Being Single on Valentine’s Day

February 7, 2011

Being Single on Valentine's Day

At Princeton MarketFair, my local mall in NJ, there is a display window that announces “V-Day is Me Day.” The ad is a not too subtle way to encourage their customers to splurge on themselves on Valentine’s Day and hopefully increase sales.

As I thought about the slogan I thought this might be a good way to encapsulate how a person who is not in a relationship can deal with Valentine’s Day.  Next to New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day is one of the most difficult days to navigate if you are single.  Often as a psychotherapist when trying to help a client figure out the status of a relationship, I would ask “What are your plans for New Year’s Eve, or Valentine’s Day?”.  These 2 days are for friends, and “the significant other” in your life, and less reliant on family ties.

If you are not in a relationship on Valentine’s Day, viewing “V-day” as a new beginning to start loving yourself is a great way to move forward.

Determine whether you are ready to be in a relationship.  If you think that you are ready, you must be able to love yourself and have a strong sense of self esteem.  This is easier said than done.  People usually feel that if they are in a relationship then they would have a better sense of self esteem.  This is the classic dilemma, “What came first? . . . the chicken, or the egg?”, or in the case of relationships “What comes first? . . . our self esteem, . . . or the romantic relationship which would make us feel better about ourselves?”

I would propose that although it may be easier to have a strong sense of self esteem if you are in a good relationship, you increase your chances of being in a good relationship if you can develop a better sense of self esteem first.

Developing a resilient sense of self esteem should be our life goal.  I do not believe that any of us has a perfect sense of self esteem, but we should always be trying to improve ourselves. How do we do that?  Start by feeling good about what is good about your life.  Focus on positive relationships that you have with family, friends, coworkers, or fellow students.  If you feel that you do not have enough good relationships, improve the relationships that already exist while also trying to find new friends by joining support groups, getting more involved in a spiritual community, or taking courses.

At some point you will need to begin to make yourself open to new, possibly romantic relationships.  However, this often will involve anxiety, uncertainty, the risk of being rejected, or possibly worse, the risk of rejecting someone without knowing if a better opportunity for another relationship will come along again.  All of these possibilities will be difficult to handle, but will be less difficult if you already have begun to work on your self esteem, and have a stronger network of friends to lean on. Listen to Michael Buble’s song “Haven’t Met You Yet” for some inspiration.

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Snow, snow everywhere. What are we to do?

January 30, 2011

In the NYC area we are experiencing one of the snowiest winters on record.  Usually, the first snow of the season is a “light dusting” in late November or early December.  Combining with all the Christmas lights and decorations the white snow helps put us in the “Christmas Spirit”.  Not this year.  No snow until the day after Christmas when we got an unexpected blizzard, and it feels like the snow just keeps coming.

People on Facebook who normally write as if everything is perfect in their lives are now writing profanity laced entries about their struggles with the snow. Mental Health experts are getting quoted on TV regarding how continuing snowstorms are causing a state of chronic stress which lowers our resistance to infections and worsens depression. And what happened to your New Year’s resolution to jog every morning?

I remember one winter when I just moved to Manhattan and I had a goal to run every morning.  No sooner did I set my goal, and a cold wave hit with a wind chill reading of -5 degrees.  Without a gym, I pondered what I would do.  Then I took action.  I double layered my running clothes, put Vaseline all over my face and went out for a run.  Forty-five minutes later I got back to my apartment and I was soaked in sweat. I felt like I had triumphed over the weather.

Psychologists and other helping professionals often reference “The Serenity Prayer” which is the common name for an originally untitled prayer by the philosopher/theologian Reinhold Niebuhr.  The best-known form is:

“God, grant me the serenity

To accept the things I cannot change;

Courage to change the things I can;

And wisdom to know the difference.”

When it comes to snow and cold weather, we have no control over the temperature, or the snow.   This is the acceptance part. We can change our response by going to Home Depot and getting everything we need to handle the aftermath of the storm better.

However, most importantly, we can change our attitude toward snow. Try to look at the snow from a child’s perspective.  Go skiing, snowboarding, or sledding.  Go out and shoot pictures you will enjoy viewing during next summer’s heatwave.

I have observed that during snowstorms, and other crises, neighbors pull together to try to help each other out more than usual. Our response to snow might also make us grow stronger, and in the long run, make it even easier to achieve our goals despite temporary delays.

Keep on keeping on

January 23, 2011

If I thought only about keeping New Year’s Resolutions, I would have already failed to keep my New Year’s resolution of blogging once per week. I wrote my first post on 1/1 and 23 days later I am writing my 2nd. If I thought only in terms of resolutions, I would have said to myself “Oh well, I’ll try again next year.”, and I would have stopped.

Instead, what I have done was to look at my original goal and say that maybe it needs to be revised. Often you have other goals competing for your attention or stressors that you did not anticipate when you set your goal. Often other people that you have responsibility for like children, aging parents, or demanding bosses will redirect your life and goals more than you planned.

The ability to persist and adapt in the face of challenges to your goals is very essential. Try to set aside time daily, or at least weekly, when you can evaluate what you are doing well, and what you may need to do to change. I remember the words from one of the books by Robert Allen that help me keep on track — “Plan your work, then work your plan”.

Set goals to inspire you

January 1, 2011

This is a perfect time to set goals

Happy New Year! The purpose of this blog is to provide helpful info and motivate you to achieve more in your life.  Although this info may  not be new to you, hopefully it is arranged in a way that helps you take more control of your life.  The main goal is to motivate and inspire you.

Most of us try to have New Year’s resolutions but as soon as we fail to keep our resolution, our attitude usually is “Oh well, maybe I’ll try again next year.” Instead I would suggest that you set up goals that help you set direction for your life.  In football there is a “goal line”,  and “goalposts” which serve as visual images to motivate your team to score.

Similarly, in our life you should strive to have goals which serve as “goalposts” to keep us moving in the right direction.  Goals can be set at anytime but usually the beginning of the year is a likely time to start.  Other times may be on your birthday,  the beginning of a new semester if you are in school, starting a new position in your career, or beginning a job search.

How do you set goals? There is no clear cut answer. Various terms, such as dreams, goals, objectives, tasks, or plans are often used to refer to this goal planning process.  Some writers may make various distinctions between all these different terms.  In general when starting this process you want to go from more vague or general ideas (dreams) to more specific items (objectives, tasks) that you can accomplish which might resemble a to-do list.

Others have proposed different ways of thinking about goals.  One idea I find useful is to ask yourself, “Where do I see myself one year from now?”.  The difference between where you want to be and where you are now can help establish your goal.

Some writers encourage you to focus on just one goal while others encourage you to set goals in various areas of your life.  I prefer the later method.  I usually set goals in areas of my professional development, health & fitness, spiritual/ personal development, and financial goals.  Do whatever seems to fit your needs.

Try to keep your goals positive rather than focus on the elimination of something negative in your life.  For example, rather than have a goal of not overeating, have a goal that you will eat more vegetables.  In most situations a positive goal will be clearer to follow than a goal where you are telling yourself not to do something.

One way that I have used is to start with a stack of index cards. Write 1 potential goal on each index card. Just start writing as many cards as you can.  Then begin to sort the cards and see if certain themes appear.  By the end of this process some goals hopefully will emerge.

Do not obsess on getting this process perfect. Otherwise you will never start. At some point you want to write your goals down.  Put them down on pieces of paper that you might have in your pocket, or on restaurant napkins. Get a special notebook. Type them into your computer. As Nike reminds us in their ads, “Just Do It.”

Disclaimer

The comments made here represent the opinions of the author and do not represent the psychology profession or any professional organization. The comments made here are not meant as a source of psychological  advice for your specific condition or situation. Those seeking psychological or coaching advice for their specific issues are advised to consult with their psychological professional or seek out their personal coach or psychologist. The author is not responsible for the contents of any external sites that are linked to in this blog.