Thought Catalog

Read This If Your Empathy Is Your Biggest Weakness

Posted: 21 Sep 2015 12:35 PM PDT


I write a lot of about empathy, because I think that getting out of our heads and into the focused and idiosyncratic realities of others is crucial to our happiness and wellbeing and the happiness and wellbeing of those we love or encounter every day. But I tend to write about empathy as if it's always and unanimously a challenge, something that everyone must learn to make a part of them. I tend to write about empathy as if it's a journey for everybody.

The truth is that it's practically deceitful of me to preach empathy as a lesson I've learned, as a place I've reached, because the truth is that I was always here. Like many, needing to move towards a place of empathy and giving has not been my journey. The journey, for me, has been one of needing to learn to not be a doormat, to stand up for myself. Empathy is not what's difficult for me. Boundaries are.

I live largely in the heads of others. I'm always trying to make others more comfortable; it's more important to me than my own comfort. I'm always trying to make sure others are safe, protected, feel loved; it's more important to me than giving safety and protection and love to myself.

I live in others' bodies too. I feel others' pain and grief so physically that I'm unable to walk into hospitals, read about others' tragedies or hear about the accident scenes of my sister's EMT volunteer gig without starting to feel a sharp and undeniable pain in the center of my chest or finding myself in tears.

The most dangerous part of all of this is that we who feel empathy so freely appear so "good" on the surface. We seem to be the protectors. We seem to be the real-life superheroes. We're the ones who reach back and pull others up. We find happiness in our ability to do this; we seem to give endlessly without ever needing to take.

But this isn't all true, or ideal, or "good." We're very much not all "good."

We rescue and we comfort and we empathize. But we also reason out so many excuses for the people who hurt us that we often end up wrongly turning fault on ourselves.

We take care of others, nurturing them, placing their needs ahead of our own. But we also teach ourselves that we don't matter and chip away bit by bit, more and more, at our already-low confidence.

We take the load off of others, hoping to alleviate them, to help. But we also bury our own pain, not wanting to allow it to hurt others, preferring to let it hurt us.

And maybe a part of us likes this – our kindness, our generosity, everything we give. Maybe there's a satisfaction in others seeing us as martyrs.

But if you're anything like me, there's a dark room inside you that secretly, loudly weighs at the back of your mind, reminding you that in many ways you're a fraud. Because a part of us knows that our selflessness and our empathy are not entirely made of goodness and kindness and purity. A part of us knows that our selflessness and empathy are made of need.

Need – to be safe.

Need – to be protected.

Need – to be loved.

And so we offer up everything. We give out our compassion and kindness and empathy; we give it all away. We empty ourselves of all that's inside us for others and we hope for the love we can't give ourselves to be given to us from them in return. We try to fix what's lost and broken in others and hope that it might fill up what's lost and broken in ourselves.

And we'll do this for as long as we allow ourselves to lie, for as long as we can keep that room inside of us quiet and hidden away, until we've given so much to others that we've started to lose big parts of ourselves. Only then might we start to realize that we need to make a change, one of boundaries.

"Compassionate people are boundaried people," writes shame and vulnerability researcher BrenĂ© Brown. If you're like me – if you want to be able to believe that your kindness and empathy are only genuine – you initially cringe at reading those words.

How can that be so? How can being less giving make us kinder? How do love and prudence coexist? How could compassion and boundaries intersect?

But if you're like me, this also pulls at that part of you that knows you're not all "good." It forces us to walk into that room that we quietly know lives inside of us. It forces us to confront that our seemingly all-beautiful empathy is actually our biggest weakness. And it doesn't make us feel great.

Here's why we secretly feel ashamed of all that we give: at the root of it is a fear of holding others accountable. There's something easier to us about rescuing and covering for someone than there is in asking for what we want or challenging how others treat us.

Here's why we secretly feel like a fraud about our "kindness": at the root of true kindness is warmth and acceptance, and it's just not possible to feel genuine warmth and acceptance towards those who we let walk all over us.

And so each time we let our boundaries recede more and more, we teach others how much more we'll tolerate and how much less we'll ask for, and we teach ourselves to feel worse and worse about our worth and more and more phony.

So building boundaries may in fact come down to compassion. In having compassion for ourselves, we allow our kindness to come from a truer place, one that's less of secret need and more of authentic warmth. In looking out for ourselves – in protecting ourselves, in giving ourselves love and safety – we allow what we give to others to be pure and healthy.

I don't know that this is a change that we'll make overnight or ever, fully. In being our biggest weakness, it may be something that we wake up having to tackle every day for the rest of our lives. But I also think it's possible and important to work at harnessing our biggest weaknesses, to make them ours, because directly in the center of our biggest weaknesses is where our greatest strengths lie, curled up and untapped and waiting.

Directly in the center of our biggest weaknesses is the raw, unalloyed form of the thing that makes us most beautiful.

Simple awareness of where we fall short seems to be a good first step in getting to that place. Because as we make ourselves conscious enough to look at all the ways we act out of over-empathy and low confidence, as we look at all the ways we let ourselves be treated unkindly, we allow ourselves the awareness to make a change.

I like the part of me that will be at someone's side when they need it. I like the part of me that's reliable, that prioritizes giving, that can care about others so wholly that I can make room for their needs. But I also want to know that I can give to others in the most authentic and kindest of ways, that I'm not the one holding myself back from doing that.

So whereas in other areas of life we may need to break down barriers, this is one where we need to build up walls. Not the kind that shut out or shut in, but the kind that protect, that are born out of self-love and self-respect. I think only then, once we've built our walls, will we be able to truly and freely give, without restraint or secret agendas, with purity and goodness at our root.TC mark

Ladies, We Need To Stop Apologizing To Men When We Reject Them

Posted: 21 Sep 2015 11:00 AM PDT

Twenty20 / kirillvasilevphotography
Twenty20 / kirillvasilevphotography

It was really beautiful today. There was this one cloud smack dab in the middle of the cool, blue sky, and it reminded me of the first time I saw my daughter in an ultrasound picture — big, vast space with a little smudge right in the middle.

Like this cloud, just hanging out and waiting to grow through the season. So I smiled, remembering.

I was standing at a crosswalk waiting for the light to change when it happened.

I could see his lips moving, the man next to me, because I had music on full volume. And I couldn’t hear him, so I took out one of my earbuds.

“Sorry, I didn’t hear you.”

“Is that smile for me?”

“No. Sorry. I’m just happy today.”

No, sorry. SORRY!?!?

Why the f*ck am I telling him I’m sorry that I wasn’t smiling at him?

But I felt sorry. I felt sorry that I’d led him on somehow by smiling at that little cloud in that big blue sky, that I made him think I was interested when I hadn’t even noticed him. How ridiculous! I’m sorry? I can’t even believe I felt like this, but I did. I felt sorry.

So I did what we as women all do when we’re feeling vulnerable and awkward in broad daylight: I faked a phone call.

I looked at the smudge of cloud that had grown a little bigger. I angled my body away from him and shrank into myself, my shoulders bent, as though to hide my breasts. I moved my purse in front of my waist like a fig leaf.

“Well, you can make it up to me by having coffee.”

“I’m sorry, but I can’t.”

“So, why did you smile at me?”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t.”

“Come on, it’s one drink.”

And suddenly, the day didn’t feel so beautiful anymore. And I felt a lot less happy, and even a little gross, even though the sky was still blue and deep, and I shouldn’t feel less happy or a little gross. But if you’re a woman you get it. #YesAllWomen

From strangers on the street telling us to smile, or, “Girl, why you gotta be like that,” when we don’t. Or, feeling icky when we DO smile and it’s misinterpreted, to the lingering touches that we ignore, to the comments about our breast size, to the things we ask ourselves: “Do I look fat?” “Is my skirt too short?” “Can you watch my drink so no one puts anything in it?”

I’m sorry.

And every time I say it, I mean it — and I know you get it if you’re a woman — because to some degree we’ve all grown up feeling like this, like we have to justify everything about our choices, when no one would dare treat a man this way.

“I’m sorry, but I don’t want to go out with you.”

“I’m sorry, but I don’t want to kiss you.”

“I’m sorry, but I don’t want to sleep with you.”

“I’m sorry, NO. No, please. No. I’m sorry, but no. Don’t. I’m sorry, but I said no.”

And how often do we not say I’m sorry? How often do we just say it so we won’t have to feel sorry in the first place?

And then when we face the mirror after, again: I’m sorry. The biggest apology we owe to ourselves that we so seldom internalize.

The light changed. And while I stood there at this crosswalk underneath the clear blue sky, as I stepped down from the curb onto the street, I thought of all those sorrys. And I felt sorriest for that.

Look. It’s nice to be asked out. And when someone summons the courage to make the first move, it’s lovely. But if we aren’t interested, all we should feel the need to do is smile sweetly and say: “Thank you. But no.”

And, turning to face him under that clear blue sky, that is exactly what I finally did. TC mark


23 Quotes You Think Speak Only To You But Really Perfectly Explain The Human Experience

Posted: 21 Sep 2015 05:38 PM PDT

Twenty 20 / jrharris3
Twenty 20 / jrharris3

"The thing that makes you exceptional, if you are at all, is inevitably that which must also make you lonely."

– Lorraine Hansberry

“When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you.”

African Proverb

"You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive."

James Baldwin

"Have you ever been in love? Horrible isn’t it? It makes you so vulnerable. It opens your chest and it opens up your heart and it means that someone can get inside you and mess you up."

Neil Gaiman

“Stay away from people who make you feel like you are hard to love.”

– Daisy Chain

"I think you travel to search and you come back home to find yourself there."

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

“What is it that brings on these moods of yours? Nothing mysterious: the ordinary pain of being alive.”

Charles Baudelaire

"No person is your friend who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow."

Alice Walker

“I am too intelligent, too demanding, and too resourceful for anyone to be able to take charge of me entirely. No one knows me or loves me completely. I have only myself.”

Simone De Beajvoir

“Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.”

Lao Tzu

“What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

“I live in a crazy time.”

Anne Frank

“You are only invisible to those who do not deserve to see you.”

Emma Bleker

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

– Maya Angelou

“Two people who were once very close can without blame or grand betrayal become strangers. Perhaps this is the saddest thing in the world.”

Warsan Shire

"This is a good sign, having a broken heart. It means we have tried for something."

Elizabeth Gilbert

“When you focus on yourself and love yourself, some relationships have to go.”

Adrian Michael

“People die, people leave. That’s the only sure thing in this world.”

Mike Montgomery

“There are no safe investments but we invest anyway because heartbreak is transient but regret is eternal.”

Donna Peterson

“The worst thing that can happen is losing your potential by being too scared to live up to it.”

John Maurer

“We can choose to be a character in a story written out by someone else or we can choose to be the author of our own story.”

Ruby Garcia

“What seems to us as bitter trials are often blessings in disguise.”

Oscar Wilde

"To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best day and night to make you like everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting."

E.E. Cummings

10 Reasons Women Prefer Masturbating To Sex Sometimes (Even In A Relationship)

Posted: 21 Sep 2015 02:36 PM PDT

Shutterstock,  Maksim Shirkov
Shutterstock, Maksim Shirkov

1. You get to be selfish without feeling selfish.

When no one else is in the sexual equation, you don't have to feel bad about prioritizing your sensual needs. Masturbating equates to freedom from reading signals. You don’t have to evaluate your progress at turning a person on or worry about how much longer you have to hold out so you can both reach orgasm. Relieved of the burden of tending to man’s body, you get to focus purely on your pleasure, and who’s more important than Number One?

2. You get to sidestep the communication trap altogether.

It makes sense to grab the wheel rather than guide another driver in steering your way to Orgasm Land when you’re way more familiar with the mechanics of the vehicle. Self pleasure lets you manipulate your body exactly as you wish instead of fumbling to translate the desire to be fondled or touched in a very specific way, or struggling to explain exactly where your clitoris is located. It can be tricky to find the words to explain what you want to a man, but it's never tough to execute your own inner sex nymph’s naughty wishes.

3. You can get REALLY weird without fear of judgment.

Channel Natalie Portman in Black Swan and squirm like crazy all over your bed, or fuck yourself with a giant dildo. During solo sex, you can do whatever you need to to get off without worrying about how weird or “slutty” a guy might think you are. And since you can trust yourself to keep your own secrets, you can rest assured that anything that happens between you and the sheets stays between you and the sheets.

4. You can dream (and scream) about other guys mid-action without a care.

We're all prone to mid-sex fantasizing, but the risk of dreaming about being fucked by Jared Leto or your hot colleague or ex-boyfriend while you're current partner is banging you from behind is that you accidentally kill the mood by screaming the other dude’s name out loud. When you're flicking the bean, on the other hand, you can imagine whatever the hell you want and shout anyone's name without fretting over a regrettable slip of the tongue.

5. You end up teaching yourself new arousal tricks.

No one knows your body as well as you do. Through regular, dedicated self exploration, maybe you've already figured out exactly how to move and groove your way to orgasm within minutes. But there's always more to learn, and pleasuring yourself is an easy way to experiment without complicating things by involving a man, who’s remedial understanding of the way things work will likely slow you down. The more you touch yourself, the more likely you are to discover new twists and turns along your personal path to sexual satisfaction.

6. You don't have to worry about STIs.

You can never be too careful when sleeping with another person. And no matter how steadfastly you practice safe sex, there's always the risk of contracting an STI by receiving oral from someone with a tough to spot cold sore (a form of herpes, in case you didn’t realize), or by rubbing your skin against someone else's. As long as you wash your hands regularly, touching yourself is the most stress free way to tickle all your erogenous zones.

7. You don't have to think about birth control or pregnancy, either.

Since you can't get yourself pregnant, having sex with yourself is a surefire way to feel great without the possibility of an unplanned pregnancy looming like a thorn in your horny side. It’s liberating to get sexy without worrying if your IUD will fail, or entertaining the should-I-or-shouldn't-I-take-Plan-B-just-in-case debate the following day.

8. You get to watch whatever porn you want.

The options in terms of free pornography are vast and varied these days, but men and women don’t always agree on what constitutes sexy, and some women would rather keep their specific proclivities a secret. When you're alone in the comfort of your home, you get to Google whatever fetish or genre of smut you please without consulting anyone, quickly transporting yourself on the dirty fantasy ride you crave.

9. You get to play with amazing vibrators that make men seem pretty superfluous.

Technology has given the female sex a plethora of cool vibrators and other toys designed to stimulate and penetrate that are incredibly effective, not to mention user friendly (something that can’t be said about a lot of men). With so many awesome dick substitutes on the market to supplement a woman’s sexual experiences, an actual male participant really isn’t required.

10. You can get intimacy elsewhere anyway.

Arguably, the one downside to masturbating is that you don't get to connect with another human IRL. But nowadays, intimacy can be outsourced. If you want to feel less alone or you're seeking at least the hint of a man in the room, you can always sext with your boyfriend, Skype with a like-minded male friend, hire a digital boyfriend, or play with a virtual sex app. TC mark

Pussy: A Think Piece

Posted: 21 Sep 2015 10:22 AM PDT

Twenty20 / theprincessmichala
Twenty20 / theprincessmichala

Why, why in God's green and vast and beautiful earth, would you want to murder pussy? Like, the textbook definition of what murder includes, besides doing extensive time in the penal system (unless ya' money long like Diddy, or like, you're white), is not for games or play-play. But, yet, here we are, as the uncivilized, and sometimes archaic and cavemen we is, telling women we gonna murder their pussies. In fact, a lot of the terminology used for coital relation between gents and the opposite sex sounds downright abusive:

"Hit that"

"Smash that"

"Fuck that"

"Bang that"

"That," in a very distant 3rd person noun tense; "that" as in, "I have no connection to this object, this thing," which goes along with the notion that this "thing," which is a body part attached to a human being, has no real importance besides being something we can use for our pleasure and enjoyment, much like one plays a video game, or eats a sanmich (yeah, sanmich. Bruh Man from the fif' flo would agree).

Language is power. Words are power. The choices we make with those words, with this language, can dictate how we approach life and the people in our lives and how they are affected by them. Growing up in a neighborhood where a woman's vagina wasn't really classified as hers; it was something to be controlled, mastered…dominated.

Corner and barbershop conversations normally described conquests that could have been torn from the pages of Iceberg Slim lore. And one-upmanship is the phrase that plays in these parts; the more lewd and disrespectful, the better. I wasn't immune to it. As early as grade school, it was about getting your dick sucked and having sex with the pretty girls while ya' momma wasn't home (this from the boy who barely even know what his dick could do until like 9th grade, and damn near cried when his pee landed everywhere BUT the toilet bowl the first time he learned how to masturbate, and ain't lose his virginity until 19-20 years of age), we traded tales of fucking that were unbelievable in theory, but felt real and needed, because what is more important than the frail thing that is the male ego? Answer: everything, in case you was wondering.

The shit starts early. And the music I was listening to didn't help. Far be it for me to forget the tale of Dee Barnes, the once very popular journalist who hosted one of my favorite shows "Pump It Up" on Fox 5, way before we had the luxury of cable in our household, who was the victim of a verbal and physical beat down by the likes of a Mr. Andre Young aka Dr. Dre, multi-millionaire former member of NWA and Death Row fame, who can now be seen being played by a very talented young man in a NWA biopic.

I can recall very accurately how Dee's account of the story got swept under the rug that is Hip-Hop misogyny, and also me at a young age not really giving two flying fucks because hey, who cares as long as they give us the art we be asking for, right? Plus it fits the narrative of "bitches ain't shit" and the now popular "these hoes ain't loyal" that gets sung in playgrounds way before "the wheels on the bus."

So a "fuck a bitch" there, and a "fuck a bitch here" and a "here a bitch, there a bitch, everywhere a bitch," ain't seem too flagrant of a cause. I mean, R. Kelly peeing on underage girls in a video that we saw, still ain't stop dude from wearing a mask, trapping motherfuckers in a closet, and calling himself the "Pied Piper." It sure 'nuff hasn't stopped Chris Brown from almost beating the shit out of his lady in broad daylight and jet skiing with Usher next day like he just won a Grammy; ain't stop Ray Rice from hitting his wife with a closed fist like it was 4th and 1, and proceeding to drag her lifeless body around on camera, as if he had practiced the routine in the mirror before they left the house.

There are a slew of entertainers, professionals, blue-collar 9-to-5'ing brothers who have gotten their thrills from the mistreatment and harm of the opposite sex.

Don't be fooled. We've been groomed for this:

"Own that pussy"

"Beat the pussy up"

"Whose pussy is this?"

Hers. It's hers, I would imagine, and assume. We are literal slaves to the pussy. Even the word "pussy," like a kitten, to be stroked; like a pet to be owned. This is what, as men, as a society, we've been taught: that a woman's body is to be of service to the person who is requesting the service of it. Sometimes, the service isn't requested, but taken. Taken because, as the genius that is Nasir Jones once suggested with pride, “You owe me.” Nah, shun. She doesn't. We gotta do, and be, better. We gotta deconstruct how we talk and view our conversation about women and their placement in the world; frankly buy acknowledging that their place and our place is equal…and a majority of the time we, as men, would do ourselves a big favor by shutting thee entire fuckety fuck up about what women decide they want to, or not want to, do with their bodies. Because it's THEIRS.

A young lady carried a bed around her campus for an entire school year to send a message. Message received. Let's stop being fuckboys (myself included. This ain't soapbox dishing here. I've had some real backwards, backwoods ass ways of thinking and speaking when it came to the opposite sex). Live and learn…and then teach. Teach our young boys and young men about respect, and love…and that humans aren't property. Ever. TC mark

4 Mistakes All College Students Make (And How You Can Prevent It)

Posted: 21 Sep 2015 05:59 AM PDT

Flickr / Justin S. Campbell
Flickr / Justin S. Campbell

Producer's note: Someone on Quora asked: What are common mistakes made by college students? Here is one of the best answers that's been pulled from the thread.


1. A weak variant of the “imposter syndrome”

In today’s social media driven world, students often see the “best side” of all of their friends lives, not just in academic performance, but also in fun activities, general happiness etc. Students at top schools see all their friends seemingly doing great at everything, which in turn makes them doubt their own ability and whether they were an “admissions mistake.” A similar type of phenomenon was documented in a recent NYTimes article: Suicide on Campus and the Pressure of Perfection.

While some part of this can be attributed to the power-law social graphs on Facebook, some part of this is just human nature. People tend to give overly positive impressions of how they’re doing to their friends/acquaintances, both online and offline. Your classmate sitting next to you might inflate the numbers a bit when he tells you about his midterm results, and your roommate might cover up a bad breakup with a cover story. The power-law phenomenon I’m referring to is the Friendship paradox, with corollaries to other types of behavior: The Majority Illusion in Social Networks.

All this serves to challenges the self-esteem and produce personal feelings of insecurity by students, and can have obvious and serious consequences.

2. Entitlement

On the other end of the spectrum lies students who have a distorted and highly personalized view of college. They, perhaps because of their prior successes, assume that college is an experience meant to serve them, perhaps as a reward for their successes up to this point. Some have grown up in an environment where they have always been the center of attention, and have never experience real failure. These students often have highly personalized views of what classes should be. If they do not perform well, the response is always to shift the responsibility elsewhere (“why did the exam ask such obscure questions?” “why isn’t this project assignment more explicit in its instructions?” “I know there’s a lot of material in this course, but why can’t everything be explained more in detail?”). These students often think that the onus is on the university to “educate” them, and don’t understand the concept of “learning” as a proactive activity.

3. Thinking of faculty as “unapproachable”

As a professor, I really enjoy engaging with students in a 1-on-1 fashion after class or in office hours. Yet I often find that many students come in with a preconceived notion that professors want to have nothing to do with them. Some see faculty as “too busy to bother,” while others see faculty as aloof or anti-social. They’re afraid to come in to office hours, and often hold back questions in class for fear of being rebuked or ignored.

There are numerous opportunities available at a university that do not present themselves in an obvious way, but require some initiative from the student. Whether it’s after-class discussions with faculty on a topic related to class, undergraduate research positions, or other part-time jobs, students should be more proactive in asking for what they want. Unfortunately, this tends to affect a disproportionally high portion of female students. For example, after working with numerous undergraduate researchers in my lab for the last 8+ years, I still have yet to hire a female undergraduate researcher. It seems most female students tend to shy away from proactively asking (male) professors about research. Clearly, I also need to do more to encourage female undergraduates to explore research opportunities.

4. Poor time management.

This is a common problem that goes way beyond college students, but it’s where it may have the greatest impact. Even the best and most well prepared college students tend to underestimate the workload that comes with a rigorous academic schedule. This is especially true for some of the brightest students, who have often succeeded without good time management skills, because they could rely on their natural ability to get work done quickly. Yet inevitably, they’ll hit classes whose workload demand good time management over a semester or quarter, and procrastination will be their downfall. I see this every year in my undergraduate Operating Systems class, which by necessity, crams into a single quarter the theory and project load of a subject best taught over a semester. Some 2-3 week projects are difficult to finish even for students who start on day 1. Those who procrastinate and wait till 4-5 days before due date are doomed to failure (and much pain along the process). TC mark

This answer originally appeared at Quora: The best answer to any question. Ask a question, get a great answer. Learn from experts and get insider knowledge.

23 Of The Best Behind-The-Scenes Photos From The 2015 Emmys

Posted: 21 Sep 2015 02:56 PM PDT


1. Andy Samberg wearing the hell out of his suit right before the show. 

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2. And this really cool (and surprisingly calm) behind-the-scenes video. 

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3. Amy Schumer letting loose, for once. 

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4. Laverne Cox hangin’ with Red.

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5. And with Pensatucky at the after party.

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6. Mindy Kaling glamming it up, because why the hell not.

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7. JLD’s view from the top when ‘Veep’ won for best comedy.

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8. And this.

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9. Taraji P. Henson’s sweet proclamation to her family on the way to the show.

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10. Amy thanking her team for her gorgeous Emmys look.

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11. Nolan Gould looking absolutely precious on the red carpet.

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12. This perfect selfie.

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13. WE WON?!

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14. Taryn Manning looking fresh on her way over.

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15. Lady Gaga’s after party PicStich.

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16. Uzo Aduba killin’ it.

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17. And Uzo with some of the ‘Orange Family.’

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18. Elisabeth Moss having a dance party with her mom.

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19. Tony Hale’s sweet message after his big win.

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20. Anthony Anderson getting glammed up.

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21. “Two virgins.”

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22. Bromance?

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23. And Andy celebrating the fact that his big night was finally over. TC mark

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There Are Tons Of Things I Can’t Control, But My Reproductive System Won’t Be One Of Them

Posted: 21 Sep 2015 11:35 AM PDT

Twenty20 / Jovanadventures
Twenty20 / Jovanadventures

Last Sunday, my cervix wasn’t happy with me. Okay, perhaps that’s a bit of an understatement. My cervix was throwing a temper tantrum because of what I did to it about 48 hours prior. That’s when I officially became a member of Team IUD.

What is an IUD, you ask? An IUD is a small, T-shaped device that’s inserted into the uterus to prevent pregnancy. It lasts for up to 10 years and is considered the most effective form of birth control, with a failure rate of less than 1 pregnancy per 100 women (compared to 9 pregnancies per 100 women on the pill).

Opting to get my copper IUD inserted wasn’t an overnight decision, nor was it one that was made after a single routine gynecology appointment.

For the past two years, I’ve been researching birth control options that fit my needs. Being hormone-free was important to me, because there are enough chemicals coursing through my veins that help me successfully keep my anxiety and depression in check.

Additionally, since my mother has had several strokes over the past decade, anything I can do to decrease my risks of blood clots are crucial. But the fundamental piece that sold me on choosing Paraguard, a copper IUD, was the success rate of thwarting pregnancy.

Personally, this was the peace of mind necessary to finally release my inhibitions completely to enjoy sex (with the protection of a condom to prevent STDs, because I’m aware that an IUD doesn’t prevent STDs).

At this point in my life, I’m no where near financially or emotionally prepared to care for a child. Some weeks it’s a struggle to pay all my bills on time and not live on Ramen, even with a full-time job that pays well.

There are countless of women who are my age and younger that are thriving at motherhood. Kudos to them.

I’m also not afraid to admit that my career and ambitions as a writer are my two main priorities at the moment and there’s still so much I want to achieve in the upcoming years. The thought of my contraception failing and derailing the track I’ve been on is, well, devastating.

Maybe that makes me selfish, or that I’m not prioritizing the right things in life. But that’s the beauty of being a young, American woman in the 21st century with access to a variety of contraception options: it’s my choice.

As far as the IUD insertion experience, I’m not going to lie: It wasn’t a walk in the park.

There were multiple times during the half hour appointment that my wonderful gynecologist offered to stop the procedure because of my pitiful whimpers.

The part that caused the most discomfort was when she used the specula, a tool inserted to “inflate” or open up the vagina. After a minute  of wriggling in the chair and letting out whimper, I told my doctor it felt like she was trying to jam a rectangular block in to a circle peg.

Knowing this uncomfortable feeling was exacerbated because of my low tolerance of pain — and that I’d never return to get the procedure done if we stopped —  we continued. (Luckily, I had the hindsight to request Xanax to relax me before the appointment, which made a HUGE difference).

Being able to keep an open dialogue with my physician during the entire appointment was important, because she continuously explained what was about to happen and made sure it was OK with me.

Thankfully, she was able to bring in another size specula that made the expansion less intense. Once the “doors” were open (so to speak), the insertion of the IUD felt like a very intense menstrual cramp that you’d feel at the very start of your cycle.

Although I wouldn’t describe the pain as “comfortable” at least it was familiar enough to endue the 45 seconds of the insertion. After it was in, relief was immediate.

Boom! I was the proud owner of a copper IUD and commended for my commitment to sticking out the procedure — apparently, I’d handled it better than most women who have had multiple kids!
Once I received instructions on potential symptoms to expect over the next 48 hours, I was free to go about my day.

The lingering effects of the IUD insertion were similar to extremely uncomfortable menstrual cramping of a particularly brutal cycle, but with no bleeding. All of the horror stories — like faint-inducing pain, debilitating cramps, and uncontrollable bleeding — that I stumbled upon through Google search didn’t occur for me.

The copper IUD lasts a decade, which means I’ll be 36 when it loses its baby-stopping abilities. My gynecologist said that the IUD can be removed at anytime if I decide to have children before then.

Life is full of situations beyond my control, but my reproductive system won’t be one of them. TC mark


Finding Out How Much You’re Worth

Posted: 21 Sep 2015 09:43 AM PDT

Flickr / Jeff Belmonte
Flickr / Jeff Belmonte

For reasons unbeknownst to me, a lot of people I’ve met have proudly stated their net worth in the same sentence as their introductions. Okay, okay, I’ll admit it: they weren’t talking about their personal net worth, but instead, their company’s net worth. What net worth is this: it’s a figure in which represents how much you or your company is worth — is it in good financial standing, or is this a risky venture (or are you a risky person to give a loan to)?

To calculate net worth, all you do is subtract liabilities from assets. What that means is, you add up all of the assets in your name — checking, savings account, investments, houses, automobiles, your retirement account, and subtract it from liabilities, which are usually credit card debt, loans, mortgages, and the like.

Your goal should to be to continually increase your assets. One way you can do that is to decrease your liabilities. In other words, pay off your credit cards. Pay them off in full if you can.

Here’s an example:

You have $10,000 in assets: $3,000 in your checking, $5,000 in savings, and $2,000 in your investment portfolio.

You have $4,500 in liabilities: $2,200 in credit card bills and $2,300 in loans.

So that makes: ($3,000 + $5,000 + $2,000) – ($2,200 + $2,300), which comes out to a net worth of $5,500. But say in the next two years, the assets change to this: $2,000 in checking, $5,500 in savings, $2,500 in investments. Liabilities become this: $1,000 in credit card bills and $1,500 in loans.

Let’s figure out the net worth now:

($2,000 + $5,500 + $2,500) – ($1,000 + $1,500) = $7,500

Although the amount saved in checking went down, the amount owed for credit cards and debt decreased, which only served to increase your net worth by $2,000.

Think of it like this: net worth is amount owned subtracted by the amount you owe. Sounds pretty simple, right?

If tracking all of your assets and liabilities is too much work for you, try using Personal Capital to automate the process. I use it every day. TC mark

From Chills To Couples’ Intuition: 21 Stages Of Falling Madly In Love

Posted: 21 Sep 2015 09:27 AM PDT

Twenty20, kirillvasilevphotography
Twenty20, kirillvasilevphotography

1. Eye contact with the object of your affection feels like an entirely new, chill-inducing sensation, as if you're connecting within some special, secret dimension.

2. You anticipate the next time you’ll get to see the person you're falling for more acutely than you've anticipated any other future event.

3. So when you don't hear back from them within a given (arbitrary) timeframe, you're prone to irrational freak-outs and doomsday thoughts about losing the love of your life.

4. The relief and joy that set in once you do hear back is almost better than sex.

5. You’re way more aloof than usual because you’re consumed by thoughts about your soon-to-be boyfriend or girlfriend. But you don't care that your performance at work is a bit off, or that your friends are sick and tired of listening to you talk about your budding relationship.

6. All you care about is boyfriending or girlfriending this particular person since you're absolutely certain they're the one you're supposed to grow old with.

7. Once things do become official, you walk around smiling wide, as if nothing could go wrong in the world as long as your relationship remains in tact. You can't believe you were ever one of those cynical people who dismissed true love as a silly fairytale concept.

8. You find yourself thinking ridiculously idealistic thoughts pretty much always. Of course long-term happiness is possible! Of course you'll stay faithful for decades, until death do you part! Of course it's your duty to procreate and to continue the human race!

9. In the presence of your beaux, you're smarter, wittier, funnier, more pleasant, passionate and energized. You're the best possible version of yourself because the person you’re dating makes you that damn happy.

10. You have so many questions for each other—about your lives prior to meeting, about your innermost desires, and hopes for the future. You want to know each other inside and out, so you stay awake chatting into the wee hours, even when you have an early meeting the next day. Adrenaline pushes you forward.

11. Your habits start to change as you incorporate each other into your lives. Maybe you wake up earlier or later or start reading more or watching different kinds of television or you try out a new exercise regimen or you eat less meat or give up dairy. You want to do things just like them—to experience the world as they do, alongside them.

12. You start adopting your partner's mannerisms and favorite phrases, too. Your cadence even mimics theirs. Sometimes, you say the exact same thing out loud at the exact same time because you're spending that much time together, and you couldn’t be happier with this proof that you’re in each other’s heads.

13. You make grand proclamations without irony, sincerely believing that no one else has ever felt as strongly towards another human as you feel towards your partner. You are grateful to have met your soulmate! You are the luckiest person on the planet! You are never going to betray their trust! You would rather die than lose them! You would happily die for them!

14. You both willingly make sacrifices large and small. You support each other professionally, attend each other's familial events and lean on each other throughout tough times. You are entirely co-dependent, and you refuse to apologize for it.

15. You know that fighting isn’t a sign that you're incompatible, even if you scream nasty, regrettable things in the midst of arguing. You fight and then you apologize and then you have awesome make-up sex.

16. You recognize that sex is different now that you’re truly in love. You’re not too unrealistic to assume that the sex will always be great, but it is always good and sometimes it is absolutely mind-blowing.

17. Since you’re so obsessed with (and sexually satisfied by) your significant other, you barely bother to check out other people and you definitely don’t envy other couples.

18. You know you're better off facing the world as a unit rather than two separate individuals and you regularly tell your partner that you don't know what you'd do without them—because you actually don’t. Your visions of the future depend upon staying together and tackling the world as a team forever.

19. When you're apart, your partner is still with you in some way, a sort of lovable yet intangible phantom limb. The comforting awareness that they're out there, loving you from somewhere, transcends time, space, and distance.

20. You are so in love that you miss your partner even when they're around. It doesn't make sense, but it doesn't have to. You desire the impossible—to be so intertwined that you are actually one. To experience the world with them, and as them.

21. As time passes, your couples' intuition gets stronger and stronger. You know what your significant other is thinking or feeling before they even realize it. You can read each other's minds, hearts, facial expressions, and vocal cues instantaneously. You have a rare form of ESP rooted in closeness, understanding, shared history, and true love. TC mark