4 Ways to be Empowered in the Dating World

A few months ago, my friend Vera and I were dating guys who were both 30, employed and highly communicative in the first few weeks of dating. Then for reasons unbeknownst to us, these fellows stopped answering our calls. Shocker!

So when we went off skiing one afternoon, we vented our frustration to almost everyone in our path — including Bill, the front desk guy at the ski-rental shop. It would seem unreasonable to divulge our personal stories so freely, but love is an emotional game, and sometimes it feels eerily safe to reveal your deep secrets to someone who knows little of your life.

My friend Vera began telling him our dilemma, “Both these guys just stopped talking. Like bam!” Vera said. “Can I get a heads up or something?” Bill just looked at her blankly, as she tried to then distract herself by toying with the bracelets on her wrist. Then he asked what she said to him before he stopped answering her calls.

“I apologized for answering his text one day late. I was too busy to respond right away so I apologized.”

“That’s the problem,” Bill answered. “You apologized. Men hate that. If I had a girlfriend, I would lose interest in her if she apologized.”

Here I began to regret our decision to divulge our dating issues to Bill. I thought it presumptuous of him to assume all men disproved of apologies from women. So I got confrontational.

“So you can speak for all men out there? You’re 24 with no girlfriend.”

“I know more than you. And I don’t have a girlfriend because my ex-girlfriend was a whore who cheated on me with some guy in college.”

“Well, I know you don’t like apologies. But I imagine even the most apology-hating guy in the world would want a sorry after his beloved girlfriend banged another guy. Don’t you think?”

Our conversation ended shortly after.

Looking back I would not have said this. It was mean. Plus it was presumptuous of me to assume that he would want an apology even after his girlfriend cheated. I was just reacting off a comment that angered me.

This brings me to a point of frustration because worth is not comparative. Yet people like Bill imply that our desirability is contingent on certain factors, and that we must adhere to these standards if we yearn to be loved by another.

“Guys don’t like this” or “Girls hate this”, are opinions made fact — for the most part. I am sure there are some traits that men and women generally like or dislike in the opposite sex, but I imagine even the most seemingly unattractive trait in someone is loved by another person in the world.

Judgments are hurtful. But I imagine the pain would be more tolerable if these judgments were actually useful. We are constantly told what men and women want by friends, family, TV movies, etc., but do these “tidbits” really help us attract more compatible mates in the dating world?

Askmen.com, a reputable online men’s forum, argues that men consider apologies to be over-appeasing, but then claims that men want respect from women in relationships.

I’m confused. Are apologies not a form of respect in certain situations? If I punch my boyfriend in the face for pissing me off, is it over appeasing to then apologize for my behavior? I understand that sorry can be unattractive to certain people…like Bill, but why not personalize the feeling to the individual instead of making the opinion a fact?

Therefore I think we must change our mindset in the dating world. The dating world is rough, but if we change our approach, I think we could attract more compatible mates and move past those who bring negativity into our lives. Check out these tips!

1. Prioritize Your Needs: When we are preoccupied with meeting our partners’ needs, we use the relationship for self-validation. We want our partners to assure us we are worthy of their love. When we prioritize our own needs, we want to receive love and respect in a relationship, so we attract people who value this give and take dynamic, rather than people who are only concerned with getting their own needs met.

2. Regard Judgments as Opinions: It is hard to invalidate others’ judgments, especially when we struggle with our self-esteem. But judgments are essentially opinions. While there are aspects of a person’s character that are objective, those traits are still perceived differently by different people. A neurotic woman may seem crazy to one man and passionate to another. So if negative connotation is attached to someone’s judgment of you (which is usually the connotation in our judgments of others), regard this as his/her opinion. This can help develop an otherwise loving relationship. If Bill is a loving partner and he spews out his frustration with apologies judgmentally, it would improve the relationship if his girlfriend personalized the judgment. She could then conceive how her behavior affected him, and communicate with him in a way that does not evoke that response. This mindset can also help us identify a toxic partner. If Bill’s girlfriend personalizes his judgment, she can speculate that he may generalize his opinion to keep her fixated on meeting a certain standard. Then she is more apt to leave because she spots his manipulative behavior as the issue in the relationship, not her overly apologetic behavior.

3. Regard Rejection as Incompatibility: It is easy to feel inadequate when we are rejected. But rejection signals a lack of compatibility in relationships. If Vera’s date disproved of her apology, then he is not the man for her. If we take these “rejections” too personal, we lose sight of how these experiences can help us find a more compatible mate. After being “rejected,” Vera now knows she is best suited for someone who is accepting of her apologetic nature. Her partner may like or dislike these apologies, but if he does not love and accept her with this trait, she will always feel a sense of rejection in the relationship.

4.Give it Time: We can never know the quality of a relationship without giving it time. If a guy or girl doesn’t answer the phone or text back, there are a multitude of reasons why. We cannot assume she is uninterested nor can we assume he is playing hard to get. We can only discern if this person will be a compatible mate if we give the relationship time and patience.

Most importantly, I think we must develop our sense of self-worth in the dating world. It becomes easier to prioritize our needs and invalidate others’ harsh judgments when we are consciously aware of what we deserve as human beings.

This is hard. We have grown so accustomed to meeting others’ standards that we may not know what we want in a relationship. But in learning to love ourselves, we look for partners who will love us in return, and write off those who will bring negativity and judgment into our lives.

So envision a dating experience that is peaceful. That is successful. That does not allow judgment and rejection to ruin our hopes of finding the perfect mate. A dating experience that is only possible if we change our mindset in this game we call love.

You can also read this post on Huff Post Women here.

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Channeling Sexual Energy into Productive Energy

Sex. One of the greatest motivational forces in life. Our sexual impulses control so much of what we do, how we act, and the choices we make. But if not properly harnessed, can lead to great destruction.

Sexual energy is what drives this urge. It is a life-energy. The vibe we give off when we interact with others. The way a woman speaks or the way a man glares. A mode of communication that transcends even the intellectual and emotional realms of human interactions.

It is a force that we feel…

Yet oftentimes, we channel this energy into…sex. This is important; without sex our species would’ve died out long ago. But if not controlled, this action can create gender imbalances in society. I would argue some of the world’s greatest social, political & economic issues are somewhat rooted in male & female inequality.

Sexual dilemma is arguably the most significant human conflict. It is the way we question the gender roles in any given society: male & female expectations.

Advertisements, TV shows, movies all imply that a woman’s greatest significance is in her sexual allure. Standards of attractiveness may vary by region, but whatever is considered ‘sexy’ is arguably the greatest measure of female desirability throughout the world.

Women are susceptible to these standards. They understand the value of being attractive, and use their sexuality to their advantage. To an extent, this is validating. Flirting with a cop to get out of a ticket. Dressing provocatively to get into exclusive parties.  But in the quest to be truly gratified, this rather one-dimensional persona is paradoxically dis-empowering to women. Any hooker or stripper can attest to this.

Men’s own sexual struggle would render them clueless in this matter. Their intense sexual desires drive them to penetrate as many attractive females as possible, even while they are committed to one. It is a near impossible feat for a man to humanize a woman who has sexualized herself for his validation. He will only use her for sex.

So in the quest to be socially accepted, women are paradoxically self-sabotaging their own empowerment. Men neurologically struggle to multi-facet women who are sexualized, and women fear social rejection if they multi-facet themselves.  In the process, qualities that would otherwise yield to women’s full empowerment—intellect, assertion, independence—may not fully develop.

This is actually dis-empowering for men as well. If a man constantly sexualizes a woman, he is not prompted to develop feelings for her. Unless he is in touch with his femininity.

This is not the fault of any one gender: it is merely the imbalance of the two.

So in the process of attracting sex (women) and pursuing sex (men), nothing too significant gets accomplished. What is typically depicted as the most gratifying means of sexual release actually perpetuates ‘use’ and ‘abuse’ in male & female relationships. Women use their sexuality to get what they want, and men abuse that authority.

This is not to imply that sex is wrong or bad. It is a great mode of communication, creating some of the most mind-blowing physical, emotional, and spiritual experiences. It has just been misconstrued as the only satisfying method of sexual release. If not for those culturally imposed standards of ‘sexual’ acceptability (aka gender roles), both men and women would be able to embrace a much wider range of their sexuality.

The cycle can only be broken if we consider other outlets of sexual release. We can then transduce our sexual energy into productive energy. The process is all very specific to the individual—it usually occurs once the current system in one’s life crumbles.

In my own sexual dilemma, I found myself deficient in many areas of life: relationships, jobs, money. I repressed masculine traits that would’ve otherwise empowered me if I hadn’t sacrificed them for social acceptance. Up against the world, I seemed contented—but inside I was dying with the one-dimensional female role I assumed.

So I made a vow that I would change. I channeled energy that was once expended on sexual allure into duty. A purpose. A responsibility. I started writing, created a business, and advocated human rights. All of which allowed me to reveal those masculine qualities I suppressed for years.

Perhaps this makes me less ‘sexy’. I’m fully aware that assertion, intellect, and independence are not the stereotypical energies that men embrace in women. And women embrace in themselves. Yet I believe we resist traits that we judge in ourselves. And any similar resistance is perhaps the greatest signal of what energies in ourselves we have not yet fully developed.

So I encourage men & women to openly embrace their gender conflicts! To explore the full range of their sexuality and consider other outlets of sexual release.  Transducing sexual energy into productive energy…

In the process, perhaps we can also redefine our notion of human desirability. Sex will always define us to an extent—we cannot help but to measure people based on their sexual allure. But as we expand our sexuality, we may also broaden the range of traits we consider desirable in others. Creating altogether, a more gender balanced society…

Check out this article on Huff Post Style

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The Gift of Meditation: Finding Freedom from Within~


To break free from pain, we must surrender to it.

There was a time when freedom was a danger to me—or perhaps my perception of freedom was the true danger. Left to my own devices, I was so willingly self-destructive, so consciously aware of the self-harm I inflicted, that I was seldom shocked by the outcome of any late night debauchery.

If there was any shame, I could only identify my wild and unyielding emotions as the source.

Yet, the illusion I broke free from in my own self-destruction perpetuated the behavior for years more. At least in being black-out drunk, I emerged as the champion of my own struggle—a self-proclaimed breakaway from all things I deemed repressive. Structure, rules, judgement, pleasing others—all became the worries of someone else; someone who cared. Because unlike them, I could be elsewhere…

Or so I thought.

But the day soon came that I was humbled. As I entered a confinement that forced upon me the silence I secretly loathed, no distraction was available to numb my pain: no drugs, no alcohol, no sex—nothing. In those days, I questioned my concept of freedom—that I could be the hero of my own sob-story, resisting societal structure, family rules, job bullshit and still tremble at the thought of silence.

At this time, someone told me my problem. His brutal honesty was the best and worst gift:

“You’re young. You think  you can handle all your drama. But you can’t handle shit. And one day, you’ll surrender and accept what little control you have.”

I’ll admit it was a coarse relaying, but I couldn’t deny his truth—I proved I could handle nothing. My concept of freedom was totally self-defeating.

But his truth caused great stress. It catapulted me into a weird transition: learning what freedom was not, but not yet knowing its face. It was only my encounter with meditation that gave me an answer: I externalized a shame that could only be internally healed. I could only be at peace if I fought the violence within.

So I began.

I closed my eyes and relaxed my body.

At first there was little clarity, as my mind was bombarded with doubtful voices: ”You can’t handle this, you’re weak.” As the meditations deepened, so did the voices. The emotional blocks to my inner freedom intensified with this understanding of presence–the idea that I could be conscious without pain.

The voices then became louder still, now resonating with memories I’d buried for years, angry to be exposed, analyzed, and—most frightening of all—understood. I was tempted to resist—wishing those demons out of existence, wanting to fight them back with the same violence they lashed at me with mentally.

But I refused to give in.

I intuitively believed this would yield the same outcome as before, in spite of the seemingly “different” or “authentic” way I chose to battle it. Just the alternative—non-resistance—was counterintuitive, as if I would be held even more captive than before.

I took the chance. I attribute it completely to faith. I was majorly convinced this would take me to a place I’d resisted for years: the derivative of my pain, created by distortions and lies. But, I trusted something—perhaps it was the old man who so self-assuredly foresaw my surrender at a time when I thought I was strong.

So I closed my eyes, focused myself…and then surrendered.

At first there was rush of pain, as if the dam of my resistance finally broke—nothing left to hold back the emotion. In moments, the emotions leveled, and I became someone other than the sufferer. I became the spectator, the watcher—the witness of the pain, not the host in which it thrived.

My truth finally emerged: I was not my pain.

It was an eerie transition. This new identity emerged—one deplete of unconsciousness. Yet, I can honestly recall true non-resistance to this change. I never felt so much peace. But it can only occur if we surrender to the pain, of which our faith in presence can bring. The fight back makes the pain grow stronger, sometimes even convincing us it is us.

That is the gift of meditation, whether it’s labeled as prayer, self-discovery, or healing. It’s the idea that we can be free within ourselves, even when we are subject to repressive rules or regulations, of which I could only know by “escaping” the outside, and still being captive inside.

I could only break free by facing the silence.


Check out this article on Huffington Post Healthy Living and the Elephant Journal


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Why Our Obsession with Perfection Makes Us So Imperfect

After about two years outside the workplace, I was expecting some craziness with my new job. But within the first, I was nearly drained. It wasn’t so much the workload that tired me; compared to my previous jobs, the work responsibilities were quite elementary. It was instead the interactions with both employees and customers that left me numb at the end of the day.

Being in a call center, I was the receiving end of angry customers, who demanded info about their wellness program, and then answerable to even angrier supervisors, who gave dirty looks and mocking emails when their assistance was needed. Looking back, it was like a catch 22. In spite of my efforts, I couldn’t seem to please anyone, just listened to bitching and moaning for eight hours a day. But I think the greater challenge was dealing with their standard of perfection — the idea that work should never be flawed.

In many of these interactions, it was minimally important if I did something right. Rather, it seemed my level of competency relied mainly how much I faltered… even if it rarely happened. I could do everything right, but once I sent the email, asked for the wrong info, used the wrong tone, it was like I was all bad. Yelled at, chastised, even belittled at times if I couldn’t uphold this standard of perfection. And I found that even when I did repent, it was like they wanted something more. Perhaps a more deeply satisfying expression of remorse or embarrassment? But in these times, all I could say was, “Yes I fucked up. I’m just not… perfect.”

This idea of perfection — no flaws, no issues, no problems — seems to infiltrate all our lives at one time or another. And like the yearning for perfection in the workplace, we also yearn for perfection in other aspects of our lives, whether it is  a perfect family, perfect spouse, perfect job, or some other kind of perfect life situation. And living in a society that embraces achievement, it’s no surprise that many Americans feel compelled to meet such high standards in their lives. The constant bombardment of media images showcasing huge estates, plastic beauty, or celebrity extravagance plagues us with a rather rigid notion of a picture perfect existence.

However, living in reality usually poses quite a threat to this ideal, as even the most seemingly-perfect couple, family, job, etc. begins to show flaws over time. And unfortunately for us, once these flaws surface and the image of perfection shatters, our society does an excellent job of socially humiliating the victim. Once someone lies, cheats, steals, or does something so against the image they’ve upheld, in others, approval shifts to judgment and love turns to hate. It didn’t take long for a once supportive media to shame Tiger Woods for engaging in sexual relations outside his marriage. Nor did it take long for the highly-esteemed president Bill Clinton to be ostracized once allegations of his sexual rendezvous surfaced.

Yet in spite of its elusiveness, we remain fixated on perfection. Often enough, even when we know the flaws, we still defend an image of flawlessness. And I think this derives from our identification with these images, the unconscious linkage of our jobs, spouses, or skills to the very essence of who we are. Which explains our unwillingness to observe the cracks in a mirror that’s visibly broken. As a threat to these ideals can instigate a tremendous shift in our personal realities, to the people we think we are: “I can’t be wrong, because I’m smart,” “They can’t be flawed, because they’re my parents,” “He can’t cheat, because he my loving husband.” Or how supervisors like to think, “You can’t be smarter because I’m your boss.”

But herein great dilemma arises, as our fear of relinquishing these identities may prevent us from looking at the troubles and complications that will inevitably plague our lives. Flaws that will cripple us in pain if left ignored. A fear so great that I too have engaged in this exact resistance. For when a flaw most profoundly threatens my personal reality, my concept of right and wrong, the woman I think I am, I too become tempted to just pretend everything is… perfect. And perhaps this resistance underlies society’s judgment of others, the fear they too may have to confront those same realities in their own lives. As my supervisor’s intense belittlement of a minuscule work defect can only derive in her own fear of making that same mistake.

Does this ever work though? Does ignoring the child’s cry ever stop the heavy hand of her abuser? Does mocking the alcoholic’s binges ever get him sober? I think not. Ignoring the problem or judging it in others can only mask underlying troubles, troubles that will only worsen as we continue fixating on what society deems as a “suitable life.” In a bittersweet paradox, I think it’s the acknowledgement of our flaws, not our obsession with perfection, that intrinsically makes us better, more understanding, more human. And even if this means relinquishing our identities, sometimes looking at the cracks gives us the chance of a better life. We may want to be perfect workers, but we can only be better if we admit our petty mistakes. We may want a perfect family, but we can only be better parents if we admit our own parents’ shortcomings. And so, strange as it seems, I think just accepting imperfection is the necessary ingredient to live a more peaceful, closer to perfect life.

Check out this article on Huffington Post Healthy Living