Monday, October 28, 2013


One of the few perks of being middle-aged is that people stop pressuring you to have kids.  I still get the occasional, "you never know: my mom had me when I was 45," but for the most part people have stopped asking.  Not being married helps, too.

Along with the divorces, not having kids is another thing makes me feel like I'm doing something wrong with my life.  You're supposed to have kids--the Bible says so.  And if you're a scientist, then evolutionary theory says so.  In my defense, I did try.  Or at least I didn't try to prevent pregnancy.  But I am relieved that I didn't get pregnant.

It's not that I don't like kids.  I love kids.  I would rather play with the kids at a party than have to interact with the adults.  And I'm really good at playing with them, too.  I get all into it.  It's not hard, since a part of me is really still a child.  I even have a name for my inner child; I call her Sophie.  She is part of the internal family I mentioned in one of my first blogs.

I know some of you may be thinking I'm crazy right now, but the truth is we all have parts of us that almost seem like separate people, and they don't all see eye-to-eye.  That's why we can argue with ourselves about why we've stayed in this terrible relationship for so long or why we ate that entire bag of Oreos.  I am sure you can think of at least one time when you were absolutely dumbfounded about why you made such a terrible decision.  And you probably cursed yourself for doing so, too.

Anyway, Sophie gets along really well with my niece, who is 7.  In fact, just this weekend my niece wanted to pretend that we were sisters.   However, the adult in me finds this level of intensive play exhausting, and I can see why parents go to bed so early.  Perhaps the reason why I am a night owl is because I don't have children.

Even though this is not where I thought I would be at 44, for the most part I am OK with it.  Sophie got to carve a pumpkin with two of my other nieces when I went to BSG, and I got to introduce my youngest niece to football this past weekend.  And she had a great time, even though we lost.

In fact, this post is dedicated to her because she asked me to write about her.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Positive and Negative Feedback, Part 2

So I turned in my first writing assignment today, feeling all happy and accomplished.  I was even fantasizing about how I can put a link in my blog to this article when it gets published.  And then I got an email saying that my article has been reviewed and requires rewrites.

As you know, I am not good with negative feedback, so I tried to prepare myself for the worst:  What if they say it's all wrong?  Then I'll just correct it and give them what they want.  That sounds easy enough.  And then I read the comments. 

I have to give the editor credit; that was the most constructive way possible of saying that my article sucked.  I didn't answer the person's question.  I used examples more appropriate for middle-aged women than the teenagers and young adults who read the website.  I had one good sentence in the entire article.  I didn't use AP format.  I didn't follow the writing guidelines.

I'm sure she was thinking, did you not read any of the materials we sent you?!  I did!  I really did.  Except for the AP manual.  I haven't gotten it in the mail yet.  I really wanted to get started, and I thought, how different can it be from APA or MLA format? 

Would it be unprofessional if I wrote "Oops!" in the notes to the editor section?

My first thought was to quit since I obviously have no idea what I'm doing.  But then I decided to write myself a pep talk: You work closely with an editor for the first 3 assignments for a reason; you're supposed to suck.  In fact, I bet they give writers that bonus after the 3rd article because some people get so demoralized by all the rewrites that they give up.

Then I worked on the rewrite for several hours.  I have another draft but I have no idea whether this version is any better than the first one because I don't trust my judgment anymore.  I guess this is why people are afraid to get their hopes up; the fall is so much higher from the grandiose cloud that I was floating on.

I may not be good with positive feedback, but I am the Mt. Everest climber of impossible tasks.  Knitting pattern that is far more complicated than my skill level?  I'll have it done by Christmas.  My football team is 2-5?  Well, we still have 4 more chances to win!  My tennis team is 1-6?  I'll just pretend that we are in our second season, and we're only down 0-1 in this one.

Sometimes it helps to be a little delusional.  If we made all of our decisions based on what we think we are capable of, we may never take the risk of finding out what is possible.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

I'm offically a writer!

So as a part of this whole book writing thing, I thought I would try to get a job as a freelance writer.  For some reason it never occurred to me that there might be jobs related to writing in psychology that I might actually get paid for; up until now everything I've written has been for free.  I guess that's why psychologists don't make much money--we're not very business-minded.

Apparently in order to secure a book deal you are supposed to build a platform.  From what I can tell this means trying to develop an audience so that I can convince an agent that people will read my book.  Hence, this blog--which I love--and now this writing job, where I'll be writing short articles on the internet answering people's questions about relationship advice.  Luckily the application just asked for my credentials and not my relationship history!

I have to admit, I don't really understand where these articles will be published because I don't go online to look for relationship advice.  I guess I can tell you once I publish one and then everyone needs to go to that site and read it and write to someone--I'll have to find that out, too--and tell them how this is the best piece of advice that you have ever read on relationships and you would like to see more articles by this insightful and talented writer.

In fact, you can also go to all your friends, family members, and random people you have friended on FB and tell them about how awesome this blog is--how you've learned that you're not crazy, or that we're all a little crazy, so you don't really have to feel bad about it.

I also bought a book on how to turn a blog into a book so after I read it I'll let you know about anything else I need you to do to help me get my book published.

Thank you in advance for your help!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Boundaries, Part 2

As I reflect on my day in Big Stone Gap, I am reminded that parents often do know best. Here are just a few of the reasons why it was good to come home:
  1. It is rare for all of my brothers to be here at once, and when I'm with them I feel like I did when we were kids, no matter how old we get.
  2. Karaoke.
  3. I got to carve a pumpkin with two of my nieces, and now they want to make it an annual ritual.
  4. They're filming the movie "Big Stone Gap" on location, and one of the locations is my parents' neighborhood.
  5. Lechon.
  6. The entire Filipino community is reading my blog and they aren't mad at me.  In fact, I'm probably going to get a lot of gigantic wooden spoons and forks for Christmas.
  7. Birthday cake.
  8. It turns out that blogging about not being assertive is a good way to let people know that you don't want to hear that you've gained weight.  
  9. I got to take some great pictures.
  10. Sometimes my family drives me crazy, but at the end of the day, they are also the people who love me the most.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Massages, Part 2

You know those dreams you have where you're naked in public?  For me I'm usually taking a shower outside, and once I realize it I'm like, what the heck?  Why am I out here?  There are people right over there!  Oh well.  I'll just pretend it's a perfectly normal thing to do. 

There are lots of theories for why we have dreams.  The two most common theories are that dreams reveal unconscious conflicts and that dreams are just a by-product of neurons firing in our brain and mean absolutely nothing.

While I think both of these theories are sometimes true, I have a 3rd theory:  sometimes dreams are dress rehearsals for our emotions to prepare us for unusual events.  For example, it's not often that we have an occasion to run for our lives from zombies.  So dreams can be a useful way for end-of-the-world enthusiasts to prepare for the zombie apocalypse without inconveniencing the rest of us.

But what does this have to do with massages, you ask? 

I had my massage today, and it did not go well.  I drank a decaf coffee beforehand because I have GERD and I'm not supposed to have caffeine.  Or chocolate.  Two of my most favorite things in the world.  Usually I just have them anyway, but my acid reflux has been acting up lately so I behaved myself.

I went to the bathroom before my session because another one of my many annoying health problems is that sometimes I have to pee a lot.  Like every 30 minutes or so.  Especially if I've had coffee.  But it was decaf today so I figured one pee should be sufficient.

But no.  Apparently, there is something else in coffee that makes you have to pee, so I had to go badly during the massage.  I kind of have mini panic attacks whenever I have to pee and cannot get to a restroom but I was determined to stay the course and finish my massage.  So I tried all my psychological tricks to keep me focused, but to no avail; I wasn't going to make it.

Unfortunately, the place where I get my massage has no restroom.  They share a space with a real estate agency next door, and that's where the restroom is.  So once I gave in and told her I had to pee, she gave me a robe and I walked barefooted into the real estate agency and peed as fast as I could.  Usually I don't see anyone when I go in there but of course there was a woman at her desk with a clear view of me looking like I'm about to jump in the shower.  Oh, and there were people in the front office of the massage place, too.

 It felt very much like the naked in public dream.

After my massage they apologized for not having a restroom but at least they don't have to pay for that space, ha ha ha!  Whatever.  Not a relaxing massage at all, obviously.

Luckily I've had some practice for publicly humiliating experiences so I decided to blog about it instead of curling up in a ball and hiding from the world.

Olindapully Photography (

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Eye Exams

I love my eye doctor.  He seems to love what he does and enjoys interacting with patients.  The only problem is, every time I have an eye exam I start obsessing about something going wrong with my eyes.

Part of it is definitely me.  I worry about everything, in case you haven't noticed.  First of all, I get stressed out if I can't read the lines that I'm supposed to be able to read.  I know it's not a test but it feels like I'm failing, and I hate failing.  Today I found out that in my left eye I could see far away but not close up, and in my right eye I could see close up but not far away.  I thought, oh no!  My eyes are going in opposite directions!

However, I think part of it is his fault, too, because he gives me way to much information--about eyeball health, glaucoma, retinal tears, detached retinas.  It's sort of like when someone has a phobia but they're fascinated by the thing that they fear.  I want to hear the information so I keep asking him all of these questions but then I worry that I'm going to develop whatever it is he's talking about.

When I turned 40 he told me that at some point in my 40's I would start to develop farsightedness.  He described how it would feel and what corrections could be made once it happened.  On the one hand, I was reassured that my tennis game would not be compromised once I became farsighted.  However, every day I wondered if this was the day it would happen.  Can I see now?  Is this normal vision?  I was constantly giving myself vision tests.

When I turned 43 it started happening.  I had a hard time going back and forth from looking at something close up to something far away.  I couldn't read tiny print.  In my mind, it was the telltale sign that I was officially middle-aged.  I was depressed about this but fully prepared to go in today and find out that it was time for trifocals and accept my old-ladyhood like the warrior that I am.  (More on warriors in a future post.)

But it turns out that this skewed left-eye/right-eye development is to my advantage; it actually makes it possible for me to see both close up and far away.  He said he was going to hold out as long as possible before taking any additional corrective measures, so he didn't make any changes to my prescription.  I passed the test!

After thoroughly examining all other aspects of my eye health, he told me that I have healthy retinas and that most people at my age do not.  So of course I needed to know what distinguished a healthy retina from an unhealthy one and how I would go about rehabilitating my retina if for whatever reason it suddenly became unhealthy.  Because of course now I have to worry that this might happen to me.

By this time he realized that it was not a good idea to give me even positive feedback without some reassurance that I would never experience any deterioration in my eyeball functioning whatsoever.  So he told me that I wouldn't have to worry about unhealthy retinas for at least another 80 years or so.

I'm not sure this is as scientifically accurate as the other information he has given me, but it made me feel better, anyway.

Monday, October 14, 2013


When I was in grad school, everyone talked about how important it was to have good boundaries.  At first I thought, boundaries?  What are those?  I guess that was a sign that I didn't have good ones.

In my defense, Asian cultures have a different definition of boundaries than American culture.  For example, it's perfectly acceptable for any Filipino adult to tell you that you've gained weight and look fat now, that you should have a baby, that maybe you look fat because you're about to have a baby?  OK then you're just fat.  This is one of the downsides of having all of those aunts and uncles that aren't actually related to you.

These kinds of conversations are difficult for many people, and this is where therapists are supposed to be helpful.  In assertiveness training, you learn how to say things like, it hurts my feelings when you say things like that.  Or I'm not comfortable with this conversation. 

However, in Asian cultures, you are expected to be respectful of your elders, so they can say whatever they want to you, but you really don't get to say whatever you want to them in response.  I have found this difficult to explain to my therapists.  Sure you can!  Just tell them.  No big deal.  Except it is a big deal. 

In fact, it's because of this power differential that people engage in passive-aggressive behavior.  You're not allowed to say, well you've gained 20 lbs. yourself!  I guess we're both fat.  Instead you might do something like ask in your most sincere voice, how is your son doing?  The one who got a DUI?  Is he out of rehab yet?  Then they get to be the ones who feel bad about themselves.

Another option is to be completely passive and not go to any Filipino functions.  Or leave early.  Or hide in some room somewhere with your siblings who also don't want to have to answer rude questions and only come out for food.  This is actually the route that I'm more likely to take.

This weekend I am going to a mandatory family gathering.  Since it's so hard for all of my brothers and me to come home at the same time, my parents have decided that they are going to force us all to come home for my nephew's birthday, and no amount of inconvenience is an acceptable excuse. 

I'm nervous about it because my dad keeps asking me if I've lost weight (I have not) and if I'm taking the appetite suppressants he gave me (I am).  I talked to my brother this weekend and my dad is telling him the same thing--that he's fat and needs to eat less.  I think this sudden interest in our weight gain is because he has gained about 20 lbs., but like I said, I'm not allowed to point that out.

I am sure that there is some way to set boundaries even in Asian cultures, but I haven't yet figured out how to do so.  So I'm just going to grab my food and hide out in the TV room and play with my niece.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Uses of Prayer

I often wonder whether God responds to prayers about sports.

I remember watching this football game where Boston College and Notre Dame were playing, and it was really close and dramatic.  I can't remember what year.  Some time in the '90's.  I'm sure there are sports fans out there who remember this game in more detail than I do.  Anyway, they showed the players of both teams on the sidelines, kneeling and holding hands in prayer.  I can't remember who won, but clearly God could not answer the prayers of both teams.

Most of the time I try to pray for "noble" things when it comes to sports.  For example, before my tennis team plays, I'll pray that everyone stays injury-free, that we play to the best of our abilities, and that we are kind to ourselves, our partners, and our opponents. 

And when I'm desperate, I pray that we win.  But since I'm ambivalent about whether this is a good use of prayer, it usually goes something like this:

I know you're busy with more important things and you probably don't intervene in things like sporting events, but if it's OK to pray for, please let my team win.  I read that angels can intervene if you let them, so maybe you could just send one angel our way.  If you say no, I totally understand

It's sort of a neurotic prayer, I know, but I'm a neurotic person, so what did you expect?

Today I really wanted UVA to win.  My prayer was sort of like a conversation with God during our last drive:

God, you must have intervened when Maryland completed that pass on 3rd and 23, so if there's any way you can keep this drive alive for us, please do so.  Please let us get this one win.  We really need it.  In fact, if we win, I'll make my blog about prayer today.

And I have to say, there were some pretty miraculous things that happened to give us a chance to win: calls that went our way, unexpected turnovers on Maryland's part, penalties that helped us complete first downs.  Everything seemed to be poised for an upset.  In the end our 2nd string kicker had a chance to win the game with a field goal, but he didn't make it, so we lost by 1 point. 

It was a heartbreaking loss, but I do believe my prayer was answered.  I think the most we can ask for is to be given the chance to make something happen for ourselves, and we had that.  The rest is up to us.

So I decided to write a blog on prayer, anyway.

P.S.  My friend who is a hard core ND fan knew what game I was talking about:
Nov. 20, 1993:  ND (#1) vs. BC (#17) in the last regulation game of the season; BC won 41-39.

P.P.S.  They just showed Texas A&M players kneeling and holding hands while Johnny Manziel leads them in prayer.  Their kicker makes a field goal with 4 seconds left, beating Ole Miss 41-38.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Tennis Courtships

Finding a tennis partner is a lot like dating; there's this nervousness and excitement about asking someone to play with you, whether they like you, and whether they want to enter a tennis marriage.

Once my friend set me up with one of her colleagues who was a really good tennis player.  He was a 4.5 and I am a 3.5 and we were going to play an 8.0 mixed team together.  The first time we practiced I was really nervous about whether he thought my game was any good.  I got hit in the eye pretty badly by our opponent so I wasn't really able to play my best tennis. 

Afterwards I tried to get the scoop from my friend:  Did he like me?  Did he ask about me?  Did he think I was any good?  Unfortunately, we did not win any matches during the season so I don't think he had that much fun and he never asked me to play again.  I wasn't too upset because he really was out of my league.

In many cases, spouses do not make good tennis partners.  Usually the husband has high expectations for how he believes his wife should play, and this tends to get expressed as criticism on the court. Then the wife will get mad and tell the husband to worry about his own game.  In fact, it's often a useful strategy when playing a married couple to try to get them to fight during the match.

While tennis divorces are not as painful as real divorces, they can cause hurt and angry feelings and potentially end the friendship.  Often tennis marriages end when one player moves up in rating, the pair goes on a long losing streak, or one partner cheats on the other partner by playing in a tournament and/or league with someone else.

I once had a tennis divorce when my partner moved up to 4.0.  While we dominated at 7.0, I was not good enough to hold my own at 8.0.  He started to get frustrated with my game and was asking me to make shots that I didn't possess at the time.  I told him I thought we should both try to find someone stronger to play with and he was surprised and hurt by this.  After some tense conversations, we were able to part on good terms.

Because I live in a small town, you pretty much know everyone's game and who is involved in a tennis relationship.  But if you live in a big city, it might be nice to have a tennis dating website that could help you find a partner.  It could be called and the slogan could be: we'll help you find a winning partnership.

My description might go something like this:

Female 40 and over player with a 3.5 rating looking for a mixed doubles partner to compliment my game.  I'm a lefty with a great backhand and serve and I am crafty with my use of spins and lobs.  I prefer the baseline and play great defense but I am comfortable at the net and will put the ball away when I have the chance.  I like a partner who demonstrates good sportsmanship, has a positive attitude on the court, and never stops fighting for the win.

That makes me sound like an appealing partner, don't you think?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Unathletic Athlete

Have I mentioned that I love tennis?

Even though I am a pretty decent player, I don't consider myself an athlete, which people find confusing.  How can you play tennis and not be an athlete?  That makes no sense.

Well, when you say it out loud it doesn't!  That's why you go to therapy.  Because the mere act of saying something out loud helps you realize that some long-held belief has no logical basis whatsoever.

Nevertheless, there are certain things I believe an athlete should be able to do:
  • They should be able to catch a ball with their non-dominant hand.  All of the tennis players who were once softball players can do this. 
  • They should be able throw a tennis ball over the fence and onto the court when they are fetching a ball for a player on the court. 
  • They should have an NTRP rating of at least a 4.0 or higher.
  • They should be able to play multiple sports.
  • As a child, they were chosen early in the team member selection process during gym class. 
However, there is some evidence that disputes the validity of my criteria:
  • Tennis does not require being able to catch or throw the ball without the aid of a racket.
  • There are players at the 2.5, 3.0, and 3.5 levels that win national championships.
  • Michael Jordan was not a very good baseball player.  I don't think he was that good at golf, either.
  • When Michael Jordan was in high school, he didn't make the basketball team.
  • Even athletes vary in how "athletic" they are.
The problem is, feelings don't have to be logical, so reason isn't always useful in changing my mind (see Positive and Negative Feedback post).  In cases like this, I often tell clients that sometimes believing in yourself requires a leap of faith.

So I'm working on my jumping ability, and it's getting better.  Maybe I'm an athlete after all.

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Courage to Be Vulnerable

There are several messages that I preach in therapy and in presentations, and one is that vulnerability is a sign of strength and helps us feel connected to others.  That's a tough sell in a culture where it's all about cultivating the best image of ourselves as possible. 

Facebook is a good example of this.  We can post pictures just of our face so that no one can see how much weight we've gained.  We can even Photoshop the picture if we really want to look good.  We post happy family and friend pictures where we're doing interesting things and visiting cool places.  We post Happy Anniversary or Happy Birthday messages to our wonderful husband/wife/daughter/son, who we are lucky to have in our lives, and they might not be able to read them because they're not on FB.  Or aren't yet able to read.

Don't get me wrong; I'm guilty of all of these things, too.  I want people to see me in the best light.  I want to hide my mistakes, my flaws, my deep, dark secrets.

It has been my goal to write a book for a long time, but every time I start to write I am paralyzed by that voice in my head that says I suck.  Who do you think you are, thinking you can write?  Like you have anything worthwhile to say.  You're family is going to be mad at you for talking about them.  People will lose respect for you once they see how crazy you are. 

I am beginning to appreciate how brave it is when writers put themselves out there--their work, their thoughts, their lives--knowing that the world will judge them. But I also have a better understanding of why they do it.  It's because they want to speak the truth.  They want to be able to say, this is who I am, and I don't have to apologize for it--even if they're cringing as they write it.

I started this blog last week because it was time for me to let people read my writing.  At first I was going to write it but not publish it.  Then I decided to publish it but not put it on FB.  Then I decided I was only going to post the funny, light ones on FB.  But that would defeat the purpose of the blog. 

This blog is about learning how to accept all of myself, regardless of what other people might think of me as a result.  In doing so, hopefully it will help other people do the same.  So I'm going to publish this post, too, even though it's the hardest one I've written so far.

P.S.  If you're interested in the idea of sharing your vulnerability, check out Brene Brown's book, "Daring Greatly."  She also has a TED talk on the subject.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

You Know You're Filipino if...

When I was younger, I was embarrassed by all of the things that my family did because we were Filipino; other kids were quick to point out that these things were not "normal." 

For example, most of my friends took baths.  Based on TV commercials, adults took showers.  In my family, we filled a small basin of water and took a "bath" from that.  Once I became aware of this discrepancy, I told my mom I wanted to take baths.  The conversation would go something like this:

Me:  I want to start taking baths.  All my friends are doing it.

Mom:  No.  That's a waste of water.

Me:  But you want me to fill the sink with water when I do dishes instead of letting the water run.  Isn't that like giving the dishes a bath?

Mom:  No.

Me:  What about showers? 

Mom:  No.  Still too much water.

Then one day I realized that she couldn't stop me from taking a shower so I started doing it anyway.

There were a lot of other things that my family did that made me feel different from my friends.  Little did I know, other Filipino families were doing the exact same things; it wasn't abnormal at all! 

These days I take pride in these shared experiences.  I'm sure my Filipino friends and family could come up with more items, but this is what came to mind just off the top of my head:
  • multiple variations of the Last Supper, Virgin Mary, Crucifix, Rosary, and Nativity Scene all over the house
  • kitchens with a gigantic spoon and fork for decor
  • food eaten with your fingers or a normal-sized spoon and fork, but no knife
  • rice, garlic, soy sauce, and fish sauce (patis) for every meal
  • fish with body intact, including head
  • roasted pig (lechon) with body intact, including head 
  • a Karaoke machine
  • gigantic straw mats big enough for an entire family to sleep on
  • floor space large enough for line dancing
  • lots of uncles and aunts that you aren't actually related to
Recently I met up with one of my Filipino friends for our annual get-together and she said that she was looking for a gigantic spoon and fork for her kitchen.  What a great idea!  Instead of comfort food, it's sort of like comfort decor. 

Maybe I can ask my parents to give me a set for Christmas.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Karaoke Pusher

I love Karaoke.  And it's not because I'm some great singer.  I just love to sing.  And when it's done in the privacy of your home in front of the people who know you best, it's not as scary as you might think.

This Friday we are having our second Decade Karaoke Party.  Not everyone likes Karaoke.  At least that's what they claim.  So I often have to trick people into singing.  Everyone has an inner rock star, and one of my missions in life is to help people let this part out.  I would have been a great drug dealer, but fortunately I choose to use my powers of influence for good instead of evil.

Here's how I do it:
  • I start off the party with a hard song and sing it badly.  Not on purpose.  I'm really just not that good.
  • I ask them what kind of song they would sing if they were brave enough to do it.  I have a huge repertoire of songs so there's a good chance the song will be in there.
  • I suggest that we play the song, just to see what it sounds like.
  • I volunteer to sing it.
  • I have 2 microphones, so I coax them into holding the other mic, or at least touch it, just to see how it feels.
  • I suggest that the whole group sing and that the person hold the mic far away from their mouth and sing quietly.
By the next Karaoke party, they're usually singing solos.  In fact, one person bought a Karaoke machine and hid it so his wife wouldn't know that he had become a closet Karaoke singer.  He hosted the first Decade Karaoke Party. 

If I could, I would have a Karaoke machine in my office and I would use singing as a therapy technique.  Kind of like what Tracy Ullman did as Ally's therapist on Ally McBeal.  She made Ally choose a theme song, but I think it's more important to sing in front of someone.  It's freeing to know that you can enjoy doing something without worrying about being good at it or looking foolish. 

Once you let go of those fears, anything is possible.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Positive and Negative Feedback

Have you ever noticed that when someone says something negative about you it carries much more weight than when someone says something positive about you? 

One psychological theory for why this happens is that when something negative happens this is a signal that we need to change something:  be more attentive to our partner, do a better job at work, pick the spinach out of our teeth.  When someone says something positive, everything is status quo and we just go about our business.

In fact, because negativity weighs more than positivity, the magic ratio for happiness is 3 to 1:  three positive occurrences for every negative occurrence.  So whenever someone says something mean to you, find 3 people who like you and ask them to say something nice about you.

For me personally, three positive comments are not sufficient to undo the self-criticism that occurs after one negative comment.  I need a ratio of something like 50:1, so brutal is that voice in my head that tells me that I suck.

When I was teaching online, I would have 50 students in individual tutorials, which is a lot of work, especially on top of my very stressful full-time job.  Most students would give me positive feedback.

Here's how I would treat their feedback as I went through my emails:  I really enjoyed your class!  I signed up for another one next term. (Delete)  I loved the  paper assignments.  I felt like I learned a lot about myself. (Delete)  I really loved the textbook.  I'm going to keep it rather than sell it back. (Delete)

Here's what would happen when I got negative feedback:  I thought the exams were hard and that you did not give me enough feedback on how to improve my grade.  I'm going to complain about you to my advisor right now.  (Reread 10 times.  Did I do something wrong?  I told her the same thing I tell every student after an exam.  Maybe I just suck as a teacher.  Maybe they're going to get mad at me and fire me.  Maybe this student is just crazy.  No, it must be my fault.) 

And I would obsess about this for, well the rest of my life, really.  I remember every mistake I've ever made, even the ones that happened when I was 5 (like stealing that pack of gum from K-Mart).  For obsessive people, there is no statute of limitations.  You can be charged at any time for real or imagined crimes.

But I have learned some strategies that help me balance the scale between positivity and negativity. 
  • Whenever I remember a negative comment from a student years ago and start thinking about what a terrible teacher I was, I remind myself that the other 49 students said that they enjoyed the class. 
  • When I start beating myself up because I'm obsessing over a negative comment that a student made years ago, I tell myself that I'm not crazy;  I just have a really good memory, and this is one of the downsides of remembering everything.
  • When I get positive feedback I read it over and over again, tell myself to take it in and give myself permission to believe it's true.  I tell someone about it to make the feeling last.
  • When all else fails, I take an Ativan because my psychiatrist said that's what I should do.
Today I was looking through the registration form for what I thought was a new client, and there is a section where we ask if they've been in therapy before and if they found it helpful.  She wrote that she had seen me in therapy previously for several months and found it extremely helpful, that she hasn't been able to find a therapist who she trusts since then.

I have read the comment several times so far and am trying to allow myself to believe that I am, in fact, a good therapist.  In this moment, it's working.