How to Love Myself: It’s Okay to Be Unapologetically YOU!

You make a mistake, have a bad day, or catch a bad angle in the mirror. What goes through your mind?

If you’re wondering how to love yourself more, here’s how to shift your mindset and treat yourself with compassion.


“Ugh, I look terrible!”

“Oh my gosh, I’m such an idiot!”

“Why am I so bad at everything? No wonder everyone hates me.”

This kind of negative self-talk is the norm for many of us. But would we ever say those words to a friend?

We’ve all been there. I’ve found myself looking for ways to love myself and treat myself with a little more ease, too, especially when I’m having a tough day. But when it comes to self-talk, we’re often our own worst critics.

So how can you learn to treat yourself with a little more compassion and caring?

We All Want to Love Ourselves

Self-criticism, comparison, FOMO…we all experience it. We’ve all gone through the feelings that we’re never quite enough, we’re running from one activity to the next, but we never cross off items on our to-do list.

All of this stress can leave us like we’re failing ourselves, and we’re failing those around us. We might not experience the level of success we want; we might make a mistake, cringe at an embarrassing moment, or blow off our achievements as ‘dumb luck.’ Most of us are way more aware of our faults than our accomplishments.

Learning how to love myself is a tall order. So rather than wondering how to love ourselves, let’s explore how to be more kind to ourselves, treat ourselves more affectionately, and with a little more compassion.

Of course, I want a world where we all love ourselves entirely and realize what a gift each person brings to the world. But that’s a big wish. It’s easier to start by learning to be a little sweeter to yourself, a bit more affectionate, kinder, and more compassionate.

Research demonstrates that self-care and self-compassion are surprising antidotes to stress, procrastination, and negative thinking. Self-kindness makes us healthier, helps us create emotional resilience, keeps us motivated, and continuously developing. Best of all, it’s free!

It may seem like a touchy-feely concept or an idea that’s a bit silly, right?

But listen the next time you’re trash-talking yourself. We can be genuinely mean to ourselves—way worse than we would ever be to someone else. If someone spoke that way to a friend, you’d expect them to feel terrible, right?

Why You Are Your Own Worst Critic

So why do we treat ourselves as an enemy? We can blame our tendency to trash talk ourselves on evolution. We each have what’s called a “negativity bias” where negative experiences are given more weight, seeming more significant than they really are.

If we think about this, it makes a lot of sense. Back in the days of our early ancestors, if you learned that a particular plant was poison, or a bear hung out near a specific area, you’d train yourself to avoid those dangers. Today, we don’t need to forage for food or run from bears, but we still remember negative experiences more vividly than positive ones. 

As psychologist and best-selling author Dr. Rick Hanson says, our inner critic (nit-picking, scolding, fault-finding) is big and powerful. Our inner nurturer is often small and ineffective. Adding to that is the inferiority complex that Alfred Adler determined we all have. We all hold mistaken beliefs where part of us thinks:

  • I’m not good enough
  • I’m too much
  • I’m not loveable…

…And other withering thoughts. Every lapse, mistake, misstep, or failure, is an example of us not meeting our goals, feeding our mistaken beliefs about ourselves. It’s as if we’re unconsciously seeking evidence in a self-fulfilling prophecy that often leads to ruminating thoughts where we kick ourselves over and over.

Self-compassion is a critical anecdote to these limiting beliefs. When we practice self-compassion, we build empowering beliefs about ourselves:

  • I am enough.
  • I am loveable.
  • I don’t need to be perfect to be loved.
  • I am safe.
  • I am okay.

Now, I’ve talked to people who think self-compassion sounds hokey or even damaging. Some people buy into the myths about self-compassion—it’s selfish, lazy, and indulgent. We may worry we won’t accomplish as much if we’re kind to ourselves, or we’ll lack motivation. We may fear self-compassion will make us complacent, and we’ll lose our edge. We don’t want to take ourselves off the hook.

But research debunks these myths. Self-compassion doesn’t make us weak or self-indulgent. Self-criticism isn’t a good motivator. In fact, self-compassion creates inner strength and the resilience that contributes to health and wellbeing. Self-compassionate people even tend to make fewer excuses. When we’re kind to ourselves, we feel more motivated toward our goals. We increase our standards and personal sense of responsibility, resulting in even higher performance.

Self-Criticism and Self-Confidence Both Don’t Work–It’s All in the Brain

So what’s the difference between self-compassion and having good self-esteem? We may have heard about improving our self-esteem (boosting our view of ourselves) or our self-confidence.

In study after study, research demonstrates that focusing only on self-esteem isn’t sufficient. Instead, focusing on self-compassion—being kinder to ourselves and others—works. While this may sound strange at first, when you think about it logically, it makes a lot of sense. People who have self-compassion are comfortable discussing their shortcomings and mistakes. They can admit their faults, which ultimately lead to better outcomes, resilience, and risk tolerance.

So if you worry you’re just giving yourself a pass when you love yourself a little more, don’t fret! You won’t become too soft on yourself, lazy, or indulgent. Self-compassion creates inner strength and resilience.

When you criticize yourself, you’re activating the primitive part of your brain—your amygdala or reptilian brain, focused on threats and defense. You’re actually beating yourself up and stirring your fight, flight, or freeze impulse. This habit increases anxiety and stress and takes a negative toll on our bodies.

When we talk kindly to ourselves, on the other hand, we activate the mammalian part of our brain. We’re able to calm and soothe ourselves. Instead of fight, flight, or freeze, we learn, grow, and take appropriate action.

So is it easy to treat ourselves with self-compassion? We’ve spent years focusing on what’s wrong, so it takes some effort to be kinder to ourselves. But the effort pays off way more than focusing on self-esteem or self-confidence. When we treat ourselves with compassion, we’ll achieve more.

You may worry, “if I love myself more, I’ll get too easy on myself. I’ll never get anything done.” But it’s the opposite. There are so many benefits to treating ourselves with a little more compassion and sweetness.

So you say something stupid. It’s not the end of the world. Someone doesn’t like you. It’s okay! You make a mistake—you aren’t the mistake; you just made a mistake. Shifting your mindset is challenging, and it takes practice. I know when I’ve read reviews of my work, I might see ten positive reviews and ONE negative review. Guess which one sticks with me? We replay the negative critiques in our head over and over, ignoring the positive when really we should shift our focus.

Being kinder to yourself is a REALLY big deal. It doesn’t come overnight. It takes steady effort and training. When I start to play the negative tape in my head, I have to step back and go, “Woah, wait a minute.” Sometimes it helps to ask myself, “Is this really true? Am I really the worst person in the world? Am I worthless?” Of course not!

If you beat yourself up, don’t beat yourself up about it, either! This negative mindset is hard to overcome and deeply embedded in our core beliefs. We all have these beliefs and carry them with us.  It’s a work in progress!

What are Some Bite-Sized Ways to Love Yourself?

I just had a session with someone who struggles with self-compassion. She told me a story about something that she did last night. She took a risk and messaged a really powerful woman she admired professionally. She asked if she wanted to get coffee sometime.

The woman replied and said yes, she’d be excited to meet. It was a really successful, brave encounter for my client. She had put together a plan to celebrate this achievement and took time after the email to tell herself, “Well done! Good job! Way to go!”

So what are some ways we too, can celebrate our achievements and give ourselves compassion?

  1. Praise Yourself. While this may feel silly at first, it is effective. Praise yourself when you do something difficult or scary. Use encouraging words like you would for a kid. Tell yourself, “Way to go! I did it!”


  1. Assess How You Speak to Yourself. Notice how you speak to yourself, too. Before you work your self-compassion muscle, you need to notice the ways you aren’t kind to yourself. Start to identify those times when you undermine yourself with negative dialogue or self-criticism. How often do you think thoughts like, “I’m an idiot. Why did I do that? What’s wrong with me? I can’t do this.” Awareness of these thoughts will help us shift to more effective thinking instead.


  1. Use Your Name. It’s also effective to use your name as you praise yourself. So I’ll say, “Good job, Judith!” or, “Wow, Judith, you really rocked that presentation.” When we use our name, it activates the social circuits of your brain. Socially we’re much kinder to others than we are to ourselves. Using your name turns keeps the threat system from activating, and helps us speak kindly in our self-talk.


  1. Forgive Mistakes. When you mess up, don’t beat yourself up. Use a kinder dialogue, “I made a mistake; it’s human. It doesn’t mean I’m a terrible person. I can learn from this and do better next time.” If this approach feels weak to you, it may help to know Navy Seals found this type of self-talk effective in increasing recruits’ success during challenging training sessions!


  1. Name it. I’m also a big fan of the idea that we name it to tame it. At you work on your social-emotional intelligence, naming your feelings helps you experience them without getting weighed down by them. Let the feeling pass through you without overthinking, beating yourself up, or analyzing it. Simply say, “I’m afraid,” “I’m sad,” “I’m angry,” or “I’m hurt. This technique calms our fight-flight-freeze response, allowing you to simply “be” with your feelings.


  1. Soothe Yourself. Finally, look for ways to soothe yourself. Think of ways you can help yourself feel better during moments of self-criticism. This could mean calling a friend, getting a hug, hugging yourself, listening to music, snuggling with a pet, rocking in a chair, or swing…the list is endless. Identify and write down some of these tools, so when you have a moment of frustration, you can turn to the tools to help.

Self-compassion is important. If you want to love yourself more, start speaking more kindly and compassionately to yourself. You are indeed a gift to the world. Treat yourself like you would treat a friend—with kindness and understanding!

For more ways you can grow and learn, please visit the Wright Foundation. Join us for our upcoming More Life Training. You’ll connect with others on their transformational journey and learn more about yourself. This is a great way to bring peace, meaning, and happiness to your life and relationships!

Wright Living is a division of the Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential, a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.


4 First Date Tips to Build a Better Connection

Whether you’re revisiting the dating scene after a break, or simply looking for better ways to build connections as you explore the dating world, one thing is for sure—dating can feel tough!

A man and woman hold hands while drinking coffee. Heading out on an exciting date? Here are our best first date tips.

There’s a lot of worry around those first dates.:

What should I order?

What do I say?

What on earth should I wear?

But when we step back and think about it, we might wonder—does any of that stuff really matter when it comes to having a “great date”? Heck no! It’s not about making the right moves; it’s about being authentically YOU.

Here’s how embracing your most authentic self, can lead you to enjoy better first dates!

What’s Really Important on a First Date?

We date because we want to get to know someone else a little better. We also want them to know us better. Maybe we even hope they fall in love with us and see us for who we truly are.

Why then, do we build our foundation on lies and half-truths?

You might be thinking, ‘I don’t do that! I’m always honest!’ but the statistics paint a different picture. In studies of dating couples, researchers determined that 100% of dating couples lie! 100%!

Now, it doesn’t mean you’re telling whoppers. It could simply mean you’re going in with a mindset to impress. Maybe you hold back from saying what you really feel. Perhaps you avoid certain topics in the conversation. You may dress in a certain way (get out those Spanx!) or pretend you’re interested in subjects you’re not. (“Oh, I love football!”)

It’s these little white lies and falsehoods that prevent us from making genuine connections. Engagement and intimacy are founded on honesty.

So, what are some tips to have better first dates? Here are four ideas that will help you enjoy a deeper connection on your first, thirty-first, and hundred-and-first date!

1. Ask, What is the Purpose?

Before the date even begins, ask yourself, “what is the purpose of going on this date?”

It may sound silly, right? But how many of us really think about the purpose of a date before we go in? You may initially think it’s that you’re trying to get someone to like you or to believe you are perfect, but this mindset might not be so great.

Ideally, the purpose of your first date might be getting to know someone better, making a new friend, having a meaningful connection, exploring who someone is, or learning about yourself and another person.

A date isn’t a test of attraction. It’s an exploration that the two of you go on together. When you start to think of a date like an adventure, it becomes more exciting and interesting. The pressure is off to appear “perfect” (because none of us are perfect!), and instead, we simply enjoy the experience.

Like almost all experiences, finding our purpose and intention enhances the entire interaction.

2. Decide to Reflect Your Authentic Self

When you go on a date, you don’t want to say anything controversial. You may be pretending you share commonalities, even if you don’t. You go, “Oh, I love jazz!” But maybe you don’t like jazz at all. Or you agree to a restaurant when it’s not your preferred choice. You do what you think you “should” do because you’re on a date.

Instead of worrying about the “shoulds,” start thinking of how to be authentically you!

This may start as you’re getting ready for your date. Instead of thinking of your sexiest outfit, ask yourself, “What can I wear that really reflects ME, my values, and who I am?” Make a statement about yourself.

Now it’s fine to pick the outfit that makes you look hot, of course, but it’s more about being aware of you being yourself. How will you really show your date who you are? How will you learn about your date as well?

This idea of authenticity can shift our focus and change our approach to dating. We’re no longer trying to capture some ideal—we’re highlighting our real, authentic self. The bonus is that there’s often a boost of confidence that comes from really feeling ourselves. Choose to do what makes you comfortable and in touch with who YOU are.

3. Commit to Total Honesty

Many years ago, I got out of a horrible relationship and had just started dating again. I decided I was going to do dating differently this time around. Frankly, I was sick of all the acting that went into the typical dates.

I’d be sitting there with some guy droning on, “Blah, blah, blah,” and I’d be nodding along going, “Oh, that’s so interesting.” Let me tell you, most of the time it wasn’t interesting AT ALL. In fact, it was painfully boring!

But here I was playing along, and I thought, “I’m not going to do it anymore. I’m going to tell the truth. I get to decide what level of interest I show, and if it’s boring, I’m going to say it.

The next date I had was a blind date that happened to be with Bob. I didn’t pander to him. I said what I liked and didn’t like. I challenged him in conversation. He was doing the same right back at me! It was really fascinating and exciting!

We ended up talking forever, and now we’ve been on a 30-something year date because that first date was focused on being real and in the moment.

4. Think of Dating as (Gasp) Fun!

I’ve had students tell me they like to think of dating as a playground, or as an anthropological study. They observe their interactions with other people and use it to learn more about themselves. They go out with no pressure and see where it leads. After all, what do kids do on a playground? What do scientists do in a study? They experiment. They see what works. They try different actions and test different theories.

If your date does something that bothers you, let them know! See what happens to the conversation. What if you say, “I actually don’t like football/jazz/Thai food…instead, I prefer THIS.” The worst that could happen is that your date isn’t receptive to your ideas. But then what? You’ve learned about yourself, and you’ve learned about your date, now brush yourself off and play some more.

Similarly, explore your emotions before, during, and after the date. You may feel fear as anticipation before the date. During the date, you may find yourself feeling joy, hurt, maybe even irritation or anger. Instead of avoiding those emotions, acknowledge them. This is again, where we can take a cue from the playground. When kids feel an emotion, they express it. They might get angry or sad or silly. They yell, cry, laugh, and move to the next experience.

Allow yourself to feel your emotions, even if dating is a little scary, or you’re worried your date won’t like the authentic you. Approach it as an experiment and see what happens.

Recently, I spent a week in Paris with Bob (still on that 30+ year date), and I was amazed at how refreshing and restorative it was. When I’m around him, I’m able to be 100% myself, and I know he loves me for exactly who I am.

Give yourself the gift of authenticity on every date. Approach the experience with a commitment to honesty, purpose, and fun. You might find yourself having the best first date of your life!

For more on building connections, please visit the Wright Foundation. Join us for our upcoming More Life Training. You’ll connect with others on their transformational journey and learn more about yourself. This is a great way to bring peace, meaning, and happiness to your life and relationships!

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Wright Living is a division of the Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential, a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.


Magical Solutions to Happiness: Getting What You Really Need


Are you looking for a magical solution to happiness? Do you think, if you just had the right job, dated the right person, or had the right amount of money, your life would be so much better?

Magical solutions to happiness exist inside you. Learn to get what you really need.

What do you think makes you truly happy? Your career? Your talent? Doing something creative?

Many of you are seeking magical solutions to a very objective problem. The answer isn’t in a new job, a better boss, a bigger house, or another tangible item. It’s not about losing weight, writing a novel, or running a marathon. It’s not even about achieving your big goals.

The real answer to happiness and the magic solution to life’s problems isn’t in finding an answer or way to ‘fix” our problems. The magical solution is within each of us, right now, today.

Does Achieving Your Dreams Bring Fulfillment?

I had a friend who was a multi-millionaire. He was massively successful, running a Fortune 400 company. He had a massive $14,000,000 house in Aspen, which he sold right before I was about to visit. He bought an even bigger home, previously owned by Cher. He was making millions and millions of dollars per year. This guy seemed to have it all.

We’re sitting there in Cher’s mansion, talking, and he kept bringing up this woman he knew that was a former Playboy bunny. She was gorgeous. She married a very wealthy guy. He happened to have a mansion just up the hill that was just a little bigger than my friend’s place.

So there sits this wealthy guy with a private jet, magazine covers, cars, all kinds of riches. What is he fixating on? The woman he doesn’t have and the mansion he doesn’t own. All he could think was how, if he could have what the guy up the hill had, it would be a magical solution to make his life complete.

I’ve coached people with incredible wealth, and yet, so many of them just keep wishing for more and more. They think if they only had what the other guy has, they’d be truly happy. Now there’s nothing wrong with wanting more. But what do you want more of?

I’ve also talked to many young people who are in jobs they don’t love. I always hear, “I want a job with more excitement,” or “I want a job around people,” or, “I want a job that lets me creatively express myself.” But the truth is, no matter if we have our dream job, our dream car, our dream house, or our dream girlfriend, we won’t feel fulfilled. We have to make the meaning wherever we are.

The fact of the matter is, we’re terrible affect forecasters. What we think will make us happy, doesn’t actually make us happy. Whenever we’re wishing for something more and hoping it is the answer to our problems, we’re almost always wrong.

How many people think that marriage makes us happier? It does for about the first year and a half or so, but then the happiness levels go back to where they were before the honeymoon.

What about education? Learning is great, and college is a wonderful experience, but if education made us happy, why would so many college students be so miserable? In fact, many young people say college was one of the least happy times in their life.

I hear from people who move to Chicago from Florida or California. They always say, “I’ve got to get back to where it’s warm.” Their unhappiness is the weather’s fault. But the truth is, if they lived in Florida or California, it was too hot, traffic was terrible, and so on.

The big house isolates you. The new job creates a burst of happiness, and then you realize you’re still dealing with the same work drama from the last office. Wherever you go, nothing you do seems to satisfy you. That’s because we’re looking for magical solutions.

Why We Shift the Blame for Our Unhappiness

It’s hard to accept that the real cause of our unhappiness is us. It’s so much easier to look at a situation you can change—your job, another person in your life, your financial circumstances.

But when we’re continually looking ahead and wishing for the next great solution to our problems. We’re missing out on the happiness available to us in the here and now.

As we discuss in our More Life Training weekends, we need to understand that our meaning comes from being present in the moment. It comes from building our social and emotional intelligence, so we can recognize where we’re letting happiness escape us. Real happiness comes with full engagement in the adventure of life! It’s the willingness to be hurt. It’s the ability to put ourselves out there. It’s wanting to express our feelings, to engage and connect with others. It means learning and growing, so we become increasingly happy with who we are, and celebrate who we’re becoming.

There is a lot of research out there on personal growth, meaning, and purpose. We’re starting to see that purpose is showing up in all kinds of publications nowadays. But the real question is, how do we address the magic? How do we harness the real magical solution of purpose?

Your mind has three spheres of consideration. You look at your present state of what’s in my life now, your pathway of the road ahead, and your ideal state of what you believe will make you satisfied and happy. Most people look for a magical solution to a problem in their present state, but they haven’t identified the most logical pathway or the ideal state toward which they are going. They confuse the ideal state with the reason why they want something done. The ideal state is actually an abstraction that informs the pathways to pick.

There’s something they teach us in meditation and yoga called our monkey mind. Our mind and line of thinking generally aren’t linear. It speeds up. It jumps around. Some of us act like it’s linear, and we identify those people as having an Analyzer personality type. Others line of thinking is clearly circular, and we call them Energizers. Some of us are covertly circular in our thinking, which is the Regulator personality type, and others are living in everyone else’s circle as Cooperators.

No matter what direction our mind tends to go, the truth is we often get in this state where our mind plays tricks on us. We have thoughts that spiral and spin and don’t have directionality. What we have to learn how to do is to harness your mind and get to a present state. To do this, we must identify what we’re feeling. What is our present state, and what is our ideal state? What is our real purpose?

Why Do We Stick Around When We’re Unhappy?

When we haven’t identified our purpose that goes toward our ideal state, we may find we spin our wheels but never really move forward.

If you’re unhappy at work, what is the foundation? Are you afraid that you are going to lose your job? But if you’re not happy, why are you afraid of losing it?

If you’re unfulfilled in your relationships, what is causing that feeling? Are you closing yourself off to the truth, or missing out on the intimacy of honesty? Are you waiting for your partner to “make” you happy, instead of realizing you are responsible for your satisfaction?

Our purpose truly brings us toward an ideal state, not just in our own lives, but as part of the world around us. We want a world that works for everyone—healthcare, education, sustenance, infrastructure that supports the most loving, sustainable life on the planet. When you look at the world in the present state, you see everyone has their pathways, but very few people think of an ideal state that’s not reactive but is creative instead.

Two-thirds of humanity spend their lives avoiding losing things, rather than working toward gaining what they want. Depending on the statistics, that number can go as high as 85%. This phenomenon is called loss aversion. Your present state is that you’re afraid of losing your job. The way past the fear is to either have the worst-case occur or to get past it.

We can treat it like weightlifting. Each time you workout, you get a little stronger and stronger. You’re moving in a gradual plan toward your ideal state. This might mean starting to ask questions of your boss. It might mean speaking up in meetings. Do what you can do to become a collaborator whose opinion is valued. Figure out ways to find the meaning in your work, rather than expecting your work to hand you the meaning.

Rather than seeking a magical solution to our problems, we can start to discover that the solution is really within us. It’s not magic. It’s simple. We stop relying on what we “think” will bring us happiness, or what’s easy and safe. Instead, we work on finding fulfillment and purpose in our present state.

For more on discovering satisfaction and fulfillment, please visit the Wright Foundation. Join us for an upcoming More Life Training, where you’ll connect with others on their transformational journey. Don’t miss our special downloadable courses available now at a special introductory price.

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The Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential is a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.




“Women Are Confusing.” “Men Are Confusing.”
Understanding the Opposite Sex

We hear people complain in the dating world all the time—why are women so confusing?! Or why are all men so hard to deal with?

Wondering what your date really wants? If you think women are confusing or men are hard to understand, you may want to explore your perspective.

Before we explore what’s wrong with the people you’re dating, it’s time to take a step back and explore yourself. What are you bringing to the table? What preconceived ideas and notions are you walking into dates with?

More importantly, are you using an honest approach to dating? It’s incredible how much honesty clears up a lot of the confusion about your dating partner.

Getting Down to the Truth

Everyone walks into a date putting their best foot forward. After all, the idea is to seduce someone—to trick them into falling for you, right?

While this is what society tells us is the norm, successful dating and relationships are built on honesty, not on tricks and deceptions. For many people, it comes back to the fairytale romances we’ve seen played out again and again on the big screen.

We may think there’s the perfect person out there for us, right? Then when we find them, we must somehow “trick” them into falling for us. Anyone who’s watched romantic comedy movies knows how silly and outlandish these ideas get. The girl wakes up from a coma, only to realize Mr. Right was the one driving the car that caused her accident. The guy thinks he’s applying for a job, but it’s really an elaborate scheme to find the perfect man…and so on.

It’s not that these films are bad, per se (some of them certainly are terrible), but they paint a false narrative of what it’s like to fall in love with someone.

When we fall in love, or even “like” with another person, it’s because we see who they truly are. Similarly, we feel like they know and accept us for who we really are.

This connection requires honesty and deep engagement. It requires us to take the filter off our photos and get real with our dates. Sound scary? What are you afraid of?!

Why We Find Each Other So Confusing

One of the reasons men and women find each other so confusing is because we’re judging each other based on our own value set. We all have our own opinions about men and women, dating, and relationships we’ve formed over the years. Moreover, we hold limiting views of the opposite sex.

So we hear over and over, “women are confusing,” or “I can’t read what men want.”

This becomes particularly interesting in dating relationships because men don’t know how to get to know a woman, and women don’t know how to get to know men. We may pick a partner based not on who they are or what we want, but with a hope that we will change or mold them into the complete and total partner we desire.

So, where do these expectations and confusing feelings originate? Well, people grow up with certain ideas based on their family situation. People may come from a background where their mother did all the emotional labor in the house. They may have been raised by a father who was aloof or distant.

These ideas stem from early childhood, and they are challenging to overcome. Even if we were raised in a very progressive environment, and even if we think we don’t subscribe to the traditional idea of gender roles, there are still ideas we’ve learned from society, our parents, and the world around us.

Dear Old Mom and Dad

Many people hold certain ideas about gender based on their relationship with Mom and Dad. If Mom was overly involved, you might think women are controlling, overbearing, or intimidating. Similarly, if Dad was absent or aloof, you may think you need to work for men’s affection. You may feel like you’re always trying to win-over acceptance.

Other people come from families who don’t fit the stereotypical gender roles (which accounts for over half the population today). If you were raised with a single parent, a stay-at-home dad, or by your grandparents, you may have a completely different idea of gender role models.

These relationships are deeply embedded and tough to navigate. They’re rarely straightforward or clear-cut.

Many people haven’t begun to explore where their ideas about the opposite sex came from. They don’t examine the ways they unconsciously reinforce these ideas with each interaction.

As a result, you’re left with a choice—create your own culture, your own connections, and your own models, or redo what your parents did.

Now, of course, there are generally variations in our roles. When Judith and I got together, I was the superior housekeeper. I liked everything neat and put away, and Judith was simply not driven that way. She’d lived with a live-in maid for much of her childhood. So for her, organizing wasn’t the norm. In fact, one of our earliest big fights was about how to store and organize things in the house.

But whether you come from traditional roles or completely different backgrounds, you can work together to express your needs and get honest with each other. Learn to embrace the rules of engagement, communicate your needs, and engage in conflict that leads toward a true partnership.

So, where do you begin? The first steps start with sorting out your beliefs about women and men. We often have our Year of More students participate in an exercise where they write down their beliefs and ideas about the opposite sex. These can be obvious or obscure. They can be completely accurate or blatantly false. If they think it, they write it down (even if it’s harsh).

Once these ideas are out on paper, they’re able to examine them a bit more closely. Where do these ideas come from? If you think women are manipulative, for example, where does the idea stem from? Was there a manipulative woman in your life?

The insights from this activity are often quite profound. Students realize we’re all carrying baggage into our relationships and preconceived notions. These gender-based ideas affect our relationships at work, our dating lives, and more.

After exploring them, we start to find instances where we can turn the idea on its head.

The Worst-Case Scenario

Whether you’re dating or looking to better connect with your partner, the best path is through honesty and building intimate engagement. Express your feelings. Don’t hold back!

Imagine going into a date completely honest and open about what you want. What if you told your date exactly what you were looking for? What if you were clear about what you wanted to order for dinner (not worrying about spinach in your teeth or wearing a lobster bib)? What if you decided to tell the truth about your debt, your car, your job, your nine cats?

Do you think your date might run away?

The truth is, eventually, as you build real intimacy, you’ll need to reveal who you are and the truths about your life. Putting them out there and upfront, only ensures your connection is built on solid ground.

This isn’t an easy challenge. Most of us have been lying for so long that we do it without a second thought. We put a spin on our career, our personality quirks, and our flaws. This isn’t because we’re trying to hide them from the other person as much as we’re afraid to reveal certain truths to ourselves.

Even in our long-term relationships, we might hide our feelings. The confusion we experience comes from our attempts to “figure out” our relationships rather than merely being who we need to be. Instead of trying to please your partner or turn yourself into the ideal, simply be yourself.

The truth is everyone has flaws. There’s no “Mr. Perfect” out there. There’s no “Ms. Right,” either. Each person you date will have different traits and different passions. They will have yearnings. They’ll bring along their beliefs about themselves and the world around them.

So why not cut to the chase? Why not adopt an utterly forthcoming approach to your dates. Even more importantly, why not ask the great big questions?!

What does your date dream about? What do they yearn for? What are their aspirations and goals? What are their fears? When we think of getting intimate on the first date, we think of sex, but emotional intimacy is far more challenging and rewarding.

Once you get “real” with your date, you may find them far less confusing. As you explore who they are, you may start to appreciate your similarities as well as your differences!

For more ways to connect with others, visit the Wright Foundation. Join us for an upcoming More Life Training, where you’ll connect with others on their transformational journey. Don’t miss our special downloadable courses available now at a special introductory price.

The Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential is a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.