Rule #7 on Being Lovely: Stop cursing. Be vigilant and intelligent about what comes out of your mouth. Give respect and you get respect.

Rule #7 on Being Lovely: Stop cursing. Be vigilant and intelligent about what comes out of your mouth. Give respect and you get respect.

Young Molly used to curse.  A lot.


This may be surprising to those who know Molly-Today.  Or even Molly-Over-The-Past-Ten-Years.

So, I think about this rule and I remember my days in high school, where my career in using profanity began.  I remember how it made me feel heard and powerful in my adolescent years.

What an alluring feeling.

Perhaps I have an addictive personality, because once I started cursing, I did it all the time.  So much so that I couldn’t even tell when I had done it.  These expletives creatively seeped into all parts of speech: nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, conjunctions, etc…


And these speech patterns persisted, almost unknowingly, until a close friend gently called me out.  Did I realize how I sounded?

I remember, in this moment, how my train of thought completely stopped.  I’m sure I responded with something defensive, that brushed the issue aside.  But after our phone call was over, I realized that I couldn’t even remember saying these choice words.

But I knew that I had.

Did I realize how I sounded?

Had I realized that my brain automatically filled space with words I’d grown accustomed to using?  Did I realize that my mind had become a series of basic knee jerk reactions to what was going on around me?

I recall in that moment feeling acutely disappointed in how much I didn’t pay attention to what I said, and decided to give myself a challenge: to stop cursing entirely.

I replaced my expletives with words that started similarly, but had innocuous meanings: “Sh…sugarlumps!” (Special thanks to Mom for that one!)  “F…fiiiiine!”  “God…bless it.”

Sure, I still slipped up every so often.

But soon enough, I was cognizant of what was coming out of my mouth.  And it became fun to catch myself, providing random words in their place.  This challenge brought me to see the magic of Rule #2, as I became more present to each moment.

This challenge helped me to control my reactions across the board, and in a way, to remain calm in times of stress.  I no longer even felt the urge to respond in anger.  I no longer felt the need to think of people in terms of such strong negativity.

Where once I felt powerful uttering senseless words, I actually derived a sense of power by calmly responding to someone attempting to get a rise out of me.

Because, as is always the case: our example becomes their permission.

I learned that the language and tones we use when speaking to each other are incredibly important.  Because the way we speak to others is the example we give for how others may speak to us.

I’ve heard the argument that we shouldn’t allow words to hold power over or against us.  Typically, this is followed by the idea that we should just say whatever we want, whenever we want.  That “It’s not the power of the curse, it’s the power you give the curse.”  I will address this sentiment in a later rule, but for now I would like to discuss the internal angle here.

I would challenge anyone pushing this concept to understand why choosing not to say certain words is a powerful statement, in and of itself.  And how choosing not to say certain words forces us to level up, in terms of our own emotional intelligence.

Because Rule #7 is about examining why we use the words we use.

Are we using our words to emphasize a point?  If so, why not find more descriptive words to paint the full picture of our story, stance, or statement?  Why not create a tone geared toward educating and/or informing, rather than attacking and/or defending?

Are we using these words to express anger?  If so, how can we work on the impulse to get a better handle on our negative emotions, instead of entertaining the impulse to lash out?  What methods can we use to mitigate our stresses?

Are we using these words to describe someone else?  Are we using these words to hurt someone else?  Are we using these words to tear someone down?

Rule #7 is about examining the intentions behind all of the words in our inventory, not just the expletives.

But Molly, why learn new words to portray extreme hurt or anger, when a solid “F*ck You” could convey this emotion in a fraction of the time?

Well, I am so glad you asked!

My answer is this: when we take the time to understand the intricacies of our own emotions, not only can we share with others how they may be violating our boundaries, we also help others to develop their own emotional quotient.

Just look at how many words we could use to label exactly which emotions we are feeling!  Think about how comforting it is to have exactly how we are feeling validated with a correct label.

Why limit ourselves to the first tier, with only six descriptors?  Why even limit ourselves to the second tier words, when we could dive deeper into our own minds?

For example, maybe your urge is to label someone derogatorily, but what really happened was they made you feel “provoked,” “disrespected,” or “overwhelmed.”  Instead of honoring the urge to dismiss these specific feelings with a quick and biting remark, we should understand how and why their actions may have caused us to feel a certain way.  And we should calmly let them know this.

In this way, practicing Rule #7 guides us to honor Rules #5 & #6.

Maybe we understand that we might feel “content,” but we want to feel “confident?”  Or though we feel “angry” at times, we actually feel “jealous” and not “betrayed?”

In this way, practicing Rule #7 guides us to honor Rules #1 & #3.

Simply knowing how you really feel to your core is the ultimate calm.  And achieving this serenity does not mean you never feel negative or positive emotions.  It just means you don’t allow these emotions to unseat you.

Think of Rumplestiltskin: once we can accurately name what we are feeling, we can start to understand and control our responses to these feelings.

How many times have we mislabeled what we were feeling because we didn’t have the word for it?  How many times have we been offered advice for the wrong emotion, because we didn’t have the word to express exactly what we were going through?  How many times have we felt frustrated when others simplified our feelings to the exact wrong conclusion?

This rule is about the inward growth that comes from elevating our lexicon.

Think back to Rule #4, to the story about my mental health struggles.  How isolating it was, to feel like I could only describe my mental pain as “sad,” or “bad,” or “angry,” or “fearful?”

None of those words fit right.  And none of those words do our own individual journeys any justice.

It astounds me just how many of the words in the third tier of this chart resonate with how I felt for so long.  Is it any wonder that my own journey towards serenity was put on hold?

Finally refusing the impulse to brush these feelings off with a simple profanity, actually allowed me the space to grow into these new words.

Once I forced myself to eliminate the first-tier impulses of my vocabulary, my thoughts and speech became more descriptive.  I found that I had been using profanity as a crutch in conversation in an effort to emphasize a description, rather than finding the actual word to describe it. This effort had certainly backfired.

When we remove the habit of the same old words we always use to convey ourselves, we help others to understand us.  We might also help others to understand themselves.

So, Rule #7 is about controlling your response when the world around you tests your peace of mind.

This rule is about understanding that not everything or everyone deserves a reaction out of you.

This rule is about training your mind to react with a purpose.

This rule is about learning how to properly identify what we are feeling, in an effort to rise above the patterns into which we have conditioned ourselves.

So, let’s wrap this up:

What are reasons you use profane or powerful language?

What methods do you employ to prevent yourself from using profanity at the wrong times, or in the wrong situations?

How often do you use these words, rather than finding the true descriptor to convey your thoughts or emotions?

How often do you identify your feelings as those emotions listed in the third tier?

Rule #6 on Being Lovely: You’re a prize worth fighting/dying/waiting for. Act like it. You’ll spot and weed out bad eggs easily. Guaranteed.

Rule #6 on Being Lovely: You’re a prize worth fighting/dying/waiting for. Act like it. You’ll spot and weed out bad eggs easily. Guaranteed.

If standards are the gatekeepers for the castle grounds of our lives, then boundaries are the variety of protections that fortify this castle, and safeguard those within (read: You).

Like moats filled with alligators, or skyward towers made with thousands of bricks, the boundaries we set in place for ourselves are not for the faint of heart.

What’s important to understand is that your walls and defenses do not make you difficult to be around, and certainly do not make you hard to love.  Not by your partner.  Not by your family.  Not by your friends.

Your walls do, however, make you hard for abusers to love.

Your walls do make it difficult for someone only interested in a Get-Love-Quick scheme to stick around.

Your walls demand bravery and discipline to overcome, and force cowards to call their own bluffs.

And the ones who are worthy of you will not only work within the boundaries you set, they will hold you accountable to them.  Earnestly and compassionately.

The best part about this concept is this:

Each person who respects your standards and your boundaries, in essence, becomes a sentinel on your team.  The people we surround ourselves with create a powerful boundary protecting our boundaries!

So, Rule #5 discussed standards, which are the initial litmus tests for whether or not someone should have access to certain levels of our lives.

In this way, boundaries are guidelines which inform others how they may interact with us.  I see them as the red and green lights we use when engaging with each other.

For instance, with regards to dating, the initial boundaries we create at the outset of a courtship might look like this:

No, you may not contact me past midnight and expect a response.

No, I will not prioritize a date at the last minute over plans I’ve made with friends.

No, I will not play Caretaker to fill the office of Mother in your life.

No, I will not engage in sexual activity until a level of trust has been proven and verified.

No, you may not use subversive tones and/or derogatory terms in conversation with me.

No, I will not participate in a relationship with you while you are in a relationship with someone else.

No, I will not read between lines for your implications.

These are all basic examples of boundaries in romantic relationships, and there are plenty more that I am certain each of us can add.

We can simplify this list even more, based on what we are or are not comfortable with, in general.  In doing so, this list can be adapted for your dating life, for your friendships, and even for your work life:

No, my boss may not email or call me after-hours and expect action to be taken.

No, I will not accept the tasks my coworker wants to pass on to me, simply because he or she lacks the discipline to do it themselves.

No, I will not sacrifice a mental health day, even if it means missing out on my friends’ last second plans.

No, these people around me may not use words or actions that undermine my spirit.


Can you already tell what Molly-Today is going to say Rule #6 means, at its core?

Rule #6 is all about the importance of implementing the word “No” in our lives.  Because by lacking boundaries, we allow ourselves to become desensitized and derailed.

By lacking boundaries, we allow ourselves to become overextended, overworked, and spread thin, to the point of breaking.

Molly-Over-The-Past-Ten-Years did not like to say “No.”  Even at the risk of her own health and sanity.  She never said “No,” but she actually never said “Yes.”  She led something of a “Sure?” lifestyle.

A “Sure?” lifestyle is dangerous because it allows others into the driver’s seats of our lives.  In my life, this is what that looked like:

Sure, I will work overtime in my position, while covering my boss’s position and working overtime there, and not be compensated or recognized in any way for either?

Sure, I will push the limits of what I am physically comfortable with in our relationship, even though I absolutely know this could be a slippery slope leading to something I definitely do not want?

Sure, I will join my friends for a night of an activity in which I have no interest, even though I haven’t slept well in days and should probably use tonight for a quiet night in?




But, Molly, your “Sure?” lifestyle was allowing you to spend time with your friends and dive into your career?  Aren’t those good things?

To which I will say:

Of course, it is important to spend time with those you love and care about; and of course, it is important to invest in your career path.

But not at the expense of your peace.

When we “Sure?” our way through life, we burn out by using our energy on things that do not serve us.  Worse, we allow ourselves to miss the opportunities to engage in what will truly fulfill us, as we use our time and efforts on the extraneous tasks that belong to others.  We use our bandwidths accepting burdens that dull our edges, instead of taking on projects and engagements that polish our finish.

But, Molly, if it’s good to spend time with friends and work hard in my career, how can I tell when I have crossed my own boundaries?

Well, I am so glad you asked!

The great news is that your body is your first, and most powerful, ally.  Our bodies can tell us when we’re not honoring our boundaries.  Here are some physiological responses we might experience when we allow our lines to be crossed:

When we are in a relationship with the wrong person, our hearts will feel anxious.  When we are working the wrong job, it will be hard to get out of bed in the morning.  When we want to do something new, our minds will be restless.

The sheer volume of signals our bodies provide us is innumerable!  But as easy as it was for me to type those examples, they aren’t easy lines to draw.  Because they take a lot of time to discover in the first place!

Most of the boundaries I have developed have come from A LOT of sleepless nights (much like the ones I described in Rule #4), pondering what is within my control that I am letting out of my control.

Predictably, after any amount of time burning the Proverbial Candle all over, Molly-Over-The-Past-Ten-Years used up her physical, mental, and emotional capacities.

She became tired and worn down, and she found that her only solution was to stop reacting at all.  The energy it took to emote on a daily basis just wasn’t there.

This is what a life without boundaries led me to!  I was very much, and very simply, a walking and talking skeleton, who moved through life as dictated by her schedule.

But that’s not what we are made for!  Though we are technically skeletons that can walk and talk, we are made to be so much more.

Without proper boundaries, I left no time to get to know myself.  I left no time to enjoy my own passions.  I left no time to process how I was doing.  I left no time to develop the life I wanted for myself!

Physically, I was across the world from my loved ones.  Mentally, I was exhausted and going through each day in a fog.  And emotionally, I felt nothing.  Except paralyzed.

My body was communicating.  My alarm systems were blaring.  I knew I wanted to make a change, but it seemed like everything needed to change.  And that thought was daunting.

The first thing I had to do was eliminate my knee jerk reaction to accept everyone else’s demands and requests.  As soon as I did this, I was shocked at how much time and mental space opened up for me!

As soon as I started saying No, I was actually able to say Yes.

Making this small change to what we know is negatively impacting us, amounts to honoring our own borders.  And the feeling of relief that comes with this simple action is immense.

As long as we ignore these signals, and honor the whims and preferences of others, we will find ourselves in discomfort.  And once we start defending ourselves, by making small but noticeable changes to our lives, we give ourselves room to grow.

Rule #6 is so important, because if there is one thing this world needs less of, it’s individuals who are so jaded from overextending themselves that they no longer feel passion.

Or worse: they no longer feel compassion.

So, Rule #6 is about saying No, when you want to say No.

Rule #6 is about saying Yes, when you want to say yes.

Rule #6 is about excising the impulse to accept what is not required of you, in an effort to accept more.


So, let’s wrap this up:

What are some examples of boundaries you have instituted in your own life?

How often do you find yourself accepting the requests and responsibilities of others, that you should refuse?

When your boundaries have not been honored in the past, what signs has your body given you?

How can you honor the boundaries you have created for yourself?

Rule #5 on Being Lovely: Don’t play hard to get. Be hard to get. Have standards—real, good ones—and stick to them. Bend them for nobody.

Rule #5 on Being Lovely: Don’t play hard to get. Be hard to get. Have standards—real, good ones—and stick to them. Bend them for nobody.

Molly-Ten-Years-Ago loved this rule.  Molly-Today loves this rule.  Molly-Over-The-Past-Ten-Years wanted to live by this rule…but of course, that’s not how this story goes.

Mostly because she didn’t understand Rule #5.  As I’ve said before, Molly-Ten-Years-Ago was a strict lady, but she didn’t always know her target and what lies beyond.  Truthfully, I only recently began to understand what the rule means and how to institute it now.

Arguably, the hardest part about having legitimate standards, that Young Molly never could have warned her future selves about, is that you cannot help the acute disappointment you endure when someone walks away because of them.

Did I overestimate my own worth?

Am I not good enough for my own standards?

Did this person not believe my value was worth the rules I set in place?

The next hardest part is that you want to bend your rules to convince the person who walked away that you are in fact worthy of said rules.  I have done this so many times, in order to give someone the time and space to see what I knew to be true about my own worth.

But therein lies the danger!  This is the trick that has taken me years to catch on to!

When we allow someone into our lives who does not meet our standards, we have actually taught this person that they can have unfettered access to our peace.  Even though they may not want it.

And, regrettably, they absolutely will treat us as such.

Which brings us to Rule #5.  It has been incredibly tempting for me to write this as a what-to-look-for-in-others type of post.  And once again, that causes me to endure days of writer’s block…which probably means that it is not in fact what my heart feels called to discuss.

What my heart does feel called to discuss is somewhat counterintuitive, at first glance, which is what took me so long to figure out!  Rule #5 is so lovely because at its core is the truth that having standards actually allows you to accept others as they are.

How can that be, Molly?  It feels mean (dare I say, un-lovely?) to say that someone doesn’t meet my standards.  Isn’t that a cruel way to interact with others?

To which I will say: No, my friend.

First, I want to say the reason we might feel mean instituting our own standards, is because we know how hard it was for us to meet them ourselves!  That being said, ideally, the standards you create are standards to which you hold yourself (read: they are humanly possible).

Next, I’d like for us to look at it this way: when I bring someone into my life who, at present, does not clear the bar I have set for myself, what I am actually doing is deciding for them that they will change later, while enabling the behaviors they exhibit which do not meet my standards.

This is another way we do a disservice to ourselves and to the other person in the scenario.  Just like with Rule #4, we have chosen to make the decision for the other party.

What decision is that, Molly?

Well, I am so glad you asked.

The decision the new party must make is whether or not they are willing to accept the terms and conditions of a relationship (romantic or platonic) with you.  And when you ingratiate someone into your life who very clearly does not meet your standards, you have made the decision for them, that they must change what they might actually not be willing to change.

When it comes to allowing others into our lives, we get to assess what they bring to the table (and they should be doing the same of us!).

A great set of basic standards might look something like this:

  • Must have a job, contribute to their place of living, and be able to support themselves
  • Demonstrates integrity
  • No criminal record or drug use
  • Emotionally, physically, and financially responsible
  • Introspective
  • Knows how to mitigate conflict
  • Wants to improve themselves to be their best
  • Is conscious of and working through their issues

Notice that each of these points depicts a person who will not only build themselves up, but is on a trajectory that could grow upward with yours, instead of detracting from your momentum.

Notice also that each point on this list does NOT dictate to someone’s appearances, personal preferences, viewpoints, religious beliefs, passions, et cetera, et cetera.  If these are items that you feel inclined to add, you may do so, in a compassionate manner.

As we come to know ourselves, and who we want to be, and how we want to be, Rule #5 becomes crucial.  Our growth and development does not occur in a vacuum.  We do not exist in a world devoid of the human condition.

And remaining true to the changes we want to see in ourselves can become challenging in the face of those we choose to spend time with, especially when they do not wish to meet these basic requirements.

So we must be selective and careful about who we choose to engage.  Romantically.  And platonically.

Because the people we surround ourselves with ultimately become representatives for us.  Our friends and significants teach the world how to view us as individuals.

Even more importantly, our chosen circle shows others how they are permitted to treat us.  Or behave around us.

Our standards beget our treatment.

Molly-Over-The-Past-Ten-Years allowed people into her life that affected her more than she wanted to see.  Because Molly-Over-The-Past-Ten-Years didn’t like to disappoint others by walking away or guarding her self.

She spent a lot of time with a variety of people.  Some good; many not-so-good.

She grew close with the people who have built her up.  She spent too much time with others that tore her down.  And she entertained some who exhausted her spirit entirely.

And what’s important to note is that each of these people is entitled to their own path, their own decisions, and their own behaviors.  Without pressure from me to exist in a particular manner.

But so was I.

And the meaning of this rule is that I am also entitled to hold people as close to, or as far from, me as I deem fit.  And doing so is not a cruelty, rather an acceptance of what may or may not come.

Because not everyone deserves the same access to you, your heart, and-or your time.  And those who choose to walk away from you in the face of your standards, are showing you that they would indeed take you for granted, either as a friend or a partner.

We’ll talk about boundaries in my next post.  But there is a quote I love about boundaries, that applies here, as well:

“The only people who get upset about you setting boundaries are the ones who were benefiting from you having none.”

Your standards should not feel like a standoff, where the person who caves first has to cater to the other’s whims.  They are your guards.  And they help you to discern when someone does or does not make the cut to certain levels of your life.

Your standards should be systems that you set in place to help you achieve your goals.  And anyone who stands in the way of your doing so (whether by the way they treat you, their lifestyle, their habits, or their intentions) should not enjoy the privilege of You.

From now on, I will only allow someone into my world that can match my enthusiasm and zeal for life.  Because this rule is about being so focused on meeting your standards and achieving your goals that you simply cannot undersell yourself.

This rule is about standing firm in your worth, and believing in the quality, not the quantity, of individuals who will choose to meet your expectations.

This rule is about knowing how hard it is to meet your standards, because you endured the challenge of them yourself!

This rule is about accepting that some individuals may want access to your life, but will not be granted such access until they make the choice to shape up.


So, let’s wrap this up:

What are systems you have set in place to help you live your best life?

How do these systems translate to the standards you hold yourself to?

When have you allowed someone into your life that may not have honored your standards?

How do you help the people in your life to honor their own standards?

Rule #4 on Being Lovely: If you want something, ask. Give people chances to say “yes” before you say “no” for them. Don’t play Holy Spirit.

Rule #4 on Being Lovely: If you want something, ask. Give people chances to say “yes” before you say “no” for them. Don’t play Holy Spirit.

Even though Molly-Today has loved this rule since Molly-Ten-Years-Ago came up with it, presently, it was hard to write about.  Writer’s block was imminent.

Because, on the surface, this rule is about the disservice we do to ourselves and others when we make what should be Their Decision for them.

We rob others of their agency when we make these unspoken choices for them.  And in this way, we unknowingly violate their boundaries.

We do this in relationships.  We do this in our workplaces.  We do this in our friendships.  And each time we turn away from asking others for something they can provide us, we ultimately hold ourselves back.

There were so many angles to approach the interpretation for Rule #4.  Could it be simply about asking for help?   Could it be about accepting our limitations?  Could it be about addressing our need for control?

I really felt it was, at once, all of these options.  And somehow none of them.  I couldn’t fathom an eloquent way to emulsify ALL of these topics into one succinct Molly-style post.  On top of that, my heart wasn’t in the answers to those questions.

So, in an effort to avoid discouragement, I asked myself one question: how does following Rule #4 help us to achieve our goal?  That goal: being lovely.

After all, that’s the point of this blog.  To discuss and address the variety of ways we hold ourselves back, from embracing our brightest lives.

Right, Molly?  Right, Molly.

And then my answer came to me: this rule is about confronting the doubts we hold about ourselves and our capabilities, by confronting the full scope of emotions we allow to rule our lives.  This rule is about leaning in to our fullest potential by trusting others with our vulnerabilities.

It is about accepting that we will not always have the ability to forge our paths alone.  That we don’t always have everything we need to get where we want to go.

And that those truths absolutely do not make us inadequate.  Nor do those truths make us imposters to our lives.

And that’s when I realized I want to talk about how engaging in this rule can positively affect our mental health.  Because Rule #4 pares down to sharing how you are feeling.

With others.

Perhaps this has to do with basic day-to-day negative feelings you might hold regarding yourself.  Perhaps it runs deeper, touching upon depression and/or anxiety.

But a large part of embracing loveliness is talking about the things that aren’t so lovely.

There have been so many times where I have felt such strong negative emotions that I could physically feel pain throughout my body.  My brain had so many thoughts racing around, I thought my mind would implode.  And all I wanted in those moments was to pick up the phone and talk to a friend.

Immediately followed by the intense fear of bothering that friend.  Or burdening them with this knowledge.  Or judgment.

Or possibly facing the fact that they might not care at all.

How many times have I said to myself: “This has been going on for a long time.  Should I ask So-and-So if we can talk about how I’ve been feeling?”

Only for my next thought to be: “I’m sure they’re going to say No, so I’m not even going to bother.”

Not only did I make the decision for someone else.  But I also removed the opportunity for So-and-So to possibly share a need of their own and-or connect with my experience.

Where does this knee jerk reaction to avoid asking for help come from?  

Maybe we just don’t know how to approach someone with a need.

Maybe we hope that whoever So-and-So is, will be incredibly intuitive and Just Know.

Or that a little birdie will whisper to them our need.

Maybe we hope that we’ll overcome our feelings alone, not relying on anyone for anything.  That way no one ever knows that we have bad days.

Or maybe we’re fearful of what happens next; after we successfully ask for someone’s help.  How can you help someone understand what’s invisible, and sometimes impossible to describe?

I knew the reason I found this rule so difficult to write about.  Because I ultimately knew it was going to get really personal for me.  And being vulnerable is not a muscle I have flexed historically.  So, I was spinning my wheels all week trying to avoid just that.

But that’s not the point of what I’m trying to do here.

Right, Molly?

Right, Molly.

So, after days of deliberation, I accepted that the right thing to do would be to share my own personal experience.  Buckle up and grab some trail mix.

I’m going to share a long note Molly-Over-The-Past-Ten-Years wrote to herself, several years ago.

As info, I hit the back of my head very hard and very solidly, on two separate occasions within the span of 2 years.  This most likely resulted in compounded concussions that I chose to ignore.

Had I sought medical attention, I’m sure any good doctor would have informed me that a possible side effect of concussions is DepressionTM.

Instead, I was confused as to how and why I gradually developed deep sadness and anxiety, seemingly out of nowhere.

As someone who obviously enjoys writing her thoughts, it should come as no surprise to you that writing was how I coped with my experience.

This is the note that I developed over that period of time (Molly-Today inserted some memes to lighten the mood, and took out names for privacy):

Nothing feels right anymore.  I can’t even think of how to put what I feel into words, and that frustrates me the most.  The biggest thing I feel is that holding on any longer just scares me.  But what am I holding on to?  What is it I would be letting go to do?

It’s like I want to be asleep all the time, or just unconscious, in general.  The idea of going to work makes me sad.  But not having work to do makes me uncomfortable.  I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing, but this doesn’t feel right.

What’s most frustrating is that I don’t know what will feel right, so I don’t even know where to begin looking.

I don’t think there’s anyone I can to talk to about this, because I don’t want to worry anyone.  And the idea of talking to anyone about it makes me so sad.

Like I’m weak and ridiculous and can’t handle my own problems.  And part of me is scared that because I can’t verbalize it, whoever I talk to is just going to think less of me for being upset over what they perceive is Nothing…even though it feels like a huge something.

I think telling anyone about this will drive them away and make them want to avoid me.

But I know people would be upset if I—if I what?  There it is again.  What would people be upset if I did?  Killed myself?  Took a bullet for a stranger?  Ran away?  I think I would like an ending, but I won’t do anything to get one.

And I know I look forward to the bright moments in life, but right now they seem so far away.  Like they might never happen again.  I feel like I’m missing them.  But even if I was free to join in, I don’t think they would happen for me.

For some reason, I had the very concrete thought that “I just need to hold on until [my younger sister]’s wedding.”  So, that she knows I love her and am proud of her, and so that I don’t spoil it for her.

But I wouldn’t want people to think I left because of some sisterly jealousy or envy or anything.  I would want her to know I held on for as long as I could, so I could be there with her.  Just like I did for [my youngest sister] and [my niece].

But then I circle right back to what it is I am planning…mostly because I’m not planning anything!  I’m not looking to end my life or hurt myself.  I’m just tired of feeling like this.  Where I am sad more than I am not sad.  Even when I think I’m happy, I can tell it’s not real.

So, what would I even say to someone?  They wouldn’t understand.

The hardest part about understanding depression, as someone outside of my head, is that it’s not as simple as just some voice in your head saying mean or sad things.  It’s so much more.  It’s as complex and deeply accepted as your faith, or fundamental math and reading skills.

Depression itself is an understanding.  Certain things add up, they compute, they make illogical sense in my mind.  And they’re dangerous.

And if they could be turned off as easily as ignoring some ever-present voice, trust me, that would be the choice every single time.

So, it takes massive efforts to sneak past these dark areas of your mind.  Like sneaking out of a hostage crisis.  Hoping those black holes don’t catch you trying to better yourself.

Trying not to make goals, because if you did, your mind would trap you away from them.  Only trying to gradually get better, the way you gradually had gotten worse.

Going to the gym only for small amounts of time; just enough to get in a session of cardio before your mental health problems usher you away.

Or hoping for nothing from the significant other in your life; only allowing yourself to be surprised pleasantly when they come through on their own.

Or never making plans; only meeting with friends at the last minute, because obligating yourself too far in advance would alert your mental captor to the positivity.

The thought of positive change is terrifying, because you know it won’t stay that way for long.  You know you can’t count on it.  You know it will leave you, as it has every other time.

And when trying to learn a new skill in positivity (because that’s exactly what these efforts are), this mental unhealth can creep back in so surreptitiously.

Undermining every single step taken forward.  Twisting each new little goodness back on itself.  To the point that you don’t care to do them anymore.  They don’t matter.  Your mind has already rendered the activities useless.

The only option is exhaustion: laying in the dark when not obligated to be somewhere else.  Never promised the solace of unconsciousness but always wishing for it.

The only option is anguish: where you can’t keep from crying yourself to sleep each and every night.  Or holding back tears throughout the day, because you can feel how unlovable you know you are.

The only option is loneliness: distancing yourself from your friends, so you don’t end up in their plans, when you know deep down they don’t really want you there.

The only option is denying any positivity you hear, because what you know in your mind is too strong to be contradicted with reality.

There’s never a voice.  There’s never a worded thought.  Speaking about it out loud doesn’t make sense.  It’s just an understanding of the factless truth.

Just warped memories to substantiate the feelings.  Just pain clenching your heart, gripping your throat, burning your eyes with tears.  It’s like there’s nothing you can do to stop it.

Fighting the feelings only causes more tangible pain.  Sharp lightning reaching through your arms, all the way to your fingertips.

Depression is not easy to get over.  It’s not even easy to get through.  It’s a one-man show, day in and day out.

Who knew fighting your own mind every waking minute could be so bedraggling?

It’s peeling yourself out of bed, to put on your disguise every morning.  The disguise of a bright, shining, smiling face, so no one sees.  So no one has to be bothered with your problems.  Because, honestly, who would care anyway?

Some days are lesser, some days are greater.  But it is always present, no matter who you are with, no matter where you go, no matter what you do.  It’s so much more.

So, to those of us struggling, keep your heads up.  It may not get easier, but you will get stronger.  Sometimes only you know what you need to safely navigate the murky waters of your mental health.  Figure out the habits that help you manage.  That help you get by.

And get by.

If that’s all you can drum up: just get by.  Don’t worry about thriving and achieving, if the thought of that makes you want to run and hide.

And to those of you hoping to help someone with depression, know that actions speak louder than words.  Every time. Words can be disputed and warped, but actions make memories.  And those memories make weapons to help us fend for ourselves.  So, just show up.

Every time.

My mind was so sure that it would be impossible to communicate how I was feeling, that it wrote itself out in great detail!  Can you imagine the discussion I could have had with a true friend in my time of need, if I had simply shared this note with them?

Can you imagine the help my note could have provided to someone else who was suffering in silence in the same fashion?  Or if speaking with me gave my friend the perspective to help someone else they knew?

Perhaps we are not all suffering from the same illnesses.  Perhaps not everyone has travelled my same path.  But imagine the compassion this world could learn if we all chose to share our experiences with each other!

If mental health was not such a taboo.  If, instead of telling someone to swallow their emotions and get over them, we validated what they were feeling.  If we had spent more time developing the vocabulary, the laymen’s words, to discuss what is harming us.

Could turning to each other have become a more widespread and sought-after solution, by now?

I’m hopeful, because this discussion is happening more and more commonly throughout the current world stage.  Each new TV series, movie, song, or podcast, sheds more and more light on mental health.

I’m hopeful that those suffering in their own quietude can feel more confident about approaching their loved ones with their own experiences.

So, this rule is about caring for ourselves and others, by being vulnerable with those we trust.

This rule is about being the one to ask for help.

This rule is about being the one to answer someone’s call for help.

This rule is about embracing compassion.

So, let’s wrap this up:

What is something about yourself that you have hidden from those you trust?

How have you tried coping with it in the past?

What would you tell someone who might be going through a similar experience to yours?

Who is someone you trust to share your experience with?

Rule #3 on Being Lovely: When with a significant other in get-together situations, make sure not to babysit one another. Mingle separately.

Rule #3 on Being Lovely: When with a significant other in get-together situations, make sure not to babysit one another. Mingle separately.

What I’m learning and loving about each rule we discuss here is that every new rule becomes intertwined with the ones before them.

The conversations we have from implementing Rule #2, help us to dive into our own growth in Rule #1.  And vice versa.  You’ll see that each successive rule allows our weekly posts to become knitted even more intricately together!

As I think about each week’s exposition, I get excited at how the underlying meaning of each rule is not always what it might seem at the surface.  You might be saying to yourself:

So what, Molly?  What does that have to do with Rule #3?  Why can’t my significant and I hang out in public?

Or you might be saying…

Big deal, I’m single.  How does this rule apply to me?

To which I will say, I’m glad you asked!

Admittedly, on the surface, Rule #3 sounds like it has to do with social etiquette and how we engage with our partners.  But what Molly-Ten-Years-Ago didn’t realize she was speaking to, was this:

Two individuals honoring each other through their independence, and trusting one another in time spent apart.

Still not seeing how this rule relates?  Let’s rephrase:  Rule #3 is about having so much confidence in yourself, that nothing can shake the confidence you have in your partner.


This rule was inspired by watching a dear friend of mine meet (and fall in love with) a wonderful man (who she proceeded to marry and has 3 beautiful children with), and observing how they socialized.

I remember feeling so impressed at how calm she was in their relationship, and how they both could disengage from each other at social events, without a care in the world.

Most relationships I had observed until that point were heavy on the codependency.  Defined by excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, codependency is a difficult trait to hide…and an awkward one to endure as an outsider.

This particular brand of addiction looks like two people who can’t be apart for more than a few minutes, before needing to reunite.  From here, this couple proceeds to hang all over each other for the rest of the event.  If they do manage to drum up the energy to separate for any stretch of time, their audience endures endless conversations about the missing significant.

So, imagine how refreshing it was for me to see that my friend and her then-suitor could stand to be apart for these large group events.  And not only physically apart, but that she spoke of him only briefly and only if asked.

So, we’re going to focus now on those couples that exhibit high levels of codependency.  Because nothing oxidizes faster than a toxic relationship in the harsh light of day, let’s discuss why failure to accommodate for Rule #3 might be an indicator of red flags in a relationship.

As usual, we’ll call my favorite witness to the stand: Me-Over-The-Past-Ten-Years.

In my past relationships, there were plenty of reasons I felt compelled to babysit my exes in social gatherings, but I’ve narrowed our list down to the three main insecurities I had:

1.  I was worried they would feel uncomfortable talking with my friends or family without me there.

2.  I was worried they might act rudely towards someone, and I wanted to run interference to prevent that from happening (or to be able to rationalize it away later).

3.  I was worried they would flirt with other women behind my back.

There are so many other reasons I’ve felt the need to hover around my exes.  And all of these reasons existed because I probably knew that the guys I chose to date were guys I should never have chosen to date.

Because in a healthy Green-Flag kind of relationship, your partner should enjoy spending time with the people who make you happy.  Your partner should not be prone to making rude comments towards others.  And your partner should not be developing an attraction with someone who isn’t you.

These are just basic ground-level standards, Mol.

But here’s the jagged little pill Molly-Over-The-Past-Ten-Years never wanted to take: if you feel like you need to babysit your partner, you should pay attention to that instinct.  And honor it.

Dig in and understand the root cause of those instincts.  Don’t ignore them or hope them away.  Your instincts are important to have, because your heart is a precious thing and should be protected.  And you should be The General leading that vanguard, joined only by the partner who is worthy of you.  Not the partner who tricks you into letting your guard down.

But even more so, your instincts tell you where you have some reflection to do, and maybe even some growth.

For each of the aforementioned reasons, my instincts set off every alarm system my brain had in place.  These instincts were pulling me toward reflection I desperately needed and lovingly avoided.

That reflection should have looked like this:

1.  Why is my partner uncomfortable around the people I care about?  Why do I feel I insecure about it?

2.  Why does my partner make rude comments when interacting with someone?  Why do I entertain this behavior in this person?

3.  Is my partner as invested in this relationship as I am?  Why do I allow myself to feel devalued?

And finally:

Having made all of these observations, what do I want to do about it?

These are scary questions I didn’t have the guts to face over the past decade.  And each of these questions showcased areas where I needed to develop and strengthen myself.

In the first instance, I was afraid that my friends or family would not like my partner.  I was distrustful of my own judgment of character.  In the second, I was worried my partner would give them concrete reasons to dislike him.  Most of the time, my partners had already given me various reasons not to like them, which I justified and ignored.  And finally, I was scared that my partner didn’t even like me, and was always looking for someone better.  (It goes without saying that I was acutely aware there were reasons to be suspicious of this.)

I think there’s something to be said about hindsight here, but c’est la vie!

I may have a hard time accepting that a man who I feel calm with is someone I am worthy of.  I may also have a hard time accepting that the Brooding-Batman types I dated in the past couldn’t be the one for me (read: couldn’t be fixed).

Clearly, I’m still working on Rule #1 for myself, and that’s okay!  What’s most important is that, at long last, I chose to stop running.  I chose to defend my boundaries, my standards, and myself.  (And now, here we are.)

Developing the strength to ask the hard questions early-on, of yourself and then of your partner, facilitates the on-going conversation you should be having with them.  Additionally, it commands respect.

With each question you answer together, you build momentum for growth.  This rule either cultivates a healthy relationship, or it allows you to make an informed decision on the fate of said relationship.

Beyond the red flags we address in ourselves and our relationships, we should pay attention to the green flags.  We should celebrate those positive traits in our relationships!

Considering that I am single myself, I love seeing my friends enter into healthy relationships.  And I love taking notes on how they do it, in their own unique ways.

It allows me to identify the various green flags that can (and should) present themselves in healthy relationships: in the way each person honors the other.

Where each partner can reach out to the other’s friends and family at anytime, for casual conversation or to make special plans.  For instance, my friend’s fiancé contacted his AND her entire family and her friends to set up an expansive, surprise birthday Zoom call, so she could celebrate in quarantine!

Or where each partner is respectful in how they treat others.  My sister’s partner can make anyone smile and feel included by how at ease he is in conversation with them.

But especially where each partner is so enamored with the other, that they could never be distracted by someone else.  My new brother-in-law knew the second he saw my sister that she was The One.  And his devotion to her is unwavering, and apparent to everyone.

What beautiful couples I get to surround myself with and learn from!

This rule is about cultivating such a strong and healthy relationship with yourself, and then your partner, that you both can withstand a moment (or two) of separation.

And this rule is about facing the underlying fears you may have, which contribute to codependency issues in a relationship.

So, let’s wrap this up:

What are fears you have held in past relationships, or even a current relationship?

How do these fears translate to insecurities you have about yourself?

What Green Flags have been exemplified in the healthy relationships around you?

How can you implement these Green Flags in the way you see and treat yourself?

Rule #2 on Being Lovely: Be quiet. Stop using unnecessary lettersss, and please don’t talk just to hear the sound of your own voice.

Rule #2 on Being Lovely: Be quiet. Stop using unnecessary lettersss, and please don’t talk just to hear the sound of your own voice.

Here’s the thing about Molly-Ten-Years-Ago: she was impetuous, if not downright petulant, at times.  It’s something that Molly-Today cringes to think about.  In the right light, within the syntax of this rule, I do believe that side of her rears its little head.

But while Molly-Today can’t disagree with the overall sentiment on Rule #2, she sure does love to emphasize tone in her text by using excessively many letters, or even misspelling words for the sake of enunciation (how else will my British accent be read properly in a text?).

If I may change the wording of this rule, it shall henceforth read as such:

“Be quiet, and please don’t talk just to hear the sound of your own voice.”


There, that’s out of the way.

Let’s get down to what this rule is really about: actively and presently engaging in conversation with others.

Conversation is defined as “a talk between two or more people, in which news and ideas are exchanged.”  As an introvert, I go wild for a good conversation.  It truly is an art form.

But how many times have we been around people who talk a whole lot of nothing?  How many times has the person you’re talking to been silent, but scrolling through Instagram or some other app on their phone?  How many times have we been those people?

We’re talking about a disconnect in discussion.  In these situations, the dynamic of “talking between two or more people” is lost.  Because only one person is speaking.  As if their audience was a mere brick wall to be spoken at instead of “spoken with,” these individuals dominate the exchange.

And if they don’t dominate the exchange, it is probably because they are too busy not listening to you, while biding their time.  Lurking until they can once again commandeer the topic.

If they do happen to take a break from Not Listening, I find that these conversationalists are only partially and selectively listening to what you are saying.  Only to segue the conversation back to the topic of their choosing.

Ideas are not exchanged here, as the flow between two individuals is completely one-sided.  Examples include jabberwocking, bragging, mansplaining, gossiping, preaching, et cetera, et cetera…

In all of these, the common denominator is that the talker is only engaging in an attempt to elevate themselves.  It can (and should) be argued that just because words are being said doesn’t mean thoughts are being exchanged.

The real question is: can we even call these “conversations?”  How can we ensure that we don’t slip into this behavior?  Molly, pray tell.

Well, first of all!  Let me just say, the irony is not lost on me, that I am completely hogging the discussion of this rule…in a conversation no one asked for…with myself.

But that is neither here nor there.

My answer (speaking as someone with a slight propensity for social anxiety and awkwardness): the most important part of any conversation is to be present.

Quiet your extraneous thoughts, so that you can listen actively.  Make eye contact.  Smile (if the tone of the conversation allows for it).  Lean in.

Be interested.  If you don’t know something about the topic, ask questions!  Get interested.

I have learned that people love to feel like experts.  And I love to make people feel that way!  A good conversation should involve some level of enjoyment (well, one would hope, anyway).

So, I love that I know next to nothing about anything.  It gives me a chance to really connect with the people I speak with.

Gone are the days when I didn’t want to feel like an ignoramus, and had to pretend that I definitely already knew that…and actually taught a course on it last week, because my dad is totally the inventor of that topic, so I’ve known about it my whole life, so…

What’s important to note here is that it is not up to you to decide what someone is an expert in.  Be it their lives, their occupation, their favorite books, music, sports…It’s up to you to learn a new nugget of information from someone else!  It’s up to you to be gracious in conversation.

On the off chance that I do know anything about something, I don’t try to one-up the person I’m speaking with.

Similarly, if the information they have is incorrect, I don’t command to them the correct information.  I use it as a chance to share the story of how I learned the information I have.

This usually sounds like one of the following:
“I always thought…”
“Correct me if I’m wrong, but I learned…”
“I recently read an article about the opposite…”

When we get down to it, this rule is about giving yourself permission to learn something new from someone else, in every conversation you have.  More importantly, this rule is about learning how to listen actively.

And vice versa!  I love getting to teach others new things, from my own brain.  As long as your exchanges are genuine and sincere, your “news and ideas” will be received by whomever you engage.

This rule is about setting aside our egos in an effort to have true connection in conversation.  The best thing that could happen is you learn something new about yourself, through the experience of someone else.

So, let’s wrap this up:

How often do you find yourself commandeering a conversation?

What are your favorite elements of good conversation?

What are ways you can engage in more authentic conversation?

Who is someone you love talking to?  What about their conversational style draws you in?