anyone love mindset as much as me

Hope

Friends and readers, we did it. It actually happened!

I’m reminded of the quote that’s attributed to Winston Churchill: “You can always count on America to do the right thing, after it has exhausted all other options.”

The monumental U.S. election results won’t change everything, but they do send a clear signal of most Americans’ wish for change. We have slain the dragon, for now.

When I wrote about the election a few weeks ago, I got more response than anything I’ve shared in years. In fact, in ten years of writing online, I don’t think I’ve ever had more negative comments (though, fortunately, the positives outnumbered the negatives 3-to-1). Well, here we are now, and the world is a very different place.

Coming Soon to a Streaming Service Near You: A Normal, Boring Presidency

Hearing Biden speak on Saturday night was almost disorienting. Wait, I thought, we have a president (-elect) who doesn’t actively disparage his enemies? Who says he will work just as hard for the people who didn’t vote for him? Who goes out of his way to acknowledge his debt to Black voters, while promising to work with his opponents wherever possible?

SO WEIRD, right???

I kept waiting for him to say we should inject bleach to cure COVID, or call John McCain a loser. But then he said that we should listen to science, and then I remembered that John McCain’s widow and daughter both endorsed him.

Here’s the thing: given all the constraints he’ll be operating under, I’m not sure if Biden will be a transformative president—and I’m okay with that. I do think he is competent, honest, and kind, three qualities that have been in desperately short supply.

In short: this was the empathy election. The speech on Saturday was well done, but I have no doubt that many future Biden speeches will be boring and dry. That’s fine by me, too. Maybe we need that.

*And of course, let’s not forget Kamala Harris, achieving many “firsts” at the same time. This too matters a great deal.

What Does the Rest of the World Think?

Over the past month I’ve heard from hundreds of people from all over the world. The interesting thing is that while I’ve received plenty of complaints from close to home, there is much more uniformity of opinion around the world.

What’s clear is this: the collective trauma of four years of gaslighting is not confined to citizens of the United States.

You know what’s good, though? Since the results were announced, we aren’t the only ones breathing a sigh of relief.

This tweet from the mayor of Paris is a good example:

Or consider the cover of Der Spiegel, an influential magazine in Germany. Compare the two versions from 2016 (left) to 2020 (right):

Screen Shot 2020-11-09 at 8.29.42 AM

The world wants America to succeed! At least the world apart from governments like Russia and Saudi Arabia. What kind of friends do you want to have?

So that too is good. But to be fair, let’s take up the issue of everyone else.

I’m very aware of the other 70 million people who looked at the past four years and said, “Yep, that’s great, give us more of that.” Here’s what I think about that.

I have never been a member of any political party—in fact, I’m skeptical of political institutions in general. The problem is that even if you’re “not a racist,” if you voted for Trump, the regime you supported was built on racism and xenophobia. Its leader had no ideology aside from advancing his own ego at any cost.

At a certain point, when you “vote for policy and not the person,” you have to consider the consequences of your actions as well as your beliefs.

To the outgoing president’s supporters, my suggestion would be: if you don’t love Biden or the Democrats in general, do what you can to build a better alternative.

Do something to create positive change! Don’t just rally against imaginary socialism or fight oppression by not wearing a mask.

Alternatively, if it turns out that reforming your party isn’t possible, walk away from it. Some things are more important, and one of them is human decency.

***

This whole year has been full of tests and trials. I’ve been depressed throughout parts of it, like so many others. I’m trying to find my way out, perhaps like you are. No doubt next year will prove challenging as well.

But for now, take a deep breath, everyone! There are many challenges to come, but sometimes America does the right thing. Let’s move forward and consider how we can all be the change we want to see.

###

Image: Traworld

I always love everything like this

There’s an old allegory about a baby elephant that is tied to a fence post. As the baby elephant tugs and pulls, it fails to break the fence or break the rope. Eventually, it gives up and makes peace with its fate. The baby elephant is stuck.1

But eventually, the elephant grows up and becomes a big, adult elephant with gargantuan legs and a huge tusk and swirly trunk and it could easily walk away from the fence if it wanted to. But believing the fence to be some immovable thing, the adult elephant remains tied to it, falsely believing it can never get away.

What are Limiting Beliefs?

Limiting beliefs are false beliefs that prevent us from pursuing our goals and desires. Limiting beliefs can keep you from doing important things, like applying for your dream job or finding the relationship you want (or leaving the one you don’t want). They can also keep you from doing unimportant things, like skydiving in your underwear or trying out that weird Scotchberry ice cream flavor that looks like baby vomit in a cone.

Our beliefs put boundaries and limitations on what we perceive to be reasonable behavior.2 My belief that stealing is wrong limits me from simply stealing the next car that rolls by, Grand Theft Auto-style. This limiting belief is probably a good one to have. Therefore, we can say that not all limiting beliefs are negative. In fact, we need some limiting beliefs in order to, you know, limit us from doing stupid shit.

But some limiting beliefs unnecessarily hold us back from who we want to become. Like the elephant that remains stuck to the fence post, these limiting beliefs keep us in place without us even realizing it. These are the limiting beliefs I’ll be addressing in this article.

Limiting beliefs typically come in three flavors:

  1. Limiting beliefs about yourself that make you feel like you can’t do something because something is inherently wrong with you.
  2. Limiting beliefs about the world that make you feel like you can’t do something because no one will let you.
  3. Limiting beliefs about life that make you feel like you can’t do something because it’s too difficult.

I’ll go over some common limiting beliefs in each of these categories and then explain how to overcome them at the end. Let’s dive in.

Limiting Beliefs about Yourself

Some of the most impactful limiting beliefs we hold are about ourselves. For example, for many years, I falsely believed I was bad at writing.

I know that sounds insane—a bestselling author who spent most of his younger life believing he was a bad writer. But the truth is that I got poor grades in writing when I was in school. And I took those poor grades at face value: I was bad, so go do something else.

It took me many years to realize that the reason I made bad grades was not because I was a bad writer, but because I never stuck to the assignments. I was the kid who, instead of writing an essay about George Washington, wrote a sci-fi fan fiction imagining that the US government was founded by aliens as an experiment in human democracy.

The teachers hated it. But it’s that “outside the box” thinking that actually made me a good writer.

Nothing holds us back like beliefs about ourselves.3 Especially because so many of our beliefs about ourselves are laden with emotional attachments, insecurities, and baggage that often must be unraveled before we can challenge the belief.

Below are some examples of common limiting beliefs about yourself and how to attack them.

Age

Many people use age as an excuse to not do the things they wish to do. A lot of people think they’re too old to go back to school, change careers, start dating again, or even just learn some new skill.

At the other end of the spectrum, I often hear from people who think they’re too young to apply for an awesome job, move to a new city, or change careers.

You can see how nonsensical these beliefs can be when you realize that sometimes, older and younger people use their age to avoid doing the exact same thing. For example, some people think they’re too old to start a business… while others think they’re too young.

Which one is it?

(Hint: neither.)

Personal traits

Sometimes we think that a personal trait is holding us back in some area of our lives.

  • Maybe you think you’re too dumb to apply for a scholarship, or a certain school, or job, or even just have a conversation about something “smart” with someone.
  • Maybe you think you’re too ugly to talk to anyone who’s even remotely attractive.
  • Maybe you think that because your right leg is slightly shorter than the left, you’ll never look good in a pair of shorts, so you’re relegated to sweating your balls off each and every summer for the rest of your life.

The tough part about limiting beliefs around our personal traits is that we (usually) can’t change them. So if we’ve decided that the world will simply forever hate us because we’re short… well, we will feel doomed by that for the rest of our lives.

Photo by Ashley Batz.

Feelings

Believe it or not, we often use our emotions as a basis for our limiting beliefs:

  • “I can’t meet new people because I’m too depressed and no one will like me.”
  • “I can’t go back to work because I’m too embarrassed.”
  • “I can’t have a good relationship because I’m too angry all the time.”

But there’s a paradox within these sorts of limiting beliefs: what we need to do to deal with these emotions is the very thing we’re avoiding doing.

If you’re depressed and sad, getting out and socializing will help destroy the depression. If you’re easily embarrassed, facing the judgment of others is the only way to get over that embarrassment. If you’re so angry at someone you don’t want to talk to them, chances are that talking to them will help you get over your anger.

Not doing these things is what leads to the vicious cycle of these kinds of limiting beliefs: we don’t do something we should because of our current feelings, and doing nothing leads to more of those feelings. Go figure.

Limiting Beliefs about the World

But limiting beliefs aren’t merely about ourselves. We also adopt many erroneous beliefs about the world.

For example, I had this bizarre idea when I was young. I believed that anybody who talked to me was only doing so because they wanted something from me. Where this idea came from, I don’t know (more on that in a bit). Probably got pushed into too many lockers or spent too many mopey Friday nights alone as a teenager.

The point is that this belief prevented me from trusting people for a long time. And because I wasn’t trusting people, I wasn’t discovering how wrong my belief was.

Below are a number of other examples of limiting beliefs about the world that we succumb to:

Disapproval

Maybe the most common limiting belief revolves around what other people will and won’t allow us to do.

  • “I can’t talk to them because people will think I’m weird.”
  • “I can’t quit grad school because mom and dad will be disappointed.”
  • “I can’t leave my cushy job to take a lower-paying job that I’d enjoy more because people won’t respect me.”
  • “I can’t leave my garbage marriage because I’ll be damaged goods and no one will ever want to be with me again.”

If you’re considering something and your first thought is, “What would people think?” you’ve already lost.

For one, the reality is that people actually don’t care nearly as much as you think they do. They’re too busy worrying about what other people think of themselves to worry about you.

And secondly, even if they don’t approve of what you’re doing, fuck ’em! It’s your life, not theirs.

They don’t have to go to your miserable job every day. They don’t have to stay in the unsatisfying or even toxic relationship you’re in. They don’t have to sit there paralyzed wondering “What if?” for years and years and years.

You do.

Prejudice

Sadly, discrimination and prejudice exist in the world. People are racist and sexist and all sorts of phobics. And while it’s important to know and understand these realities, one also has to be careful to not allow them to prevent you from living your best life. Some examples:

  • “I’m Asian, and women don’t like Asian men, so I’ll never find a girlfriend.”
  • “I’m short, and short people make less money than tall people, so I didn’t try for that promotion.”
  • “I’m a woman, and people don’t listen to women’s ideas, so I’ll just keep quiet at work meetings.”

One way to think about these issues is that while they may be true population-wide, they are not true from individual to individual. Yes, maybe women are talked over more often, but that doesn’t mean that your specific co-workers will talk over you.4

Besides, the only way to overcome these prejudices in society is for individuals to stand up for themselves. Why not be that individual?

Being special

Most of the examples until now have been of limiting beliefs in which we cast ourselves in a particularly negative way. But sometimes limiting beliefs can make us delusionally positive about ourselves. For example, sometimes we think we’re so goddamn special, the world just can’t handle us:

  • “I want to make music, but no one appreciates my eclectic influences.”
  • “I want to write comedy, but no one would understand my sophisticated humor.”
  • “I have a business idea, but nobody understands my vision.”

This is really just a perverse form of entitlement. We think the world owes us something because we’re so special, but the world doesn’t understand our specialness, so why even try? We’ll never get what we’re owed.

But the world doesn’t owe you shit. And really, what’s more likely here: that the entire world doesn’t understand what a unique, special snowflake you are or that… you’re just sniffing your own farts of self-importance?

Limiting Beliefs about Life

Finally, we develop many limiting beliefs around what a “normal” life looks like. Most of these beliefs revolve around time, being too early/late, and what’s real/imaginary.

Missed the boat

This is the “someone’s already done that/tried that/said that/been there” type of limiting belief where we give up before we even start.

  • Wannabe entrepreneurs complain that “someone’s already built that.” But have you ever considered the fact that someone else is already making money off something is actually evidence you should start a business and compete with them?
  • The aspiring novelist laments that their idea has already been written. Hell, write it better!
  • The 40-something divorcee gripes about how everyone their age is already taken.

Underneath it all is the belief that there’s just not enough left for us. There are not enough customers, not enough ideas, not enough money, not enough time, not enough love.

This is bullshit, of course. The world is a big place. There’s plenty of room for you and me and anybody else who wants to dive in.

Time

Possibly the most common excuse I see from people, especially those who are considering a major lifestyle change like changing their diet, exercising more, reading more books, etc., is that old complaint about time:

“I’m too busy. I don’t have the time!”

But you know how they say if someone really likes you, they’ll find a way to spend time with you? Well, if you really want to do something, you’ll find a way to make time for it too.

When someone says, “I don’t have time!” What I hear is, “I don’t care enough!” Because the fact is that if you made that change a priority, you’d clear your schedule and/or re-organize your schedule around it.

And more often than not, what we’re really prioritizing when we “can’t find the time” is being comfortable and “safe.”

We fall into our safe little routines, hide behind our safe outward identities we’ve created, and spend our time on safe little distractions that won’t rock the boat that is our lives too much.

It doesn’t exist

Perhaps the most unshakeable limiting beliefs have to do with what actually exists and what doesn’t exist. Sometimes we choose to believe things are impossible as a way to prevent ourselves from trying and failing to achieve them.

  • Love between two people is fleeting at best and made up at worst, so why even look for it?”
  • Success is just a fabricated ideal created by society to control us, so why do anything?”
  • “Humans are selfish and will always fuck you over, so why ever get close to someone?”

This one is tricky because we almost always buy our own bullshit. We think we’re geniuses, head and shoulders above everyone else. We believe these things are actually real while the rest of society is clearly deluded.5

How to Overcome Your Limiting Beliefs

It’s hard enough to spot your limiting beliefs. It’s even harder to overcome them. But it can be done. Here are some simple steps to help you get started.

Photo by Jukan Tateisi.

1. Ask yourself, “What if I’m wrong?”

Generally, limiting beliefs lose their power as soon as we consider that they may not be true. Can’t date because of your height? What if you’re wrong? Can’t get a promotion because of your gender? What if you’re wrong?

As a mental exercise, adopt the ability to simply question your own beliefs and find alternative possibilities. Challenge yourself to imagine a world where your assumption is incorrect. What would that look like? What would it take?

Usually, it’s far less than you think.

2. Ask yourself, “How is this belief serving me?”

We like to imagine ourselves to be the victims of our own limiting beliefs, but the truth is that we adopt these beliefs because they serve us in some way. The elephant believes she can’t pull away from the fence post because that belief served her at one time—it prevented the strain and struggle of failure.

Generally, we hold onto limiting beliefs for the same reasons—to protect ourselves from struggle and failure.

Also, we often hold onto limiting beliefs because they make us feel special, self-righteous or that we deserve special attention. It’s not fair that I can’t change careers because I’m too old—look at me! Pity me!

Beliefs only stick if they serve us in some way, figure out how your belief is serving you and ask yourself if it’s really worth it or not.

3. Create alternative beliefs

Now it’s time to get creative.

Come up with ways in which you may be wrong. Sure, maybe the average person isn’t attracted to someone your height, but you’re not trying to date the average person, you’re trying to date someone special. And someone special is going to find you attractive the way you are.

Sure, maybe you are older than most people who start a new career, but who says you can’t still be successful? There’s nothing stopping you other than your own mind.

Now obviously, it’s not as simple as choosing a belief and then you just…believe it. No, what you’re doing is getting in the habit of questioning your beliefs (steps 1 and 2 above) and trying out new ones. Sometimes it even helps to write these down. Write down your assumption, and then come up with 4-5 possible alternatives to that assumption.

This forces you to see that not only do you harbor some limiting beliefs, but that you have options. You are choosing what to believe, in each and every moment, even if you don’t realize it.

With repeated practice in noticing your limiting beliefs and imagining new ideas to replace them, you’ll start to notice the thousands of tiny little decisions you make based on your limiting beliefs without even realizing it. You’ll start to notice that the same limiting beliefs that keep you from looking for a new job are the ones that keep you from ordering the sandwich you actually want to eat or wearing the clothes you want to wear—and you’ll see how ridiculous it all is.

And that’s when you’ll have more control over what you choose to believe.6

4. Test those alternative beliefs to see if they might be true

The final step is to treat these alternative beliefs as though they’re hypotheses in an experiment. Now you’ve gotta go try them out and see if they “work.”

Treat it like trying on a new pair of jeans. Adding a new ingredient to a recipe. Taking a new car for a test drive. Enter your favorite cheesy metaphor here.

Until we’re willing to actually see if these alternative beliefs play out in the real world, we can’t be certain of what is true and what is not. And most of the time, we will find that we were actually wrong about what we initially believed. It simply takes the self-awareness to consider that we may have been wrong and have the courage to go out into the world and see if we were wrong.

In many ways, we can be our own worst enemies. We are confined by our own perceptions, constrained by our understanding of true and false.

Challenge your own understanding. Test new ideas. You are never at the full expansion of yourself. There is always room for growth.

Just make sure you aren’t the only one stopping it from happening.


Cover image: Photo by Ryoji Iwata

Footnotes

  1. In psychology, this is called learned helplessness. All sorts of experiments have been done to show that animals, including humans, will “learn” to not take action against harmful stimuli in their environments when they think their actions have no impact. I say “learn” in quotation marks because it turns out that the original theory got it backwards: we actually don’t learn to be helpless, our default is helplessness. Instead we have to learn to take control of our actions. It might seem like a subtle, nitpicky difference, but it actually has huge implications for our lives.
  2. Connors, M. H., & Halligan, P. W. (2015). A cognitive account of belief: A tentative road map. Frontiers in Psychology, 5.
  3. Beliefs like this are what Carol Dweck was referring to as “fixed mindsets” in her now-famous book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. A fixed mindset is one in which we believe we just are the way we are and there’s not a lot we can do about it. A growth mindset, on the other hand, is a mindset in which we believe that our skills and capabilities can be learned, improved upon, and cultivated.
  4. Women actually are interrupted more often than men. See: Smith-Lovin, L., & Brody, C. (1989). Interruptions in Group Discussions: The Effects of Gender and Group Composition. American Sociological Review, 54(3), 424-435.
  5. This is a particularly screwed up example of the Dunning-Kruger effect, which is the tendency for people to think they are better than they actually are in various areas of their lives. See: Kruger, J., & Dunning, D. (1999). Unskilled and unaware of it: How difficulties in recognizing one’s own incompetence lead to inflated self-assessments. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77(6), 1121–1134.
  6. People who believe they have control over important parts of their lives—even what they believe—have what’s called an internal locus of control. People with an external locus of control, on the other hand, believe they have little control over what happens to them. Guess which type of person fares better in just about every area ever studied? See: Ryan, RM & Deci, EL 2008, ‘A self-determination theory approach to psychotherapy: The motivational basis for effective change.’, Canadian Psychology/Psychologie canadienne, vol. 49, no. 3, pp. 186–193.

I think stuff about method is great

With quarantine limitations still in order here in the US, spending so much time at home has brought up some interesting challenges.

Even though I’ve worked from home for two years, this period of time has taught me that working from home can easily blur the lines between work and self-care.

When your home is also your office, bringing work into your self-care space can create some hazy boundaries. This makes it hard to a) find the motivation to work and/or b) switch off from work.

Working from home can blur the lines between productivity and self-care. Here's how to balance work and self-care when you work from home.

When I was working in an office, I found it easy to mentally check out from work as soon as I left the office at 5pm. But now, I’ll catch myself making dinner at 5 then going back to my computer while I eat (so bad, I know).

Working from home means the same place where you eat, relax, and socialize becomes associated with work.

If you’re on regular Zoom calls, your work meetings are now in your sacred space. It’s almost like inviting your co-workers into your living room for a meeting.

To add to this, your typical forms of escape from work might not be available with quarantine limitations still in effect. For example, the yoga studio, the gym, your local pool, and the coffee shop where you would catch up with a friend.

The places and activities that you associate with self-care aren’t available right now. This can make it hard to disengage from work while simultaneously making you feel like you’re resting too much.

In this post, I’m sharing a few tips that have been helping me to set boundaries so I can better balance work and rest from home.

How To Balance Work & Self-Care When You Work From Home


Working from home can blur the lines between productivity and self-care. Here's how to balance work and self-care when you work from home.

1. Create a ritual to bookmark the start and end of the day

When working in an office, your commute might have been your signal that the workday was starting or ending. Working from home makes it a little harder to keep a similar structure.

A friend of mine said during the first few weeks of working from home, she would roll out of bed at 7:55am to check in on her computer at 8am. She was enjoying getting the extra sleep knowing she didn’t have to commute.  After doing this for a while, she started to crave some time to herself before work. She began getting up around 7 instead to make time for a cup of tea and journaling, which gives her a chance to get ready for the day ahead.

Be intentional with how you want to start and end your day. Think of the time before and after work like your wind-up and wind-down time.

At the end of the day, do whatever you can to get out of the work mentality. Turn off your computer screen, close your laptop, and get away from your desk. I also find that going for a walk around the block at the end of the workday helps to decompress, and it almost feels like a mini-commute (but much more enjoyable). 


2. Set a time to stop working and checking notifications

When you’re spending most of your time at home, it’s tempting to check your phone or computer after hours. Since they’re always in close proximity, you might find it hard to resist checking in if you find yourself with nothing to do. 

Create a boundary to help you maintain this separation between work and rest time. That might look like not checking emails before 8am or after 5pm, or setting app limits from 6pm until 8am the next day.

On the weekends, it can be tempting to work when you have the resources right in front of you. If you want a work-free weekend, try putting your laptop out of sight, keep your office door closed (if you have an office), and delete your email app from your phone until Monday.

The thing is that you have to set these boundaries for yourself because no one else is going to do it for you.


3. Separate your spaces for work and self-care

Try to create separate spaces, even if they’re small, to separate your work and self-care areas. For example, I have a corner in my living room that I’ve dedicated as my workout spot (which just means it’s where I put my workout mat). It’s not very big, but it’s enough space to do what I need to do.

Another example is sticking to doing work from a dedicated area. If you’ve been using your couch or bed for both work and relaxation, it might be sending confusing signals to your brain. I find that when I work on the couch, I’m less productive and it’s harder to concentrate (even if I’m not watching anything on TV). My back and legs also tend to hurt more because my coffee table isn’t tall enough to work from. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with working from these spots sometimes, but it’s better to have a desk and chair set-up that you use exclusively for work.

If you don’t have the space to separate your work and non-work life, try to create different moods in your home.

For example, you can use scents, sounds, and textures (from clothing) for different times of the day. You could use one essential oil during work and another one for after work. Or you can wear form-fitting (but still comfy) clothes during work and change into your comfiest, loose clothing afterward. Subtle changes like this can create the illusion of separation when you don’t have much space to work with.


More Tips to Balance Work and Rest

If you feel like you’re working too much and not getting enough rest, check out these posts:


If you feel like you’re resting too much and not being productive at home, check out these posts: 


Share your thoughts! How have you been maintaining boundaries while working from home?

The post How To Balance Productivity and Rest When You Work From Home appeared first on The Blissful Mind.

Important Post

Stop Asking Couples When They Are Having Kids

“So, when are you having kids?” my aunt asked me soon after I got married. At that point, I had just been married for a few months. I didn’t even know *if* I wanted kids, much less *when* I was having them.

Caught off guard, I replied matter-of-factly, “I have not decided if I want to have kids.” Little did I realize that I would spend the next hour listening to stories of women who put off having children until it was too late, as well as women who had difficulty conceiving for various reasons, with the implicit message being that I was going to regret it if I didn’t hurry and work on producing babies.

This would be my life for the next few years, where I would receive constant questions around “When are you having kids?” from relatives and random people, followed by a routine, almost ritualistic pressurization to have kids.

Lest you think that it ends after having a child, it doesn’t. The people who previously tried to tell you to have “just one kid” when you were indifferent to the idea, will now tell you to have a second one, along with reasons why you should do so. It seems like this questioning process never ends.

The problem with asking people “When are you having kids?”

I understand why people like to ask this question. Find a partner, settle down, get married, and have kids. This is the life path that we’ve been taught to follow since young. This is the life script that we’ve been told is *the* way of life, that would bring us ultimate joy and happiness.

This is especially so in the Chinese culture, where having kids is seen as the ultimate goal in life. There are even sayings built around this notion, such as 生儿育女 (shēng ér yù nǚ), which means to birth sons and raise daughters, and 子孙满堂 (zǐ sūn mǎn táng), which means to be in a room filled with children and grandchildren, used to signify the epitome of happiness.

Multi-Generation Chinese Family at the Park

A multi-generation family, often used to depict a vision of happiness in the Chinese culture

So after you get married, people automatically assume that you should have kids. “When are you having kids?” they ask, somehow expecting you to give them a straight answer to what is really a personal question.

The problem with this question is that it’s rude. It’s presumptuous. It’s also insensitive.

1) There are many different paths to happiness

Firstly, everyone has their own path in life. Some people want kids, while some don’t. Some think that having kids is the greatest joy in life, while some see them as a burden. At the end of the day, having kids isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. There are significant ups and downs that come with having a kid, and for some people, the ups do not justify the downs. For these people, it may simply be better to remain childless, rather than having kids just to fit in or to fit societal expectations, and then set their lives up for unhappiness. To assume that everyone should have kids, just because you think that having kids is great and important, is rude and disregards that person’s own preferences in life.

For example, Oprah Winfrey is an inspiring woman and humanitarian who chose not to have kids, but has instead dedicated herself to her personal life purpose of serving the world. Oprah hosted her talk show The Oprah Winfrey Show for 25 years, founded a leadership academy for girls and became a mother figure to the girls in attendance, and started her own television network. These are things that most do not get to do in their lifetime. Through the years, she has inspired millions and become a champion for people worldwide. As she says,

“When people were pressuring me to get married and have children, I knew I was not going to be a person that ever regretted not having them, because I feel like I am a mother to the world’s children. Love knows no boundaries. It doesn’t matter if a child came from your womb or if you found that person at age two, 10, or 20. If the love is real, the caring is pure and it comes from a good space, it works.” — Oprah[1]

Is she not being a responsible or purposeful person or woman by choosing not to have kids? Definitely not. In fact, I dare say that she lives a much more purposeful life than many in the world, including some people who choose to have kids.

There are many famous celebrities who have chosen not to have kids as well.

  • Chelsea Handler is a talk show host who chose not to have kids. She has said honestly in interviews that she doesn’t have the time to raise a child, and she doesn’t want her kids to be raised by a nanny.[2][3]
  • Betty White is an actress and comedian who chose not to have kids because she’s passionate about her career and she prefers to focus on it.[4]
  • Ashley Judd is an actress and politican activist who chose not to have kids because she feels that there are already so many orphaned kids in this world. To her, her resources can be better used to help those who are already here, and I respect her for such a noble choice.[5]

And then there are others, such as Cameron Diaz, Chow Yun Fat, Marisa Tomei (the actress for Peter Parker’s aunt in Tom Holland’s Spider Man film series), Renée Zellweger, and Rachael Ray. These people choose not to have kids for different reasons, such as because they’re already pursuing paths deeply meaningful to them, because they do not wish to be tied down with a child, or because they just don’t feel a deep desire to have kids.

Not having kids has not prevented these people from being happy in life, and there’s no reason to assume why people must have kids in order to be happy. People need to stop painting this narrative that one must have children in order to be happy. There are plenty of people with kids who are unhappy, and plenty of people without kids who have found inner fulfillment in life through other ways. There is no one path to happiness, and people need to realize that.

2) You may well cause hurt and pain

Secondly, you never know what others are going through.

Some people may want kids, but maybe they are facing fertility struggles. For example,

  • Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan went through three miscarriages before having their firstborn.[6]
  • The Obamas had a miscarriage before they had their daughters via IVF.[7]
  • Friends star Courteney Cox had a total of seven miscarriages before having her daughter, as she has a MTHFR gene mutation which raises the risk of miscarriage-causing blood clots.[8]

About 10% of women have difficulty getting pregnant or staying pregnant,[9] while 13.5% of known pregnancies end in miscarriages, with the figure rising as the maternal age rises.[10]

For some people, the journey to conceive is fraught with deep pain, struggle, and losses as they experience miscarriages, undergo round after round of invasive fertility treatments, and wait in hope of the double blue lines on their pregnancy kit each month.

And then there are people who cannot have their own biological children due to issues with their reproductive system, which could have been there since birth.

Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, and family

Barack and Michelle Obama had a miscarriage before they had their daughters via IVF

While you may be think that you’re being helpful or funny by asking people when they’re having kids, your question may well trigger hurt and pain. As Zuckerberg said,

“You feel so hopeful when you learn you’re going to have a child. You start imagining who they’ll become and dreaming of hopes for their future. You start making plans, and then they’re gone. It’s a lonely experience.”[6]

3) Not everyone is in a place to have kids

Thirdly, having kids is simply not a reality for some people due to their circumstances in life.

Some people may lack the financial resources to have kids, a reality in a place like Singapore.

Some people may be facing problems with their marriage, in which case their priority should be to work on their marriage, not to have kids.

Some people may be so burdened with caring for their dependents that they are unable to consider kids, at least not at the moment.

And then there are people facing chronic health issues, issues that you don’t know and can’t see, which make pregnancy difficult due to the toll it would take on their body.

4) Some couples could still be thinking

And then there are people who are neutral to the idea of having kids, like myself when I just got married. These people need time to think it through, because having kids is a permanent, lifelong decision with serious consequences. There’s no reason to assume that having a kid should be an automatic decision, because you’re bringing a whole new life into this world. This is a decision that will change your life forever, as well as the life of the child you’re bringing into the world.

For those yet to have kids, they need the space to figure out what they want, not have people breathe down their neck day in and out about having kids.

My experience

For the initial years after I got married, I just wasn’t thinking about kids. Firstly, having a child is a lifelong decision, and I wanted to enjoy married life with my husband before diving into a decision as serious as that. Secondly, both my husband and I were genuinely happy spending the rest of our lives with just each other — we didn’t feel the need to have kids at all, not in the way my culture obsesses about it. Thirdly, my husband was dealing with some personal problems, and I was fully focused on supporting him through these. These were issues that we needed to sort through before considering kids, if we were to want kids.

Yet I kept getting nudges to have kids, even though I never said anything about wanting them.

“So, when are you having kids?”

“This person’s baby is so cute, isn’t it? Why don’t you hurry up and birth a baby?”

It was as if I was some vehicle, some production machine to have kids, where my own views in the matter didn’t matter. The most frustrating thing was that I kept getting this question, while my husband would never get it (as a man), not even when we were in the same room together.

It was as if my sole reason for existence as a woman was to have kids, and until I had them, I was regarded as unworthy or incomplete.

The decision to have kids

Yet the decision to have children is a personal one. It is also a complex one. It is a decision that will permanently change the lives of the couple in question.

It is not a decision that one should be pressurized into making because their mom wants to carry grandchildren or their aunt wants to play with kids. It’s a decision that a couple should make because they genuinely want to nurture another life.

Because when a child is born, the people bugging others to have kids aren’t the ones who will be caring for the baby 24/7, whose lives will be set back by years (even decades) as they care for a new life, or who will be responsible for every decision concerning the child for the next 18-21 years.

It will be the couple.

And the people who aren’t ready, who were pressured into having kids because they were told that it was the best thing to do, may have to deal with regret as they are stuck with a decision they cannot undo. Because there are people who regret having kids, and we need to be honest about that. These people regret, not because of the child’s fault, but because they were simply not ready to have kids, be it financially, emotionally, or mentally. Unfortunately, the children are the ones who eventually suffer, from living in dysfunctional households to dealing with issues of violenceabuse, and anger.

We need to recognize these realities, and not make parenthood seem like it’s some magical band-aid that solves a lack of purpose or life’s pressures. Things don’t magically get better because people have kids; existing problems usually worsen as having a child puts a big strain on a couple’s lives. Digging into people’s plans to have kids, and pressurizing them into one of the biggest life decisions they can ever make, will only stress them out and perhaps push some into depression. As this redditor shared,

“I have a friend who went through 6 years of miscarriages and fertility treatments before the doctors figured out the problem and she had her son. The nosy ladies at her work and her in-laws questioned her constantly. The depression from that made it harder for her to conceive.”

Stop asking couples when they’re having kids

So, if you tend to ask others when they’re having kids, it’s time to stop that. It’s rude, insensitive, and it disregards people’s privacy. It’s also none of your business.

The reality is that if people want kids, they will work on having kids. They don’t need you to prod them about it.

If they don’t have kids, it’s either because

  1. they really don’t want kids,
  2. they are not in a position to consider kids right now, or
  3. they want kids but they are facing some struggles.

For people in group (c), they aren’t going to share such deeply personal experience over some afternoon coffee chat, and certainly not by you asking, “When are you having kids?”

The best thing you can do is to give people their personal space. Understand that having kids is a personal decision, and people don’t have to share or explain anything. Respect that others have their right to privacy. Respect that people are individuals on their own path, and this path may not involve having kids. And this doesn’t make them incomplete or lesser in any way.

Instead of asking women or couples, “When are you having kids?”, talk to them like how you would a normal person. There’s no reason why conversations should suddenly revolve around childbearing after marriage; it’s not like a person’s identity changes to revolve around having kids. A person still has their own passion, goals, and dreams. Talk to them about what they’ve been doing. Understand their interests. Know them as a real person, not some random being here to fulfill society’s checklist.

If you’re really interested in someone’s plan to have children, you can simply ask, “Are you and your partner planning to have kids?” If they wish to share more, they will do so. If they give a generic answer, then take the hint and move on.

Ultimately, having kids or not doesn’t change a person’s self-worth. A woman is complete with or without kids. A marriage doesn’t need kids to be deemed complete. Having kids should be a conscious choice, not a result of external pressure. Don’t judge people by whether they have kids or not. Some people will have kids, and some people will not have kids. Some will have kids early, while some will have them later in life. All of these are different paths and there’s nothing wrong with them.

For Me

For my husband and I, we eventually had a few discussions and decided to have a baby, and had our baby girl this year (2020). 😊 Yet other people’s comments and nudges to have children didn’t make me want to have children; it only annoyed me and made me want to avoid these people, because having a child is a personal decision between me and my husband, that has nothing to do with them. It was after we had the space to settle down and enjoy married life without kids, and took some time to actively pursue our goals and interests, that we finally felt ready to try for a kid last year.

In the meantime, I hope all of you are doing well. There are other things that I’m working on, other things that are happening that I look forward to sharing in time to come. Sending lots of love to you, and remember that whatever life challenge you’re facing, you have it in you to overcome it. I’ll talk to you guys soon! 🙂

Interesting thanks this is really good more on mindset please

By Leo Babauta

The country I live in has a pretty bitter divide between many of its people, and I’ll admit that it often feels hopeless to me.

If you don’t live in the U.S., I’m sure you can see a similar divide in your country as well: People judging each other, angry and fearful, feeling very little understanding and compassion.

We’re all doing it, and blaming the other side.

So what can we do to heal this divide?

For me, the answer lies in compassion. Compassion for others in our country, and in the world, who are suffering. Compassion for our neighbors, for people who have different views, for people who are afraid and who just want a good life. Compassion for ourselves as we try to make our way through a difficult situation.

But compassion is difficult right now, so just telling people to have compassion doesn’t work. The problem is that our views about who is right and wrong is getting in the way of compassion and healing the divide.

So the real key to this is in setting aside our views and setting aside being right. The real key to healing this divide is letting go of what we think we know.

It’s only when we let go of what we think we know that we can be curious about the other side. Try to understand why they do what they do, why they feel the way they feel. Try to step into their world, and get them.

It’s only when we let go of our knowing and step into not knowing that we can really see their side, and feel compassion for them.

Once we do that, the compassion can come and the healing can begin.

Set aside what we think we know.

Open to not knowing how things should be. Open to curiosity about their side.

Open to feeling compassion for what they’re going through.

Let’s connect with each other, and come together.

who else loves mindset

Stop Asking Couples When They Are Having Kids

“So, when are you having kids?” my aunt asked me soon after I got married. At that point, I had just been married for a few months. I didn’t even know *if* I wanted kids, much less *when* I was having them.

Caught off guard, I replied matter-of-factly, “I have not decided if I want to have kids.” Little did I realize that I would spend the next hour listening to stories of women who put off having children until it was too late, as well as women who had difficulty conceiving for various reasons, with the implicit message being that I was going to regret it if I didn’t hurry and work on producing babies.

This would be my life for the next few years, where I would receive constant questions around “When are you having kids?” from relatives and random people, followed by a routine, almost ritualistic pressurization to have kids.

Lest you think that it ends after having a child, it doesn’t. The people who previously tried to tell you to have “just one kid” when you were indifferent to the idea, will now tell you to have a second one, along with reasons why you should do so. It seems like this questioning process never ends.

The problem with asking people “When are you having kids?”

I understand why people like to ask this question. Find a partner, settle down, get married, and have kids. This is the life path that we’ve been taught to follow since young. This is the life script that we’ve been told is *the* way of life, that would bring us ultimate joy and happiness.

This is especially so in the Chinese culture, where having kids is seen as the ultimate goal in life. There are even sayings built around this notion, such as 生儿育女 (shēng ér yù nǚ), which means to birth sons and raise daughters, and 子孙满堂 (zǐ sūn mǎn táng), which means to be in a room filled with children and grandchildren, used to signify the epitome of happiness.

Multi-Generation Chinese Family at the Park

A multi-generation family, often used to depict a vision of happiness in the Chinese culture

So after you get married, people automatically assume that you should have kids. “When are you having kids?” they ask, somehow expecting you to give them a straight answer to what is really a personal question.

The problem with this question is that it’s rude. It’s presumptuous. It’s also insensitive.

1) There are many different paths to happiness

Firstly, everyone has their own path in life. Some people want kids, while some don’t. Some think that having kids is the greatest joy in life, while some see them as a burden. At the end of the day, having kids isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. There are significant ups and downs that come with having a kid, and for some people, the ups do not justify the downs. For these people, it may simply be better to remain childless, rather than having kids just to fit in or to fit societal expectations, and then set their lives up for unhappiness. To assume that everyone should have kids, just because you think that having kids is great and important, is rude and disregards that person’s own preferences in life.

For example, Oprah Winfrey is an inspiring woman and humanitarian who chose not to have kids, but has instead dedicated herself to her personal life purpose of serving the world. Oprah hosted her talk show The Oprah Winfrey Show for 25 years, founded a leadership academy for girls and became a mother figure to the girls in attendance, and started her own television network. These are things that most do not get to do in their lifetime. Through the years, she has inspired millions and become a champion for people worldwide. As she says,

“When people were pressuring me to get married and have children, I knew I was not going to be a person that ever regretted not having them, because I feel like I am a mother to the world’s children. Love knows no boundaries. It doesn’t matter if a child came from your womb or if you found that person at age two, 10, or 20. If the love is real, the caring is pure and it comes from a good space, it works.” — Oprah[1]

Is she not being a responsible or purposeful person or woman by choosing not to have kids? Definitely not. In fact, I dare say that she lives a much more purposeful life than many in the world, including some people who choose to have kids.

There are many famous celebrities who have chosen not to have kids as well.

  • Chelsea Handler is a talk show host who chose not to have kids. She has said honestly in interviews that she doesn’t have the time to raise a child, and she doesn’t want her kids to be raised by a nanny.[2][3]
  • Betty White is an actress and comedian who chose not to have kids because she’s passionate about her career and she prefers to focus on it.[4]
  • Ashley Judd is an actress and politican activist who chose not to have kids because she feels that there are already so many orphaned kids in this world. To her, her resources can be better used to help those who are already here, and I respect her for such a noble choice.[5]

And then there are others, such as Cameron Diaz, Chow Yun Fat, Marisa Tomei (the actress for Peter Parker’s aunt in Tom Holland’s Spider Man film series), Renée Zellweger, and Rachael Ray. These people choose not to have kids for different reasons, such as because they’re already pursuing paths deeply meaningful to them, because they do not wish to be tied down with a child, or because they just don’t feel a deep desire to have kids.

Not having kids has not prevented these people from being happy in life, and there’s no reason to assume why people must have kids in order to be happy. People need to stop painting this narrative that one must have children in order to be happy. There are plenty of people with kids who are unhappy, and plenty of people without kids who have found inner fulfillment in life through other ways. There is no one path to happiness, and people need to realize that.

2) You may well cause hurt and pain

Secondly, you never know what others are going through.

Some people may want kids, but maybe they are facing fertility struggles. For example,

  • Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan went through three miscarriages before having their firstborn.[6]
  • The Obamas had a miscarriage before they had their daughters via IVF.[7]
  • Friends star Courteney Cox had a total of seven miscarriages before having her daughter, as she has a MTHFR gene mutation which raises the risk of miscarriage-causing blood clots.[8]

About 10% of women have difficulty getting pregnant or staying pregnant,[9] while 13.5% of known pregnancies end in miscarriages, with the figure rising as the maternal age rises.[10]

For some people, the journey to conceive is fraught with deep pain, struggle, and losses as they experience miscarriages, undergo round after round of invasive fertility treatments, and wait in hope of the double blue lines on their pregnancy kit each month.

And then there are people who cannot have their own biological children due to issues with their reproductive system, which could have been there since birth.

Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, and family

Barack and Michelle Obama had a miscarriage before they had their daughters via IVF

While you may be think that you’re being helpful or funny by asking people when they’re having kids, your question may well trigger hurt and pain. As Zuckerberg said,

“You feel so hopeful when you learn you’re going to have a child. You start imagining who they’ll become and dreaming of hopes for their future. You start making plans, and then they’re gone. It’s a lonely experience.”[6]

3) Not everyone is in a place to have kids

Thirdly, having kids is simply not a reality for some people due to their circumstances in life.

Some people may lack the financial resources to have kids, a reality in a place like Singapore.

Some people may be facing problems with their marriage, in which case their priority should be to work on their marriage, not to have kids.

Some people may be so burdened with caring for their dependents that they are unable to consider kids, at least not at the moment.

And then there are people facing chronic health issues, issues that you don’t know and can’t see, which make pregnancy difficult due to the toll it would take on their body.

4) Some couples could still be thinking

And then there are people who are neutral to the idea of having kids, like myself when I just got married. These people need time to think it through, because having kids is a permanent, lifelong decision with serious consequences. There’s no reason to assume that having a kid should be an automatic decision, because you’re bringing a whole new life into this world. This is a decision that will change your life forever, as well as the life of the child you’re bringing into the world.

For those yet to have kids, they need the space to figure out what they want, not have people breathe down their neck day in and out about having kids.

My experience

For the initial years after I got married, I just wasn’t thinking about kids. Firstly, having a child is a lifelong decision, and I wanted to enjoy married life with my husband before diving into a decision as serious as that. Secondly, both my husband and I were genuinely happy spending the rest of our lives with just each other — we didn’t feel the need to have kids at all, not in the way my culture obsesses about it. Thirdly, my husband was dealing with some personal problems, and I was fully focused on supporting him through these. These were issues that we needed to sort through before considering kids, if we were to want kids.

Yet I kept getting nudges to have kids, even though I never said anything about wanting them.

“So, when are you having kids?”

“This person’s baby is so cute, isn’t it? Why don’t you hurry up and birth a baby?”

It was as if I was some vehicle, some production machine to have kids, where my own views in the matter didn’t matter. The most frustrating thing was that I kept getting this question, while my husband would never get it (as a man), not even when we were in the same room together.

It was as if my sole reason for existence as a woman was to have kids, and until I had them, I was regarded as unworthy or incomplete.

The decision to have kids

Yet the decision to have children is a personal one. It is also a complex one. It is a decision that will permanently change the lives of the couple in question.

It is not a decision that one should be pressurized into making because their mom wants to carry grandchildren or their aunt wants to play with kids. It’s a decision that a couple should make because they genuinely want to nurture another life.

Because when a child is born, the people bugging others to have kids aren’t the ones who will be caring for the baby 24/7, whose lives will be set back by years (even decades) as they care for a new life, or who will be responsible for every decision concerning the child for the next 18-21 years.

It will be the couple.

And the people who aren’t ready, who were pressured into having kids because they were told that it was the best thing to do, may have to deal with regret as they are stuck with a decision they cannot undo. Because there are people who regret having kids, and we need to be honest about that. These people regret, not because of the child’s fault, but because they were simply not ready to have kids, be it financially, emotionally, or mentally. Unfortunately, the children are the ones who eventually suffer, from living in dysfunctional households to dealing with issues of violenceabuse, and anger.

We need to recognize these realities, and not make parenthood seem like it’s some magical band-aid that solves a lack of purpose or life’s pressures. Things don’t magically get better because people have kids; existing problems usually worsen as having a child puts a big strain on a couple’s lives. Digging into people’s plans to have kids, and pressurizing them into one of the biggest life decisions they can ever make, will only stress them out and perhaps push some into depression. As this redditor shared,

“I have a friend who went through 6 years of miscarriages and fertility treatments before the doctors figured out the problem and she had her son. The nosy ladies at her work and her in-laws questioned her constantly. The depression from that made it harder for her to conceive.”

Stop asking couples when they’re having kids

So, if you tend to ask others when they’re having kids, it’s time to stop that. It’s rude, insensitive, and it disregards people’s privacy. It’s also none of your business.

The reality is that if people want kids, they will work on having kids. They don’t need you to prod them about it.

If they don’t have kids, it’s either because

  1. they really don’t want kids,
  2. they are not in a position to consider kids right now, or
  3. they want kids but they are facing some struggles.

For people in group (c), they aren’t going to share such deeply personal experience over some afternoon coffee chat, and certainly not by you asking, “When are you having kids?”

The best thing you can do is to give people their personal space. Understand that having kids is a personal decision, and people don’t have to share or explain anything. Respect that others have their right to privacy. Respect that people are individuals on their own path, and this path may not involve having kids. And this doesn’t make them incomplete or lesser in any way.

Instead of asking women or couples, “When are you having kids?”, talk to them like how you would a normal person. There’s no reason why conversations should suddenly revolve around childbearing after marriage; it’s not like a person’s identity changes to revolve around having kids. A person still has their own passion, goals, and dreams. Talk to them about what they’ve been doing. Understand their interests. Know them as a real person, not some random being here to fulfill society’s checklist.

If you’re really interested in someone’s plan to have children, you can simply ask, “Are you and your partner planning to have kids?” If they wish to share more, they will do so. If they give a generic answer, then take the hint and move on.

Ultimately, having kids or not doesn’t change a person’s self-worth. A woman is complete with or without kids. A marriage doesn’t need kids to be deemed complete. Having kids should be a conscious choice, not a result of external pressure. Don’t judge people by whether they have kids or not. Some people will have kids, and some people will not have kids. Some will have kids early, while some will have them later in life. All of these are different paths and there’s nothing wrong with them.

For Me

For my husband and I, we eventually had a few discussions and decided to have a baby, and had our baby girl this year (2020). 😊 Yet other people’s comments and nudges to have children didn’t make me want to have children; it only annoyed me and made me want to avoid these people, because having a child is a personal decision between me and my husband, that has nothing to do with them. It was after we had the space to settle down and enjoy married life without kids, and took some time to actively pursue our goals and interests, that we finally felt ready to try for a kid last year.

In the meantime, I hope all of you are doing well. There are other things that I’m working on, other things that are happening that I look forward to sharing in time to come. Sending lots of love to you, and remember that whatever life challenge you’re facing, you have it in you to overcome it. I’ll talk to you guys soon! 🙂

I think stuff about method are fab

So you want to find “the one” eh? You’re sick and tired of all the dating apps and websites and trying to meet people in your kickball league? And how many awkward first dates can you go on to find a “normal” person? And what’s with all the fake personalities and flaky people who seem more interested in themselves and can’t be bothered to make a slight change in their schedule to, you know, go out with you?

If this describes the majority of your romantic life, I want you to open up your mind a little and start looking at things a little differently from now on.

First, consider this: everyone wants a perfect partner, but few people want to be the perfect partner.1

I think the vast majority of problems around “finding someone” are caused by uneven expectations like this.

But when you flip this on its head and you start taking a little more responsibility in this area of your life—when you start focusing on what kind of life you want to live and what kind of partner you want to be—you’ll start to see all the flakes and narcissists and liars fade into the background. You’ll start making genuine connections with people and make each other’s lives more enjoyable.

For years, I probably obsessed a little too much over this part of my life. But after stumbling through one unhealthy relationship after another, I learned a very important lesson: the best way to find an amazing person is to become an amazing person.2

So, if you’re willing to have an open mind—and take a painful look at yourself—then read on.

Non-Neediness

Let’s begin with perhaps a bold statement: The root of all unattractiveness is neediness; the root of all attractiveness is non-neediness. 

But what exactly is neediness?

Neediness occurs when you place a higher priority on what others think of you than what you think of yourself. 

Any time you alter your words or behavior to fit someone else’s needs rather than your own, that is needy. Any time you lie about your interests, hobbies, or background, that is needy. Any time you pursue a goal to impress others rather than fulfill yourself, that is needy.

Dating advice: neediness

Whereas most people focus on what behavior is attractive/unattractive, what determines neediness (and therefore, attractiveness) is the why behind your behavior. You can say the coolest thing or do what everyone else does, but if you do it for the wrong reason, it will come off as needy and desperate and turn people off.

“It’s not the what of your behavior that is attractive or unattractive, it’s the why of your behavior.” 

People can sense needy behavior right away—chances are you can tell when someone is being needy for your attention or affection—and it’s a major turn off. This is because neediness is actually a form of manipulation, and people have a keen nose for manipulative bullshit.

Think about it, if you’re acting needy, you’re trying to get someone to think of you in a certain way or act a certain way towards you for your own benefit. Think about the way you feel when someone is blatantly trying to sell you something with high-pressure, salesy tricks. It just feels wrong. It’s a similar feeling when someone is acting in a certain way just to get you to like them.

Now, we all get needy at times because, of course, we do care about what others think of us. That’s a fact of human nature. But the key here is that, at the end of the day, you should care more about what you think of yourself than what others think.

Examples of neediness in your life

How needy/non-needy you are permeates everything in your life and is reflected in all your behavior. And I mean all of it.

A few examples:

  • A needy person wants their friends to think they’re cool or funny or smart and will constantly try to impress them with their coolness or humor or smart opinions about everything. A non-needy person just enjoys spending time with their friends for the sake of spending time with them and doesn’t feel the need to perform around them.
  • A needy person buys clothes based on whether or not they think other people will think they look good in them (or at least what they think is “safe” to wear). A non-needy person buys clothes based on their own personal sense of style they’ve developed over time.
  • A needy person stays at a soul-crushing job they hate because of the prestige it gives them in the eyes of their friends, family, and peers. A non-needy person values their time and skills more than what other people think and will find work that fulfills and challenges them based on their own values.
  • A needy person will try to impress a date by dropping hints about how much money they make or important people they know or dated or where they went to school. A non-needy person genuinely just tries to get to know the other person to find out if they’re compatible with one another.

We behave in needy ways when we feel bad about ourselves. We try to use the affection and approval of others to compensate for the lack of affection and approval for ourselves. And that is another root cause of our dating problems: our inability to take care of ourselves.

More Resources on Getting Rid of Neediness

  1. Models: Attract Women through Honesty – My book, Models, is pretty much entirely based on the idea of ridding your life of neediness. Yes, it’s written for men, but I’ve had a lot of women, gay men, lesbians, trans people, etc. write to me over the years saying they got a lot out of it. It’s not so much a book about dating as it is about getting your life together.
  2. The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck – This article would later inspire my book by the same name. Getting over your neediness means you choose to not give a fuck about what others will think of you for expressing yourself honestly.
  3. Change Your Mind About Dating – This is a look at how your dating life might look if you weren’t constantly worrying about what other people thought of you; i.e., if you weren’t being needy all the time.
  4. The Dismal State of Flirting in English-Speaking Cultures – If you think displays of romantic and/or sexual interest should be shrouded in derogatory banter with one another—well, think about how fucked up that is for a moment and then…read this article.

Taking Care of Yourself

No one can see your value as a person if you don’t value yourself first. And taking care of yourself, when done from a place of non-neediness, is what demonstrates that you value yourself.

Now, there’s a fine line between taking care of yourself for the right and wrong reasons. If you do these things I outline below in order to get others to like you, you’ve already lost (that’s needy behavior, remember?). You should take care of yourself because you genuinely want to be a healthy, intelligent, well-rounded individual for the sake of being a healthy, intelligent, well-rounded individual who values your own self-worth over what others think of you.

Think of it this way: people won’t love you until you love yourself.

Dating advice: take care of yourself first

So with that said, here’s a list of some of the major areas of your life you should focus on first (if you don’t already):

Health

Taking care of your physical and mental health is the single biggest step you can take towards improving your life. It has the biggest, most enduring impact on virtually every other area of your life, including dating and relationships.3

Besides making you look better, eating right and exercising consistently simply makes you feel better on a day-to-day basis. When you feel better—when you have more energy and your mood is raised a little—it’s a lot easier to get your ass out of the house and into the world so you can engage with people genuinely and confidently. You’re also more pleasant to be around.4

And if you have any past traumas or psychological issues that need to be dealt with, do it. Talk to friends and relatives and get therapy if you need it.5 You’re ultimately the one who can help yourself the most, but it’s okay if you need a little help in this area. Get it taken care of.

Finances

Money is a major source of stress for a lot of people. It can be so stressful, in fact, that most people end up ignoring a lot of their financial problems altogether. This, in turn, leads to a vicious cycle, where ignoring your money problems only makes them worse and you end up even more stressed as time goes on.

Long-term stress like this makes you less attractive. It saps your energy, causes health issues,6 and generally makes you a dick to be around. So if this describes you, it’s time to get real about your finances.

Learn about personal finance. Cut out waste and find ways to make more money in the short and long term. Open a savings account for emergencies. Pay down debt as quickly as possible. Learn the basics of investing.

In short, get this area of your life handled so it’s not dragging you down in other areas.

Career

To put it bluntly, no one wants to be around someone—let alone date someone—who complains about their job all the time. Look, I get it, not everyone can have their dream jobs or start a billion-dollar business tomorrow. We’re all born with varying levels of raw talent in one area or another, and sometimes our talents and passions can be turned into careers. Other times, we have to work “normal” jobs to make ends meet and pursue our talents and passions on the side.

But regardless of your current situation, there is absolutely some action you can take, right now, towards finding meaningful work that you enjoy, or at least work you don’t dread. Apply for new jobs. Go to job fairs and network with people. Take classes and develop useful skills that you enjoy. Learn how to interview better and how to negotiate better terms of employment.

Social life

 

If you end up at the same three or four bars with the same three or four people every weekend and then wonder why you can’t meet interesting, attractive people who you can connect with—well, just think about how backward that is for a moment.

Developing an active social life not only makes for a more fulfilling, enjoyable life, it also puts you in contact with more (and different) people, upping your chances of meeting someone you click with.

I’ll cover this more in the next section, but for now, a few ideas to get you started are things like exploring new hobbies and interests, taking an art class, signing up for martial arts or yoga, joining a community sports league, etc. Do things that get you off your ass and out interacting with people. This will pay off immensely in all areas of your life.

***

You’ll notice that all of these areas take quite a bit of time and effort to develop. In fact, you’ll probably never stop working on each of them to some degree, and that’s okay. The best way to get these areas of your life handled is to develop healthy, consistent habits around them.

And the point isn’t to reach some state of nirvana in your life where you have six-pack abs, a bazillion dollars, and a packed social schedule with thousands of friends and then, FINALLY, you’ll suddenly find true love. The point is to just always be working towards being the best version of yourself you can be at any given time.

Where to Find True Love

Are you deeply interested in social justice? Are you a health nut? Are you a party animal or socialite? Are you really into art and music? Or maybe you love the outdoors?

Develop your interests first, simply for the joy and pleasure you get from experiencing them. Then, as a byproduct, you will meet people who share your values and are attracted to you based on who you are, rather than what you say or how you act.

Here’s a slightly ridiculous example to illustrate my point: an intelligent woman who’s devoted to her career as a scientist probably won’t have the best luck meeting men she’s compatible with by competing in wet T-shirt contests.

Not that everyone who goes to wet T-shirt contests is stupid, it’s just that she’d be better off developing more intellectual pursuits she’s interested in so she can meet people whose interests and values are more aligned with her own. Things like signing up for language classes, volunteering at a local museum, attending art galleries and lectures, and so on.

Dating advice: where to find love

So if you’re really into sci-fi or Dungeons and Dragons or 8th-century Medieval art, don’t go to clubs and bars looking for love. Similarly, if you like quiet nights at home and enjoy knitting, joining a skydiving club might not be the first place you should look to expand your social circle and meet potential dates.

It’s okay to experiment with expanding your interests, but as always, do it for you, not to meet Mr./Mrs. Perfect.

A word on online dating and apps

I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with online dating and studies have shown that more and more people are meeting online and having long-term relationships.7 It’s definitely doable and it can be a great way to meet people, especially if you’re new to a city, extremely busy with work, or just “getting back out there.”

With that said, most people don’t use online dating very effectively. If you’re having problems with people being flaky and/or lukewarm, well I hate to be the one to tell you this, but it’s not them, it’s you.

You see, online dating and dating apps are great for meeting people quickly and efficiently—and that’s about it. After that, it’s up to you to be bold and clearly communicate what you’re looking for.

This will freak some people out. This will cause some people to “ghost” on you. And I’m here to tell you this is a good thing.

Think about it: the people who freak out and ghost on you, they are the flakes and wishy-washy people you’re so tired of going on dates with. It’s best to weed them out as quickly as possible and not play into their wishy-washy games. This is doubly true the older you get.

If you tell someone on a first date that you’re looking for a long-term relationship and it scares them off, then you just did your future self a huge favor. If simply stating your general intentions freaks somebody out, then the reality is that they don’t want the same thing as you and/or they have their own issues to work out. Learn to see it as a blessing when someone eliminates themselves for you.

Your job is to simply express yourself honestly and not be ashamed of that.

Honest Communication and Vulnerability

There is a dizzying amount of dating advice out there and most of it, I’m sad to say, is bullshit. So much of it focuses on the “tactics” and “strategies” of attracting someone that it completely misses the whole point of the joy of meeting someone you connect with.

“Say this, don’t say that. Wait 3.46 days before calling/texting them back. Touch them on the left arm once every 7 minutes while sub-communicating your sociosexual status. Smile, but not TOO much. Act subtly interested, but not TOO eager. Always keep them guessing to keep up the ‘mystery’.”

Yeah, fuck that.

Look, part of being a mature, functioning adult in the world is being able to communicate and express yourself honestly on an emotional level.8 For many people, especially those who’ve had troubles in their romantic lives, this is hard. They’ve either never been taught how to be vulnerable in a healthy way, or they’ve gotten so jaded about dating that they figure, what’s the point? So they put up their guard before anyone has the chance to really get to know who they really are.

Vulnerability, when done correctly, is actually a show of strength and power. Telling someone you like them and want to get to know them better doesn’t “give them all the power” unless you’re entirely invested in the way they respond to you.

Dating advice: honesty and vulnerability

If, instead, you are merely expressing yourself to make your desires known and you’re willing to accept the consequences, good or bad, others will notice that. And it’s incredibly attractive.

I’ve written about vulnerability before. So you can read more on that if you think you need to work on being more vulnerable.9

But before moving on, I want to make something clear about being vulnerable: this is not another “tactic” or “strategy” to use to get people to like you. That, by definition, is neediness (we always come back to neediness, don’t we?).

A person who is truly secure and comfortable with being vulnerable is simply expressing themselves and saying, “This is who I am, faults and all. You don’t have to like me for me to be OK with that.”

And when people don’t like you for who you are? Well then, fuck ‘em.

More Articles on Communication and Vulnerability

The One Trait to Look for in a Partner

Some people think my views towards romantic relationships are a little extreme sometimes. And I get it, I often use extreme examples to illustrate my point when it comes to things like values and boundaries. A lot of people think I’m suggesting that you only seek perfection in your love life, which just results in unrealistic expectations, which then results in disappointment because no one is perfect.

Well, of course, everyone has faults. It’s impossible to find someone without some emotional baggage or insecurities.

The real question is, how do we deal with it? In the first two articles of this series, I pointed out how to notice emotionally manipulative behavior and how to avoid people who display it. These are people who have problems and baggage and used them as a weapon with the men they date.

I want to talk about what traits to actively look for in a relationship partner when deciding to date or commit to them, baggage and insecurities and all.

(Spoiler Alert: You want to look for people who manage their insecurities well.)

Learning the Hard Way

My first handful of significant relationships were mired with a lot of manipulation and victim/rescuer dynamics. These relationships were great learning experiences, but they also caused me a great deal of pain that I had to eventually learn from.

It wasn’t until I managed to find myself in relationships with some emotionally healthy women who were able to manage their flaws well that I really learned what to look for when dating someone.

And I discovered in this time that there was one trait in a woman that I absolutely must have to be in a relationship with her, and it was something that I would never compromise on again (and I haven’t). Some of us are unwilling to compromise on superficial traits: looks, intelligence, education, etc. Those are important, but if there’s one trait that I’ve learned you should never compromise on, it’s this:

The ability to see one’s own flaws and be accountable for them.

Because the fact is that problems are inevitable. Every relationship will run into fights and each person will run up against their emotional baggage at various times. How long the relationship lasts and how well it goes comes down to both people being willing and able to recognize the snags in themselves and communicate them openly.

Couple on a bench

Think of your love interest and ask yourself, “If I gave him/her honest, constructive criticism about how I think he/she could be better, how would they react?” Would they throw a huge fit? Cause drama? Blame you and criticize you back? Claim you don’t love them? Storm out and make you chase after them?

Or would they appreciate your perspective, and even if hurts a little or if it’s uncomfortable, even if there was a little bit of an emotional outburst at first, would they eventually consider it and be willing to talk about it? Without blaming or shaming. Without causing unnecessary drama. Without trying to make you jealous or angry.

No?

Then they’re not dating material.

But — here’s the million dollar question — think of that same love interest, and now imagine that they gave you constructive criticism and pointed out what they believed to be your biggest flaws and blind spots. How would you react? Would you brush it off? Would you place the blame on them or call them names? Would you logically try to argue your way out of it? Would you get angry or insecure?

Chances are you would. Chances are the other person would too. Most people do. And that’s why they end up dating each other.

Having open, intimate conversations with someone where you’re able to openly talk about one another’s flaws without resorting to blaming or shaming is possibly the hardest thing to do in any relationship. Very few people are capable of it. To this day, when I sit down with my girlfriend, or my father, or one of my best friends and have one of these conversations, I feel my chest tighten, my stomach turn in a knot, my arms sweat.

It’s not pleasant. But it’s absolutely mandatory for a healthy long-term relationship. And the only way you find this in a person is by approaching the entire relationship — from the moment you first meet them — with honesty and integrity, by expressing your emotions and sexuality without blame or shame, and not degenerating into bad habits of playing games or stirring up drama.

Suppressing or over-expressing your emotions will attract someone who also suppresses or over-expresses their emotions. Expressing your emotions in a healthy manner will attract someone who also expresses their emotions in a healthy manner.

You may think a person like this doesn’t exist. That they’re a unicorn. But you’d be surprised. Your emotional integrity naturally self-selects the emotional integrity of the people you meet and date. And when you fix yourself, as if by some magical cheat code, the people you meet and date become more and more functional themselves. And the obsession and anxiety of dating dissolves and becomes simple and clear. The process ceases to be a long and analytical one but a short and pleasant one. The way she cocks her head when she smiles. The way your eyes light up a little bit more when you talk to him.

Your worries will dissolve. And regardless of what happens, whether you’re together for a minute, a month or a lifetime, all there is is acceptance.

Heed the Law of “Fuck Yes or No”

Years ago, I wrote a post called “Fuck Yes or No”. People liked it. They shared it on Facebook and sent it to their friends. They posted it on their dating profiles. They called their mothers crying and asked why they weren’t taught this in school. They nominated me for a Nobel Prize.

OK, that last part didn’t happen, but the point is that it resonated with a lot of people.

The Law of Fuck Yes or No is quite simple:

The Law of “Fuck Yes or No” states that, in dating and relationships, both parties must be a “fuck yes” about each  other. Why? Because attractive, non-needy, high self-worth people don’t have time for people who they are not excited to be with and who are not excited to be with them.

The Law of Fuck Yes or No applies to meeting and dating someone, sex, long-term relationships, hell, even friendships.

If you meet someone and one or both of you aren’t a “fuck yes” for seeing each other again, that’s a “fuck no.” If you go on a first date and aren’t a “fuck yes” about a second date, that’s a “fuck no.”

And it’s not just idealistic, passionate romance I’m talking about here. You might be going through a rough patch with someone, but you’re both a “fuck yes” for working on it. Awesome. Do that.

Dating advice: fuck yes or no

If you’ve been with someone for years and one or both of you aren’t a “fuck yes” for being together for the foreseeable future, that’s a “fuck no.”

In any long-term relationship, problems arise and arguments are bound to happen. But a good sign of being “fuck yes” with someone is that you still want to be together even when you’re pissing each other off.10

The point isn’t that you won’t have any apprehensions if you’re “the one” for each other. The point is that you find yourselves saying “fuck yes” together for each step in the relationship despite the apprehensions you might have. From the first date to the second date to the 100th date, to doing the naked horizontal electric slide together, to making it “official,” to fighting with each other, to moving in together, to getting married, to buying insurance together, and so on.

When you think about it, the Law of Fuck Yes or No is actually a byproduct of everything we’ve covered so far. Non-needy people who take care of themselves and communicate honestly don’t have time for people who play games or are wishy-washy about being with them. They have too much self-respect and don’t care about what wishy-washy people think of them.

And so, if you take nothing else away from this, just know that the way to find true love is to be the best version of yourself and do it unapologetically and without shame. You’ll attract people into your life who connect with you on your level and, just as importantly, you’ll weed out all the people who don’t.

And that’s the whole point, isn’t it?

Footnotes

  1. Just ask yourself: how often have you thought about being the one as opposed to finding the one?
  2. Researchers have found evidence supporting this “likes-attract” rule. Be amazing, and amazing will come.
  3. And when I say relationships, I’m also talking your sex life. See: Lindau, S. T., & Gavrilova, N. (2010). Sex, health, and years of sexually active life gained due to good health: Evidence from two US population based cross sectional surveys of ageing. BMJ, 340.
  4. The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) has a quick and easy guide on how to get your exercise routine into shape—word play intended.
  5. A strong predictor of personal growth following trauma is a willingness to open up about the trauma in the context of a supportive social network. See: Tedeschi, R. G., & Calhoun, L. G. (2004). Posttraumatic Growth: Conceptual Foundations and Empirical Evidence. Psychological Inquiry, 15(1), 1–18.
  6. For example, cumulative stress can impair your memory as you get older. See: Marshall, A. C., Cooper, N. R., Segrave, R., & Geeraert, N. (2015). The effects of long-term stress exposure on aging cognition: A behavioral and EEG investigation. Neurobiology of Aging, 36(6), 2136–2144.
  7. A 2019 Pew Research Center study found more than half of Americans surveyed believe relationships that begin on a dating site or app are just as successful as those that begin in person.
  8. 35 years of psychology research identify “emotional responsiveness” as a secret to loving and vibrant relationships. See: Treleaven, S. (2018, June 26.) The Science Behind Happy Relationships. Time.
  9. There is also a wildly popular TED talk by Brené Brown on the topic. Worth checking out if you have 20 minutes to spare.
  10. A 2020 study finds across over 11,196 couples that a top predictor of relationship quality is perceived-partner commitment—the extent to which your partner believes you are a “fuck yes” for them and vice versa.