Lessons from a Recovering Doormat

I was at a diner I like recently and asked my usual waitress if she felt better, since the last time I was there, they said she went home sick. She whispered to me that she’d has a run-in with the manager and got so upset she felt physically ill for 2 days. I asked what happened. Charlotte said the boss picked on her for unfair reasons. Really railed her. Not long ago, I witnessed this same guy lose his temper with a waiter, who quit on the spot. Yet he continues to verbally attack his staff.

There are many people who can’t control their anger or frustration. But, they NEVER have a right to take it out on you!

Charlotte said that she was ready to quit. I admired her because I know she needs this job. So many people complain and accept being yelled at by a colleague or boss. Not saying anything gives them permission to continue it. Yelling back just sinks to that person’s level. The best way to address someone who speaks to or yells at you in a disrespectful manner is to calmly let him or her know they shouldn’t do that—ever!

While it’s important to speak up, your choice of words and the tone you use determines the impact of your response.

When I was a DoorMat, I whined a lot. “Woe is me for being spoken to like that!” “I’m upset that my colleague often loses her temper and directs the venom at me.” But I was too busy being miserable and hurt and angry to say something that would stop it. Just saying you don’t like it, or getting angry back, doesn’t rectify the problem. You must make it clear to the person that it can’t happen again. Some things I’ve found helpful are:

* Don’t get bent out of shape. Losing your own temper gives the person control over you and won’t get you taken seriously. Force yourself to stay calm when you speak. That can rattle someone who’d prefer to rattle you. When you keep your cool, they know you mean business.

* Tell the person it’s inappropriate to take their frustrations out on you. Inappropriate is one of my operative words when dealing with behavior I don’t like. It gets a message across clearly in work situations, better than yelling back!

* If someone yells like Charlotte’s boss did, in such a serious way to make her go home, immediate that it’s unacceptable. Unacceptable is another one of my favorite operative words. It makes clear that you won’t tolerate the behavior, under any circumstance.

* Don’t accept blame for being yelled at. The person might say that you provoked the response. You didn’t do the project fast enough so she lost her temper. You said something that annoyed him. That’s a cop-out! No one has the right to yell at you!

* Take professional action. If there’s someone with a higher position, ask for a meeting and request advice on how to deal with the unacceptable behavior. File a complaint. Keep a written record of the behavior so you have something to show later. Yelling at you is harassment if you’ve warned the person and it doesn’t stop.

* Be prepared to walk, if the yelling at you won’t stop. You shouldn’t accept it. Period.

When Charlotte returned to work, she calmly told the assistant manager that she’d leave for good if it happened again. He spoke to the manager and made him see reason. So far he’s left her alone. She’s a good worker and he didn’t want to lose her.

Accept that verbal attacks are unacceptable. Sometimes we don’t recognize the damage they cause. Being physically hit seems more like abuse. But verbal railing leaves mental scars, that can hurt you even more! Be very careful.

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We watch them on TV, one gorgeous celebrity after another, walking down the red carpet looking perfect. Tight bodies. Wearing form fitting dresses without a drop of the cellulite that plagues the rest of us. Perfection in motion. One perfect body after another.

And we envy them! “Why can’t I look like that?” “How do they stay so slender?”

The March issue of Glamour magazine had an article that shed some light on the secrets of red carpet bodies. Jessica Baumgardner, who ate in a way that most would consider normal, went on what she called a Hollywood diet blitz to see what many celebrities go through to get their slender bodies. She documents her 4-week experience, eating and exercising the way celebs do, in Could You Stick with a Star’s Body Plan? Jessica said she hadn’t exercised in years and was one of the few women in Los Angeles that still ate bread.

Best of all, she felt fine with how she looked!

Still, she agreed to try a version of the crash diet that’s common in celeb circles. Her experience made me wonder how anyone could stay sane living with the kind of regimen she endured for 4 weeks, which is what celebrities often use to slim down before special appearances. The trouble is, when you’re constantly hounded by paparazzi, leaving your house can be a special appearance every day.

Jessica learned why celebs get cranky and do dumb things at times. Or get snippy and short tempered. They’re hungry!

The plan began with a visit to a dietician for an eating plan that was low calorie but nutritious. Up till then, Jessica felt confident about following the plan. But the diet was limited. And expensive for the average person. Organic foods. Lots of veggies, lean protein and nothing that’s processed, which eliminates a majority of things an average person eats.

Jessica worked out 6 days a week. Her carefully prescribed diet was a far cry from her usual eating regimen. Her mood went sour from it. Meals weren’t satisfying. I read this and found myself wondering, is all of this worth having the red carpet bodies we see on TV?

I say, no way! Maintaining a strict diet that eliminates most of the foods you love takes the pleasure out of life!

Of course I watch what I eat when I can and don’t overdo it. I don’t want to gain a lot of weight. But drastically limiting what foods you can eat wouldn’t cut it with me. Eating is fun. Going to a restaurant with your own bag of food or ordering special things that seem boring and tasteless will make it seem not worth going. I know I could be thinner if I was very strict in my diet. But I’m not up for that sacrifice.

Nor would I make exercise a daily job that feels more like work. I have a weight training regimen with a personal trainer and run 3-5 days a week in Central Park. I enjoy it all. Okay, sometimes I don’t enjoy the running when it’s cold. But I do feel good about the accomplishment—pride—satisfaction of conquering something that was tough. But if I truly don’t feel like not going, I don’t.

Most of the time, my diet and doing exercise feels good, not like deprivation or torture.

Self-love is good motivation to get out and work out. And to try your best to avoid foods that will pack on the pounds. I want to maintain the joy in feeling control over my food intake, and also in some of the goodies I allow. I also want to maintain the joy of lifting weights and running. So I’ve accepted that I may never have one of those fabulous Hollywood bodies. Jessica got into much better shape. But, it’s better to balance eating, not curtail all eating pleasures.

Balance. That should be your operative word when deciding how far to take dieting and exercise.

Love yourself enough to keep the joy in all your activities! If you have to go somewhere and want to look in shape, get some Spanx. I confess that I wear them at times. They hold you in and have all different styles to choose from. Yet they’re very comfy. Not like girdles of the old days.

You can look good without being perfect. Clothes that fit well and undergarments like Spanx can accomplish that. So forgive yourself for eating that doughnut or second helping at Mom’s. Have some fries with your sandwich. Just don’t do it regularly. I try to be more prudent during the week and always have treats on the weekend. But, I’d have one during the week too if I was offered something that called my name. ?

Let the celebs be the ones to feel cranky and hungry. Feel sorry for them living with pressure to go to extremes to look good. Eat healthy, treat yourself, and find exercise that you enjoy. That’s what I call living!

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Lately I’ve seen a saying about love that I truly relate to. I don’t know who originally said it. Versions of it have been attributed to several people. I just know that it’s true.

The way to spell love is t-i-m-e.

I said it to someone recently and she looked at me like I spoke a foreign language. She was confused. Didn’t get it at all. Was it a riddle? No! It is the truth.

If you have money, it’s easy to buy things for someone you care about. Even if money is tight, some folks would rather buy something for someone than be there for them. I have friends who buy me things but rarely have time to just hang out. Or help with something I need. Or be there when I need emotional support. I know how busy they are and respect that. I’m crazy busy too! But I know who really loves me by whether or not the person makes the time to see me.

Mom’s tell me their grown kids send flowers or gifts instead of visiting. Many women have complained about a boyfriend or husband who is a work-a-holic. He works and works to have her in a nice house and allow her lots of money to spend. But he’s hardly ever home. And when he is, he wants to do things he enjoys, since he’s hardly ever home. These men often buy toys and other goodies for their kids instead of going to school plays and ball games, reading to them or basically spending any quality time being a Dad.

That’s not loving! It’s compensating for not giving love.

Not making time doesn’t mean you don’t love the person. It does mean they don’t have a lot of importance to you. It’s so easy in this busy world to get so caught up in your stuff that you forget to be loving to those you say you love.

Time is the ultimate gift. It’s truly giving of yourself.

Peter, one of my clients, went on and on about how he didn’t understand why his wife was so unhappy. He’d bought a dream house in the burbs for her to live in. She didn’t have to work. They had three lovely kids. He never questioned what she bought. Peter bragged that because he worked so hard, his wife wanted for nothing. Wrong, I told him. She wanted Peter and he was off traveling for work. His commute was long. Sometimes he stayed over in the city. He got home in time to go to sleep and often worked over the weekend.

He deluded himself that he was giving his wife what she wanted. But she wanted his time, the one thing he wouldn’t give.

Peter argued about the jewelry and gifts he brought back from his trips. He often sent flowers. Wasn’t that good enough to show his love? Wasn’t he being romantic by sending roses? Nope! He was taking the easy way out. Peter really did love his wife but couldn’t spare the time for her, or their kids very often. For all his wife knew his secretary was sending flowers, or picking out the gifts. She wanted to matter to Peter enough for him to want to be with her. But he was buried in the work and deluded himself it was for her, so he couldn’t just be there in person. By the time I got through to him, it was too late. She filed for divorce.

As busy as I am, I always say that if something really matters to me I make time for it. I might not have unlimited time to see someone I care about or to help indefinitely if I have work to do. But I’ll make the effort if that person matters to me. If I find myself making excuses, I realize I don’t care that much about seeing the person. And I know that someone who can’t make time for me is someone I can’t count on, so they get lower in my priorities too.

The way to spell love is t-i-m-e.

Time comes in many flavors. It can be dropping in for a few minutes on a work intensive day to check on a sick friend. Or doing something one on one with a child. Or taking a walk with your romantic partner. Or helping a friend shop for a new car. Or attending an event with someone. Or a gazillion other things that show you’re willing to give time to that person.

While you can’t always do everything for everyone, do you best to at least compromise about being there for the ones in your life who mean the most to you.

During the last years of my Mom’s life, she had Macular Degeneration, which left her visually impaired. She was frustrated at not being able to do many things. Mom was in Florida so I couldn’t just run over. Sometimes it overwhelmed her and she needed to talk and called me. She seemed to have radar for when I was doing 10 things at once on high speed. Or on the phone with a client. She was a good Mom to me. I loved her dearly. So when I’d hear her voice I’d take a deep breath, ask her to hang on a minute while I asked my client if I could call back, and I’d gently tell her it was a very good time to chat.

I felt good being able to return the love I’d gotten from Mom. I know it meant the world to her that I made time to comfort her when she needed it.

Giving someone time is truly a blessing. And don’t forget yourself when you’re spelling love. Make time to relax and take care of yourself. And to have fun! The gift of time costs nothing out of your wallet but as they say in the Master Card commercial, it’s priceless. And if you’re in person, don’t forget to add some hugs!

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Ingrid Michaelson is a signer/songwriter from Staten Island. She released her Girls and Boys album in 2005, with a college radio campaign and a few festivals, which created a small buzz. Not able to quit her day job at that point, she couldn’t go out on tour. So she didn’t expect too much to happen for her music career. Then she put songs on MySpace. A music licensing company found her there and they started working together. It evolved into a management arrangement too. After licensing a song to Grey’s Anatomy in 2006, record sales increased. They chose to go slowly. Sales were more electronic than physical. Then Old Navy used her song, The Way I Am, in a TV commercial. Sales escalated and they got distribution with RED for the CD.

Ingrid’s SUCCESS proves that solid talent can rise to the top when people can become aware of it! Her original goal was to get a record deal. Now she’s reconsidering that, as she likes having control of her musical destiny. I talked to Ingrid to get her take on her SUCCESS. She was very sweet, humble and grateful for what’s happened for her career.

How do you feel about being independent? The whole idea was to see how far can we get before we signed. The further along I got, the more the idea of actually signing faded away. I still haven’t totally crossed that off my mind. I don’t know what the future holds. For now, I feel like the way my career is going and the way the major labels world is going, that I trust myself and feel safe with my own decisions. I know I’m not going to drop myself! While I don’t have a $200,000 push behind me and I’m not getting my face plastered everywhere—all the stuff major labels do, I get to choose where my money goes and what promotion happens. I’m not seeking huge fame so I don’t see a need now. If I can finance myself, why not? It’s kind of a no-brainer at this point. But I don’t ever pooh pooh record deals.

Did you expect all of this to happen? I never expected much. I thought, well, I’ll put my stuff out there and see what happens. Every once in a while I’d get these bursts of needing to figure out what I was doing and how am I going to make this work. And it would always come back to I couldn’t leave and go on tour. I had to stay home and work. So I thought that this wasn’t going to happen.

The Old Navy commercial was part of the whole upward swing of my career. It was luck that somebody came across my profile on MySpace, heard my song and liked it. Of course it has to do with good songwriting. I didn’t expect it to blow up like it did. That song was like the baby on the record. I didn’t expect it to go much of anywhere. It only played for two weeks. There was nothing to identify me or the song. It was all about people seeking it out, which I think is kind of incredible. Our sales improved vastly. At first it was more digital sales but now it’s become more physical. We have a lot of promotions going on in different retail stores.

How did you progress after the first song was on Grey’s Anatomy? Record sales started to go up, so we ordered more. We started out really slow, with all indie stores, iTunes and CDBaby. I’d periodically order more CDs but had more sales on iTunes though. Once the Old Navy commercial happened, we knew we had to step it up. So we got a whole bunch more. Now I have a distribution company—RED.

Why did you go slowly? The pieces started coming together and we kept the demand higher than the product. We didn’t want to overshoot it. That can be terrifying. So we have been inching along. Within the span of the past year and a half it seems to be going pretty fast. We could have made a lot of choices to speed things up but we kept holding the reins and keep holding the reins. Now I’m at a point where we’ve sold over 200,000 records and we’re still selling. We’re also aggressively touring across the country. Things have tapered off a little. That’s how it is. It’s peaks, then it goes down. Then it goes back up again and then goes down. As long as it doesn’t go back down below the last low point, as long as it stays on a basic incline, then everything is good.

You’re on your first major tour. How do you feel about it? I sort of went backwards. I sold the records before I went out on the road. Now I’m trying to connect with the people who bought the record by going all over the country. I’m not going to just sell records and not do anything. You have to follow through. I have to connect with these people who are fans now. They don’t even know what I look like. A huge part of the music business is the live show. That’s one thing that can never be replicated. You can make DVDs, people can watch you, they can steal your music. But there’s nothing like the connection you make with people when they’re at a show and you’re all in the same room together. That’s something that nothing can duplicate. And now record labels are trying to take touring money. Touring is a mixed thing for me. You feel displaced all the time, in a different city every day. It’s sort of disorienting. But when you have a great show, it makes it all worth it. Connecting with fans is like a drug. Of course when a show is bad, you think what’s the point?

How would you like to be able to give back? I’d love to have my music in something I support. I’m hoping, fingers crossed, that one of my songs is going to be tied to an organization [that’s a charity I believe in]. Things like that make you feel more human.

Is there anything you learned about having the right attitude that helped you? Be thankful and grateful. Live it like it’s going to be gone tomorrow. Enjoy it in the now. Be humble about it. You could be nothing next year. Treat everybody the same and with respect. Be grateful for everybody who comes to your show.

What are you most grateful for? There’s so much. Right now I’m most grateful for the people who have helped me make this life happen. I’m also grateful that I was given a talent by some higher being or wherever it came from. I feel very lucky that I’m able to make music that people like, that I like.

Best advice for musicians who want be SUCCESSFUL? You can’t expect anything. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try really hard. Put your music in as many places as possible. And, align yourself with artists that you like. I have a great community of people in New York and a great community of people in L.A. It really helps to have friends, that you think are talented. Everybody looks out for each and helps everybody out. I opened
for Josh Radin. He introduced me to different people. He’s very sweet and helpful. Write music that’s really from you and not what you think other people want you to make. That’s what happened with my first record. I made songs I thought I should make.

What does SUCCESS mean to you? I want to have money when I’m older. SUCCESS is being able to take care of yourself financially and being able to do the thing you were meant to do. If you’re content, that’s SUCCESS. And if you can do what you’re passionate about and make a living out of it, that’s really SUCCESS to me.

Check out Ingrid Michaelson and her music. She’s touring and may be coming to a city near you!

If you enjoyed my post, please leave a comment and/or click on the bookmark and write a short review at some of the sites, especially Stumbleupon and Digg. Thanks!

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