This post was originally published as Eva Glasrud's answer to, "Can an awkward angry bitter lonely woman learn how to be beautiful on the inside"?
I was recently asked how someone with several negative traits and emotions can become beautiful on the inside. Making a personal change is always hard -- but it's not as hard as you might think.
Let's take the woman in this example.
The fact that she’s angry, bitter, and lonely isn’t surprising — all of these traits feed back into each other in a sadly cyclical cycle. A bad experience leaves you feeling bitter. This makes you angry. This makes people dislike you. This makes you lonely. This confirms your negative thoughts about people, making you angrier and lonelier.
This means that fixing just one of these three traits will help her improve in all three areas.
The first thing this woman needs to learn to do is identify her own dysfunctional behaviors. For example — yes, you’re not supposed to tell women to “smile” — but. If you walk around glaring (or seeming to glare) at everyone all the time, you make yourself pretty unapproachable -- meaning you meet fewer people, meaning you feel rejected (and therefore bitter) and alone.
If you lose your temper easily (because you're angry), you drive people away, making you more lonely, making you more bitter, making you more angry.
If you text people you just met, like, 10 times before they even get home (possibly because you're so lonely), you’ll come across as clingy, and that drives them away. That makes you feel bitter, which turns into anger.
Once she’s identified a few negative behaviors, she needs to figure out ways and strategies to avoid them. For example, maybe she’s “glaring” for the simple reason that she always forgets her glasses, and she has to squint to see without them. She needs to figure out a way to remember her glasses — or order a few extra pairs on Warby Parker so she always has a spare pair with her.
Or maybe she "glares" because she feels uncomfortable in social situations — and people misread her discomfort as disdain. In that case, she can practice cognitive reframing (it’s one of the most powerful psychology hacks ever invented). After she enters a party, but before she’s started a conversation with anyone (a situation that can feel uncomfortable for anyone), she can try thinking about things that make her smile, like puppies, kittens, or even how amazing Back To The Future is. Then, instead of seeming intimidating, she will exude warmth and become more approachable.
Next, the woman needs to learn charisma. As I wrote in These Specific Behaviors Will Make You More Charismatic - Starting Right Now, charisma isn’t an innate trait that some people have, and some people don’t. It’s a very specific set of skills and behaviors, and it is completely possible to teach yourself charisma. Steve Jobs did.
The must-read book on this is The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism, by Olivia Fox Cabane. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
While she’s at it, the woman should develop her authenticity. This is something I touched on in You May be Asking All the Right Questions, But Here’s What You’re Forgetting:
The last point, about cognitive reframing, is going to be a big one for this woman. She needs to leverage the fact that our brains are terrible at distinguishing fantasy from reality to help get over some of her bitterness. When she starts to lose her temper because someone on the bus was “rude” to her, she needs to imagine that the reason the person was “rude” is because they are hard of hearing, and just couldn’t hear her. Whether or not it’s true, part of her brain will believe it, and it will stop her cortisol levels from soaring.
When she begins ruminating about a time when she was betrayed by a lover, she needs to imagine a scenario that softens the situation. Maybe the reason he abandoned her was because his mother died, and he couldn’t bear the thought of losing someone else he loved. Maybe the reason he couldn’t commit to her was because he was abused as a child. Once again, it doesn’t matter if it’s true. It only matters that some part of her brain will believe it is. It will give a sense of explanation, closure or justification. It will help her move on.
Just as important, she needs to disrupt negative thought patterns that cause her to feel bitter. When she begins to ruminate, she needs to distract herself — perhaps with a Netflix show, or by joining a book club, or by signing up for a dance class or calling her sister (but not to vent — venting doesn’t help, and might actually make you feel worse).
Once the woman begins doing these things, everything will get better. When she makes herself more likable, charismatic and approachable, she will feel less lonely — so she won’t have as much time or inclination to ruminate and feel bitter. When she feels less bitter, she’ll feel less angry. When she feels less angry, she’ll drive fewer people away, making her less lonely and less bitter.
It's a beautiful thing.
Additional reading that may be helpful for someone in her situation:
11 Unconventional Ways To Make New Friends As An Adult, by me.
F*ck Feelings: One Shrink's Practical Advice for Managing All Life's Impossible Problems, by Michael Bennett, MD and Sarah Bennett. It's about accepting yourself and learning how to not focus on negative feelings all the time -- because feelings are way overrated.
3/19/2017 02:14:03 pm
I don't know, maybe she just needs to find less judgmental friends who accept her for what she is? If she want to change, I support that. But I feel like what our society calls "negative" is just uncommon and just like, let people be who they want?!! Friendship is not an obligation. Maybe she just needs a new social group!
1/29/2023 08:08:04 am
Being single and alone all the time does really make many of us single men very bitter as well, since it can be very unhealthy and depressing not having a love life at all that we really would've wanted.
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Eva is a content specialist with a passion for play, travel... and a little bit of girl power. Read more >
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