ifIknew

ifIknew is a health initiative for young adults that uses a multi media approach, including social media and in person programs, to address the contemporary issues that impact the well-being, self-image, careers, and relationships of people in their 20's and 30's.

If I Knew is a prevention education project that raises awareness about risky behaviors that can profoundly impact lives.

Filtering by Tag: healthy relationships

It’s Okay to be Sexually Confident!

Sex can be confusing! Not just the act itself, but all of the social and emotional aspects surrounding it. We are constantly given mixed messages about sex: Be dominant! Be submissive! Ask for what you want! Be coy! Too slutty! It’s a whirlwind of contradicting information. No wonder it’s so hard to be sexually confident. We want to be ourselves and have great sex lives, but we don’t want to get rejected or hurt anyone, and we want to protect ourselves. The first thing to remember on the path to sexual confidence is this: You deserve a wonderful, healthy sex life. Beyond that, everyone is different. Likes and dislikes, religious beliefs, long-distance relationships, sexual orientation—all of these things can determine a person’s current feelings on sex. But the key is in treating sex seriously, but with a dose of humor as well. Two willing adult partners in a safe environment sounds clinical, but it is really the starter for great sex for a lifetime. So long as we respect our bodies and each other, great sex is out there for the having.

The Changing Family

We all know that the two parent, two child household is now just one of many, many combinations that make up a family. That said, how do we navigate traditional family dynamics with the new reality? What is the polite thing to call a former mother-in-law? Do you buy your step-dad a Father’s Day card? Do you continue to call your uncle’s husband your uncle? Do you have to have your half-sister in your wedding if you aren’t close? You’ll find all of the correct answers to these questions and more below:

Just kidding. For every familial relationship, for every holiday and reunion, for every plane ride back to your home town there is a new set of rules. So why not just stick to the basics:

When in doubt, be as kind as you can. Your step mom knows she’s not your mom, there is no need to remind her. Odds are, she’s not trying to be, she’s just trying to make you (and herself) feel as comfortable as possible. Why not indulge her? Instead of acting defensive around new family, no matter who they are, don’t punish them for not knowing you yet. Offer gracious thanks and try to interact.

Sometimes, it’s gonna be awkward. And that’s okay. If you are in a new relationship with someone who has kids or your elderly parent is getting remarried, whatever the case may be, there is plenty of uncharted territory. The only recourse is to accept this as a fact and try to move forward. That may even mean acknowledging the surprising nature of life, making a joke of it and pushing along.

New and “non-traditional” family can provide new and “non-traditional” love. The beauty of forging ahead into an uncharted family dynamic is that there aren’t a million examples all around you. This can feel lonely, but it can also be a good thing. Most people could talk for hours about their relationship with their mother, and it’s easy to compare and contrast which can often lead to one party feeling badly. But a blended family might have less to compare it to, leaving more room to avoid unnecessary hang-ups.

Just be yourself. Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s a cliché, but it’s so true! Let these people in a little bit, show them who you are, and the family-like love we’re all supposed to feel for anyone who is remotely related to us, may flow more freely. Or it may not, but at least you can say you were kind, and that you tried.

Unhealthy expectations won’t help you succeed

inner_voice_bubbleThere is a little voice inside of us that loves to torture us. And in many cases, there is a part of us that loves being tortured. The voice loves to tell us how badly we’re doing, how other people are better, richer, smarter, thinner. The voice is a punk. The voice will try to convince you that it is ambition talking, that it is trying to make you better so that you can have all you want in life. The voice is lying. Ambition is not feeling perpetually behind. Ambition is not a constant berating of your current status. Ambition makes you feel good, not terrible. Ambition doesn’t want to make you better than others, it makes you want to be a better version of you.

The voice is a trickster. It will tell you that it’s only trying to help, that it wants to see you succeed by making you feel less than. The voice is manipulative because if we are not careful, the voice inside our heads that tells us we are not good enough will start to come out of our mouths. Then the voice will turn on our friends, our children, our partners.

In order to be the happy and healthy versions of ourselves we deserve, we should have ambition. We should strive for excellence and be wary of complacence. We should also give ourselves room to grow, and to falter. The clearest sign of a person with a future of success is not if they never make a misstep, it’s how they handle the constant missteps and how they treat others. The voice doesn’t know that.

Learning to be Alone Makes us Better Partners

We’ve all been there:  basking in the glow of sharing a life, an intimate moment, a new experience. The googly eyes we get when someone has left us enchanted is all a part of what makes us human. Meeting someone new, or a change in a trusted relationship (like engagement, cohabitation, or marriage) can lead us to slip into what’s commonly referred to as “the honeymoon phase”.  But then in time something else happens. Suddenly the house, the apartment, the bed (heck, even the city) feel small. The charming nuggets about your partner can now feel like intolerable ticks. Being alone isn’t always easy, but neither is being with someone. The expression “the grass is always greener” was invented specifically for this type of conundrum. We want a partner, but we don’t want to lose ourselves in the process of finding a special someone. How can we adapt?

Maintaining some semblance of life separate from your partner may help. A social group, a class, a job, or a hobby that your mate could really care less about may not be a bad thing. If kids are in the picture, that may mean that a biweekly book club without your partner is not in the cards, and that’s okay. Start small. It can be helpful to have different tastes in books and movies and if possible allowing a little private time for yourself to enjoy your romcoms (romantic comedies)or war novels without the love of your life looking over your shoulder.

If you are wracking your brain to think of the last time you’ve been alone for a night, a meal, or even a few hours, it may be time to devote a little time to the other person in your relationship: you. An activity meant just for yourself will not automatically lead to separate bedrooms, so don’t hesitate to tell your partner if you need some time for yourself. The happier you are, the happier they are. Besides, of course you should hang out with yourself; who wouldn’t want to hang out with you?

Beating the Stigma of Being the “Odd One Out”

Can we be frank? Young adulthood can suck. It can be wonderful and perhaps the best years of our life, but that doesn’t make them easy. This is the age we can so easily be trapped between the rules of childhood and the responsibilities of adulthood. It’s easy to get excited when school is a thing you look back on, but without the safety and structure of the institution of a high school or college, playing by society’s rules can be tricky. We live in a world where statistics play an incredibly important role in assessing our self-image. We hear about them all the time. An article recently hit the media stating that the amount of money a person should be making per year is equal to their age in years, and if you are “good” at what you do, you should make double your age. Is that what we measure ourselves against?

Another recent study says that the average age of marriage continues to rise for young men and women. Another notes the rise in couples who cohabitate before marrying. Again, are we pressured to conform to the “average.”

The problem with these statistics is that it’s incredibly easy to read them and feel out of place.

Perhaps you are unmarried in your mid-twenties, and are feeling like the only single person in your peer group. Perhaps at 27 you are making $25,000 per year.  Perhaps you and your spouse did not live together before tying the knot. Statistics are meant to help us better understand our society, and the needs and characteristics of the people in it. But when you pin down an “average,” statistics do a funny thing: they make anyone outside that small bubble feel like an outsider, and anyone inside the bubble feel ordinary.

So how do we go about our lives and think of statistics as what they were intended to be? It starts with the way we view others. Freeing ourselves from negative judgment when encountering peers who don’t fit into a box designated as “average” helps us connect and be more considerate. If most of your friends don’t have kids, but a close friend is a new mom, consider her feelings before planning a last-minute trip for all your friends.  If you’re getting married as a friend is divorcing, recognize the challenges he may face at your wedding. The kindnesses will be remembered when you are the odd one out.

Perhaps when that newly divorced friend makes twice as much money as his age, he’ll pick up the next dinner check.

Who Says You Can't Go Home?

The economy is in a rut and the student loan collectors are beginning to call. So where do you go next? The answer for many of us is moving back in with our “ ‘rents.” Moving home after being independent for an extended period of time can feel like a major downer.  It’s easy to feel demotivated and depressed as you confront this major lifestyle change.  However, it really doesn’t have to be that bad! Here are some tips to help make living with the “ ’rents” a more positive experience:

1)      Remember first and foremost that your parents are doing you a favor by providing you free or discounted shelter.  Remember to say thank you – your parents will appreciate your gratitude.

2)      Set a time frame for how long you plan to live at home. If you are job-hunting, don’t allow yourself to get too distracted.  Make yourself a schedule and stick to it.

3)      Set ground rules with your parents.  If you are living with any new roommates, it’s important to assert your needs and set boundaries.  Your dad might not want you coming home after the sun has already risen…however, you also have the right to tell him not to snoop through your stuff.   Mutual respect will go a long way.

4)      Remind yourself that your time with your parents is still an opportunity to move forward and build your life.  You can continue seeing friends, dating, and more.

5)      Establish local support networks.  Give your friend from high school a call, hang out in local coffee shops, and reintegrate yourself in your community.  Seek new friends.

6)      Stay the responsible adult you are or are becoming. Contribute. Regressing to being taken care of by our folks is so tempting but so stunting. You don’t want to be living on their couch in your 30’s.

 

Going Home for the Holidays? How to keep your cool...

You walk in the door and your mother nags you about your hair.  Your father comments on your lack of drive.  Your uber-successful big brother rubs his new car in your face.  Sound familiar?  Why is it when we go home we somehow become a kid again?  We resume our childhood roles –the older responsible one, the rebel, the baby.  How can we get through the holidays without letting our family drive us crazy?  The first thing to remember is that families install and push each other’s buttons.  Don’t take things so personally.  Parents are parents and it’s a job that never stops.  Mothers especially have a language all their own.  It’s their job to turn us into productive members of society.  Think of the National Geographic shows where the mother lioness cuffs her cubs.  It’s the same thing.  If we think of nagging as a mother’s way of saying “I love you,” it takes the sting out of it.

Try non-reaction.  We can’t change our family but we can change how we react to them.  When we stop reacting, things change.  When we don’t engage and let our buttons be pushed, the roles tend to change naturally.   Like a radio station, try a 10 second delay.  Before you react to something, take a deep breath and exhale slowly.  You’ll be able to react more like an adult and less like a kid.

The Perfect Gift

No need to drive yourself crazy about presents. The holiday season hits and something comes over us.  We spend money we don’t have on presents no one probably even needs and stress ourselves out running from house to house or event to event.  We get angry when dinner burns or Uncle Ron gets drunk.  Why do we do it to ourselves?  Even Hollywood understands that the perfect holiday doesn’t exist.   

For one thing, our expectations get the best of us.  Perhaps if we know that something could happen to throw a wrench in things, we won’t be so upset when it happens.  It’s easier to go with the flow when we’re less rigid and when we remember the reason we are celebrating the holidays. “Holiday” comes from the words “holy days” as in, to make the day sacred, special, and peaceful.

The other thing is that we think that presents will let others know that we care-even if we can’t afford them.  Your presence is the best gift of all.  Instead of running around grabbing the last minute gifts or stressing over the money you don’t have, ask if you can help decorate, cook, bake, or set the table.  Ask about their childhood, holiday or other special memories.  Engage with those who are there.

Twenty years from now, no one is going to remember the gifts.  They will, however, remember the time and attention you spent with them because it will strengthen our family bonds and show others that we really do care about them.