Rule #9 on Being Lovely: In an argument, fess up to your transgressions. Make no excuses. Retract claws. Resolve conflict. Crisis averted.

Rule #9 on Being Lovely: In an argument, fess up to your transgressions. Make no excuses. Retract claws. Resolve conflict. Crisis averted.

Once again, and as always, Molly-Ten-Years-Ago has managed to oversimplify a very complicated concept: conflict resolution.

If you haven’t picked up on this throughout my previous rules (or for those just joining us at Rule #9), I’ll spell it out very plainly for you: I tend to avoid conflict.

I truly loathe it.  Molly-Ten-Years-Ago, Molly-Over-The-Past-Ten-Years, Molly-Today.  Historically, I have never enjoyed conflict.

In fact, I used to dislike it so much, that I actively avoided getting in trouble, or doing things wrong, or hurting someone else.  Learning I had done these things was debilitating to me. We can call it perfectionism, but Young Molly associated each of these things, not with being human, but with being The Bad Guy.

And with regards to this rule, she associated having a disagreement with being in the wrong.  The other person was right and good, and I was wrong and bad.

So, while it was easy for her to write this rule as a simple step-by-step, even Molly-Ten-Years-Ago went above and beyond to avoid hard conversations.

Is it any surprise that Adult Molly felt such discomfort in addressing her negative feelings to someone else?  Especially if that someone else was the perceived cause of the negativity.  Is it any wonder that Molly-Over-The-Past-Ten-Years allowed so many others to violate her personhood?

Thankfully, I have since accepted that having these dialogues is not only important for interpersonal connection, it’s important for uncovering our true selves.  Which is a great thing!

Through conflict, we learn where our boundaries lie; we learn what we are passionate about and why; we learn what we need to educate ourselves about; we learn how to solve problems together; we learn how to speak tenderly to each other in tense times; we learn how to apologize.

So, let’s discuss how Rule #9 is actually about incorporating all of our previous rules.  Because this rule is about those hard conversations we have in order to honor and defend ourselves and our boundaries.  To honor and defend those we care about.

Or maybe we’re defending ourselves to those we care about.

And sometimes, we raise our voices to defend those we have never met, whose voices have been silenced.

However, before we can resolve conflict externally, it’s important to resolve it within ourselves.  How do we achieve peace internally in order to have healthy dialogue with others externally?  How can we convey, in a productive manner, what we feel, if we go off half-cocked?

As I began writing this post, I had to ask myself a few questions:

How often do I identify myself, not as an individual person, but as my emotions, or my preferences, or my passions, or my interests?

When I could not separate myself from these things, how often have I felt attacked when someone disagreed with me about them?  How often have I felt hurt when someone disregarded one of my boundaries?

Moreover, how many times have I lashed out against someone else, because, instead of seeing them as an individual person, I identified them as The-Human-Manifestation-Of-These-Things-I-Don’t-Like?  Or The-Thing-They-Did-That-Hurt-Me?

Our first step in conflict resolution must be to remove a very specific impulse: to label either party as Victim or Villain.  We simply cannot attach such stark labels to anyone and still expect a productive or candid conversation to take place.

Let’s take this one step further and really tear the mask off what is happening with these labels: (more often than not) we have created a dishonest portrayal of events in our own minds.  This defense mechanism allows us to hide from the fact that we may have contributed to whatever caused us pain.

The truth is: I am not victimized because someone has overstepped a bound.  Or because someone’s mindset differs from my own.  And no one is a villain for not clearing the bar of my standards.

If we want to embrace loveliness, we must move past the point where we’ve given anyone the power to devastate us in these ways.

As an adult, I’ve worked hard to arrive at the point where my immediate impulse is to analyze.  Analyze the full situation.  Honestly.  Analyze the reasons someone may have acted a certain way.  Honestly.  Analyze what has happened or what will not happen.  Honestly.

Maybe this takes a few days, maybe I have to address this all in a few moments.  Regardless, in the midst of the action or the tension, I attempt to gain some clarity for myself. I try to be quiet and sit with my emotions before I continue to engage with the other party.  Doing so helps me to realize what I want to achieve through resolution.

In an effort to grow, we need to get into the practice of analyzing the emotions we feel within the context of a specific situation.  At the same time, we need to practice understanding that we are not the emotions we feel.

Yeah, yeah, Molly.  I’ve analyzed.  Now what?

Well, I am so glad you asked!

Remember the Wheel of Emotions from Rule #7?  This next step is all about understanding why we are feeling the emotions we identify.  When you analyze the full situation, what emotions does each successive detail evoke?

You may have seen red at the outset of your conflict, but which shade of red?  Ask yourself what iteration of angry or sad or bad the violation of your boundary made you feel:  Did I feel tricked?  Did I feel taken advantage of?  Did I feel betrayed?  Did I feel provoked?  Did I feel dishonored?  Did I feel jealous?

With this introspection, we next get to examine what these emotions are teaching us: What could I have done differently?  What was the other person trying to achieve, and how could they have done so differently?  What will I look out for next time, to prevent this from occurring again?  How can I help the other party to avoid hurting me or someone else in the future?

Once we’ve worked through these questions, our final step is presenting these reflections to the proper party (not the third parties we may be venting to, though their input is much appreciated!).

So, what does this look like in action?  How do we start this conversation?

Well, let’s start with What-Not-To-Do.  I’ve learned to avoid using unnecessary and emotionally-charged words to describe the situation, nor should I over-describe what happened.  I no longer use hyperbole, as it discounts the credibility of everything else I want to say.  And the hardest thing I’ve learned is that I shouldn’t make accusations.

These all add insult to injury, and they do so needlessly.  So, what do these Should Nots sound like?

“You made me [insert adjective]…”  “I am so [insert adjective] that you [insert action]…”  “Obviously, you did [insert action] on purpose…”  “I hate that you always do this…”

Notice how the syntax of these phrases is attacking and counterproductive.  More than likely, commanding your feelings to and raising your voice at the person you are speaking with will prevent them from hearing You.

Additionally, we get to leave our mean, snide and sarcastic comments and/or tones of voice at the door.  Just because you choose your words wisely, does not mean your tone can’t undermine them. These are deflections we use to hide behind, and we don’t need them here.

What’s important to keep in mind is your intention in speaking with the other party.  Defending your boundaries should not look like tearing someone else down, or causing them their own pain.  If your mindset in speaking with your other party is to Go For The JugularTM, then I’ve missed the mark with my post.

So, to make the essence of Rule #9 perfectly clear, I want to share two of my favorite quotes on this topic:

“When you and [someone] are fighting, you both need to remember it’s you two versus the problem, not you versus [the other person].”

and

“With compromise, you both lose.  You must both collaborate on the best possible outcome.”

How beautiful are these quotes?  They show us that our disagreements or conflicts could actually be chances to team up and grow together.  To open our minds and create new possibilities.  To heal with more efficacy than to cause more pain.

Just like any other conversation, we start with syntax and tone.  We use active listening, and direct eye contact.  We ask probing questions.  We give the other person a chance to confirm their side of the situation.

We should practice the following phrasing when helping others to understand how their actions affected us:

I felt + [insert adjective] + when + [insert your understanding of the situation].

I’ve found that this style of phrasing helps to de-escalate tensions when they are running a little high.  It helps both sides of the conversation to see the person, not the emotion. This particular formula eliminates the opportunity for you to hide behind the identity of an emotion, and also allows you the opportunity to share your perspective of the event-in-question.

When we start our confrontation with simple phrasing, the opportunity to address the subject at hand becomes much more feasible, and less daunting for both parties.

As you move through the conversation, you can ask questions to help you understand the full situation.  Taking conflict resolution in baby steps actually moves you forward, instead of being held back and mired in negativity.

Though collaborative resolution is beautiful, you can expect it to be difficult to face.  But that doesn’t mean conflict is something to avoid. 

This rule is about practicing it anyway.  This rule is about how you will become stronger.  

This rule is about how conflict resolution will never be easy, but you will become better at it.

Rule #9 is no longer about achieving conflict resolution.  It is actually about striving for collaborative resolution.

Where both parties can conclude a hard conversation with peace, instead of pain.

Where your discussion can soothe the full spectrum of emotions you felt.

Where what is broken through human nature can become beautiful through reparation.

So, let’s wrap this up:

Do you find that you lean in to conflict resolution, or do you find that you try to avoid it?

How often do you find yourself creating a dishonest portrayal of a situation that upset you?

What tactics do you take in resolving conflicts with those you care about?

How has your approach to collaborative resolution changed over your lifetime?

Rule #8 on Being Lovely: “Clothes should be tight enough to show you’re a woman, and loose enough to show you’re a lady.”

Rule #8 on Being Lovely: “Clothes should be tight enough to show you’re a woman, and loose enough to show you’re a lady.”

So far, I’ve been enjoying each week’s exposition on the variety of angles we can take for introspection.  But I’d say it’s about time we take a look at how our internal reflections begin to manifest themselves externally.

Molly-Over-The-Past-Ten-Years has learned to be unabashedly open to what she loves.  Since middle and high school, she cracked a very critical code:

People are going to criticize you no matter what you do, so you might as well be purposeful about and proud of yourself and your preferences.

With that lesson learned, Molly-Today loves feeling beautiful.  I love it.  This has not changed over the past 30 years.  I’ve just learned to give myself permission to feel my own form of beautiful.  Every day.  To love dresses, and make-up, and long, flowing hair. To love singing, and writing, and learning, and talking.  Because that makes me feel beautiful.

I’ve also learned to give myself permission to derive beauty from feeling powerful and strong.  To love black, and wearing clothes that allow me to test my physical limits, and tying my hair back to concentrate. To love nature (even though I do not care for bugs or their bites), and climbing rocks, and WWII narratives, and campfires.  I love it all.  Because I love it.

With regards to Rule #8 in its present state, Molly-Ten-Years-Ago probably picked this Marilyn Monroe quote because she loved the idea of being ladylike.  She loved the concept that “The magic is in the mystery.”  She loved modesty and dressing like a casual young royal.

And if someone else loves that same thing: great.  And if someone else loves the exact opposite thing: also great.

So maybe this specific quote works for the people who want That Same ThingTM. But Molly-Today understands that this is likely a small subset of the population.  Certainly not the whole.

However, I want this blog about being lovely to apply to anyone who reads it.  I want it to apply to all of the women that want to be feminine.  I want it to apply to all of the women that want to be masculine.  I want it to apply to all of the people that want to be anything.

So, here’s how Molly-Today thinks Rule #8 should read:

“Your clothes should fit however you want them to fit, and should make you feel however you want to feel.”

And what’s important to note is that you may feel two, or ten, opposing ways about yourself…and that is fantastic!  Because, just as we discussed in Rule #1, you are You.  Your personality is not mutually exclusive from day to day, or moment to moment.

Neither do your descriptors exist in mutual exclusivity.  You do not have to be “Delicate and Feminine Only” on one day, so that you can choose to be “Fierce and Force-to-be-Reckoned-With Only” on another day. You never have to be “Intellectual Bookworm Only” one day, so that you can be “ATHLETIC AND SPORTY ONLY” another day.

That’s simply not what the Spice Girls would have wanted.

These tropes are cliche, and limiting, and unfair. A while ago, I stumbled upon this quote, which really solidified how I felt on this topic:

We are dynamic beings, with a multitude of contrasting factors to us!  All of these feelings we hold occur in varying levels of our lives, and we get to figure out how to portray that to the world.

How creatively wonderful!

It should come as no surprise to you that, though I will be talking about both of these things, this Rule is actually nothing about clothing or makeup.  Rather, Rule #8 is all about taking note of what you love about yourself and presenting that to the world.

I’ve learned that most of life is about taking the time to learn what we love and what we love about ourselves, and giving ourselves permission to emphasize those items together.

I firmly believe that we know what we love by a very young age, but taunting and teasing throughout our adolescence make us conform away from our true selves. How many interests and traits have we hidden throughout our lifetimes, in an effort to gain external acceptance?

So, Rule #8 is about rediscovering what we may have pushed aside many years ago.  And being so confident in your own interests and personality that you wear them with pride, literally and/or figuratively.

This rule is about turning what we love into the rituals we use to face the world.  Because this mental uniform we don is our armor.

I think about the time I spend executing the exact same make-up routine every morning.

Or the time I take to curl each strand of hair on my head.

I also think about the formula of clothing I use each day.

All of these steps I take every morning? They all prepare me to face each day authentically and without added self-doubt.

**Me, walking into work with my black-on-black pencil skirt and heels**

But I also think about how many years it took me to get to this mental outfit.  And how much courage it takes to get to this point of acceptance.

Because, in all honesty, Young Molly was never comfortable with her outward appearance. Molly-Today still struggles with it.  I’ve always felt that I had awkward features, and my fine motor skills just did not know how to work with that.

Throughout my school career, I didn’t wear makeup. Mostly because I didn’t know how.  Each attempt at masking my face was laughable at best.

This discomfort in my own skin persisted until several years after I graduated college, when life presented me with an opportunity.

We shall name this opportunity: Kristen and Jenna.

Kristen and Jenna were two of my coworkers when I was working overseas. Everyday, I would catch myself staring at them out of envy…and confusion: how can these ladies look so ethereal and natural and make it look so effortless?

I was very tempted to cross into the dangerous territory of Horizontal Comparison, which we will discuss in a later rule.

Instead, in the spirit of Rule #4, I worked up the courage to ask them if they would mind spending time doing my makeup one day, and teaching me any tips they had.

They were so kind and so willing to share their knowledge with me!

Kristen and Jenna shared with me that makeup is not about hiding yourself. At all. Rather, it is all about art theory: identifying your facial structure, understanding where light naturally falls on your face, and utilizing the color wheel. It should be fun, not frustrating.

Throughout their time with me, they would say things like:

“I imagine the sun would hit you here, so we’re going to keep this area lighter than the rest of your face…but the sun would also cause you to have a hint of color here, so let’s put some blush in this area…

Their makeup session was very much like a session with Bob Ross.

When they were done, I remember looking in the mirror, and feeling astonished at how Me I looked.  But emboldened.  The point of our session wasn’t to mask my face behind a plaster, but to draw attention to it.

These ladies introduced me to such basic yet profound principles of seeing myself as a work of art.  They hadn’t changed anything about my features, they hadn’t made one single negative remark.  They had only enhanced the features of my face.

From that moment forward, I made an effort to stop being shy in the mirror.  I made a point to learn my own features.  To understand the geometry and topography of my face, and learn how to appreciate the facets that, before, I had allowed to make me feel inadequate.

After enough time, I found that gratitude was growing where awkwardness had lived for so long.

I may still struggle with moments of self-criticism. But when I look at myself in the mirror now, with or without makeup on, I no longer feel awkward. I no longer lend negative energy towards what I don’t like.

I simply study what I see.  I’ve gotten comfortable with the way the light hits certain angles.  I’ve learned how to emphasize spots that I like, in an effort to enhance those that I should like.

And the same thing happened with my body and my wardrobe: I no longer needed an array of wild items to create my daily look and disguise my body. I became comfortable with wearing basic pieces that didn’t do the work of my personality, but provided a clean and simple canvas for my personality.

This rule is not about asserting that someone should or should not wear makeup or a certain style of clothing. In fact, all of these rules will always be about adapting what we learn from our own experiences into helping others embrace themselves.

Rule #8 is about learning your unique facets, and embracing what you may not have always been comfortable with. This rule is about forgiving yourself if you aren’t at that point yet.

This rule is about drawing strength from your interests, and celebrating yourself in front of others.

This rule is about adorning your body with gratitude and appreciation, each day.

So, let’s wrap this up:

What are things you love and how do those items translate externally in your life?

When do you feel most beautiful, and what factors contribute to these moments?

Have you ever struggled to accept some part of your appearance?

What are ways you have worked to embrace what you have struggled with?

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.

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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…

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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.

No.

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?

Sure?

Sure?

Sure?

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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?

Rule #1 on Being Lovely: Understand that you are you. You are whole. No one else will complete or validate you.

Rule #1 on Being Lovely: Understand that you are you. You are whole. No one else will complete or validate you.

Young Molly and I are still in agreement on this one.  I really love this rule, because it’s about acceptance of yourself.  And not just of who you are, but where you are and how you are.  Acceptance and admiration of your complete picture.

This is hard, and it takes time.  And it’s scary to face who we really are.  So, it becomes easy to pick ourselves apart, piece-by-piece, and avoid our own acceptance.  Ultimately, we outsource what we should find through introspection.  We rely on others to give us the love we want for ourselves.  Which is dangerous.

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And because it is so easy to dwell on the parts of ourselves we don’t like, we allow what we view as negative to overshadow what is really amazing and unique and positive about each of us.  We’re too busy letting someone else validate our positives, while we hone in on our negatives with laser-focus, that we neglect to see our own value!

And when our external source of validation is no longer there to affirm that we have positive and redeeming qualities, we’re left without any reflection on what’s truly great about us.

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Of course, I’m speaking from a place of experience on this (read: multiple places of experience).  So, what do we do?  How do we strengthen our own resolve?  Molly, how do we even begin such a perilous journey?

I’m so glad you asked.

I often have to remind myself of one of my favorite quotes (technically, it’s a quote from Aristotle, but I learned it from one of my favorite childhood books, Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen):

“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

There are so many little pieces of myself that I love, and some that I don’t love as much.  And they all add up to Me.

I love that I smile and make direct eye contact with just about everyone.

I love that when I pick up the phone to call anyone, whether it’s a friend or a customer service representative, I can usually hang up the phone with 95% confidence that I just made someone’s day.

I love that I make friends with the characters of the books I read.

I love that I write with the G2 Pilot Pen (.38, Ultra Fine), and ONLY the G2 Pilot Pen.

I love that I will tell anyone I ever meet about this pen, and usually run out of my own personal supply because I give them away as proof of how great they are…even though I’m not paid by G2 as an ambassador and end up having to purchase more to replenish the cycle.

On the other hand, I don’t really love that I chose the path of least resistance when it came to my career.

I don’t love that most of my knowledge is vast, but shallow.

I also don’t love how little I understand about most aspects of adult life.  (I might never fully grasp the Stock Market, or car care, and have only recently taken up cooking.)

I don’t love that I get nervous in large groups of people.  I still haven’t figured out if it’s because I have mild claustrophobia, or social anxiety, or an amalgamation of the two.

I don’t love that I’m scared to see a doctor, in case they tell me something dreadful about my health that’s been flying under the radar.

I don’t love that I date men I subconsciously know are emotionally unavailable, so that I never have to threaten my status quo, of living a life free of commitment.  I have my suspicions that I’ve allowed this to cause a lot of the pain I’ve endured.

Regardless, the fact of the matter is that all of these things I do or don’t love about myself are what make me MeTM.  Each facet of myself has taken me on the path I’ve travelled, and they all have brought me to and through each of my experiences.

What is important to note here is that as an organic being, I am absolutely allowed to change and grow as I need or want.  I am allowed to assess how I feel about myself and my life, and decide to invest time and effort into changing what I’m not 100% happy with.  I am allowed to come up with unique and clever ways to upend the negative emotions that hold me back from feeling good about myself.

For instance, I can learn how to change a tire!  Legitimately any time I want!  I can make friends with an auto mechanic and ask them to teach me!

And I can develop the parts of myself that I have let fall to the wayside.  I can start any day.  And while I may not see success instantly, I can be satisfied in knowing that I started.  (The perfectionism can come later.)

And I will still be Me.  And I will still be the same whole that I was before.

I could stop making shameless plugs about the G2 Pilot Pen, and start writing instead with only Papermate Sharpwriter #2 Pencils, which are in fact spring-loaded and the best pencils on the face of the earth.

I would still be Me.  (But let’s be honest, I will never back down on my feelings about those pens.)

And if the changes I make require that I let go of things I love or don’t love about myself, in order to become who I am meant to be…then I guess that will just have to be how it goes.

And I would still not need anyone else to complete my story.  Because that’s what this is: My Story.

Or in your case: Your Story.

This rule is about giving yourself permission to just be how you are, as long as you are how you actually want to be.  As long as you are in fact honoring yourself, and being truthful to yourself.

And if you aren’t how you want to be, then this rule is about giving yourself permission to take the steps you need to take to get there.  No matter how many baby steps you have to take to accomplish those goals.  No matter how many times you have to forgive yourself for your past.

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So, let’s wrap this up:

What are the facets you love about yourself?

What are some areas you hope to grow out of?

How do you feel you honor yourself?

How do you feel you aren’t being truthful to who you are?

Well, good evening, ladies and gentlemen…

Well, good evening, ladies and gentlemen…

And welcome to my WordPress!  My name is Molly, and I’m about to introduce you, simultaneously, to Me-Today and Me-Ten-Years-Ago.

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I’m not exactly certain how I want to do this.  That’s probably why it has taken me so long to kick myself into any sort of gear, be it high or low.

Maybe, instead of explaining the how, we’ll start with the why.  Why do I want to do this?  I suppose I miss the woman who initially wrote each of these rules, sitting in a booth studying (but really ruminating on all the ways she wanted to be).  Thinking about all the ways to live a beautiful life, figuratively and aesthetically.

So, I’d like to spend some time with her, getting reacquainted.

I’ve thought about doing this for so long.  This blog, I mean.  And I have guiltily turned away from the thought of it, probably once a month for the past 10 years.  Because I figured the world didn’t need my 2 cents.  Or that no one would be interested in what I had to say.

And then I remembered:

The young woman I was wrote these rules for herself, and posted them publicly for accountability.  And one by one, people started to enjoy them.  And if there is one thing that’s important to know about me, it’s that I always want everyone to experience joy through time spent with me in any capacity.

So, the woman I am today writes these posts for herself, and posts them publicly because she hopes that if anyone ever reads her thoughts or her fears or her hopes, or any other facet of her experiences, the words here resonate with and bring joy or solace to them.  And if these words reach only one person, then I will be happy.

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A lot of time has passed since my Rules days.  A lot of changes have come and gone.  A lot of heartache has occurred.  A lot of steps have been taken away from the place I was in my earlier years.  A lot of doubt and a lot of fear has crept in.  And a lot of lessons have been learned.

Through all of that, I’ve grown into the woman I am now, and I’m looking forward to meeting the woman I will become.  Because while I am the same person I was 10 years ago, the woman who wrote these rules was young.  And naive.  And stubborn.  And set hard rules to live by.  In the same way, Me-Today is going to be some other set of adjectives for Me-Tomorrow.

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So here I am: Molly-Today.  Ready to toe the line I set in the sand thousands of days ago.  Ready to possibly argue with my past self, and maybe bring each rule into a new light.  Ready to see how far from the right or wrong I used to be.  Ready to face how far I’ve strayed from my own rules and path.

Here’s my current plan for this blog (which may be adjusted as we go): to spend each week with one rule, examining and supplementing the rule with a variety of mediums.  I’d like to start each week by posting the new rule and my thoughts on the matter.  I’ll figure out the rest of the week as we go; but you can expect memes, music, quotes, and the like.

Without further ado, I now present to you: The 50 Rules on Being Lovely.