If you've been with me for a while now, you've probably gotten the message that most of the rough spots in single life are not lethal in themselves but can stir up major mischief when they get out of hand.
The same rule applies to feeling protective about your identity and accomplishments. Yes, you've worked hard to get where you are, and the instinct to hold on to your turf is only natural, normal and adaptive. But when you become hypersensitive about who you are and what you've done in life, when you become defensive, you undermine the very goals you've achieved. It's a perfect example of the way a difference in degree becomes a difference in kind.
For women, especially single women, this can be a sore spot, as well as a rough one. To prove and justify our liberation, we sometimes come on too strong, under our breath shouting, "I am strong! I can do it myself!" It's understandable — but not a very good idea when excessive. When you become defensive, you take a step backward. And we've come too far to take that risk. We are not islands; we cannot set ourselves apart from the crowd. Nor would we want to! Genuinely confident women don't need to be defensive. Once you feel really good about your achievements, your friends, your home, the balance of love and work in your life, you won't bristle at unintentional slights. You'll be able to laugh them off — and thus take your place among the greats. But this degree of self-assurance doesn't happen overnight; it can take a while to achieve. Until you reach that balance, consider these ways to smooth over sharp edges:
—Think back to the most recent time you felt sure of yourself and truly confident. That is the real you, and the more often you dwell on that memory the closer you will come to being that woman all the time.
—Do what exhilarates you — and do it often. Dancing does it for me, every time. On the dance floor, I am as close as I can be to the peak picture I have of myself. Do whatever it is that does that for you.
—Learn to trust your instincts. Consult them when you need an answer, and listen to them over the din of outside opinions. Always confer with yourself before making any decision of major proportions.
—Analyze what it is that is making you feel defensive. Is it not having a man in your life? Is it being unmarried and "different" from your family and friends? Hey. You're not looking for excuses here; you're looking to understand what is going on with you. And that has got to be one of the very best things you can do for yourself. Level with yourself. Work hard to break down any walls you have put around yourself. More — much more — next time. Promise.
Have a question for Susan? You can reach her directly at [email protected]