Why You Need to Stop Talking About Yourself

There is a recurring theme in most of what we say. Studies show that hands down, our favorite topic of communication is, you guessed it, ourselves. As Scientific American asked and answered: Why, in a world full of ideas to discover, develop and discuss, do people spend the majority of their time talking about themselves? Research suggests a simple explanation: because it feels good. Talking about oneself activates the same areas of the brain that light up when eating good food, taking drugs and having sex. Simply put, self-disclosure is gratifying. It is a natural high. Who talks more and why is less clear. Stereotypes suggest women enjoy chatting more than men.  According to science, it’s more nuanced than that. A test conducted to explore social interaction patterns found that women speak only slightly more than men in professional and social settings, and only when the number of people involved in the conversation is less than six. In large groups, men tend to dominate conversation. Just because you are wired to enjoy talking about yourself does not mean you don’t have a choice.  One way to avoid tumbling down a rabbit hole of self-involved chitchat is to steer clear of your favorite topics.  At the very least, you minimize your risk of becoming the one note character in the classic American Pie movie who could never resist a moment to talk about her favorite topic. Every other sentence began with “last summer at Band Camp…” Bottom Line: People love to talk about themselves. You can also use it to your advantage.  Next time you find yourself deep in conversation, be sure to listen too. Odds are, if you let the other person talk about themselves, they will think YOU are a genius.

How to Push Past Fear

According to most swimming superstars,“Getting in a cold pool first thing in the morning” is the single hardest thing about training. Those first few minutes are the toughest part of the day. They dread the initial immersion in the chilly water and even though they do it everyday most say they never get used to it. But once they’re in, they’re in. Overcoming the initial pain, worry, or discomfort can be the most challenging part of any endeavor but it is the only way to reach your potential:

Just like how athletes must practice to be comfortable in discomfort, you must as well if you hope to improve your skills and advance your career. The hard stuff, the stuff you’d rather skip or do later is often the stuff that’s most necessary. Every time we choose to play it safe or bypass challenging intellectual prompts, we impede our ability to innovate and grow, waste our own (or our company’s) money, and squander our talent.

Fear is often at the core of resistance to make a change. So how do you push past it? Break it down. Ask yourself, “What is the very first step I need to take?” and take it. As Special Forces Instructor Mark Hickey describes,

I can say from my own experience that after you do one thing and conquer it, the next thing is a little bit easier.

Each time you fight through the discomfort, you arm yourself with confidence, you fortify yourself with experience and you inoculate yourself against setbacks. Taking action is empowering regardless of the outcome. Don’t hesitate or dip your toe in the water. The best way to deal with initial discomfort is to literally jump in as the swimmers do. I cannot promise that the rest will go swimmingly well but getting wet certainly makes swimming easier

Is The News Giving You The Blues?

The news these days seems to be making many people either depressed or outraged and ultimately defeated. How can you channel those feelings into something positive? Many of my patients grapple with this issue. They want to stay informed but the constant drip of negative news is stressing them out. There is increasing evidence that the nonstop barrage of disturbing and infuriating stories impacts psychological health. Studies show it can worsen feelings of anxiety, lead to sadness, and flip you into a bad mood. Negative news stories have also been shown to exacerbate personal worries that are unrelated to the content of the story itself. In other words, a story about a disheartening political situation can amplify concerns about your relationship. The 24/7 news cycle is emotionally draining. I know that a notification on my device about a natural disaster or corrupt politician can instantly affect my mood and make it hard to concentrate on anything else. It’s so easy to tumble down the rabbit hole of live updates as an event unfolds. The irony is that following a breaking event may make us feel more involved but does not necessarily make us more informed. Most of the time, it’s noise, not news. So how do we stay on top of the issues without feeling overloaded? You don’t have to bury your head in the sand like an ostrich. The key is to optimize how, when, and from where you get your news. Here are a few tips that have helped me and my patients stay sane and avoid news-induced negativity.

1. Turn off notifications and digital alerts from news sources on all your devices.

2. Designate a time—either once or twice a day—to get your news fix from an established source, not social media.

3. Read or watch stories that intelligently present digested and reliable information about what has happened.

4. Skip commentary and media that predict what might happen. Listening to pundits and so-called experts weigh in on the future is basically glorified gossip and of little value.  Learn the facts, don’t follow opinions.

5. Avoid checking news first thing in the morning and before bed. It might hijack your day or interfere with your sleep.

Once you gain control over how you get your news and where you get it from, not only will you be calmer and more productive, you will be better informed and in a position to make better decisions about what you want to do about it. This post originally appeared in Marie Claire Magazine

Does Your Weekend Exhaust You?

Do you feel exhausted after the weekend? The allure of pleasant, in the moment, and easy activities is powerful. After a long week, it’s hard to resist a bowl of potato chips, a remote control, and a widescreen. However, as tempting as it sounds to lounge around in your PJs all weekend, the trick to fulfilling and restorative downtime is to do stuff. Many of us waste our leisure time in passive activities like watching TV and scrolling through social media but, as research clearly demonstrates, engaging in physically or psychologically demanding activities is far more satisfying. The strange thing is that most of us are aware of this fact and yet cannot help ourselves from turning into couch potatoes on the weekend. A study entitled The Paradox of Happiness: Why are we not doing what makes us happy?, found that the main obstacle separating us doing things that actually bring lasting happiness is that we perceive them as intimidating. The key then is to make more effortful but satisfying activities seem just a little less daunting. For example, you could put your workout clothes out the night before so that when you wake up, that extra step of finding your jog bra is already taken care of. Another strategy is to schedule activities, especially with a friend. If you are already committed and it is on your calendar, you are more likely to follow through. Don’t just slide into your weekend, decide what you want to do in advance and do it. 

Lean Into Your Mistakes

For many of us, rationalizing what went wrong in the wake of a failure or disappointment is a common response. It protects us from dealing with unpleasant emotions and feeling badly about ourselves. A student gets a C on a paper and dismisses the bad grade as not mattering that much. An employee receives negative feedback on a presentation and blames the client and convinces themselves they will do better next time. These self-protective measures enable us to get over the disappointment and to move on. According to new research, we may be getting it all wrong. In fact, the best way to learn from a setback may be to feel the pain. In the study entitled, Emotions Know Best: The Advantage of Emotional versus Cognitive Responses to Failure, participants were asked to complete a simple task. If they succeeded, they were told they could win a cash prize. One group was told to imagine focusing on their emotional response to winning or losing. The other half was instructed to take a more cognitive approach and to focus on their thoughts about winning or losing. The task was rigged so that they all failed. Both groups were then asked to complete a second task. The group that had been asked to embrace their negative emotions exerted 25% more effort than the other group. The researchers believe that reflecting on the failure and the accompanying unpleasant feelings enabled them to learn from their mistakes. It’s counterintuitive and defies conventional wisdom. From childhood, we are told not to dwell on mistakes and to move on but as the study shows, leapfrogging over messy unhappy feelings may not be the best strategy. If we want to learn from our mistakes at school, at work and in relationships, we need to lean into them.

Are Other People’s Selfies Making You Sad?

“Stop comparing yourself to everyone else.” It’s something mothers say all the time and yet it may be something we are hardwired to do. In the 1950s, Leon Festinger formulated what he called “social comparison theory”—it is a theory predicated on the idea that we determine our own social and personal worth based on how we measure up to others. In other words, in the absence of objective means of evaluation, we are constantly evaluating ourselves—our intelligence, our attractiveness, wealth, success etc.—in reference to those around us. According to the theory, people prefer to compare themselves with others who are similar to them. After all, what would be the point of a novice pianist comparing themselves to Beethoven? There are upsides to social comparison. Students may feel more competent and confident when they compare themselves to other students who didn’t do as well on a biology test. It can also be a source of motivation—for example a runner may want to emulate the performance of a fellow runner who beats them by a tenth of a second. Likewise, comparisons can make us more grateful for what we have and put disappointments and hardships in perspective. The thought, “Perhaps I don’t have it so bad, after all” often comes to mind when we think of others who are less fortunate. This tends to ring true when we stop and think about the natural disasters affecting so many people across the United States and beyond right now.  That said, there are many downsides to social comparison. Research suggests that unhappy people make more frequent social comparisons than happy people and it makes them feel worse whereas happy people are less affected by it. The tendency to seek social comparison is correlated with low self-esteem and depression. Comparing ourselves to others may be in our DNA but the context and comparisons have changed dramatically with social media. Rather than making comparisons to people who are in the same boat as we are, we now have a global landscape to draw from. Research explains:

As people are increasingly relying on social networking sites for a variety of everyday tasks, they risk overexposure to upward social comparison information that may have a cumulative detrimental impact on wellbeing. Moreover, as prior research has show that people with low self-esteem often use social networking sites to express themselves in what they perceive to be a safe environment, this may result in a vicious cycle of using social networking sites to receive social support but therein exposing themselves to upward social comparison information—impairing self-esteem and restarting the cycle.

Mass media is one of the commanding influences today for social comparison and studies show it takes a toll on our wellbeing:

Research has found that women who report frequently comparing themselves to other women, especially women in the media, are more likely to show signs of negative mood and body image disturbance (Schooler et al., 2004). Tiggemann and Mcgill (2004) found that women participants’ brief exposure to media images of females led to increased levels of body dissatisfaction and weight anxiety. 

In fact, 70 percent of women feel depressed after looking at a woman’s fashion magazine for just three minutes!  Looking at images of friends’ “perfect lives” on social media has been shown to have a similar effect. Amazing parties, fabulous photos of people having a ball without us, and picture perfect images of a stress-free life can trigger resentment, envy and low self-esteem. We forget that these pictures are highly curated to portray life at its best—the in-between, non-Photoshopped moments when the kids are melting down while the souffle deflates rarely make the social media cut. The important thing to keep in mind is that these images are not reality. Studies show that when images are viewed with this in mind and with an understanding that the images represent a fantasy, they have less of a negative effect and can even improve mood. As one saying goes:

“You will never look like the girl in the magazine. The girl in the magazine doesn’t even look like the girl in the magazine.”

Bottom line: Enjoy these images for the fantasy, the beauty, the inspiration and the creativity. Remember that they have nothing to do with reality.

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Ana Flores


A passionate leader, and advocate for portraying Latina women in a positive light, Ana Flores is both founder and CEO of #WeAllGrow Latina Network, the first and largest community of Latina digital influencers.

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Why You Need to Stop Talking About Yourself

There is a recurring theme in most of what we say. Studies show that hands down, our favorite topic of communication is, you guessed it,...

How to Push Past Fear

According to most swimming superstars,“Getting in a cold pool first thing in the morning” is the single hardest thing about training. Those first few...

Is The News Giving You The Blues?

The news these days seems to be making many people either depressed or outraged and ultimately defeated. How can you channel those feelings into...

Does Your Weekend Exhaust You?

Do you feel exhausted after the weekend? The allure of pleasant, in the moment, and easy activities is powerful. After a long week, it’s...

Lean Into Your Mistakes

For many of us, rationalizing what went wrong in the wake of a failure or disappointment is a common response. It protects us from...

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