(this is raw unedited text transcribed directly from the audio)
Dr. Kenner: Here’s a question I got and it’s kind of a three-part question, so I will emphasize the last part, but I think it makes sense to put it in order, to hear the whole thing. This is from Megan. She said, “Dr. Kenner, I want to know why I am so unhappy. Although I’ve accomplished a lot, I feel like there’s still a part of me missing and as far as relationships go, I’m ready to give up.” So here we’ve got two parts. She’s unhappy and she’s accomplished a lot, and something is missing. So what do you do about that? Well, you already have a clue – if something is missing, name it. Is it that you miss having exercise in your life, which is something that I did? So then I can take the steps. I can join a gym and find some type of activity that I loved. I tried Zumba classes (look it up online if you don’t know what they are). They are wild. I absolutely love them. So you can try something new. If something else is missing, it might be that you’re in the wrong career or you want something, you want to advance in your career. Megan, maybe it’s a relationship that you’re mentioning. That’s another part of your question. You feel like you’re about to give up with having any romantic relationship. Well, then maybe reading a book on romantic relationships, on how to make it work, how to have the communication skills, that might help you. But let me put the clincher on your question, because the last part of it is, “Another problem I have is that I always get wrapped up in what people think about me. When people laugh, I always think they’re talking about me. What should I do?”
You might have just named for yourself the fundamental problem. If you are experiencing the world, Megan, not through your own eyes, not when you get together with a friend thinking, “Oh, I’m having a good time with this friend. What do I like about her?” Or, “Oh, I’m not enjoying the company of this guy. What am I not liking about him?” If you’re not focused on valuing, identifying what you value in other people and instead you flip it and say, “Am I good enough? They’re looking at me. They’re laughing at me. Am I doing something wrong?” Then you want to change something very fundamental. It’s not that easy to do, but it’s definitely possible. I was once that shy kid who was afraid people were watching me and thinking about me and I was very anxious and I have come so, so far. The first thing is to go out and get the book The Fountainhead. That’s what turned my life around. When I read The Fountainhead, it’s a novel by Ayn Rand, and of course if you want to know what’s going on with the whole culture nowadays in the world, you can readAtlas Shrugged. That’s my all time favorite book by Ayn Rand, but The Fountainhead is the one that showed me what being my own person was like. What it would feel like inside. I wanted to be like that hero more and more. And I wanted to worry increasingly less about what other people thought about me and more about what I valued in myself.
If you grew up in a family where your family was always saying, “Can you fix your hair before you go out?” Or your mother was that micromanager who said, “This is what you got in school? You have to study more. Let’s sit down and study together and figure out what you’re not doing right,” and you always felt criticized, then you’re primed. It’s not that you can’t override these and just say, “These are my parents and I’m my own person,” but many people don’t know how to do that or they feel like a coward. They’re afraid to challenge it, and so they just end up giving in. And you can go through life after that, feeling like you always the critical parent on your shoulder. What if you had the opposite? Instead of thinking, “Julie is laughing at me,” if you have a friend Julie, and she must be laughing at me. What if you thought, “Julie is laughing because she’s joyous to see me. She admires my looks and my intelligence and my honesty.” That’s a very different outlook on life. To think good things about yourself.
Number one, get in front of the mirror and see what you say to yourself. Do you say, “I’m a failure. I’m unlovable. I’m no good. I’m a loser?” You want to challenge those ideas. Cognitive therapy may help you. You can go to my website, DrKenner.com, and look up cognitive therapy. That could help you challenge those very core ideas, those fundamental ideas, so that you have more of an outlook, when you look in the mirror, as, “Hey! These are the things I like about myself and there are some things I could improve and I’ll work on those.” That’s a very different attitude than always feeling like you are wrong and people are laughing at me.
I am Dr. Ellen Kenner and my show is The Rational Basis of Happiness. My website is DrKenner.com.