Last Sunday, I went to a free event in New York City called Conversations New York. Over a hundred strangers came together on a sunny, breezy day in Bryant Park behind the main branch of the New York Public library. All around me, people lounged on the lawn eating lunch, playing ping pong, and reading books and magazines at the outdoor reading room. For the … Continue reading Connecting with Risk-takers
Although we work harder in life when we believe we’re the master of our fate, if we don’t acknowledge the role of luck, we’re bound to be either heartbroken over our perceived failures, or insensitive to the misfortune of others. While raising two sons alone as a divorced mother, I attended a couple of high school reunions and wondered what I’d done wrong. My former classmates … Continue reading The Role of Chance and Luck in Life
I hear some lawyers say, “I don’t like other lawyers. They’re money hungry and unscrupulous.” I hear some police officers say, “I can’t stand other cops. The job is the center of their life and identity. Not me.” I hear some psychologists say, “Psychologists are crazy. I stay away from them in my personal life.” I hear some teachers say, “Keep me away from other teachers. They’re bossy … Continue reading Bias Against Our Own Kind
I was so terrified about speaking up in school that if I had to give a presentation, I’d spend the whole class thinking of what I had to say. I’d become deaf to what everyone else was saying. After I spoke, my deafness persisted. My heart pounded as I numbly replayed my mistakes, and I shuddered at the memory of my faltering voice. People sometimes say, “I have low self-esteem.” Does that mean they don’t like … Continue reading Self-Esteem is Overrated
I met a man, I’ll call him Martin, who was devastated about how his marriage had ended. “After 30 years and 2 kids,” he said, looking baffled, “my wife left me for another woman. How could I not know she was gay?” “What’s the worst thing about this loss for you?” I asked. “It’s bad enough that my marriage is over. We never had a close physical relationship anyway. I … Continue reading When You Lose Faith in Yourself
I used to teach a night class at the local college about the history of social welfare in America. One of the evenings was devoted to Social Justice and Discrimination. We discussed prejudice and stereotypes. Students seemed to think that while negative stereotypes were evil, positive stereotypes were a good thing. Jews are smart. Black people are great musicians and athletes. Asians are math geniuses (even though they are abysmal … Continue reading Positive Stereotypes are Negative
I adored my mother’s father. Grandpa was poor, money-wise, but rich with his gifts. They weren’t board games, dolls, or pretty dresses, which I had plenty of. His gifts cost almost nothing. A walnut in a shell became a ball to toss across a room and a missile to knock down a pyramid of playing cards. Grandpa taught me to play cat’s cradle with the string … Continue reading Gifts from Grandpa
It’s one thing to be criticized by others. It’s quite another to do it to ourselves. Is it always a bad thing? I had a client who told me she was a bumbling, stumbling klutz. She constantly tripped over her own feet, walked into furniture, and knocked statues over. “You’re a clumsy idiot!” she’d berate herself. “Don’t ever try dancing. You’ll look like a complete fool.” In a New York Times review … Continue reading Self-Criticism: Who’s your worst enemy?
We all hate when someone expresses their displeasure with our appearance, behavior, or something we’ve produced. We usually jump to our defense. But learning to use criticism to our benefit is one of the most important things we can learn in life. It’s hard to hear that our story, picture, new jacket, or haircut is not quite right, according to someone else. But it’s always useful. Always? Even if the person … Continue reading Criticism is useful, not insulting
We think we know how other people see us, but this view is only a projection of our own self-image. It fluctuates over time. Sometimes we think we look hot, sometimes ghastly. We’re proud we sounded so smart, or we want to crawl under an invisibility cloak when we’ve acted like an idiot. As a psychotherapist I spend my time watching and listening to people, deciding what I could say or … Continue reading How do others see us?