Most people told Michaela DePrince that life as a ballerina would bring a lot of heartbreak and rejection. But what Michaela faced in the ballet world was nothing compared to her shocking orphanage childhood. Labeled as “Devil’s Child”, Michaela was called “evil” because of her skin and given only the smallest scraps of food to survive. What horrific attack did Michaela survive? And how did she break free?
When coronavirus lockdown and social restrictions were announced in Germany, my first reaction was that it wouldn’t cause a huge change to my lifestyle. I have a fairly simple life, I work as a freelancer in my home office and cafes, I spend lots of time in solitude and my social calendar is fairly low-profile.
Yes, I’d miss the small things that are part of my routine, but this was a good excuse to deepen my meditation practice and step-up for those in need of emotional support. Then it dawned on me: the gym’s closed. My sacred space between the dumbbells and the squat racks, out of bounds, for months.
There may appear to be a conflict for a meditation teacher and coach who emphasizes our identity is not linked to the body. Whilst I’d love to profess I knew I’d miss the gym exclusively for the mental health benefits (of which there are many) I also knew it was going to challenge my relationship with my body, a familiar foe from the past.
Bigorexia, body image, and self-worth
I’ve been a regular gym-goer for over 10 years. The longest I’ve spent without going to the gym in this time was just under two months, when I first moved to Berlin. I’ve grappled with various issues in my relationship to exercise; from unintentionally punishing my body, to obsessively trying to get as muscular and defined as (super)humanly possible.
It’s a risk that comes with a hobby linked to the way you look. Combined with Hollywood images of the hyper-jacked, from Chris Evans to Hugh Jackman, and links between physical appearance and self-worth, it’s no surprise body image issues are a huge cause of emotional distress.
Women are most commonly associated with bodily insecurity, though eating disorders in men have risen 70 percent, and 45 percent of men said they’ve experienced “bigorexia,” the term given to an obsession with muscle-building. With the lack of gym access, high levels of stress, change to routine, and comfort eating, lockdown has created what Mayo Clinic psychologist Leslie Sim refers to as a “perfect storm” for body image issues.
Gyms are open again in Berlin, and it’s good to be back. However, towards the end of the three months’ with no access, the return of familiar thinking-patterns and feelings towards my body (not to mention the genuinely noticeable change in how my body felt and looked) led me to return to a familiar issue with a fresh perspective.
So what’s the link with body image and identity, and how do we develop a skillful approach that will benefit, not hinder, spiritual growth?
Judgment and the root of body image
“This body, too: Such is its nature, such is its future, such its unavoidable fate.” — Kāyagatāsati Sutta
To identify with the body means mistaking our physical structure as who we are. The process of mindfulness, meditation, and spiritual growth is to understand that who we are is much wider and more extensive than the confines of the body itself. From this perspective, the body can be compared to a vessel which provides a “home” for your individual, unique expression of consciousness.
When we identify with the physical body, we might become attached to its sensations, emotions, and sense of separation. Body image issues arise when we place our inherent value on our physical appearance. Suddenly, self-worth is linked to the way the body looks.
Such a hierarchy of values is largely dictated by a culture that pervades the collective psyche with images of bodily perfection and unattainable beauty standards. From Hollywood to the advertising and beauty industries, the message is clear: here’s the way you should look, and good looks are the recipe to happiness and success.
This creates a vicious cycle of judgment. We judge the value of our appearance and, perhaps unconsciously, do the same to others. The body becomes objectified, a malleable object to sculpt, censor, change, to fit the standards that exist outside of ourselves.
In doing so, it’s possible to lose all appreciation for the gifts the body bestows — legs that move us from one place to the other, a heart that beats for a lifetime, a stomach that extracts nourishment from the food we eat, lungs that inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide, eyes that see the beauty of the world… these are overlooked and obscured by one determining factor: physical appearance.
Developing a healthy relationship with the body
The body is a beautiful thing: it’s incredibly intelligent, wise, and adaptable. Having undergone a lot of work to improve my relationship with my body, I can tell you meditation is a powerful tool. I can also tell you that saying “you are not your body” as a seeming antidote offers very little value. It’s one thing knowing this, but it doesn’t offer a practical solution to what can be a very invasive and life-altering challenge.
I believe in making spiritual practice practical and accessible. So here are 5 steps I find helpful in improving your relationship with your body:
Challenge judgmental thoughts: Mindfulness allows you to gain greater clarity on your thoughts. Notice how often judgemental thoughts arise: remember, they aren’t truths, but inherited thoughts from cultural values. When these thoughts arise, as well as observing them, challenge them gently. I challenge thoughts by reframing my self-talk in the same manner I would talk to a close friend.
Meditate on the feeling of the body: Use meditation to simply sit and notice the rich universe of sensations that ebb and flow throughout the body. See if you can notice without labeling “good” or “bad” or “pleasant” or “unpleasant.” See how the body communicates and sense its aliveness. You can sample this now: close your eyes, breathe deeply, and spend a few moments paying attention to the sensations in your hands.
Communicate with the body: You might feel a bit silly, but this works. One of my big breakthroughs came during meditation. I instinctively started an inner-dialogue with my body, and apologies for the way I’d been treating it. I was taking it for granted, exercising excessively, and taking little time to send appreciation. When I said the words “I’m sorry, thank you for all you do for me,” I burst into tears — my body responded to my apology and expression of gratitude with a chorus of chills.
Develop a mindset of fascination: When viewed through the perspective of physical appearance, we look at the body with a judgemental eye, scanning its contours and curves looking for imperfection. Instead, see if you can shift your mindset to one of fascination. Explore the magic of the body: how it heals, how it provides you with the nutrients you need to stay alive. If you sense a change in your appearance, try and apply the same mindset. For example, “ah, look at how my body has adapted to less exercise.”
Send loving-kindness towards your body: The loving-kindness meditation is a powerful, heart-opening practice. In meditation, I found a shift in the way I connected to my body when I visualized a bright, white light (representing unconditional love) throughout my body, whilst extending gratitude for all it offers.
Learning to change your relationship is a slow process, which involves exploring the body from the perspective of gratitude and fascination. Though it may seem irrational to be concerned about physical appearance during a global pandemic, body image issues are one of the most prevalent and pervasive causes of emotional distress – so be easy on yourself.
Rather than aiming to sculpt your body to perfection or learn to love your physical appearance, aim to gradually improve your relationship over time. Listen to your body’s form of communication. Be inquisitive. Sooner or later, this leads to greater harmony, connection, and gratitude, as you become receptive to the body’s inherent wisdom.
We know that getting involved in a romantic relationship requires taking some risks. You hope for it to last, but you can’t predict whether or not it actually will. However, there are some signs that can tell you how serious your partner is about your relationship — red flags that might indicate you’re just a placeholder. Before diving into them, let’s get familiar with the term.
Place-holding happens when two people are dating — one of them is committed to the relationship while the other is still waiting for “the one” (consciously aware of that fact or not). Obviously, the first one is the placeholder.
As a placeholder you are there for your partner and you do all the things you normally do in a relationship, but you’re only holding the place until someone “better” comes along. You can date for a really long time, but your partner knows that you’re not that special person. So the relationship will end sooner or later.
Watch this Goalcast video on how Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton found true love after betrayal:
Here are a few major signs that you might be a placeholder:
1. Your partner makes it clear that they don’t want anything serious
Some people will be honest about this from the get-go. This is probably the clearest sign that you shouldn’t continue dating them. When someone tells you that they don’t want anything serious, it’s kind of obvious that they won’t commit to the relationship and that you’ll serve only as a placeholder.
2. It’s a rebound relationship
It’s unlikely for someone to tell you that you are a rebound so you’ll have to figure it out yourself. Most people that recently got out of a relationship think that dating someone else will help them move on faster. It’s selfish but it happens a lot. These relationships rarely blossom into commitment and in this case “rebound” is just another term for “placeholder”
3. Your partner avoids making plans for the future
If the person you’re dating avoids or even refuses to make plans for the future, you might be a placeholder. If you’ve been together for more than six months and they still can’t discuss anything that isn’t directly in front of them, this is a major warning signal.
Plans are part of a serious relationship so if your partner can’t make at least short-term ones or doesn’t commit to them, you’re clearly not a priority.
4. You only date when it’s convenient for them
You always try to “fit” their schedule, but they never do that in return. If you only meet when they want and where they want — without even realizing, you become the whenever-is-convenient partner.
Think twice if your boyfriend/girlfriend is always so busy and they only make time for you when they need you (usually for sex). The other person should also put an effort into seeing you, so when they don’t, your relationship is obviously not that important to them.
5. Your partner doesn’t introduce you to important people in their lives
For a relationship to have a future, you should know the people in each other’s lives. If you feel like your partner is hiding you from their friends, he/she probably is.
When it comes to parents, it’s normal to meet them later in a relationship. But if your partner doesn’t even talk on the subject, it’s because they don’t even plan on introducing you.
6. They’re not giving you enough attention or disrespect you
They don’t really care how you feel or how your day was. Whether you’re in or out of the room, it’s all the same for them. They always talk about themselves and never seem to remember what you tell them. These are all signs that you might be a placeholder.
Also, respect is vital for a healthy relationship. If you’re not a placeholder, your beau will always treat you with respect. He or she will make you feel included and important.
Are you allowing your partner to turn you into a placeholder?
You should carefully weigh the pros and cons. And if you can’t feel secure about your partner’s interest in you or feel that your relationship isn’t going anywhere, maybe it’s time to end it.
How to avoid a placeholder situation
First of all, don’t get involved with someone that clearly states that they’re not ready for a relationship. Don’t fool yourself thinking that they’ll change their mind after they get to know you better because this rarely happens. Do you really want to sacrifice time, energy and feelings just to see if you’re the exception?
Secondly, avoid dating someone that has recently gone through a bad breakup. That person won’t be able to focus on you and your needs. You’ll eventually heal them, but end up hurting yourself.
If you’ve been dating for a while, you should at least know his closest friends. If you’re important to your partner, they’ll make sure to introduce you to everybody sooner or later. And you won’t have to specifically ask for this to happen.
Also, you should be able to make plans together. This should come naturally, but if it doesn’t, don’t force it. If you find it hard to plan anything because he or she loves “staying in the moment,” think twice about continuing seeing them.
Don’t allow anyone to treat you like an option. If someone wants to see you, they will, no matter how busy they are. Let them know that your time is just as valuable as theirs. Don’t become the whenever-is-convenient partner or the “filler” for when they don’t have something better to do.
Last but not least, don’t find excuses when someone doesn’t treat you as a priority and especially when they don’t treat you with respect. If you keep finding excuses, you will just reinforce their bad behavior.
Sadly, if your partner is a really good actor, they can fool you. But sometimes the signs are clear and you might allow him or her to use you as a placeholder. Learn to read those signs and get out of that relationship before it gets the best of you.
A healthy relationship can’t be built on broken promises and disappearing acts. Don’t waste yourself on someone who thinks you’re disposable.
Sometimes our emotions can feel out of control, and it’s easy to find them overwhelming.
Using the wheel of emotion helps bring clarity to our emotions. The emotion wheel is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a wheel that includes the eight basic emotions: anticipation, disgust, fear, joy, sadness, surprise and trust.
The idea is to use the wheel to identify their emotions and come to terms to how they are feeling. This can help people, by identifying their feelings and emotions, to become more self-aware and self-compassionate.
How can you become a master with your emotions?
Giving yourself the permission to fully experience your emotions without shame or guilt is important to emotional mastery, understanding the wheel of emotions allows you identify the feelings you are having.
Developing this is a part of developing your emotional intelligence, as a huge part of the latter comprises self-awareness. When you are aware of what you’re feeling, you can better analyze situations and
Emotional mastery, which is the ability to be the conductor of your emotions rather than become overwhelmed by them, is vital to maintaining healthy intimate relationships.
Coltrane Lord, intimacy and relationship expert and author of Love Avatar
The wheel was originally devised by American psychologist Dr. Robert Plutchik who identified there were eight primary emotions that serve as the foundation for all others: joy, sadness, acceptance, disgust, fear, anger, surprise and anticipation. Using this wheel will help you understand and master your emotions.
The steps to emotional mastery are the following:
1) Accept your feelings
Feelings matter and we need to feel them to get past them. “Emotions are neutral until you put a label on it. Don’t label your emotions as good or bad. This also goes for your partner’s emotions,” said Lord.
2) Be radically present by naming and claiming your emotion
Own your feelings. Be honest about them. Accept them and don’t hide from them.
By saying your emotions out loud, ‘I am angry,’ or ‘I am sad,’ immediately gives you more control over them.
The wheel then allows you to dig deeper. For example, “mad” encompasses a lot of emotions. Depending on the situation at hand, the underlying emotion could stem from jealousy, selfishness or frustration etc.
When you understand what the root emotion is, you can have a better grasp of what triggered it. Consequently, you have a better chance at figuring out how to process the emotion and working towards preventing future triggers.
3) Be the silent observer of yourself as you feel all the feels
Become aware of what is happening in your body. “Notice the tears falling on your cheeks, if you have chills, if you are sobbing or screaming,” said Lord. This allows you to go through your emotions without being taken over by them.
4) Move the emotions through your body
Trauma therapist, Peter Levine, shares that animals instinctually release trauma in their bodies by shaking. “Allowing your emotions to freeze in your body can lead to future triggers. Dance, shadow box, beating on pillows are effective ways to do this,” said Lord.
5) Find gratitude for the experience, focusing on what it is teaching you
“Think of a future experience that brings you joy or safety and then replace the emotion you have just let go of, and replace it with joy, love and gratitude,” said Lord.
These steps allow you to complete the emotion loop with a positive memory and experience.
Taking ownership allows you to have better control
“When we take ownership of our emotions, we can support our partners to go through the process when they need to,” said Lord. Together, each will no longer require the other to be “the dart board” for our unprocessed emotions.
Why is this helpful in our relationships? As we come to terms with our own feelings and emotions, we can be more appreciative and understanding of those around us.
If we are just “mad,” our friends or partners can fail to understand what they did to trigger it. Similarly, they might have nothing to do with the emotion you are feeling, and this can hurt the relationship if you are not able to recognize what caused the specific emotion.
When you develop this self-awareness, you’re able to take ownership of your emotions and take a more objective approach to conflicts and other triggering situations. In doing so, you’re opening up for healthier conversations and relationships.
When we talk about motivation, we often bunch all variants into one umbrella. Yet, it is important to take a closer look at what motivates us to achiever our goals or daily tasks, whatever they may be. Very often, there’s a focus to our motivation that isn’t about ourselves but about something or someone else, and their reaction and feelings vs. our own.
J. Stuart Ablon, Ph.D., is the Director of Think:Kids in the Department of Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital. He defines intrinsic motivation as “being internally driven to achieve some goal vs. extrinsic motivation is being driven to achieve the goal in hopes of receiving some reward or incentive.”
Why you might be wrongly motivated
For Ablon, extrinsic motivation is focusing on external factors, and it is not the best method to go about achieving your goals.
This is a short-lived and ineffective method because external motivation and intrinsic drive are inversely related.
J. Stuart Ablon, Ph.D
In other words, the more you focus on external motivation, the more you eat away at your internal drive. You actually lose your internal drive to achieve goals when you focus on the external reward.
According to Ablon, “sustained intrinsic drive occurs when three basic psychological needs are met: competence (feeling good about our skills), autonomy (sense of independence) and relatedness (feeling connected to others).”
What does that mean?
Fostering those three things is what helps to create a sense of internal drive. But, while these concepts seem to make sense in a theoretical sense, let’s put them into real world talk.
For example, our need for social media validation. This is something all of us can relate too strongly. “You’re thrilled to see more likes on your latest post and you’ve increased the number of your followers,” said Kim Woods, a spiritual leader and transformation expert.
In your career, you work harder than anyone else for that bonus or promotion. To impress your friends, you buy those shoes you can’t really afford for all of the compliments. You feel good, like you’ve accomplished something.
But, that good feeling goes away as those likes and followers, in their fickleness, stop reading your posts or unfollow you.
At work, you’re exhausted and realize your current efforts are unsustainable. You look in your closet and know those shoes don’t go with most of your outfits, so sit on your shoe rack until they go out of style.
Even before all of these things happen, if you’re honest with yourself, each positive circumstance doesn’t make you satisfied for very long, if at all.
You’re stumped until you understand you feel this way because you’re being motivated by outside factors, not internal ones.
“Inner satisfaction, otherwise known as intrinsic motivation, is driven by internal rewards such as; satisfaction, pleasure and enjoyment. While extrinsic motivation, those likes and followers, bonus and shoes are based on earning external rewards or avoiding punishment,” said Woods.
Intrinsic motivation is everything while extrinsic is mildly interesting at best.
This is a big statement, yet the truth of it is proven by how you feel when you do things that fill you up and make you happy.
Unlocking your real superpowers
“Tapping into your intrinsic motivation is key to achieving your goals and living a better life,” continued Woods. When you follow your inner compass for satisfaction, you find your passion and have more energy to make progress on your intentions.
As you build this muscle, you foster self-confidence and gain a sense of your true purpose.
“When you find your true purpose, you have fewer distractions, enable easily sustained effort and connect smoothly with others,” said Woods. Once you’re in this flow, you’re living in joy, ease and freedom.
How can you tap into your intrinsic motivation?
Discovering what inspires your own inner motivation isn’t easy with all of the external factors in your life, but the deeper you go within, the easier it is to find those answers. This sounds simple, but it isn’t
It’s hard not to be influenced by what others are doing on social media or by friends and family giving you their advice.
However, you want to block them out for a time until you know what gives you satisfaction. It’s different for everyone, so following others isn’t the way to uncover what makes you happy. You need to follow yourself.
The keys to find the right motivations involve three areas:
1. Your mind
You want to make the decision to pursue your own internal knowing. To do this, go within.
“Remove the distractions and the noise and envision what you want your life to look like in 3, 6 and 9 months. Write it down. Assess each area of your inner life and your outer world. Your inner life includes your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being,” Woods said.
Are each at the level you want them to be – just for you? Next, look at your outer world. Does your living environment feel like a sanctuary? What would it take to make it one? How about your love life? Career? Do you allow yourself time and resources to explore things you love doing? Do you see the friends who lift you up?
2. Your heart
What makes your heart happy? Remember those times when you were younger and lost yourself by doing exactly what you wanted? Take a moment and think back.
“Settle yourself comfortably and start with your breath. Take 10 calm breaths to get connected and then let memories come up. Recall the happiest times in your life. What are you doing? Who are you with? These could be simple moments. Perhaps your coloring or running through a field. Maybe you’re on the phone with a close friend. You could even by laying back and looking at the clouds,” said Woods.
3. Your will
Give yourself permission to put yourself first in this pursuit of finding the things that fulfill you.
”Be curious. Carve out time in your week to remove all external input and do something that makes you feel satisfied, valuable or accomplished. Go back into the first 2 keys to help you figure out exactly what it may be. Shift your priorities to create a routine to be free to wonder, learn, explore and create,” said Woods.
Make the commitment to yourself to master things just for pure enjoyment. In the process, you may wish to learn new things, focus on your passion, join causes or groups or be in service to others.
“As you give yourself permission and commit time and energy toward your satisfaction, you gain a sense of competence by learning a new skill, a sense of purpose by finding your true calling, a sense of belonging by joining others in shared interests or a sense of meaning when helping others,” Woods condinued.
There are many ways to nurture your intrinsic motivation. Choose one or two that speak to you. Woods says these ways include:
Envision your satisfied life
Ensure you feel emotionally safe
Discover your core values
Tap into your heart’s wisdom
Talk to a trusted source to help you see your full potential
Say yes to challenging, yet attainable tasks
Let go of control or expectation
Feel as if it’s possible
Pursue a higher purpose or something bigger than you
The bottom line – when you live your life based on what fulfills you, you’re motivated to give your all to accomplish great things.
It’s hard to say what makes you perfect for someone else, but the Myers-Briggs personality test comes pretty close to it by pinpointing the most compatible combinations of 16 personality types.
All the various personality types are created based on whether someone is (I) introverted or (E) extroverted and whether they are led more by their (N) intuition or (S) sensing, (F) feeling or (T) thinking, and (J) judgment or (P) perception.
Beyond that, there are strengths that are subgroups or combined groups of these traits, but the test is meant to show how some people are more emphatic and better communicators, while others are better at feeling and connecting.
There are 4 overarching themes within the 16 Meyer Briggs personality types and these themes have common strengths to lean into in order to liven up your relationship. “The 2 familiar categories are the introverts and the extroverts,” said Kim Woods, Spiritual Leader and Transformation Expert.
The extroverts love being with people, so on the surface, they are the ones deemed to be better in relationships. However, the introverted types have plenty of strengths to draw on, even if communication isn’t their strong suit. They are observant and always make a willing audience.
Thinkers use their heads for everything, even love and intimacy, while the feelers use their hearts. Each combination includes the 4-letter type, archetype, relationship superpower, description and effective strategies for partners.
The 16 different types are combined in 4 different categories: Analysts, Diplomats, Sentinels and Explorers. Here’s a comprehensive breakdown that will tell you what your strength in relationships is.
If you’re categorized as an Architect, Logician, Commander or Debater, you’re in the Analyst group. “This group is known as the one who struggles the most with relationships. They tend to favor rationality over emotions and impartiality over sentimentality,” said Jones.
The Commander (ENTJ)
Within this group is the Commander. The typical leader, headstrong and confident, they approach challenges in their life with determination and ambition; their relationships are no different.
When they fall for someone, they can be laser focused on making things work, as in anything they undertake. “Their ambition for success translates well in the pursuit of building strong, long term relationships,” said Jones.
Their superpower: willpower
Natural leaders, this type has charisma, confidence and charm. “They can get anyone to follow them by inspiring or brilliantly leading them. They are knowledgeable, direct and decisive. They enjoy a bit of force and don’t mind getting into a conflict to attain the best solution,” said Woods.
This type is responsible and committed in all of their relationships.
Effective partner strategies: Give them the leadership role, rely on their positive outlook and dive into the information they love to share.
The Logician (INTP)
Passionate about discovery, the Logician will similarly show an intense appetite to share and discover another person. “After an initial period of reservedness, logicians become ferociously loyal,” said Jones.
Their superpower: bravery
Ability to scrutinize, analyze and absorb information are prime traits for this type. “They are quiet and contained, yet also flexible and adaptable. Being interested gives this type superhuman capacity to solve problems,” said Woods.
They like being unique and are visionary in relationships as they approach it as a problem to be solved. This makes them curious about everything.
Effective partner strategies: Provide detailed explanations, give them complicated problems and let them explore abstract ideas.
The Debater (ENTP)
The debater will explore and grow in a relationship even when they’re not in the presence of their partner.
“They dedicate time to thinking of how to maximize the important things in their life – relationships included,” said Jones.
Their superpower: communication
Striving for improvement, this type is outspoken, quick-witted and charming. “Partnership with them is lively and ever-changing. They have their eye on the long-term and like to flex their communication skills by debating with anyone about anything,” said Woods.
They can solve new and challenging problems.
Effective partner strategies: Keep things interesting, make room for spontaneity and give them a good debate.
The Architect (INTJ)
Architects don’t have their heads in clouds. They are intellectual and keen to a plan. “They will implement this strategic mindset to a romantic connection, which may lessen the importance of passion, it can lead to a committed and enjoyable long term partnership, where dedication is in spades,” said Jones.
Their superpower: healthy confrontation
Holding themselves and their partners to a higher standard is key for this type.
“They have great drive to achieve all of their original ideas. Complicating this is their quest for independence and skepticism for other’s notions. Appealing to commitment and follow-through works wonders,” said Woods.
However, if the relationship doesn’t work out, these people move on quite comfortably.
Effective partner strategies: Give them difficult jobs & unfinished projects and participate in healthy debates.
The Diplomats Group
The Diplomats group is one that shines when it comes to relationships. “Their natural empathy and caring attitude goes a long way in building connections with other people,” said Jones.
The Advocate (INFJ)
Far from being a casual partner, advocates strive for deep, emotional connection. “They don’t rush into a relationship, they are careful about who they choose. However, the individual they decide to share their love with is in for a profoundly spiritual connection,” said Lucy Jones Ph.D, a dating and relationship expert.
Their superpower: sensitivity
Making meaningful connections in ideas and relationships is key for this type. “They love to know the underlying motivations and reasons people do what they do. They love to envision the future based on their values for being in service,” said Woods.
These people are sensitive and caring.
Effective partner strategies: Let them stand up for their beliefs, give them space to figure out hidden agendas and appreciate their sensitive ways.
The Mediator (INFP)
If you are a mediator, you’re fiercely altruistic, selfless and caring. And for you, emotional connections aren’t difficult to establish. One of the most compassionate of this subgroup, the mediator is quick to see the positive in people.
The Mediator has no trouble building emotional connections. Their kind disposition means their love is frequently reciprocated.
Their superpower: support
Loving deeply, this idealistic partner seeks to understand and adapts to the needs of others. “Caring and supportive, their passions run deep and they want their loved ones to succeed. Naturally skilled in communication, these lovers are loyal to their values and to the people who are important to them,” said Woods.
Effective partner strategies: Give them a cause, be grateful for their support and encourage their ideals.
The Campaigner (ENFP)
Campaigners breathe passion and will certainly bring it to their relationship. They are naturally outgoing, keen to share ideas and experiences and find comfort in relationships.
“They may not be wholly focused on one true relationship, instead valuing an exciting tapestry of relationships over their lives, then eventually devoting themselves to one special person,” said Jones.
Their superpower: devotion
Charming, energetic and lively, these people love to entertain and to be spontaneous.
“Everyone feels better being with them and they’re at their best when they can find the deeper meaning. They are enthusiastic, imaginative and see life as full of possibilities. Making connections of any kind come quickly and naturally. Their communication skills are excellent and they show their devotion when they feel appreciated,” said Woods.
Effective partner strategies: Appreciate their supportive ways, affirm their beliefs and get them talking – about anything.
The Protagonist (ENFJ)
Much like the protagonist in many stories, a romantic, eternal connection is the end goal for protagonists. They pursue relationships with that thought in mind.
Much of their life is geared towards the pursuit of happiness, relationships are a key part of that ambition.
Their superpower: growth
This type always sees the full potential in everyone, especially their loved ones and this extends to their relationships.
“Being authentically caring is their superpower as they can find the best in any scenario and inspires to see it too. Warmth, empathy and responsibility is a powerful combination,” said Woods.
This winning personality type is fun, affectionate and sociable, yet yearns for commitment.
Effective partner strategies: Motivational techniques, growth questions and emotional connection.
Explorers relish spontaneity, are quick to respond to sudden changes and do not shy away from adventure or something new. This makes Explorers a highly exciting personality group to have a relationship with, and this is no less true for the Entertainer subgroup.
Within the Explorers groups is also the Virtuoso. This would be a personality that enjoys the tactile side of life. “They’re keen to get their hands dirty which frequently leads to careers such as engineering and construction,” said Jones. Their relationship superpower is a keen understanding of themselves. It’s difficult to succeed in a relationship when you struggle to understand who you are, Virtuoso’s don’t have this weakness. “They’re well aware of what excites and what bores them, they understand the importance of alone time and are enthusiastic when greeted by something they want – including relationships,” said Jones.
The Virtuoso (ISTP)
Virtuosos love what they love and they won’t beat around the bush. They are certain in what they want and know how to get it.
“They understand the power of individualism and when and where it is appropriate, helping to make sensible and healthy relationships,” said Jones.
Their superpower: respect
Being efficient and finding workable solutions are the primary strengths of the ISTP. “They are tolerant and flexible making them able to easily analyze vast input to get to the root of any problem. Although, they love to create, they take a logical and practical approach,” said Woods. They respect their partners and are confident in themselves.
Effective partner strategies: Allow them fact-based criteria, set timed goals and give them complex issues to puzzle out and solve.
The Adventurer (ISFP)
Abundance of emotion and passion follow Adventurers around and they definitely bring that into the relationship.
“While it can sometimes be difficult to get them to stay still long enough to build that partnership, when they do the relationship is rewarded with spontaneity and fun,” said Jones.
Their superpower: beauty appreciation
A free-spirit, this type enjoys the present moment and loves to explore creative expression. “Native peacemakers, these people seek harmony and beauty. They need solace to take in all it and relish the quiet moments. Their sensitivity makes them kind and respectful of the needs of their partner,” said Woods. Although they uphold their values and align with their opinions, they don’t force them on others.
Effective partner strategies: Take advantage of alone time, create a beautiful environment and patiently listen to their views.
The Entrepreneur (ESTP)
All facets of life are intertwined for the Entrepreneurs; work, friends, love, family – they are interconnected with resources shared across them all. This means that their relationships tend to be richer.
“For that reason, Entrepreneurs excel at making relationships seem larger and more profound, their relationships don’t begin and end with the two people in them – instead cover many facets of their lives,” said Jones.
Their superpower: spontaneity
Impetuous and active, this type lives in the now. “They love a thrill and seek passion and pleasure. Attuned to other’s needs and desires, this sensual partner spoils with abandon,” said Woods. Expect to be energized in their presence with lots of activity and conversation.
Effective partner strategies: Keep them busy, allow changing expectations and go with the flow.
The Entertainer (ESFP)
“Entertainers are exactly as you would assume, natural born charmers,” said Jones. “Their ability to light up a room makes them a delight to be around.” They’re comfort in being surrounded by other people enables many opportunities for relationships, and their exciting and enjoyable disposition makes them a target for affection.
This type relishes an opportunity to share with others.
Their relationship superpower is their ability to make any situation fun, they can construct positivity in the hardest of places.
Their superpower: emotional strength
With a clever wit, this fun-loving type is generous, decisive and friendly. “They enjoy working with others and making things happen. They live in the moment and thrive on flexibility and spontaneity. Contradicting this is their down-to-earth and common sense approach. They accept things and people as they are and love experimenting with emotional connections,” said Woods.
They adapt readily to new people and environments.
Effective partner strategies: Any purchase, travel or event planning, ideas about new situations and conversations about the new people in their life.
Sentinels favour rules and structure over wild emotion, said Jones. They value an idea of ‘how things should be’ and are not quick to change that.
This doesn’t make them cold or unempathetic however. In fact the Defender is one of the most altruistic personality subgroups. Ultimately, it ends up looking like something of a mathematical equation when we put it all together.
The Logistician (ISTJ)
They are lovers of traditionalism, family and comfort. “Logistician’s relationship superpower is an ability to radiate a sense of calm, not fixated on spontaneity, they can make relationships feel warm and familiar,” said Jones.
Their superpower: commitment
Thinking about relationship as a work project actually is a great strength for this type. “Loyalty, dependability and a matter-of-fact approach to love is an asset. There’s no drama or manipulation of emotions, instead this type decides logically what should be done and takes pleasure in doing it,” said Woods.
When they commit, it lasts forever.
Effective partner strategies: Present checklists, let them rank their priorities and appeal to their values.
The Executive (ESTJ)
Straight talking, you know exactly what you get when it comes to an Executive. “They don’t play games or tolerate rubbish, they tell their partner exactly how it is with unashamed and respectful honesty,” said Jones.
Their superpower: decisiveness
Quick, decisive action with a matter-of-fact approach is at the core of this type. “ESTJ’s like to organize those around them and to take the lead in any situation. Give them a plan and they will come up with a course of action. They take care of everything and everyone around them,” said Woods.
Their sheer force cuts through any issues to problems.
Effective partner strategies: Let them make decisions and plans and sit back to enjoy the results.
The Defender (ISFJ)
Defenders excel in taking care of others. Their people skills make them experts in connecting with those around them. “They excel with relationships, people skills and connecting with others. They enjoy the care of others over themselves,” said Jones.
This selflessness and dedication to others help Defenders build strong and reciprocated romantic connections. “This makes forming close bonds much easier, plus their altruistic nature ensures a long and rewarding relationship,” said Jones.
Their superpower: listener
Sensitive to intimate partners, this type is conscientious, committed and loyal. “They meet their obligations and strive for harmony and beauty in their environments.They are observant and naturally practice active listening,” said Woods. They take their relationships seriously and love to provide practical advice and emotional support.
Effective partner strategies: Have lots and lots of conversation, keep the environment peaceful and limit clutter and busyness.
The Consuls (ESFJ)
Consuls are popular with everyone, it’s difficult to find someone who has a bad word to say about them. “They thrive on connection and being in the vicinity of other people, for that reason they are not short on opportunities for love.”
They’re talented in making the object of their attention feel validated and heard
Their superpower: reliability
This type has the warmest heart and are usually in a good mood. “They are conscientious, cooperative and social gatherings of any size. Natural people pleasers, this type seeks harmony and displays their loyal hearts by observing others to help in their day-to-day,” said Woods. They avoid short-term affairs and make excellent long-term partners.
Effective partner strategies: Appreciative notes, tasks where they can contribute and working with others.
While all these strengths are naturally not exclusive to each category, they stand out amongst others in the individuals belonging to each group.
Knowing what your strength is will allow you to apply it and improve it. It can also help you figure out what you want out of your relationship. It’s natural for all of us to want a partner who appreciates our strength and who is able to complement our weaknesses.
Long-term relationships are increasingly rare. For many millennials, marriage is a relic from days-gone-by, and solid commitment is a second-date. Finding connection in the digital age is difficult when relationships can be fleeting and fickle. As I approach 30, my dating journey consists of multiple mid-term monogamous relationships — most of my friends are the same.
There are two sides to this evolving dynamic. On one hand there’s freedom from societal pressure to settle down and commit to an unfulfilling relationship; it is liberating. On the other hand, many promising relationships break down at the first sign of hardship.
How do we uncover where our relationship stands? How do we know when to liberate ourselves from obligation, or to work through problems?
The answers to these questions are unique to each relationship. However, there are 6 questions to ask yourself that can reveal deeper hidden truths, guide you to making decisions, and provide clarity on whether your relationship will stand the test of time.
1. What expectations do I have?
There’s a fine-line between “not settling” and “chasing perfect”. This line is dictated by our expectations. Having sky-high expectations about what your relationship should be is a way to add too much pressure and join the conveyor belt of always looking for the one.
The reality is arguments happen, there will be conflict, there will be disagreements, there will be times when you aren’t feeling attracted to your partner.
Having realistic expectations gives you a clearer view of the relationship. Without fixed beliefs about what a relationship should be, you’re able to see the reality of the person in front of you.
I learnt the hard-way that my belief in “the one” was making each relationship destined to fail. Only when I let go of sky-high expectations did I mature in my approach to dating.
2. Are we compatible?
Compatibility comes in many forms. No relationship should be your number one source of fulfillment, and it’s normal to have areas of incompatibility. Still, it’s important to break down your areas of compatibility into negotiable and non-negotiable. There may be areas you know are deal breakers: such as sexual chemistry, spirituality, meaningful conversation or sense of humor.
But there are a host of incompatibilities that don’t mean things won’t work out. Not every box has to be ticked. Again, assess expectations in this regard. Whilst I used to look for 100% compatibility, now I look for 60% or 70% in a partner.
Right now, my non-negotiable compatibility includes monogamy, mutual spiritual support, emotional intimacy, and honesty. I’m independent and enjoy my own company, so it doesn’t bother me if I don’t share many social activities with a partner, and I’m content meeting a few times per week.
3. What is my motivation for this relationship?
If you’re in a relationship because it’s what you’ve always done or because it feels safe or familiar, then it’s worth assessing the motivating factors behind this. Life’s too short to be in a relationship with a sense of obligation, or simply because we fear being alone. Explore your motivation and see if you’re in a relationship to avoid or gain.
In the past I’ve entered relationships to avoid loneliness and gain companionship. But under the surface I realized I was afraid of being alone. When I worked on my codependency and developed a sense of self-compassion, I no longer felt I needed a relationship. My self-sufficiency freed me to choose a relationship because I wanted it, but didn’t need it.
Now, I look to relationships as gain only. I gain companionship, mutual understanding, emotional intimacy, fun, sexual fulfillment. I’m not using the relationship to avoid difficulties in life, such as an inability to handle my emotions, or a need for external validation. I take responsibility and find a healthy balance between self-regulation and emotional support.
4. Am I sexually satisfied?
I’ll be blunt. Romantic relationships are distinguished by sexual intimacy. Sex is important. This doesn’t mean earth-shattering intoxication or chemistry all day, every day, but it does mean a relationship where you feel comfortable sharing, exploring and expressing your sexuality. Life’s too short to be in a romantic relationship with zero sexual compatibility.
Are there times when this doesn’t matter? Of course! If sex really isn’t a big deal to you and you value emotional intimacy and security and find that in a partner who equally doesn’t value sex, it can work. But this isn’t about ever-lasting lust and excitement. It’s about a level of comfort in satisfying each other’s needs and cultivating a trusting space of loving intimacy; the kind that doesn’t diminish over time.
This requires an honest look at your level of sexual satisfaction. It’s highly unlikely to find a partner with exactly the same sex drive, and that’s fine. The key is clear communication, and finding a mutual mid-point that works for both of you.
5. What do I want to create?
The decline in social expectations offers the chance to build unique, unconventional relationships. Rather than allowing unquestioned cultural norms to dictate the relationship, ask yourself what you’d like to create.
Exploring grey areas with openness and honesty is liberating in itself, and you’d be surprised just how much conditioning exists around what romance really means. There will be areas you think you want, only to realize it’s “how things are” and your natural needs are different.
As I mentioned earlier, my relationships leave room for independence and spiritual growth. I no longer chase chemical highs that come with meeting someone new. For me, monogamy is a deal breaker when cultivating emotional and physical intimacy with someone. This form of monogamy and independence is unconventional. We’re exclusive yet there aren’t expectations around regular sleepovers, daily contact, or living together.
This works for me. What works for you will be different. So ask yourself what you genuinely, authentically want to create. Write a list in your journal. Reflect on what feels natural. You might be surprised at what you discover. The next step is exploring how to create something from authentic foundations with your partner — this in itself will show areas of compatibility.
6. Do I see myself in this relationship in five years’ time?
I’m going to turn this question on its head and say: it doesn’t matter if you don’t see yourself in your current relationship in five years’ time. None of us know how life plays out.
Some relationships last a lifetime when originally both people thought it wouldn’t work. Others paint vivid futures together only for things to rapidly fall apart. The future is uncertain and no relationship is future-proof.
So instead of viewing a relationship in terms of longevity, ask yourself: am I nourished by this relationship in the present? Am I growing and learning, about myself, about my partner, about how to relate?
An ex of mine sent me an article recently about how to define “success” in relationships. Ultimately if we are learning and growing then the relationship is a success — whether it lasted 10 years, 10 months, or 10 weeks. Getting to know someone, sharing hopes, dreams, fears, and the human experience is beautiful in its own right. To experience this is a blessing.
So regardless of how you answer these questions, know nothing has been wasted. But by gaining clarity on what you want, you’ll get the most from your current relationship, and make the most of each moment. The rest will take care of itself.
These are trying times for everyone. But as the global coronavirus pandemic spreads fear and anxiety, it’s never been more important to keep the hope alive. Cliché though it may sound, no one gets any points for diverting the truth just to be artful right now.
We need to keep hope, humor, and sanity intact if we hope to maintain our health. And we’ll need to maintain our health if we’re to rise to the many challenges we, as humans, currently face.
Distanced, isolated, and even quarantined though we may be, unity and basic human kindness are our best frontline defense as we navigate this unprecedented event, friends. Since the news sure are heavy right now, watching video content that helps us feel lighter, uplifted and connected is a total must to keep our spirits up.
This classic follows the entire Hoover clan on their road trip to California to support their daughter in her efforts to win the Little Miss Sunshine pageant. Masterfully navigating relatable themes of family dysfunctionality, but in a tender, compassionate and outrageously quirky way, LMS is another great watch for anyone suddenly forced to spend lots of time in close proximity to their family.
2. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (2019)
Chiwetel Ejiofor wrote, directed, and stars in this British drama—his feature directorial debut. The story follows a self-taught 13-year-old Malawian boy who teaches himself to build a windmill to save his village from starvation. At a time when kindness and resourcefulness are the most we can offer, this film offers an ample dose of much-needed heart.
3. The Kids Are Alright (2010)
Family is pretty much never straight forward, and it can be downright dysfunctional, as many of us know. As some of us find ourselves suddenly separated from family, why not watch quality films that navigate family and dysfunction in its many forms?
In TKAA, Lesbian couple Nic and Jules, have brought up two children thanks to an anonymous sperm donor. Said children get curious about their bio father, and the rest is a chain reaction.
4. Mississippi Masala (1991)
This refreshing political love story directed by Indian-American filmmaker Mira Nair is arguably the most romantic movie ever—and its cast is 100% people of colour (including the one-and-only Denzel Washington). Can love win in a climate of spite of political upheaval and racial tension spanning both 1970s Uganda and 1990s Mississippi? This is a story of love against the odds, an inspiration to those of us trying to connect romantically during this time.
Uplifting TV Series for a continuous boost
1. Schitt’s Creek, CBC and Netflix, (2015-present)
This Canadian television gem surprised the whole world with the incredible chemistry of its cast and the perfect balance of humor and touching moments. The Rose family went from being wealthy to losing all their assets and having to live in a motel in a town in the middle of nowhere. The experience forces them to get to know each other, despite their differences, while overcoming the obstacles of their new life.
2. Better Things, FX (2016-present)
The one and only Pamela Adlon co-created and stars in this badass masterpiece of modern television. Adlon plays crass, radically honest divorced actress raising her three daughters on her own while juggling work, and caring for her totally crazy mother, who lives next door. For all single parents trying to get ‘er done, this one’s bound to make you laugh and cringe and maybe cry with its unabashed commitment to being real.
3. Master of None, Netflix (2015-2017)
This slice-of-life comedy inspired by the life of comedian Indian-American actor Aziz Ansari is about life, work, and dating in NYC. We’re talking brilliantly layered stories exploring sexual faux pas, race, identity and family obligation (and all the places they overlap and create tension). It’s insightful, funny, emotionally intelligent, and perfect for a covid-19 quarantine devoted to reflection.
4. The Golden Girls, NBC, (1985-1992)
Another timeless oldie goldie for your consideration, The Golden Girls is a show about women who cohabit—for better or worse (two of which are mother and daughter). Featuring the iconic Betty White, they’re constantly insulting each other, but love one another fiercely. They face serious crises by being supportive and empathetic—with unexpectedly delicious edge (thing Grace & Frankie from an earlier time). Prepare to have your anxious mind soothed with its goofiness and unflinching sincerity.
The Internet’s golden treasure: uplifting videos
1. Deshauna Barber’s incredible tale of resillience
In 2016, after 6 years of competing and losing, Deshauna Barber was the first US soldier ever to win the Miss USA title. In her inspiring speech about becoming the best version of oneself, Barber says, “Do not fear failure, but please be terrified of regret.” There’s no better video to watch if you need to be reminded that adversity is part of the path and that not giving up will get you everywhere.
2. Australian Zookeeper
The Melbourne Zoo began live-streaming some of its animals online so people can still tune in throughout covid-19. Succumbing to temptation, one zookeeper decided to seize the opportunity and put on a dancing display for online viewers which quickly went viral. I’m confident you’ll understand why. Never lose your sense of humor! It brings much needed perspective.
3. Tom Hanks’ story
Tom Hanks and his wife were recently added to the growing list of celebrity cases of coronavirus. Anyone struggling with the loneliness that often accompanies isolation should give this recent conversation with Hanks a watch. Clearly using his time in isolation to dig deep, Hanks details his lifelong struggle with loneliness, offering hope in introspection and a helpful distinction between loneliness and conscious solitude.
2. Yoga With Adriene
Even if you’re a yoga naysayer, I’m telling you, I’ve found endless inspiration, rejuvenation, and peace of mind thanks to the Yoga With Adriene youtube channel. She’s real, she’s raw, she’s funny, down to earth, and even crass—all the qualities you want in a yoga teacher, especially when you’ve got a bad case of cabin fever. Whether it’s compassion, self-love, movement medicine, or hope for the future you seek, she’s got you covered.
A good attitude is always the best start
Bottom line: times are tough, and that’s the truth. The best we can do is help ourselves, help each other, try not to internalize too much stress, and sustain our collective sense of humour. I believe the above list can help inspire much of this. To all my fellow humans: we got this. Together, we have more power than we know. So enjoy the show.
With the current state of COVID-19, more and more singles are turning to online dating. While it may be frustrating to delay meeting up with matches, we’ve actually been given the unique opportunity to turn back time to the ways of old fashioned courting.
While online dating is not without its hiccups–issues like ghosting, cat fishing or even being overwhelmed by choice can be a real downside.
However, there can be plenty of benefits to getting to know one another remotely. Let’s take a look at the other, more positive side of the online dating world.
We need to dive a bit deeper, especially now when it is easy to feel lonely, isolated, and frustrated during this time of social distancing.
It’s important to remember that human connection is still possible during social distancing, though it may be virtual for now.
Jackie Rapetti, VP of Brand and Content Marketing for Charmed
Dating apps are doing better
Dating apps across the board are experiencing something of a surge as more people are isolating at home. And this is despite the uncertainty surrounding the possibility of being able to meet in person.
“Our UK business is up 20% over the past two weeks,” Gillian McCallum, chief executive of Drawing Down the Moon, an agency specialising in “bespoke matchmaking,” told The Timesof London.
The Association of British Introduction Agencies added: “Any time there’s a calamity, people start thinking about the fact they are single and don’t want to be.” The threatened lockdown appears to have prompted a last-minute rush to romance, with anxious singles eager “to do their introductions now”, added McCallum.
In times when people can no longer gather together and swap phones to share their dating app matches, Charmed allows a virtual way to share Hinge and Tinder matches with friends.
As frightening and terrible as coronavirus is, it does set the stage for what could also be shaped into a rom com plot arc perfectly.
“Boy and girl holed up in their homes to help save the vulnerable from this scary virus, boy and girl connect online, they chat, and chat some more, they curl up in bed at night with someone to talk to, wake up with a good morning message…soon they’re Skyping daily, showing each other their attempts at home cooked meals…and by the time they’re free to meet in person they’ve fallen for each other,” said dating and relationship coach Alexis Sclamberg.
This crazy time creates a novel opportunity for people to pursue connection the digital way. This doesn’t have to stop your dating efforts. this could be a perfect jump start.
More time for connection
One of the consequences of self-quarantining is that many of us will find themselves with more time on their hands. “Now, without commutes to the office or dinners out, time is plentiful,” said Sclamberg. To some, it may mean a pause on their dating efforts but it could actually be a perfect time to meet the right person.
Most of my clients think this is an excuse to hit pause on their typical, exhausting dating merry go round — but some extra time and the online dating format presents a perfect recipe for new connections and potential sparks.
The most important thing to remember is that you will now have more time and leisure to dedicate to getting to know someone. While every day life always happens at a fast pace, it tends to affect the way we date and the expectations we bring to the table.
Now’s the time to get to know one another on a deeper level – we can’t get away with snarky, sassy messages in hopes of grabbing a quick drink.
With social distancing, people are craving connection and conversation more than ever, and singles have it at their fingertips. While online dating can have its downsides, Jeremy Nicholson M.S.W., Ph.D. states “[technology]-mediated communication allows for safe and convenient interaction.”
It’s important to remember that some people are able to open more easily without the constraint of physical proximity because they feel comfortable with having that distance. If you are one of those, it may be worth looking into online dating.
Truly get to know someone
Furthermore, online dating makes it easier for you to curate your matches based on common interest and preference. That way, you start in a better position and are sure that you at least have one thing in common.
This removes a lot of the pressure that can be attached to meeting someone for the first time in person. It can also ease people into being more comfortable to open up. This can be a wonderful opportunity to get to know a potential partner’s character, what they value, and if you could be a good match.
With the current global situation, it’s even more important to get to know someone properly.
“Challenging times tend to reveal a person’s true personality. Does their behavior indicate that they are caring, compassionate, and able to keep up a sense of humor? Learn if their life direction and goals match up with your own,” said psychologist and sex and dating expert Antonia Hall.
So you have connected…now what?
We all know how fleeting the connections made on online dating platforms can be. You can have an incredible conversation with someone only for them to ghost you the very next day. Alas, these are the risks associated with these platforms.
Yet, in the case that you do connect with someone, how do you keep the spark alive? It may be a challenge, especially since we are not in a position to meet in real life.
If you both feel invested in the connection, it’s worth being creative in order to nurture it. First, as Sclamberg recommends, it’s important to “make sure to see each others’ faces, regularly.”
This can be simply by sending them selfies or short videos, as away to update them on your day and keep the connection going.
I encourage clients to get creative. Connect as usual — chat a bit — and then plan Skype/Facetime dates until it’s safe and socially responsible to meet in person. Just because you’re not face to face in person, it doesn’t make the date any less real.
Chatting by phone and video conferencing can allow you to get to know people at a deeper level. “Video also helps to bridge the distance, ease self-isolation stress, and keep the spark going,” said Hall. Consider reading a book aloud to each other or playing a game remotely.
Many of us may prefer to meet someone in person. But this is real life and as we have learned, sometimes it gets in the way. We’re fortunate enough to have the technology to connect us no matter the distance.
While not all connections you make online will be fruitful, the same can be said of your real-life ones. This is why it is worth trying your chance and keeping your mind open. Remember that there is also more freedom associated with online dating, so you can take your time to get to know someone at your own pace and from the comfort of your home.
But Jason Reid knows that all too well. His own son died by suicide in 2019, and he dealt with that tragedy in the only way he could imagine: by starting the foundation ChooseLife.org with a goal of ending teen suicide by 2030.
Jason is trying to make sure that no other family go through what he went through, and he is determined to reach every parent and every family about the conversation they need to be having with their kids.
The tragic story that fueled the movement
In March 2018, while he and his wife were away on vacation, his son died by suicide. Not only was it a devastating news for any parent to receive, it was also a moment of realization for Jason.
Up until then, Jason had thought he had done everything to make his kids happy. The realization that he had failed to see the signs of his son’s depression was a huge wake-up call.
As he reflected, Jason recalls a decision he regrets making, and that was getting his son a phone when he was only 12 years old.
“The reality of our story is that one of the things I deeply regret in life is getting Ryan a phone at the age of 12. We live an hour and a half from San Diego and the Mexican border, and I would never have said to Ryan, ‘Why don’t you go down to Tijuana, wander the streets on a Saturday night, and come back and tell me what you think.’ No parent would ever do that.”
As Jason explains, giving a child access to the Internet at such a young age was the equivalent of allowing them to roam a dangerous city alone.
But what I did do and say was, ‘Here is a phone with unfettered access to the internet — go anywhere you want, research whatever you want, and I won’t even ask you about it.’ And he used that phone to research how to kill himself.
Consequently, he created Kids Safe Mobile, a new app for kids’ mobile phones. “The app allows a parent to lock down the kid’s phone so they can only make a phone call, send a text, take a picture. And there’s an app that’s on the parent’s phone, so if [the kid ever tries] to shut down or delete the app, the parent gets an immediate notification.”
In the aftermath of Ryan’s death, as the family attempted to come to grips with the loss, Reid discovered two Post-it Notes his son had left where he knew they would be found: One read, “Here’s my username and passwords”; the other read, “Tell my story.”
So Jason decided that he will honor his son’s last words.
So Jason decided to tell Ryan’s story
ChooseLife’s mission is a documentary Jason has been working on to bring awareness to the issue of teen suicide. The documentary takes a deeper look into the problem by featuring interviews with families, doctors, counsellors, experts and leaders.
The main aim is to help parents in taking ownership for their kids mental health the same way they do for their physical health as well as the importance of having conversations about depression and suicide with their children.
“We grew up with the idea that you can shake off depression if you try — we revert to how we were raised, and it takes a long time to change that kind of thought process. We’re starting to,” said Reid who said his original intention when creating ChooseLife was not this huge effort to end teen suicide.
I had no intention of doing any of this. I had intentions of doing a movie, and I knew a TED Talk would help me get some publicity for the movie. And that would be my contribution to this. I tell Ryan’s story, I’m done.
But as he started doing the movie, he started having all these different conversations with everybody who is in the space, and he realized, “We’re not doing this the right way. We’re not tackling this like a problem that can be solved. We’re just saying, ‘Everybody should be aware.’
[Teen suicide] gets worse every year. Awareness is not helping. It’s simply not enough.
Jason Reid to Parentmap
Awareness is not enough
Instead of simply making sure people know about teen suicide, Jason decided to take his mission further, into prevention. As a parent himself, he feels like he had failed by not recognizing the signs of his son’s depression. For him, that is the starting points and communication is primordial; it is the starting point.
“We need to ask the right questions, as parents. We need to have more vulnerable conversations with our kids. And we need to take ownership and responsibility,” Jason insists.
And it is just as easy
When your child is physically unwell, we all take ownership of that and make sure they get the help and support the need. So why don’t we have the same attitude when it comes to their mental health?
Reid believes he is disrupting a space that doesn’t necessarily want to be disrupted. That is because he believes that raising awareness is simply not enough. That’s what people “are comfortable doing.”
His intention is to combat teen suicide, to bring it to an end and in the nonprofit world, things are moving too slow for his liking. That’s why he made sure his mission went beyond awareness.
I’m out there as a business guy saying, ‘Nope, we’re going to end it.’ We’ve created it, we can end it. But not unless we try. Raising awareness doesn’t end teen suicide — it doesn’t do anything. If you go into a group of parents and say, ‘How many of you are aware of teen suicide?” they all put up their hands.’
Jason Reid to Parentmap
There is no lack of awareness. Rather, it is a lack of action on the parents’ part. That’s why Choose Life is targeting communication.
What Jason wants everyone to know
While Jason regrets getting his son a phone, he also regrets not having asked him the important questions.
I never asked him if he was depressed. I never asked him if he thought about killing himself. Those are the hard questions that parents don’t want to ask, but those are the questions we have to ask.
Sometimes, the signs are not obvious but there is no denying that communication with your children would help you figure out whether something is wrong or not. Simply taking that step to sit down with them and ask about their day can do a great deal of good.
It’s all about learning to communicate and making sure those children are heard – and know they are heard, and that they have you to hear them, and talk to. There’s no telling how much difference that can make.