into their life.

So let’s say you always wanted to be an actor. Fine, then sign up for some acting classes and get involved in your local community theatre. Or, if you already know how to act, but had put it aside for whatever reason in your marriage, then go on some auditions just for fun and get your feet wet! Suppose you wanted to be a writer. Well then take a class on writing and sit yourself down and start writing! Have you always wanted to own a hair salon? (And I know someone who has.) Well start doing some research and read some books and online articles about owning your own business, and go talk to an actual hair salon owner. Perhaps you’ve always secretly wanted to craft the perfect rocking chair. Well then find a woodworking class and watch some youtube videos on how to build a rocking chair.  Yes, there are actually videos about that!

Whether any of this becomes your full-time job or not isn’t the point. The fact is that when something terrible has just happened in your life, when it feels like the life you had has just fallen apart and the future that you thought you were going to have has been blown to bits, you need to have something to look forward to in order to balance that out and, at times, distract you from the pain. It’s true that if you’re in the depths of despair, you’re probably not going to have the energy to write your great American novel. But as some of the despair starts to lift, you can actually take some steps toward realizing that dream. Also, in a lovely way, you’ll see that realizing your dream helps to lift you out of the despair. So your hope or aspiration can be something as grand as going back to school for your law degree or as simple as taking those dancing lessons that you never took because your soon-to-be ex had two left feet. It can be as lofty as starting a non-profit or as fun as backpacking across Europe. Just looking up travel websites and picking up brochures at a travel agency can give you a little emotional boost during the day, and they’re much better to look at than what your ex has posted on Instagram!

An important point to keep in mind is to choose something that you have always wanted to do. Don’t pick something specifically to spite your ex, because then you’re still basing your decisions on someone else. Sort of like the teenager who does things just to rebel against his parents rather than because he thoughtfully chooses to do them, therefore his decisions are still based on his parents’ wishes. This is about liberating yourself from considering what your ex likes or doesn’t like and just doing what you want to do.

So while going through divorce, one way to give yourself something to look forward to amidst all the despair and confusion you might feel about the future, is to pick that one dream and somehow start turning it into a reality in your life.

Dating After Divorce: 3 Mistakes to Avoid On A First Date

first date

So your divorce is final and you’re beginning to date again. Whether you met online, via app, or in person, now that you’ve got that first date lined up you don’t want to blow it! Here are the three top first date mistakes to avoid:

1. Talking about Your Ex

Nooo, don’t go there! This first date is all about new possibilities. Why rehash the past? Talk about what’s interesting in your life now. Ask your date about what good things they have going on in their life. No one, other than psychologists like me, wants to hear about your ex. Even if you’ve got a healthy perspective about your divorce or past relationship, it’s way too soon to talk about that stuff! Did you see that movie Enough Said with Julia Louis Dreyfus and James Gandolfini? That movie had the best example of the worst first date talk that I’ve seen. They both talk about their exes and bash them! Talk about being stuck in anger and bitterness. Stick to the present day and your ambitions for the future. I’m not saying that you can’t talk about anything controversial, like politics. That can be fun and a little debate can be a turn on. But leave out the, “He done me wrong,” talk because bitterness is a turn off and detailed analysis is fun only for you and your therapist.

2. Arriving Late

Don’t start off on the wrong foot by being rude, which is exactly what arriving late is. Your date’s time is as valuable as yours. When you show up late it suggests that you’re inconsiderate and self-centered. When you pick a location, make sure you pick a place or at least a neighborhood that you know. If you are running late due to circumstances beyond your control, like a conference call runs long or a traffic accident, make sure you’ve got your date’s number handy to send a text. Also, send that text as soon as you realize you’re going to be late, not at the appointed meeting time.

3. Overselling Yourself

Don’t give it all away right away! That reeks of desperation and lack of self confidence. Leave a little mystery. Even if you’re not all that mysterious, there has to be more about you than can be related in a one to two-hour date. Think of it as giving them a trickle of water, so that they get a taste and want to come back for more; don’t make them drink from the fire hose!

Desperation – it’s the world’s worst cologne.” (Singles)

Are you worried that if you’re not super impressive your date won’t be interested? A date isn’t supposed to be a recitation of your resume. More often, it’s your demeanor that attracts, not the actual words you say. Calm, confidence, and friendliness are attractive. Anxiety, desperation, and tension are not. Just be your usual, likable self and enjoy getting to know a new person.
So relax and take a few deep breaths and realize that first dates are more often just about weeding out weirdos and psycho killers…ahem, I mean inappropriate people. Just stick to your normal, friendly self, which was good enough to get you a first date, and you’ll get to the next round. Remember that the past doesn’t have to repeat itself. Be relaxed and realize that most people are pretty interesting. So enjoy finding out what’s interesting about the person in front of you.

These 2 Questions Will Solve All Your Problems!

These 2 questions wstart stopill solve all your problems!

Am I sounding too much like an infomercial?  And…I’ll even throw in this paring knife!

Ok, now seriously. If you have a problem, then here are two killer questions to help you hone in on a solution.  Ask yourself:

What am I doing that I shouldn’t be?
What am I not doing that I should?

Simple huh? But brilliant. Why? Because, let’s be honest, we all know that there are things we say we’re going to do but don’t. And, there are things we’re doing that either create a problem or make one worse. Right? Right.

I love to help people figure out what they want out of life. It’s a joy to discover what you long to do, how you want to be, and what would make your life more meaningful. Then I usually help you get out of your own way so that you can make your dream happen. But if you’re not going to be sitting in my office next week or talking to me via Skype, you can get the party started by asking yourself those two simple questions. Then start doing what you need to or stop doing what you shouldn’t. If you still can’t, then that’s where people like me (psychologists) come in handy to help you figure out why and get past it. Most of the time, the only one stopping you from getting what you want out of life is you. So what are you waiting for? Get out of your way!

Whoosh! (That’s me throwing the mic down.)

 

“The answer to all your problems is in this bittle lottle.” ~ Lucille Ball

Pain – The Great Change Motivator

Sometimes I get a paincall or an email from someone who is interested in beginning therapy. We talk, they tell me a bit about their situation, we set up an appointment, and they cancel. We try again and they cancel. At that point, I know they’re not going to start therapy and I know why: they’re just not in enough pain.

Pain is the great change motivator. Pain is what causes you to say, “I never want to go through that again. I’m willing to do something, anything different!” Pain is what leads you to therapy.

But why wait so long? Why not get help when it’s just recurring discomfort instead of waiting until it’s overwhelming and debilitating pain? Perhaps it’s the old “devil we know vs. the devil we don’t know” syndrome? A low-level pain can be tolerated; the regular dose of discomfort can be borne.

People seem to know this on some innate level, because they often exaggerate the pain in order to justify change. The boss can’t just be a regular person, biding the time until retirement, and unmotivated to try your innovative ideas. No, the boss must be a lazy lout, who is purposely ruining your career! So now you can give yourself permission to look for another job.

But instead of waiting so long, I say, “Feel the pain!” No, this isn’t some old aerobics slogan. I’m just saying to pay attention to what your pain, your everyday, low-level, tolerable pain is telling you. Stop ignoring it and listen. Maybe it’s telling you to find a different job or even change your career. Maybe it’s saying to start painting again or tell your partner you don’t want to go to your in-laws for dinner every weekend. Who knows? Well your pain knows and it’s sending you a message that you need to figure out. Hey, I’m happy to help you figure it out, but you don’t have to show up at my doorstep practically bleeding out from emotional pain. No worries, I’ll bandage you up and help you figure it out, but you can also save yourself a world of hurt by starting the process early and paying attention to your pain before it becomes overwhelming. Give yourself permission to make a change or seek help because you want to and not because you absolutely have to or will keel over from excruciating pain. Give yourself permission to want more, to dream big, to listen to yourself. Give yourself permission to have better than good enough and to fix what ain’t broke.

Achieving Balance

balancing actBalance is a new buzzword of late.  People often talk about achieving work-life balance.  Usually that means trying to spend less hours working in order to fit in more non-work activities, such as spending time with family or friends.

I’d like to discuss a slightly different form of balance: a balance of your inner and outer worlds.  By the outer world, I mean what you do that is external or directed outward from your physical being.  In other words, what you create in the world, whether a work presentation, a meal, a new business, or a book.  These all entail expending your energy outward and creating something tangible in the world.  We’re very achievement oriented, so understanding what I mean by expending your energy for external achievement should be easy because it’s likely what you do most of the time.

So what is the internal part of this external/internal balance?  Well that’s the emphasis, effort, and energy that you put into going inward.  It is often alone but can also be done in a group, such as yoga, meditation, and tai chi.  It’s not necessarily about being still either, as there are certainly walking meditations.  It is all about where your attention is focused: outward creation or inner awareness.

Yoga is a wonderful way to bring your awareness back to yourself, combining both movement and stillness.  Tai chi is a powerful way to learn to focus inward and manage your energy.  In these kinds of practices, such as meditation, yoga, tai chi, and even journal writing and psychotherapy, your focus is on yourself: knowing yourself, observing yourself, perhaps reaching deeper insights about yourself, as opposed to the external focus that we usually maintain.  In our everyday life, especially at work or school, we are more often focused on others and events external from ourselves, perhaps understanding them or working with them.

When we are too externally focused we lose touch with ourselves and can feel disconnected from ourselves; we may not know what we really want out of life and too often don’t enjoy life.  When we are too internally focused we can lose touch with others and the outside world; we may become disengaged and have difficulty achieving in the outside world.

The healthiest goal is to seek balance between our external efforts – what we create in the world – and our internal awareness – what we come to know and understand within ourselves.  Neither external nor internal is inherently better than the other, we need both for a fulfilling life, and we all have our own unique balance of external and internal that feels healthiest for us.

Please give this idea some thought and consider whether your life is too heavily focused in one direction and could use some rebalancing.

4 Tips for Dealing with Anger

angry man

Anger has gotten a bad reputation.  As I always tell my patients who have trouble acknowledging their anger or expressing it in a healthy way, “Anger is a healthy response to being disrespected.”  By suggesting tips to help you understand and handle your anger, I’m not at all saying that feeling anger is a bad thing.  But acting out of anger often turns into a bad thing.  These tips are to help you deal with anger in a healthier way, not to eliminate the feeling from your emotional repertoire.  Anger about injustice has given birth to many a good cause.  I’m sure Martin Luther King Jr. felt anger, but he didn’t act out of anger.  As a peace-promoting man, he likely used any anger he felt over injustice to fuel his efforts.  But I suspect his actual actions were guided more by conviction, a desire for peace and justice, and the knowledge that anger-fueled action often becomes violence.  So please feel your anger and recognize that it is telling you something, namely, “There’s something going on here that I don’t like.”  But don’t let anger rule your actions.  Let your actions come from a more centered place.

1.  Accept that you can’t control others

Plainly and simply put: Anger is your response to someone not being or doing as you want them to be or do.  You feel angry when others don’t behave or respond as you want them to.  But if we can’t control others, then fortunately for us, they can’t control us either.  Trying to control another adult is so utterly disrespectful.  Do you remember how you felt when someone tried to control you?  I bet you were angry.    Other people are as free to make their own choices as you are, even if their choices hurt you or don’t make sense to you.  All you can do is feel your anger but let your response, whether it involves verbal or physical action, come from a clearer, more centered place.  This is what Martin Luther King did when he responded to violence with non-violence.

2.  Realize that it’s not personal

This one can save you from feeling anger over a lot of the silly, everyday nonsense.  The best explanation of this comes from Don Miguel Ruiz in The Four Agreements.  He states that he can see someone one day who says, “Miguel you are so wonderful!,” and he knows that the person is in a good mood.  The next day the same person can say, “Miguel you are horrible!,” and he knows that the person is in a bad mood.  Miguel hasn’t changed who he is overnight; the other person’s mood has changed overnight.

When you feel angry in response to someone’s actions, realize that their actions usually have nothing to do with you.  If you think the customer service representative on the phone isn’t being helpful, then know that he is likely the same with everyone.  It’s not personal.  Is it frustrating?  Yes.  But is it personal?  No.  The person who is kind to you is kind to most people and the person who is rude to you is rude to most people.  Even if a colleague does something that is deliberately aimed at you to make you look bad and him look good, let’s say to position himself for a promotion.  Know that he would have done it to anyone whom he deemed a threat.  That still doesn’t make it fair, but it does make it not personal.

3.  Take a beat

It’s an important lesson to learn in life that things that are said can’t be taken back.  Couples often tell me that they have said things in anger that they immediately regretted and even apologized for, but their partners never forgot it.  In the heat of anger, you might verbally throw your partner’s weaknesses at him or her or threaten to leave.  Those kinds of remarks are not forgotten and the more it happens the less safe your partner feels about you.

Take a moment before you respond, even if that moment lasts much longer than a beat.  You can say something like, “I need a minute to think so that I say this clearly.”  If you are so angry that you know you won’t be able to think clearly in a minute, say something like, “I have to clear my head a little.  I’ll be back in ‘x amount of time’ when I’m calmer and we can talk about this more then.”  But don’t leave without an explanation or just stomp out.  To just walk out on someone is also disrespectful and then nothing gets solved.  So do your best to calm down with the intention to get back to the topic a.s.a.p.

4.  Learn what calms you down

You need to try different things to see what calms you down when you’re angry.  Again, that doesn’t mean ignore your anger.  It means feel it and then manage it so that it doesn’t overwhelm you.  Maybe taking a few deep breaths, going for a quick walk, thinking of what you could potentially lose, or meditating will work for you.  It may be that you already do or think certain things when you are anxious, such as, “Everything is going to be okay,” or “Things always work out well in the end.”  Perhaps those same thoughts could help you with anger too.  You need to be willing to try different things to see what works for you.

People say that they can’t control themselves in those moments of anger.  But that is not true.  You always have a choice; you always can take a beat.  A split second before you say it, you know that what you are about to say will hurt your partner.  If you think that you can’t control yourself in those moments, then that’s precisely what you have to learn and why you need to practice.  Keep practicing; it will make you more mature and it will teach you self control.  So if you do blurt something out, then try to do better the next time you’re angry.  If you do stomp out, then apologize when you get back and pick up the discussion.  Just keep trying to do better because we seldom get things perfect the first time around and life will certainly give you plenty of opportunities to get angry and practice some more.