Birth Control & Protection Options

What is birth control, and why should you care?

Birth control (contraception) is any method used to reduce the likelihood of pregnancy as a result of intercourse or other sexual contact. Because pregnancy is a condition solely known to women (and pre-op trans men), the choice to maintain or terminate a pregnancy belongs to the woman (trans man). It is up to you to educate yourself about your sexuality and to choose what level of risk you are willing to accept when having sex with other people. To maintain your rightful autonomy as a fellow human being, you should not allow anyone else to tell you how to control or make decisions about your body. You may consider their advice, but ultimately, pregnancy and engagement in/abstinence from sex are your choices to make.

What are STIs (also known as STDs)?

STI stands for sexually-transmitted infection. STD stands for sexually-transmitted disease. Most venereal infections are easily treated and cured, or at the very least managed. As a result, medical professionals now prefer to use the term “STI” because less stigma surrounds the term infection than the term disease (UC Berkeley Sexual Health Education Program; Boston Women’s Health Book Collective 275). Check out this infographic from the Center for Disease Control for an easy summary of the latest statistics for STIs in the US.

For specific questions you might have when landing on this page, please scroll to the FAQ sections at the bottom.

Male condoms, also known as “rubbers,” “prophylactics,” or “safes.” The male condom is one of only two types of contraception that also provides STI protection.

Methods of Contraception & Their Efficacy Statistics

Non-barrier Methods & Their Efficacy Statistics

Non-barrier methods are any form of contraception that involves a hormonal or chemical change to prevent pregnancy in the woman’s body.

Name Description Effectiveness
Hormonal release vaginal ring Insert the flexible ring once per month and leave in for 3 weeks. Take out for the fourth week to have your period. Using the ring this way provides a month of complete birth control. 99% when used perfectly
Hormonal birth control (“the Pill”) Most popular type of birth control. Comes in packs of either 28 or 21 pills. In the 28-pill packs, there are 21 active pills and 7 inert pills. You must take your birth control pill at the same time every day in order for it to be effective. The pill packs come with instructions should you miss one, two, three, or more pills in a month. If you miss two or more pills in a month, you need to use a backup method until you get back on track with the pill schedule (might take as much as long as 7 days to restore). When you start taking the pill, there is a wait time of at least one month from when you start taking the pill packs for it to be an effective form of birth control. 99% effective when used perfectly; 95% with typical use
Mini-pills (progestin-only oral contraceptives) These pills come in packs of 28 pills and do not contain estrogen. These are convenient because they avoid the side effects that taking estrogen orally can cause. 98-99% effective with perfect use; 95% with typical use; 100% effective with nursing women without affecting milk supply
IUD A Can be made of copper (non-hormonal; trade name is Paraguard) or can be plastic with hormonal release (Mirena, Skyla). Inserted at the doctor’s office or at a clinic. Paraguard lasts up to 10 years and is the largest. Mirena is slightly smaller and lasts up to 5 years; Skyla is the smallest and easiest to insert and lasts up to 3 years. Can also be inserted within 7 days after unprotected intercourse to reduce risk of pregnancy to 1% (99% effective).
Hormonal release suppository (implant) in arm Soft, hormone-filled capsules that are inserted under skin in upper arm area. Prevents ovulation and cervical fluid thickening, preventing sperm from getting into the uterus. Safe, long-term, reversible option. Types: Norplant-2 [Jadelle] (lasts up to 5 years), Implanon (lasts 3 years) 99% effective, talk with doctor about potential side effects.
Hormonal release contraceptive patch Applied to the abdomen, buttocks, upper arm, or upper torso. Changed every week for three weeks, left off for one week, and then resumed. Combination hormones (estrogen + progestin) 99% effective in women under 198 lbs when used perfectly; less effective for women at higher weights
Spermicide This can come in a variety of forms, but all of them include the active ingredient Nonoxynol-9: canned foam, cream, jelly, vaginal contraceptive film (VCF), suppositories. The disadvantage of Nonoxynol-9 is that it actually increases the rate of HIV transmission in people who use it relative to non-users. May cause an irritation, rash, or itchiness if you or your partner are allergic to any of the ingredients in spermicide. 94% effective when used perfectly; only 74% effective with typical use
Monthly injection (Lunelle) Can be injected into the arm, thigh, or hip. Not available in the US as of 2004. >99% effective
Three-month shot (Depo-provera) Injection scheduled for every 3 months, given in arm or buttock. High level of progestin. 99.7% effective
Female Sterilization (tubal ligation) A surgery that closes the fallopian tubes. This stops the egg from traveling to the uterus from the overy. The tubes are cut, burned or blocked with rings, bands, or clips. The surgery is immediately effective. Performed in a doctor’s office, clinic, or hospital, using general anesthesia. >99%
Male Sterilization (vasectomy) A minor surgery that severs the vas deferentia, the tubes that carry sperm from testes to penis; keeps the sperm from getting mixed into semen. It is possible to reverse within the first 5 years of the procedure, but should ultimately be considered a permanent form of birth control since the success rate of reversal is only ~30%. >99% as long as you wait a month after the procedure to start having sex without a backup method
Experimental male “Pill” Not available yet, undergoing trials in 2018 Not available yet, undergoing trials in 2018
Withdrawal (“pulling out”) Removing the penis from the vagina just before ejaculation so that the sperm gets deposited outside the vagina and away from vaginal lips. However, precum (pre-ejaculate) can contain enough sperm to induce a pregnancy, so this method is widely seen as ineffective. This is a male-controlled form of birth control, which may leave the woman feeling very out-of-control and unsafe. It may keep the woman from enjoying sex due to fear of mistakes. Some men can’t tell when they’re about to ejaculate, so they don’t pull out in time to avoid getting sperm in the vagina. 81-96% depending on how perfectly it is done; 81% with typical use.
Emergency contraception (“morning after pill,” “Preven,” “Plan B,” “EC pill,” or “combined EC pill”) Use in any of the following situations:

  • “The condom broke.”
  • “I didn’t think we were going to have sex.”
  • “I didn’t realize that I had forgotten to take my pill.”
  • “I was raped.”

Take emergency contraception up to 72 hours after unprotected sex. The sooner you take the emergency contraception after having unprotected sex, the more likely it is to work at preventing pregnancy. You can buy this at any local drugstore (e.g., Walgreen’s, CVS, RiteAid) by asking for it from the cashier or pharmacist.

75-89% if initiated within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse; can be initiated within 120 hours of unprotected intercourse
Abstinence Usually doesn’t work with partners who spend a lot of time together in a sexually-charged mood or setting. However, it does allow an opportunity to experience erotic pleasure with a partner as long as both parties agree beforehand that penile-vaginal penetration will not be part of the activities. Requires clear communication and agreement prior to initiating non-penetrative sexual activities. 100% effective when actually practiced
Fertility awareness method (FAM) Requires a lot of attention to and awareness of one’s own body, including taking your waking temperature, spotting any cervical fluid, and identifying your cervical position every day. Requires meticulous charting of these fertility signs to determine whether or not you are fertile on any given day. More effective than the “rhythm” calendar method. 91-99% effective when done perfectly; 75% effective with typical use
Breastfeeding as birth control Inhibits ovulation when breastfeeding is done in a certain way. Frequency of feedings, whether your baby uses a pacifier, whether or not liquid/food other than breast milk is given to baby, and even taking a daily nap with baby can all influence your fertility using this method. You can use the Lactation Amenorrhea Method during the first 6 months of breastfeeding if:

  1. Your menses haven’t come back since you gave birth
  2. Your baby is under 6 mos old, and
  3. You are fully or nearly fully breastfeeding.
99% following the LAM method (see Description)

Source: Chapter 18, “Birth Control.” Our Bodies, Ourselves.

Barrier Methods & Their Efficacy Statistics

Barrier methods are any form of contraception that involves physically blocking the sperm from the egg to avoid fertilization. The effectiveness of barrier methods varies a lot depending on how consistently and accurately they are used. Barrier methods have the advantage of not causing as many side effects as the non-barrier methods (e.g., sensitivities, hormonal changes, immune responses, etc).

Name Description Effectiveness
Male condom A latex (or PU plastic blend) sheath that fits over an erect penis and keeps the sperm from getting out into the woman’s body. Comes in a foil packet. Keep out of sunlight and make sure that your pocket or wallet doesn’t have any way to puncture the package. Puncturing the package or keeping it in the light will damage the condom, making it less effective or even ineffective. Latex condoms are shown to be more resistant to breakage than PU condoms. Note that condoms are intended for one-time use. After you use one condom for a sex act, you should dispose of it and open a new one. Condoms cannot be sanitized. Although a condom goes on a penis, carry condoms with you at all times. 87-98% when used consistently and correctly for every sex act
Female condom Also intended for single use only. Push the back inner ring into vagina and back and up towards cervix. The front will lay on the outside of the vagina, over the labia. When the penis is erect, guide the penis into the female condom so that it doesn’t get pushed aside while you’re trying to have sex. 95% when used consistently and correctly for every sex act
Cervical cap A thimble-shaped rubber or silicone cap that snugly fits over the cervix. Held in place by suction. Fill the cap with spermicidal jelly before use. May need a fitting appointment at a clinic. Can be inserted up to 6 hours before sex. Some types can be left in for up to 3 days at a time, allowing for greater sexual spontaneity. 91% effective.
Diaphragm A shallow, dome-shaped, soft rubber cup that has been fitted to you by a doctor/clinician to securely cover the cervix. Place spermicidal jelly (cream) in the cup to kill or immobilize sperm. This will keep the sperm from reaching the egg. There are three types of fittings (flat, arcing, or domed). Choose the one that fits your anatomy by consulting the doctor or clinician during the fitting appointment. Can insert up to 6 hours before sex. 94-98% when used properly and consistently; 80% effective with typical (non-vigilant and non-proactive) use

Source: Chapter 18, “Birth Control.” Our Bodies, Ourselves.

 

The bottom line: Talk with your partner(s) about STI protection before having sex. The greatest love and respect you can show for yourself and your partner(s) is to be open and honest about what you all feel comfortable with regarding sexual health risks, safer sex practices, and contraception.

STI Protection FAQ

  • I can’t actually get pregnant. Should I still use STI protection?

Yes! You should use protection (condoms or dental dams) even when you have no reason to conceive (e.g., confirmed infertile, sterile, or trans pre- or post-op). This will greatly reduce your chances of getting a STI.

  • Should we use a condom or dental dam when performing oral sex on a partner?

Yes. This is the safest form of either kind of oral sex.

  • Where can I go to get free or low-cost STI testing?

Look for a Planned Parenthood or free sexual or women’s health clinic in your area. You may have to travel a bit to reach it, but it is definitely worth your time to go. I’ve compiled a Google Maps result localized to your region here.

  • I had sex with an untested partner. What is the likelihood I would have gotten any STIs?

You can look through the statistics at the Center for Disease Control Web site.

  • What kind of testing should I ask my doctor for to make sure I don’t give anything to my partners?

Doctors are notorious for not recommending HSV-1 and -2 (herpes) testing, which is why these viruses are so widespread among sexually active people. You should really ask your doctor to add AT LEAST HIV/AIDS, HSV-1 and -2, gonorrhea, and chlamydia to the test panel order. This will give you the cleanest and clearest picture to your test results so that you can ensure you get proper treatment and can be transparent with your partners.

  • Should I trust my sex partner to have my best interest when it comes to protection and contraception?

You should never trust your partner above your own ideas and intuition regarding your body and your sexual health. It is your responsibility to ensure that you communicate with your partner about the level of risk you are will to accept before initiating sex with them.

  • I’m a teenager and all of my friends are having sex. What should I do?

You should only start experimenting with sex when YOU feel that it is the right time. It does not matter what any of your friends are doing; only what will satisfy you and make you feel like you’ve done right by yourself. Sex has consequences, just like any major decision. Consider the many consequences that will result from deciding to have sex before you agree to engage in it.

Some example questions to ask yourself:

  1. Do I feel ready to start having sex?
  2. Why do I want to start having sex?
  3. With whom do I want to have sex for the first time? Why?
  4. Do I feel in love/safe around/sure about the person I’d like to have sex with for the first time?
  5. Is self-pleasure (masturbation) enough for me right now, or do I really feel a need to experience partner sex at this time?
  6. What would be the worst that could happen if I started having sex using safer sex methods?
  7. What would be the best that could happen?
  8. What would having sex do to my standing or reputation with others? Would I potentially jeopardize my status in my religious or other community? Does that matter to me?
  9. Do I feel like I know enough about my own body, the process of pregnancy, methods of contraception, and how to protect against and treat for STIs that I will not harm myself or my future by starting to have sex?
  10. Could I wait a bit longer? What’s the worst that could happen if I waited till x time? (x = college, after college graduation, after grad school, after graduating high school, till marriage, etc.)
  • I’m a teenager who feels ready to start having sex. How should I proceed?

First of all, equip yourself with the knowledge you need to feel like the sex you are going to engage in is in agreement with the level of risk you are willing to accept. Are you ready to accept the consequences of becoming a sexually active person? Have you considered how this will affect your future as a now sexually active person? 

Have you Googled enough to feel safe and like you have a plan for getting protection, treatment, etc? What is your contingency plan if you somehow still manage to become pregnant or get a STI? Do you have the funds you need to take care of that should that issue arise?

You may want to talk to an adult whom you trust – perhaps a pastor, school counselor, therapist, older sibling, cousin, parent/guardian, role model, or parental figure. Since they are older than you, they can provide more perspective about the consequences you are trying to judge before engaging in this new life decision. You’ll probably need to get multiple perspectives.

Are you ready to have safer sex conversations and lay out boundaries with the person(s) you intend to start having sex with? If you find this too difficult or gross, maybe you shouldn’t be having sex yet. Sex is a mature behavior, and you must be mature about communicating about sex. The conversation should not be pressuring but rather open, clear, honest, and direct.

  • I’m feeling a spasming pain where I pee. I may have experienced incontinence, and it really hurts to pee right now. What is going on?

You are likely suffering from a urinary tract infection (UTI). This is very common for women to develop after having sex with a new sex partner. Foreign bacteria from the anus, penis, and/or mouth or fingers gets trapped in the urethra and multiplies quickly, creating an infection there. The urethra swells due to inflammation, creating the spasming or painful sensation upon urinating.

What to do if you think you have a UTI:

Don’t panic, but you will need to get antibiotics. You will need to see a doctor in the next day or two to get the right kinds of antibiotics to cure your infection. The doctor will also be able to select an antibiotic that you neither are allergic to nor will experience negative interactions with any other prescription medications you might be taking. You MUST finish the entire prescription for the antibiotics to be effective. If you stop once you start feeling better and don’t finish the whole pack, you put yourself at great risk for developing an antibiotic-resistant infection which is much more serious and much more difficult to treat. You also MUST see the doctor within the first day or two that you recognize that you are experiencing UTI symptoms to avoid allowing the infection to spread into your bladder and kidneys. Bladder and kidney infections are also much more serious to treat and may require hospitalization to resolve.

Note that you likely want to consume probiotic yogurt (yes- there are actually vegan options for this too!) to promote the growth of “healthy” bacteria that normally flourish in your bladder, urethra, and kidneys while you are simultaneously taking antibiotics to kill off the “foreign” bacteria.

Ways to avoid getting a UTI:

  1. Urinate immediately after sex (10 min up to an hour after sex). The flow of urine will push out much of the harmful bacteria, keeping them from surviving and reproducing in the urethra.
  2. Drink cranberry juice or take Azo Cranberry tablets. Take either 1 glass or 2 caplets per day with water. Try to avoid sugary cranberry drinks, since sugar feeds bacteria. Go to your local Whole Foods or Sprouts to get the juice that is literally just cranberry juice and water. You can further dilute it, add other fruit juice to it, or add erythritol, Splenda, or stevia to the juice to sweeten it and make it tolerable.
  3. Drink lots of water each day. Choose water over sugary drinks, caffeinated, or carbonated beverages.
  4. Avoid caffeinated or carbonated beverages (e.g., energy drinks, coffee, tea, soda, diet soda). These types of drinks irritate the urinary tract and make it harder to heal the infection.
  • Should I use a female condom with a male condom for double protection?

Although it may sound like a good idea to have “double-protection,” really what happens when you combine a male condom with a female condom is that you create too much friction by rubbing the two condoms together, increasing the likelihood of a tear. You should just pick one or the other, never both at the same time.

  • Can I use any lube with my toys or condoms?

You should only use water-based lube with toys or condoms, since they will dissolve in the presence of silicone-based lubes. Silicone-based lubes will eat away at the finish on your toys, making them impossible to sanitize over time.

  • Should I use a condom on my toys?

You really should not buy toys that are made of either toxic or porous materials. In the which case, if you’re purchasing body-safe toys, you will have purchased a medical-grade silicon, stainless steel, or glass toy. You should not need a condom with any of these because these materials are all non-porous. This means that you can completely sterilize them by boiling them in a pot of water on the stove for about 10-15 min.

References for more information about safe versus unsafe toys: toxic toys, porous toys, and this LikeAFemmeBoss.com article (coming soon).

Contraception FAQ

  • I just had unprotected sex. How can I reduce my likelihood of getting pregnant?

You can take emergency contraception (“morning after,” “Preven,” “Plan B,” “EC pill,” or “combined EC pill”) up to 72 hours after unprotected sex. The sooner you take the emergency contraception after having unprotected sex, the more likely it is to work at preventing pregnancy. You can buy this at any local drugstore (e.g., Walgreen’s, CVS, RiteAid) by asking for it from the cashier or pharmacist.

  • I just missed my period. How do I know if I’m pregnant?

You should purchase a pregnancy test from your local drugstore (e.g., Walgreen’s, CVS, RiteAid) by asking for it from the cashier or pharmacist. A pregnancy test requires you to urinate on the “brush” side of the stick that comes in the package. Your urine will contain hormones that are only present during pregnancy, which is why this test works.

  • I just missed my period. What can I take to reduce my likelihood of keeping a pregnancy?

As soon as you determine that you’ve missed your period, you can take Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) tablets that do not contain the stabilization agent you normally find in the tablets you get at the drugstore. Raw Vitamin C has been shown to cause spontaneous abortion in some women by causing menstrual extraction, keeping the zygote (egg + sperm) from being able to implant in the uterine lining. You can read more about this here or check out this book.

  • I just found out I’m pregnant, but I’m not in a position to be able to bear or raise a child. What can I do?

You can call or visit a Planned Parenthood near you to schedule an appointment to talk with one of their counselors and/or to schedule an abortion. Planned Parenthood has many different options for dealing with this exact situation, and they can give you the information you need to make the best decision for your own life.

  • I just found out I’m pregnant, and I don’t have a Planned Parenthood or other abortion clinic nearby and I know that I need to terminate the pregnancy. What can I do?

Schedule an appointment with the nearest clinic you can find. You may need to book a flight or borrow a car to get there. It’s very important that you take action on this very quickly, since the window between knowing you’re pregnant and when it is no longer legal to have an abortion performed is only about 4 weeks. You may need to ask a friend or family member for financial or other help to make this happen. Know that what you decide to do with your body is your choice. No one else has to live with the consequences except you – therefore they should have no say.

In the meantime between scheduling the appointment and travel arrangements and actually getting to the appointment, you can take Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) tablets that do not contain the stabilization agent you normally find in the tablets you get at the drugstore. Raw Vitamin C has been shown to cause spontaneous abortion and can also keep the zygote (egg + sperm) from implanting in the uterine lining. This prevents pregnancy.

  • Where can I get contraception?

From the Planned Parenthood Web site:

“You can get birth control pills at drugstores, health clinics, or Planned Parenthood health centers.

You need a prescription for birth control pills. You can get a prescription from a private doctor or nurse, a health clinic, or your nearest Planned Parenthood health center. In a few states, you may even be able to get a prescription online.

During your visit, a nurse or doctor will talk with you about your medical history, check your blood pressure, and give you whatever medical exam you may need. Most people don’t need pelvic exams in order to get birth control pills. Your nurse or doctor will help you decide what you need based on your medical history.”

  • Where can I buy emergency contraception?

You can buy this at any local drugstore (e.g., Walgreen’s, CVS, RiteAid) by asking for it from the cashier or pharmacist. **Remember: the sooner you take the emergency contraception after having unprotected sex (within 72 hours of unprotected sex), the more likely it is to work at preventing pregnancy. 

Sources

  1. Boston Women’s Health Book Collective. Our Bodies, Ourselves: A New Edition for a New Era. New York: Touchstone, 2005.
  2. UC Berkeley Sexual Health Education Program Resources and Web site.
  3. Stevie Boebi‘s YouTube Channel.
  4. Arielle Scarcella‘s YouTube Channel.
  5. Planned Parenthood Web site.

–Roz

Rozalyn Davis holds an M.S., Chemistry, from the University of California, Berkeley, and a B.S., Chemistry, from Purdue University. Her interests include women’s empowerment, health and wellness, and environmental sustainability.

{Stop Harassment – & Save Yourself Some Heartache!} | Why Does Harassment Happen?

Harassment happens for a variety of reasons:

  • A lack of education about gender expression, similarities, capabilities, and differences, on the part of the harasser
  • A lack of education about what harassment can look like to someone else
  • Poor communication skills between the harasser and the survivor of the harassment
  • An assertion of dominance or control because of fear, hate, or uncertainty about a woman pursuing work that has traditionally been considered “men’s work”

It’s important to note that statistics show that over 90% of sexual harassment ends once women have confronted their harassers personally and directly (Petrocelli & Repa, 1992). While it may send a mixed message to meet a harassing coworker in a secluded place or at a location outside the workplace, it makes sense for a woman to have a direct conversation about her disapproval of the harasser’s behavior or speech in a relatively private place. Taking the discussion to a corner of the room or to one’s private office (with the door slightly ajar, not closed) reduces the likelihood of retaliation due to embarrassment in front of coworkers. Chances are the harasser really didn’t even realize that what he was saying or doing was harassing (Petrocelli & Repa, 1992).

Men an women often have different perceptions of what harassing behavior looks like. In a Los Angeles telephone survey of 1,200 people, 67% of the men said that they would view being propositioned by a female coworker to be flattering, while only 17% of women said that this would be flattering.  Additionally, 75% of men thought that they would be flattered if a coworker made sexual advances to them at work; more than 75% of women thought that same behavior this would be offensive. Furthermore, eyeing someone up and down appeared to 24% of the women surveyed as harassment, while only 8% of men thought this.

–Roz

 

Rozalyn Davis holds an M.S., Chemistry, from the University of California, Berkeley, and a B.S., Chemistry, from Purdue University. Her interests include women’s empowerment, health and wellness, and environmental sustainability.

{Stop Harassment – & Save Yourself Some Heartache!} | How Can Harassment Manifest?

The following is referenced by a book written by two attorneys who advocate for women’s rights in the workplace. This is a summary of the different ways that harassment can manifest in the workplace and which kinds of harassment qualify as sexual harassment (using sex – or even gender identity – as a factor in the harassment). This article also explains what elements need to be present to present a scenario before a court of law as a sexual harassment case. Note that this article does not substitute for professional legal advice, even though it will provide you a guideline to follow when considering whether you have been subjected to sexual harassment at work.

Questions to answer when considering whether something that took place at work was sexual harassment:

  • Was the conduct sexual in nature?
  • Was the conduct unreasonable?
  • Was the conduct severe or pervasive in the workplace?
    Was the conduct unwelcome?

A. Harassment falls under a bunch of categories:

This includes anything from (1) sexual advances (e.g., sexual favors) to (2) outright hostility only to women employees or a singular woman employee to (3) lewd, sexual, or pornographic images, languages, or jokes that contribute to creating a sexually-charged atmosphere that is both humiliating and offensive. The environment can be developed by supervisors and other in authority, by coworkers, or by customers and others. If preferences are shown by one party to another, this also may be due to using sex or gender identity as a distinguishing factor in discriminating behaviors in the workplace. This is also a form of sexual harassment.

B. The Reasonability Test

The reasonability test has to do with the idea that if a reasonable person were to hear about these events, would they also think that these events were mortifying and of a sexual nature? This type of test is important in situations where there may be ambiguity in terms of how specific exchanges, behaviors, and phrases were interpreted. The test (and how you can win your case) consists of the following: can you show evidence that you indicated clearly to the harasser that you found his conduct unreasonable? And did he furthermore violate that standard once you set it clearly? Start documenting the evidence of this as soon as you realize that it is happening. You can use a journal with dated entries discussing the details of the violations and how they affected you.

The reason for this test is to avoid using the law to “serve as a vehicle for vindicating the petty slights suffered by the hypersensitive” (quoted in Petrocelli & Repa, 1992, 2/15). Note, however, that the vast majority of times women accuse a man of sexual harassment in the workplace, it is because they have exhausted all other means of resolving the situation first and have still encountered severe emotional, psychological, physical, or other difficulty in being able to complete their jobs at work in the face of this type of sex-targeting behavior.

While the reasonability test originally was held from the perspective of a reasonable man, court precedent has now made the reasonability test qualified from the perspective of a reasonable woman, since the woman is usually the person who has had to deal with the unwanted activity to begin with. Clearly the man thought himself to be reasonable or he wouldn’t have done it.

C.  Conduct that is severe or pervasive

Is the sexual conduct you’ve witnessed so severe and so pervasive in the workplace that it makes the working environment hostile or offensive? Consider the following ideas when coming to your own personal judgment about this idea:

    • Whether the conduct was physical, verbal, or both
    • How often it happened (frequency)
    • Whether the conduct was patently offensive and hostile
    • Whether the harasser is a supervisor or coworker
    • Whether others also participated in the harassment once it was started
    • Whether the harassment was directed at a group or at an individual
    • Maybe it’s not one event that defines and encapsulates the harassment, but actually a period of several distinct events that add up to a totality of a sexually harassing environment

D.  Conduct that is unwelcome

To prove her case in a court of law, a woman has to show that the sexually-charged conduct in question was unwelcome and offensive to her at the time it occurred. This can be difficult to show since interpretation and reflection are very subjective in nature. Here are some factors that would be taken into account to show that the conduct has been unwelcome:

    • Voluntary but unwelcome – a woman may have voluntarily submitted to an employer’s sexual advances, but she did not actually want to do them at the time. Why might a woman be in this situation? Perhaps she is in fear of losing her job or a promotion, so she submits to the sexual favors the boss is asking for.
    • The employee’s appearance – the courts unfortunately still judge a woman’s “sexually provocative speech or dress” as evidence as to whether she was “asking for it.” While this is still a politically-heated criterion for evidence, it, nonetheless, still matters in court. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so if the beholder is a man, he may think that a woman’s dress is more provocative than she ever intended. To combat this criterion used as evidence against a woman’s claim that the assailant has sexually assaulted her, a woman needs to be able to show that she explicitly articulated to the assailant that those advances were not welcome.
    • Coping strategies – signs that a woman has been subjected to sexual harassment while at work. These signs manifest, for example, as any of the following mechanisms:
      • denying the impact of the event
      • blocking out an event
      • avoiding a harasser or the entire workplace
      • telling the harasser to stop
      • engaging in joking or other banter that tries to defuse the harassing situation
      • threats to make an informal or formal complaint against the accused

To prove a legal case using coping strategies as an argument, a woman needs to show that she has corroborated the intent of engaging in such coping strategies only out of fear and not out of a desire to participate in them of her own volition. Perhaps she is in fear of retaliation for objecting or of losing her job. She should confide in as many people (friends, coworkers, relatives, etc.) to provide evidence that she did not support the behavior and instead found it extremely unwelcome.

    • Breaking off a relationship

By being in a romantic relationship with an employer a woman does not forfeit her right to protection from sexual harassment. However, moving forward a woman must make it clear to her harasser that any further sexual advances are no longer welcome. A prudent thing for a woman to do in a situation where she breaks off a formerly welcome romantic relationship with a coworker is to make it apparent to many others in the office that she no longer is in a relationship with him and is no longer welcoming any romantic/sexual advances from him.

    • Employee’s limited consent

Under the law, employees have limited ability to consent to a relationship with an employer. This is because there is an obvious unequal balance of power between the two parties supposedly “consenting” to the relationship.

Additionally, just because a workplace may include work of a sexual nature (e.g., modeling, Playboy/Penthouse, strip club, escort service), it does not imply that a woman has forfeited all of her rights to her own body. Just because her work is of a sexual nature does not mean that she should be required to submit to sexual advances from clients or others in the workplace. Behavior that falls outside the normal nature of the work (for example, a man fingering a stripper over or through her thong while she is giving him a lap dance) does constitute harassment, because it is coerced sexual activity that she did not explicitly sign up for when accepting that job title. She is still perfectly in the right to file a sexual harassment suit against that man for touching her inappropriately at work, even though something like stripping is work of a sexual nature.

Please note that even if your specific experience with sexual harassment has not been covered in this article, you may still be able to file a viable suit against your aggressor. Please consult professional legal advice when considering whether it makes sense to move forward with a suit.

–Roz

 

Rozalyn Davis holds an M.S., Chemistry, from the University of California, Berkeley, and a B.S., Chemistry, from Purdue University. Her interests include women’s empowerment, health and wellness, and environmental sustainability.

{Stop Harassment – & Save Yourself Some Heartache!} | How to Write a Convincing Cease & Desist Letter

In case you needed a reminder: you don’t owe anyone anything. You are your own boss. And that means that you are the boss of everything in your own life – your body, your opinions, your means of expression, your interpretations of events, how you learn, what you want and refuse to do (sexually, physically, or otherwise). You control you. And no man (or woman) should ever be permitted to control you.

As Eleanor Roosevelt, First Lady during the Great Depression, once said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” That includes instances you may find harassing.

In this blog post I recount my personal, most recent experience with harassment (so you get an idea of what harassment may look like) and how I dealt with it #likeafemmeboss. Because my views are my views, and no one else’s. And I deserve to feel safe in my own home. You should too. I also outline the process of creating a Cease & Desist letter that should be robust enough to hold up in court. Disclaimer: Oftentimes the event of receiving an official-sounding Cease & Desist letter is enough deterrent to get someone to stop the harassing behavior. This article does NOT in any way substitute for professional legal advice, however. Please consult a lawyer if you would like to make sure this document can substantiate as evidence in court.

I met my next-door neighbor a couple months after I moved in. We seemed to have an amicable relationship at first. Since we both were undergoing career changes that required brushing up on new skills, I invited him over once for a group study session. After that, he continued texting me, but I had terminated my job and was making the transition (and wanted to be by myself to process all of it). So I ghosted him. He wasn’t my highest priority (whoa, shocker!) so I just didn’t give him more of my precious time and energy. And apparently that did him in.

He approached me about a week later telling me directly that he was “you know, kinda mad that [I] never texted [him] back.” I told him, sorry, it was nothing personal, and went on with my day. A few days later he texted me saying that he wanted to “kick my dumb Amazon mail,” which I took to mean that he was still angry and wanted to harm my personal property. So I texted him the following:

“This is on the verge of harassment. Do not text me again.”

Nevertheless, the a$$hole couldn’t take a hint, so three days ago he approached me again while I was out in the parking lot cleaning out my car. “I got your text. I didn’t really understand what you meant,” he said. “I think you were overreacting – I mean it was just a joke.”

By this point I was fuming. “You, know,” I said, “if you’ve never experienced harassment, you don’t really know what it feels like….” I didn’t get to finish my thought because he waved me off and just walked away before I could even explain my point of view about how things had transpired. I yelled “F*ck off” and then decided to research how to write the Cease & Desist letter. No one gets to tell me how to think or that my point of view is “overreacting,” stupid, or invalid.

Having experienced the following issues before (see below), and just rolling over and taking them, I finally decided enough was enough:

  • Sophomore year of college: sexual harassment by – not one – but two(!?) of the Organic Chemistry TA’s (not like that class isn’t already hard enough without having to walk on eggshells all year with superiors too! → Learn more about how to deal with sexual harassment MUCH more proactively here (coming soon). I want to save you as much grief as possible.)
  • Sophomore year of college: sexual assault by a guy I was dating
  • Junior year of college: a stalker I met in my chemistry class
  • Junior year of college: a persistent and very large man who kept trying to ask me out everytime I went to the library at night
  • First year of graduate school: gender discrimination by my professor of research because I couldn’t possibly already know what I was doing because I have blond hair and wear lipstick to the lab. He gave the male colleague in my year a project for which he had control and access to all of the instrumentation required, while I had to scurry and hunt and beg and peck my way to get access to my required tools (a female upperclassmen in his research group corroborated my experience with her own impression that the women in the group are required to “prove themselves” while the men are already assumed to be competent coming into the group)
  • Second year of graduate school: “date” rape by a classmate – we were studying data science at night and he decided I needed to have sex (f*ck that guy! – I still have to deal with flashbacks because of him!)

SERIOUSLY, I AM SO TIRED OF THIS SH*T.

So, here are the steps I used to deal constructively with this situation:

  • Recall the instances where the harassing behavior occurred. Document the date, approximate time, location, and description of what occurred for each instance. This allows you to have an informal record of what you might choose to write in your Cease & Desist letter, and it at least gives you the peace of mind that you know what to tell a policeman or a lawyer or mediator, should this escalate.
  • Go to Rocket Lawyer → type Cease & Desist letter → choose “harassment” as the reason for your letter.
  • Scroll down to the letter and look over the format. What does it already have to say in this format?
  • Customize, explaining your grievances and what you would like the harasser to do instead (like, for example, leave you alone).
  • Be sure to indicate a time limit by which you expect the harassing behavior to end. Specifying this formally ensures you’ve covered loose ends associated with telling someone to stop (you’ve made it very clear, even for the biggest idiot).
  • Go to the USPS near you and send your letter to the harassing person via Certified Mail with Tracking. You can get a tracking number associated with this as a legally-supported official record that you have indeed served this Cease & Desist directive to the harassing person. If they decline to sign for the document at the door, you also have a record that they rejected signing for the letter.
  • In the meantime, keep locking your car and apartment, being prudent to keep yourself safe. You should probably also keep some mace with you on your keys in the event that someone should try to inflict physical harm on you. Try to avoid engaging with the harasser again.
  • Seek out validation and support from your friends and/or family.

Please speak up in the comments section below if you found any of this information helpful. I hope I can save you some of the pain I’ve had to endure as a result of the idiot men who have simply assumed that I could not possibly “not like or be asking for” their advances.

–Roz

 

Rozalyn Davis holds an M.S., Chemistry, from the University of California, Berkeley, and a B.S., Chemistry, from Purdue University. Her interests include women’s empowerment, health and wellness, and environmental sustainability.

{Strategy} | Budgeting 101

How do you plan for your own financial security while still enjoying what the day has to offer? I’m starting a series on financial management tutorials on our blog! In the course of the next several articles, I’ll be showing you how you can go from almost $9,000 in debt to a net worth of $1.5k in only 1 year! No bull, just sound advice that echoes the likes of Warren Buffet (and my dear old dad).

First, take out a sheet of paper or your bullet journal and start listing the categories of spending and roundabout numbers you need to answer the following questions:

  1. Get real with yourself: what is the bare minimum you need to get by each month? I’m not talking about shoes, purses, blue jeans, cars, makeup, etc. What keeps you alive, healthy, and able to work? Examples: rent, food, feminine hygiene products, heat/electric, water, garbage collection
  2. What things do you need to keep you up and able to make new income? Examples: car or bus pass, Uber rides, Dickies uniform slacks or work shoes, gasoline, Wifi, taxes***
  3. What do you need to stay organized so that you feel on top of your game when getting ready for work or when you’re at work? Examples:  office supplies, coffee, briefcase, laptop, coworking space rental fees, a P.O. box
  4. What do you need to maintain basic transportation to and from your place of work?
  5. Emergencies? Examples: regular car maintenance, urgent care clinic copays, renters’ insurance, liability insurance, a couple hundred dollars of cash to keep under your mattress in case World War III, identity theft, or a tornado happened?
  6. Medical, dental, and/or vision insurance expenses + copays? Examples: annual checkups, well-woman pap smear, getting your teeth cleaned, flu shot, eye annual, recurring prescription expenses, etc.

***Look for the 3 asterisks (***) in the paragraphs below to find out how to predict how much taxes you will owe for the 2017 fiscal year!

Once you’ve answered these 6 questions, tally up the round numbers. Circle this total and label it “LIVE.” This is how much it costs for you to live. These costs are largely non-negotiable, though you may have to go back and look at your receipts or credit card bills to get a rough sense of how much these categories cost you in the previous year.

Next, add in a little “caviar” – what is ONE thing that makes you really happy? What is your regular source of entertainment? Is it Netflix? Is it Spotify Premium? Is it sewing? Is it bar hopping with friends? How about comfort foods? Shopping? The gym perhaps? List out your favorite things with the weekly or monthly price tags associated with each thing. Tally up this number, circle it, and label it “FUN.”

Add the two numbers together and box this number, labeling it “TOTAL EXPENSES.” This is how much you spend doing what you think you should be doing to live a reasonably comfortable life.

***Next, list out your source(s) of income. How much do you make per hour? Multiply this number by the number of hours you work each week (probably something like 40 hours if you are non-exempt from overtime pay) and by the number 50 (most people usually work about 50 weeks each year). This will tell you what you expect your annual salary to look like. Label this number “INCOME.” 

***Once you know what your gross salary is, you must check the list of 2017 fiscal year tax brackets here. Find two numbers between which your annual salary would fall – for example, if my annual salary were $31,000 per year, I’d look for the $20,000 cutoff and the $59,000 cutoff. The $31,000 salary is below $59,000, so I fall into the 15% tax bracket. This means that I am required to pay $932.50 plus 15% of any money I earn above $9,325 in the 2017 fiscal year to the government. This is non-negotiable and should be included in the “TO LIVE” category you calculated above.

Now here comes the hard part: the reality check.What is the difference between “TOTAL EXPENSES” and “INCOME”? If this is a negative number, you know you have to cut back on the Entertainment section (look for items to cut out of the “FUN” number you just tallied). If it is “zero,” you still have some things to chop from this part of the budget – because you always need to plan ahead a little for your retirement and for emergencies (think somewhere to the tune of at least $3/week, EVERY week. That’s less than the latte you knew you shouldn’t have bought from Starbucks this morning on your scurried way into work!).

Whew! I know that is a lot to read and expect to understand in one go! I’ll post more about 401k, IRA, and other investments in another article soon! For now, just treat the “plan ahead” money I mentioned above as a secret jackpot – nobody touches it – for any reason! Let me know what questions you have in the comments below so I can help you out!

–Roz

Rozalyn Davis holds an M.S., Chemistry, from the University of California, Berkeley, and a B.S., Chemistry, from Purdue University. Her interests include women’s empowerment, health and wellness, and environmental sustainability.

Acrylic Nails to Save Time!

Just started getting my nails done at the local salon here in the Pudong District Area, Shanghai. Here they serve wine while you get your nails done, and they have every acrylic nail color under the sun! I chose silver with prismatic sparkles. Omg I love them!

Although it’s harder to do some simple tasks I’m accustomed to (e.g., taking out contacts, opening coke zero cans), it’s not hard to adjust. The biggest thing to look out for is to not smash your fingers when trying to manipulate objects that require some torque to operate.

Pros:

  • The nails are strong, gorgeous, and shaped to any length and tip style you like!
  • Relatively inexpensive to upkeep (as opposed to gel nails, which arguably cause the same amount of damage to your skin via UV radiation as constant acetone exposure).
  • They never chip!

Cons:

  • Have to go back to the salon monthly for upkeep.
  • Removal with the polishing tool sometimes feels uncomfortable if the nail artist polishes a little too deep.
  • Smashing fingernails is common. You have to carry your keys around with you to open cans, which is different from what you’re probably originally accustomed to.

In all, would definitely recommend!

–Roz

Rozalyn Davis holds an M.S., Chemistry, from the University of California, Berkeley, and a B.S., Chemistry, from Purdue University. Her interests include women’s empowerment, health and wellness, and environmental sustainability.

Additional Resources for Confidence Crash Course

If you’re visiting this article without preface, please refer to the Confidence Crash Course for more context.

1.     Heidi Grant Halvorson, PhD. “How To Manage The Thoughts You Just Can’t Shake.”


7.     Psychology Today. “Embarrassment.” –> Click links within this Webpage to find resources defining SHAME, GUILT, HUMILIATION, EMBARRASSMENT, and how to deal with these emotions and judgments constructively.


9.     Law of Attraction Guided Planner/Journal – This journal is a really great resource which I have found personally useful for getting out of debt, paying off student loans, finishing a very difficult master’s degree, saving money, developing healthier coping mechanisms, and learning how to set and achieve manageable goals! It has also helped me learn how to manage my free-floating anxieties effectively. If you visit nothing else on this page, I hope you give this inexpensive but high-quality journal a try!

10.     Teal Swan provides practical, easy-to-digest, step-by-step guides using psychological research and spiritual best practices to stimulate better self-control, healthy coping mechanisms, and feelings of greater self-worth. 

11.     Rozalyn Davis. #Kisscrew Blog. “Resources for Womyn

12,     Rozalyn Davis. #Kisscrew Blog. “How to Use the Law of Attraction to Your Advantage

13.     Affirmations

–Roz

Rozalyn Davis holds an M.S., Chemistry, from the University of California, Berkeley, and a B.S., Chemistry, from Purdue University. Her interests include women’s empowerment, health and wellness, and environmental sustainability.

Crash Course in Confidence (Self-Esteem)

**Disclaimer #1: Although these resources are helpful, I am NOT a mental health professional. This article DOES NOT constitute medical or professionally-vetted mental health advice. Please discuss this activity/crash course with a professional.**

**Disclaimer #2: This article is a curated set of sources. I may not have completely paraphrased the articles, but I cite the links where these sources are located as tribute to those who originally authored these ideas. No plagiarism is intended.**



Exercise: Before you start reading, list 10-15 things you admire about yourself.

1. Note: In this packet of exercises, the words “ego” and “sense of self” will be used interchangeably. In the psychological terminological sense, a healthy individual with high self-esteem has a strong ego (meaning, they have a very secure sense of self and personal identity). It does not mean that they are “egotistical.” Ironically, people who appear egotistical actually have very fragile egos, meaning that they do not feel very sure of themselves. This can lead to bullying, addiction, seeking constant affirmation from others, jealousy, possessiveness, anxiety, anger, manipulation, resentment, and depression, among other self-sabotaging manifestations.

2. Six Pillars of Self-Esteem

  • The practice of living consciously – gratitude, mindfulness
  • Self-acceptance: Improve what you can change, and learn to accept what you can’t
  • The practice of self-responsibility (self-accountability)
  • The practice of self-assertiveness – be your own best advocate in the context of any social situation
  • The practice of living purposefully – mindfulness
  • The practice of personal integrity – the inner voice has to agree with your wise mind values*

*In order to discern when your inner voice is agreeing or disagreeing with your wise mind values, you have to think about what those core values are. You intuit them, they are not likely to change much over time unless you actively decide to change them. I recommend using this guided planner/journal to keep track of your thought process, wise mind (core) values, and tangible mental health goals you’d like to see happen over the next year.

Exercise: What are your top five (5) wise mind values?

3. Mindfulness of Our Four Faces of Self Helps You Express Authentic Self

Source: Caroline McHugh. Tedx Talk: “The art of being yourself”

Early in her journey towards self-discovery, the speaker suffered from a behavioral pattern she termed “approval addiction”: she felt an extremely strong and persistent need to be liked, to be told that things are okay, and to be praised for success and progress externally. Looking outward for affirmation is extremely debilitating to being your authentic self.


Review the video for the four types of “I.”

Four faces of self:

  • Perception – how others perceive and respond to you
  • Persona – adaptive personality (Carl Jung)
  • Ego – use this to help your Self; learn to stay out of your own way
  • Self – innate (think Incarnation of God or the Oversoul, intuition connected to and a part of the Universe, etc)

4. Psychological Definition of Ego and Relationship to Well-Being

Source: Athena Staik, Ph.D. “Ego Versus Ego-Strength: The Characteristics of Ego Strength and Why It’s Essential to Your Happiness.”

“So what does this have to do with ‘the ego’ or ‘ego-strength’?

Many of the major psychological theorists spoke of the intrinsic human strivings for personal power and autonomy, as a universal ego drive that is not only normal, but a healthy goal – and intrinsically connected to relationship goals. This and other core strivings, or emotion-drives, are universal motivators of human behavior.

What makes a healthy ego essential to your personal and relational happiness? In a nutshell a healthy ego is foremost an ability to regulate painful emotions rooted in anger and fear.

The distinctions between ego and ego-strength?

Though the term ‘ego’ is commonly used to describe one who boasts, is arrogant, treats others with scorn, lacks empathy, and the like, the concept of ego is neutral in itself.

The word ‘ego’ is a Greek word for ‘I,’ meaning the core sense of self, a distinct and unique expression of personhood, albeit one that paradoxically exists in connection or in relation to life and others.

Thus, the term ego may take on different meanings depending on where it falls on a continuum between a healthy ego, on the one end of the spectrum, and an unhealthy one on the other.

As an infant, a child is born without a sense of self, and thus without an ego. This served our development and survival at the time. Conceivably, it allowed us to experience a felt sense of oneness with our mother or other primary attachment figures. This was critical to our survival at the time and permitted us to gradually transition to separate uniqueness.

In contrast, “ego-strength’ refers to a cultivated resiliency or strength of our core sense of self, the extent to which we learn to face and grow from challenging events or persons in our lives in ways that strengthen our relationships with our self and others and enrich our lives with meaning.

Our ego-strength is an integral part of our psycho-social-emotional and cultural development and forms our sense of self, or self-concept, in relation to self and others around you.

In the first years of life, our interactions with primary caregivers shaped our ego and ego-strength in ways that can have a lifelong impact. A young child’s sense of self, particularly in response to stress, is subconsciously wired, or imprinted as ‘learned’ neural patterns, in relational exchanges with primary caregivers. The good news is that this does not have to be a limiting factor. Our brain is built to learn and integrate changes, and new healing ways of responding and relating to stress and stressors throughout our life.

The characteristics of low or undeveloped ego-strength?

A person with little or weak ego-strength lacks resiliency, sticks mostly to what “feels” comfortable to them, and avoids what does not. They tend to hold unrealistic expectations, which are held rigidly in place by emotionally charged core beliefs that activate the body’s stress response, as they are rooted in fear and anxiety.

Thinking patterns are out of balance.

What does this mean? It can mean the person holds limiting beliefs and toxic thinking patterns that, on the one extreme, cause them to “think” they lack resources, are too weak or fragile to handle certain triggering situations, such as conflict — or on the other extreme, rely on their anger and rage to get or “teach” others to recognize, appreciate or love them in the way they aspire.

In either case they hold unrealistic expectations that others or life should take their pain away, and seek others, activities or substances that can give them the constant source of comfort and assurance that they believe they need and ‘must’ have to feel okay about themselves and their life.

Such expectations are based on core beliefs that are limiting in that they unnecessarily activate the body’s stress response and reactivity. Recall from above that learning is impeded when the brain is in “protective” mode. The stress response activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which shuts off the brain’s learning mode. This means the reflective thinking parts of the brain are not operating, thus, it’s less likely if not impossible to consider healthy options and new possibilities.

In either case an underdeveloped ego-strength tends to live and act in defensive ways that are self-perpetuating. This further weakens their capacity to cope with day to day challenges. Characteristically they:

  • Waste a lot of energy fighting and, or hating reality, and wishing it would go away.
  • Reject or deny the necessity of facing what they most fear and are most challenged by.
  • Confuse strength with the particular defense strategies they most rely on, i.e., angry outbursts, avoidance, denial, wishful thinking, and the like.
  • Refuse to accept or deal with what is happening in their lives at present or what happened in the past, and think escaping (the pain of growing, developing, maturing etc) is a viable solution.
  • Have unrealistic expectations for what ‘should’ or ‘must’ happen in order for them to feel strong or valued.
  • Believe relationships and happiness in life means the absence of emotional pain, fear and anger.



Personal power and the characteristics of high ego-strength?

In contrast, a person with well-developed ego-strength is resilient, optimistic, and has a strong sense of self as capable in handling challenges. They more often:

  • Take a learning approach to life that increasingly grows their strength and confidence in handling triggering situations.
  • Have an ability to tolerate discomfort, enough to regulate their emotions as opposed to feeling overwhelmed by them.
  • Approach life overall with a curiosity and readiness to explore and to master what strengthens them, thus, increasing their chances of finding new ways of coping with challenges.
  • Treat self and others as having inner resources to deal with challenges.
  • Do not personalize what others say or do, and regard self and other as human beings, thus, fallible.
  • Give others ownership for exacerbating or solving their own problems, as necessary.
  • Exude an overall confidence in self and others to use their resources to handle and resolve life issues.

The stronger the ego-strength, the more comfortable one feels in taking ownership of their problems, and giving ownership to others for theirs.”

5. Resiliency

Definition:   Resiliency

n. personal ability to look at a situation and see beyond it, understand the difference between wants and needs, and practices acceptance to discern between what can and cannot be changed, to respond accordingly.

Health and Happiness: A healthy ego gives us the needed ego-strength to navigate challenging moments, and emotions of vulnerability rooted in fear and anxiety, with ease and resilience. It is an essential skill in the formation of healthy emotional intimacy in couple relationships.

**You need to tell yourself continually that you have a right to make mistakes to grow your own problem solving abilities in the process – by making and learning from mistakes. It’s very basic to how healthy human beings learn. This is how we learn as children before we learn to pay attention to external, societal cues.

To build ego-strength, focus on doing things with both present and future benefits – do this incrementally. Small changes in the present to incorporate more of these kinds of activities will make for a substantially happier life.

Exercise: Respond to the following: 

  1. When you feel at your lowest self-worth, do you feel helpless?
  2. If yes, how does this helplessness make you feel or act in response to it?
  3. If no, what is it that you are feeling when you are at your lowest self-worth?
  4. How does asking for help when you feel helpless make you feel? Why?
  5. Think about a time when you felt confident giving someone else advice or help. What was the situation? 
  6. Did you think very much about how you were feeling as you were actually giving the help or aid? 
  7. How did you feel after you gave the help?

Takeaway

Optimistic, self-reliant people have strong enough ego (established sense of self) that they do not feel threatened by challenges, adversity, or opportunities. They do not feel helpless, and they do not feel ashamed for asking for help.

6. Techniques to become an optimistic, self-reliant person

Source: Jeffrey Lynn McLaughlin. “Optimism, Pessimism, and Realism.”

  1. Explain your environment, situation, and self using optimistic explanatory styles. Think of yourself compassionately as you would think of your dearest lover or best friend.
  2. Balance optimism with realism
  3. Learn to identify when an interpretation is realistic versus pessimistic
  4. Practice Minimalism – Allow yourself fewer possible choices (stick to options that fall in line with your major goals or core values) when making a decision will eliminate the “paralysis of choice” that happens when you have too many options to choose from. Sarah Nourse is one of my very favorite YouTube minimalists. She’s chic, girly, passionate, and ambitious.
  5. See questions from an audience as an opportunity to really see what your audience is asking for; see it as an opportunity to learn from the audience (acknowledge concern/hostile emotions- but treat empathetically).
  6. Be verbal and upfront about what you need from others. Respectfully but firmly and directly mention these. You must reflect on your own time to first determine what you need and when you need it.
  7. When you are listening to others, “The paraphrase is like the Swiss Army Knife of communication.” This allows you to take in, reframe, and introspect before answering. Source: Tedx Stanford Graduate School of Business, Matt Abrahams, communications expert

Exercise

  1. Reflect on your past and on your present habits. What habits contribute to you living in a state of learned helplessness in your daily life?
  2. What actions could you take to tell your inner story more optimistically?

8. Advice from Oprah Winfrey

Source: Stanford Graduate School of Business Interview

“Everyone wants to fulfill the highest, truest expression of themselves as a human being.” –Oprah Winfrey

Are you fully here? – Humans continually seek validation.

“Did you hear me?

Did you see me?

And did what I say mean anything to you?” –Oprah Winfrey

9. Find Immediate Ego-Strength By Hammering Down Your Life Purpose

Source: Adam Leipzig. Tedx Malibu Talk, “5 Minutes to Determine Your Life Purpose”

Note: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” –Socrates

What the happiest people knew about their life purpose:

  1. Who they are 
  2. What they (know how to, want to) do 
  3. Who they did it for 
  4. What those people wanted or needed 
  5. What they (self and others) got out of it/how they changed as a result – forces you to be outward facing 


Exercise: Look at the following statement, then create your own by following Hannah’s model:

**In this format, Hannah describes her own life purpose as:

I create digital products that allow people to have greater access to information that can afford them a greater quality of life.

Now you try.

10. Identifying Ego-Protecting (i.e., Weak or Fragile Ego-Strength in Family Members and Other Intimate Relationships)

Exercise: Study this diagram and compare it to the following paragraphs.

Excerpt from Psychology Today Article on Resentment:

“Unlike anger, which is stimulated by discreet incidents or thoughts, chronic resentment is a general ego defense – the more fragile the ego, the more resentment required for defense. For those most in need, ego-defense is more important than learning, truth, and reason. Hence resentment greatly distorts thinking – through oversimplification,confirmation bias, inability to grasp other perspectives, and impaired reality-testing (inability to distinguish thoughts from reality). Over time, resentment becomes a world view or way of life. Because the resentful have to devalue others to protect their fragile egos, chronic resentment in intimate relationships inevitably leads to some form of verbal or emotional abuse and, eventually – if the couple hangs in there – to contempt and disgust.”

Exercise: See if you can identify any of the following ego-protecting, defensive behaviors in your family members or in your own words and actions when you interact with your family members. This will help you arrive at awareness as to what aspects of your parent-child or sibling-sibling relationships may have damaged your self-esteem early on in your childhood or may be still damaging your self-esteem.

List of Common Ego-Protecting Behaviors:

  • High emotional reactivity – a negative feeling in one triggers chaos or shut down in the other
  • External regulation of emotions – unpleasant emotions are regulated by attempts to control or devalue the other
  • Automatic defense systems
  • Power struggles – try to “win” or exert power rather than reconcile and connect
  • Criticism, stonewalling, defensiveness, contempt
  • Walking on eggshells – both parties feel this, but typically one will internalize, second-guess, and reangle the self in vain attempts to avoid the other’s resentment or abuse
  • Narrow and rigid emotional range – the parties seesaw between resentment and depression, with little emotional experience in between.
  • Self-talk such as, “It’s someone’s fault that I feel bad or powerless.” Negative emotions seem like punishments that require retaliation rather than motivations to heal and improve.

Write your response now, making a list or journal entry.

11. Method of treatment to deal with and resolve resentful family relationships

Source: Eureke Mavis. LinkedIn Pulse, “Value-Based Decision Making – A Tool For Managing Emotions.”

Develop healthier mechanisms of internal emotional regulation, whilst increasing alignment of actions, thoughts (read: self-talk and discussion), and priorities (read: time) with deepest core values. Do not sabotage those you value most (including yourself). This will reduce resentful mindset in world view and relationships. Other items in this document self-direct away from resentful mindset towards expansive (optimistic, self-reliant, loving) mindset.

The biggest challenge of living with a resentful or angry person is to keep from becoming one yourself. The high contagion and reactivity of resentment and anger are likely to make you into someone you are not.

The second biggest challenge, should you decide to stay in a relationship with a resentful or angry person, is getting him or her to change. Likely to obstruct any attempt are your partner’s:

  • Victim identity 
  • Habit of blame 
  • Temporary narcissism 
  • Automatic negative attributions 

12. Love Mirrors

Attachment relationships – those held together by strong emotional bonds – serve as mirrors of the inner self. We learn how lovable we are and how valuable our love is to others only by interacting with the people we love.

Young children never question the impressions of themselves they get from their parents. They do not think that their critical, stressed-out mothers or their raging fathers are just having a bad time or trying to recover from their own difficult childhoods. Young children are likely to attribute negative reflections of themselves from their parents to their own inadequacy and unworthiness.

When it comes to physical appearance, at least we have lots of other mirrors to compare to the distorted funhouse reflection; this gives us a good chance to overcome an internalized negative image of the body. But there are no reflections of love other than those we get from the people we love. If you judge how lovable you are based on reflections from someone who cannot love without hurt, you will have a distorted and inaccurate view of yourself as a loving and lovable person.

In verbally abusive relationships, the mirror of love reflects mostly flaws and defects, in the form of criticism, sarcasm, resentment, and anger. Everyone in the family begins to confuse “function” with value and “task-performance” with love. The pain is never about the facts or specific behavior — no matter how your partner puts it, you hear: “If you don’t do what I want, I can’t value you. And if I can’t value you, you are not worth loving.” This is the message the verbally abusive partner reflects back at you, no matter how much he or she claims to be talking “facts” or “logic” or “fairness” or “tasks.”

A raging or rejecting parent can make a child feel powerless, inadequate, and unlovable. A distracted, demanding, or hostile lover (or parent) can make us feel disregarded, devalued, and rejected.

The only way out of this hole is to stop viewing emotional pain as a punishment inflicted by someone else and learn to act on it as an internal motivation to heal, correct, and improve. This will lead to a deeper self-compassion and put us more in touch with our deepest values, which will, in turn, inspire more compassion for one another. You can love without hurt, but only if you use pain as a signal to heal and improve rather than punish.

13. Victim Identity Breeds Entitlement

Source: Living With A Resentful or Angry Partner

“Resentful and angry people see themselves as merely reacting to an unfair world. They often feel offended by what they perceive as a general insensitivity to their “needs.” As a result, they’re likely to feel attacked by any attempt to point out ways in which they might be unfair. They show little concern for the negative effects of their behavior on others.

Driven by high standards of what they should receive from others and what other people should do for them, the angry and resentful frequently feel disappointed and offended, which, in turn, causes more entitlement. It seems only fair, from their perspectives, that they get compensation for their constant frustrations. Special consideration seems like so little to ask! Here’s the logic:

“It’s so hard being me, I shouldn’t have to do the dishes, too!”

“I’m the exploited man; you have to cook my dinner!”

“I’m the oppressed woman; you have to support me!”

Habit of Blame. Most problem anger – that which makes us act against our best interests – is powered by the habit of blaming uncomfortable emotional states on others. The resentful and angry have conditioned themselves to pin the cause of their emotional states on someone else, thereby becoming powerless to self-regulate. Instead, they rely on the adrenaline-driven energy and confidence that goes with resentment and anger, in the same way that many of us are conditioned to take a cup of coffee first thing in the morning.

Temporary Narcissism. Although it is unethical and foolhardy for professionals to diagnose someone they have not examined, misdiagnosing a loved one with Narcissistic Personality Disorder is an easy mistake to make with those who are chronically resentful or angry. Indeed, everyone is narcissistic while angry or resentful. In the adrenaline rush of even low-grade anger, everyone feels entitled and more important than those who have stimulated their anger. Everyone has a false sense of confidence (if not arrogance), is motivated to manipulate, and is incapable of empathy, while angry or resentful.

Automatic Negative Attributions. States of anger and resentment feature narrow and rigid thinking that amplify and magnify only the negative aspects of a behavior or situation. The tendency of the angry and resentful to attribute malevolence, incompetence, or inadequacy to those who disagree with them makes negotiation extremely difficult. We’re all likely to devalue those who incur our resentment or anger. Even if we do it in our heads, without expressing it, the negativity will almost certainly be communicated in a close relationship.”

14. Children of Verbally/Emotionally Abusive Parent(s)

Source: Effects on Children of Witnessing Verbal Abuse or Emotional Abuse

“Children who witness chronic resentment, anger, emotional abuse, or verbal abuse in their homes often present with a host of symptoms. The usual ones are:

  • Depression (looks like chronic boredom with little interest in things that usually interest kids)
  • Anxiety (worry, especially about things kids don’t usually worry about, like safety and whether the bills will get paid)
  • School problems
  • Aggressiveness
  • Hyperactivity (can’t sit still)
  • Low self-esteem (don’t feel as good as other kids)
  • Over emotionality (anger, excitability or crying) that sometimes comes out of nowhere
  • No emotions at all.

They may generally feel:

  • Disregarded
  • Untrusting
  • Powerless, inadequate, or unlovable
  • Like burdens to their parents

Children who experience this in childhood are at higher risk of:

  • Alcoholism
  • Drug abuse
  • Criminality
  • Mental health problems
  • Poverty

When parents model healthful regulation of emotions, their children develop the Five Rs:

  • Resourcefulness
  • Responsibility
  • Respect
  • Relationship skills
  • Regulation of impulses and emotions

**Shutting off or stonewalling observation of emotional regulation inhibits this development

Even if one parent is abusive and unwilling to change this behavior, the other parent can still:

  • Learn from her children
  • Understand their experience of the world
  • Understand her emotional responses to their accounts
  • Enjoy them
  • Value them
  • Empower them to come up with solutions to their problems – don’t do everything for them
  • Allow them to be themselves

The most insidious aspect of living with an angry or abusive partner is not the obvious nervous reactions to shouting, name-calling, criticism or other demeaning behavior. It’s the adaptations you make to try to prevent those painful episodes. → Anxiety, Depression

You walk on eggshells to keep the peace or a semblance of connection. Many brave women engage in constant self-editing and self-criticism to keep from “pushing his (their) buttons.” Emotionally abused women can second guess themselves so much that they feel as though they have lost themselves in a deep hole.

Exercise: Summarize the key takeaways you learned from this packet. Reflect on your responses to the previous exercises.


Exercise

  1. Watch this video. Revisit your career goals and other pursuits and interests in your life. Do they still align with Todd’s advice? How? If not, why not?
  2. Do they still concretely and tangibly align with the core wise-mind values you specified at the top of this article? If not, why not? Are you satisfied with this? Why or why not?

Takeaway: Completing this packet may reveal some new insights into or eliminate possibilities for what may be the root of your low self-esteem in your life. You may begin to experience new emotions like anger, rage, resentment, and/or victimization. This is okay. And, try not to take it out verbally on others. Journal it out and give it time to take shape. Discuss it with your therapist at your next sessions.



You can find additional resources for this activity here.

Hannah Stringfellow is a freelance blogger and world traveler. She holds an M.S., Chemistry, from the University of California, Berkeley. Her interests include women’s empowerment, health and wellness, and cross-cultural competency.

Business-Appropriate Dress

It can be challenging to express yourself in the workplace as a #FemmeBoss. We still live in a society that highly criticizes women for being who they are. We also tend to pick on women for not choosing the right clothing for work even though the standard has been based off what the workplace considers appropriate for men (Exhibit A: male-dominated CEO positions; Exhibit B: male-dominated STEM professorships in academia, Exhibit C: the male-maintained “hoodie-and-tee shirt” culture in tech fields like software engineering). In my opinion, you shouldn’t pick on people for not meeting a certain standard when the standard has not been explicitly defined. Nonetheless, here are some tips I’ve collected based on my professional experience and a slew of women’s articles to look and feel your best in the workplace while still fulfilling the “put-together,” “professional” expectations the office has of you:

  1. When possible, wear black.
  2. Neutrals are your friends when selecting colors that are work-appropriate. Grey, white, and navy are my personal favorites. For business casual, it is also appropriate to wear one piece that has a “pop” color, such as kelly green or cobalt blue.
  3. A neutral or black blazer tops off any business look and heightens it. Structured pieces such as blazers and pressed slacks say, “I’m very regimented and formal about how I function in the workplace. I also take great pride in my work.”
  4. Try red matte or semi-matte lipstick! A recent study found that most people think of women who wear a bold, classic red lip to be more confident and no-nonsense while at work.
  5. Natural-looking makeup is very important for asserting that you know what you’re doing at work. Opt for an appropriately colored BB cream + foundation, brown or off-black eyeliner, no sparkles, limited eye shadow, mascara that has no clumps, and minimal contouring. You really don’t want to call attention to your face, and you don’t want glitter coming off onto your cheeks, clothes, or papers throughout the day. You want to look as polished, organized and no-nonsense as possible.
  6. Keep hair out of your face. Style it in such a way that you never have to touch your hair while at work. That means, don’t let it fall forward into your papers, and don’t have lots of strands falling out and landing on your clothes. Keep your fringe short enough that it is not in your eyes, or pin it back behind your ears. Consider a ponytail or orderly bun.

     

  7. No cleavage.
  8. Your skirt should be knee length or only up to two inches above the knee.
  9. Your slit should remain below the middle of your thigh. Tips 6-8 hit on this key idea: We know you have a beautiful body! And we’re so glad you’re proud and confident in it. But try not to make a show of it at work. It’s very important to keep your colleagues from being distracted by anything that is not strictly work-related. Dressing in a well-fitted but non-provocative way speaks miles of how much you value your colleagues as well as what you do at your job.  
  10. Avoid patterns, or choose very minimal ones. For interviews, don’t patterns. Also, if at any time you’re in doubt about the pattern, don’t wear it!

  11. Don’t forget a belt! If your dress or slacks has belt loops, wear a belt that matches your shoes and purse.
  12. Pair your outfit with a structured bag. Structured bag says, “I care about my work and appearance and I am efficient and organized all the time.”
  13. Wear classic black pumps. You can never go wrong at work by sticking with the classics. Keeping a polished pair of leather close-toed pumps is very important for asserting both your dignity and femininity in the workplace.
  14. WEAR PANTYHOSE WITH DRESSES! It is extremely unprofessional not to wear skin-toned stockings with your slacks or dresses at work. Stockings also have the benefit of covering up any marks or blemishes you might have on your legs or feet.

I hope this blog post can serve as a one-stop shop for what you should and shouldn’t wear to work. I have curated a selection of affordable business clothing options in my store. I’d encourage you to take a look to get a better sense of what I’m talking about with these tips.

–Roz

Rozalyn Davis holds an M.S., Chemistry, from the University of California, Berkeley, and a B.S., Chemistry, from Purdue University. Her interests include women’s empowerment, health and wellness, and environmental sustainability.

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