TIME fashion

6 Reasons American Women Should Stop Trying to Be Parisian

French actress Catherine Deneuve, circa 1962.
Silver Screen Collection—Getty Images French actress Catherine Deneuve, circa 1962.

Because the Parisian woman is going to make us more unsure about ourselves than when we started

In the vast and ever-changing world of What Is Stylish, there are a few things that seem to be constants: black always works; brows, lips, and lashes if nothing else; and when it comes to effortless chic and undone beauty, no one is more prized or emulated than the Parisian Woman. Here in the States, we’ve raised her to near-mythical status, a cloud of Guerlain and tousled bangs that floats past our un-chic lives, never exceeding a size 4. And, while I admit that I, too, love that image, and a copy of La Parisienne by Inès de la Fressange sits proudly on my desk, I can’t help but feel exhausted at the whole idea sometimes. As a French speaker of Quebecois extraction who lived several years in Paris — but who also has chronic rosacea, frizz-prone hair, and size-8 jeans — few things feel so close, and yet so far away.

No matter how much the dream of the Parisian Woman may frustrate me, though, I cannot deny her immense popularity. She’s her own genre of book, the subject of hundreds of popular blogs, and a mainstay of magazine articles. Even when we analyze her more critically, we can’t deny her influence. People want to talk about her, because on some level, we have come to believe that the Parisian Woman holds all secrets to living well, having great sex, and looking incredible even in a parka in the middle of winter. But, lusting after her imagined life is only, in the end, going to make us more unhappy with our own, and more unsure about ourselves than when we started — not to mention that the entire concept of a homogenous Parisian ideal doesn’t exist in the first place. Here, then, are six reasons why we should really stop putting so much effort into being so effortlessly Parisian, starting today.

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1. It’s kind of sexist, when you think about it.
The whole “be more like this mythical French woman” trope is sort of an upscale version of those “How To Stay Sexy For Your Man” books. As far as I know, no one’s running around telling American men constantly that they need to look and act like Jean Dujardin in order to be appealing. No one is presenting French men as the one thing American guys should aspire to, thus implying — on some level — that they’re not good enough as they are. The entire idea is gendered in a way that puts yet another form of pressure on us to be something that we may not organically be, or may not even want to be, which is the last thing we need.

2. “Effortless” is all a façade.
In the Sexy Parisian Secrets world, “effortless sexy” implies: being thin; having clear, glowy skin; possessing undone hair that falls perfectly, and wearing expertly cut clothes that hang off you in just the right way (likely because you are so thin). Even if you were physically predisposed to these things, you’d have to put in some effort to pull them all off on a daily basis. And frankly, most of us are not. Me, for example — how exactly do I go about “dewy” and “no-makeup chic” when I am constantly battling adult acne and dry winter skin? I guess I just put a bag over my head and paste Louise Bourgoin’s face on it.

3. For as many women who actually fall into the stereotypes, there are many more who don’t.
Simply wearing makeup or having some color in her closet doesn’t mean a woman’s got nothing to teach us about her culture, that she is an outlier who has no place in the vox populi. It just means her style and success in the various domains of womanhood are more dependent on individual lifestyle choices than country of birth. And, the longer we focus on the idea of the waif-like Gauloise-smoking Parisienne who raises obedient-yet-clever children with ease, the less we understand — and respect — what it really means to be a woman.

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4. French women read the How To Be Parisian stuff, too.
The concept of being that perfectly chic girl is just as foreign to many Parisian women as it is to us. When La Parisienne hit shelves a few years ago, every girlfriend I had in Paris bought a copy and consumed it just as naively as their American counterparts, and the latest book on the subject has been selling just as well there. They, too, are eager for the secrets to mastering the messy bun and bold lip, because — get this — they aren’t born knowing.

5. Parisian women are equally obsessed with New Yorkers.
And, they’re constantly talking or reading about NYC (specifically Williamsburg, lately), and dropping English words into French sentences in humble-braggy ways. For a lot of chic young French women, being savvy in a distinctly New York way is incredibly desirable. So, the thirst for cultural copycatting goes both ways, and they are no more in possession of magical information about life than we are. They are looking right back at us for a lot of the answers.

6. Paris is a real city with real diversity.
It’s full of people who are not a singular white, thin woman in a messy topknot and Breton-striped shirt. And yet, this is rarely (if ever) included in the many odes to “French style.”How to be Parisian, for example, doesn’t mention the incredible array of hijab fashion you will see on the street every day in Paris. And, while it would be wrong to imply that France (and Paris in particular) is a bastion of diversity — or that French culture has mastered embracing different backgrounds — the reality is that these outdated notions of What Is Parisian only perpetuate the real problems of representation in the country itself.

As long as we want to imagine that France still looks like a Doisneau photograph, we ignore the very real people who make up the France of today. We don’t acknowledge the many women of color, or the women who can’t afford designer labels, or the women who don’t fit into a sample-size skinny jeans. Those women are French, too. They may not look or shop like Clémence Poésy, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn something from them. Even if that something isn’t “use expensive face cream and have lots of sex,” which seems to be all we want to hear.

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This article originally appeared on Refinery29.com.

TIME career

How to Fight for Your Right to Leave Work by 6 PM

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Give yourself a break

Question: I leave work every day at 6:30 PM — because I come in at 8:30 AM, and working for 10 hours is enough for one day and one brain. I meet deadlines, and I don’t leave anything undone that can’t wait until the next day. But, sometimes it seems like there’s an unspoken competition at work over “who stayed the latest.” Every morning, other women are like, “OMG, I was here till 9!” or “I was here till 11 PM.” I always respond with something like, “I can’t believe you stayed so late! You’re crazy!” — which I guess just encourages them. How do I keep my regular work hours without feeling like I’m in last place in the who-stayed-the-latest race? I worry that everyone around me will think I’m a slacker for wanting to head out on time.

Answer: In the halcyon days of my youth, I attended a fancy-schmancy Liberal Arts College — the kind with no frats and a tuition that I’m still pimping my Etsy page to pay off. (There’s a strong market for throw pillows.) Before you roll your eyes and close this window, there’s a reason why I’m telling you this.

Each year, at finals time at said fancy school, there was a contingent of students who basically moved into the library. Now, studious and stressed-out college students wouldn’t normally draw my ire, except these Poindexters reveled in their misery. They would prominently display their piles of comically oversized tomes and Red Bull cans, shuffle around the Harry Potter-esque grandeur in slippers and clouds of anxiety, loudly bleat about how long they have gone without a shower. At first, I assumed that these students had incredibly rigorous course loads, that I was “doing college wrong.” But, as I began to recognize certain drowsy faces as people from my classes, classes I was preparing for while still showering and sleeping fairly regularly, I realized that the library was a place of performance. These students wanted to be seen: They loved to gripe about surviving on cigarettes and coffee for three days, just to see the combination of awe and pity flutter across our faces. Being busy and stressed was more than just a state of being — it was a declaration of worth.

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I have a hunch something similar is going on with your coworkers. If they are routinely staying in the office that late and their responsibilities don’t differ that much from yours, either they aren’t being productive during the work day or they’re just staying late to stay late. Whether consciously or not, we use busyness as a way to show our significance and importance: I’m needed, I’m necessary, I toil selflessly for the good of the company.

And while I’m being hard on these 11-PM-ers, it’s not exactly their fault. It’s capitalism’s fault. (Can’t you tell that I listened to punk rock in high school?) The economy is sluggish, the job market is tough, and everyone who’s managed to stay steadily employed feels lucky. And so we Assistant Assistants to the Junior Head Marketing Manager take on ever-growing amounts of responsibility, check our emails 24/7, and allow the boundaries between public and private and day and night to blur. But, by doing that, we’re inadvertently helping to perpetuate the problem: If everyone answers emails at 11 PM, people start to expect prompt replies to the emails they send at 11 PM. By remaining plugged in and accessible even after the after-shows have aired, your coworkers are creating a new, unattractive standard. It’s no surprise that you’re feeling the pressure.

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So, what to do? Keep resisting! As long as your boss hasn’t said anything about your work schedule, don’t give in to the crazy. Opt out. Take a lesson from the woman who taught you to grab life by the rhinestones, Dolly Parton. As she sings in “9 to 5” (which is just a jangly, countrified version of The Communist Manifesto, if you ask me), “It’s enough to drive you crazy, if you let it…” And, she’s just talking about an eight-hour day — imagine what Comrade Dolly would say about staying past dinnertime!

And, if you’re one of the many chronic 11-PM-ers, whispering, “I wish I could quit you” to your computer: Give yourself a break. There are other ways to show your value than staying hyperconnected. In fact, unplugging and getting a good night’s rest will undoubtedly increase your productivity and present-mindedness during normal work hours. Boost your work-life balance by giving yourself a firm curfew and turning off your phone at the same time each night. Inform your boss, colleagues, and clients of this new cutoff point and, I assure you, they’ll adapt. Train yourself: Just because you see an email notification doesn’t mean you have to take care of it right away. Unless it’s time-sensitive or you truly have a ton of work to do, fight the urge to shoot off a quick reply or burn the midnight oil. Surely, the overnight janitor won’t miss your sighs and manic stare that much.

This article originally appeared on Refinery29.com.

TIME Culture

What Unemployed People Do With Their Time

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While most of unemployed people spend a sizable part of their day job-hunting, plenty of others seem to, well, futz around

Last September, after I got fired from what was painfully close to being my dream job, I was gripped by aimlessness, malaise, and more than a little self-loathing. I imagined myself jobless, penniless, and miserable for the rest of my days. Then, I decided to seize this less-than-shining, underemployed moment to pursue my dream of writing full-time (in my case, as a freelance culture, news, and lifestyle journalist).

Though I was nervous about taking the leap into a profession that’s notoriously competitive and unlucrative, I felt ready to try something new: to work from home on projects of my choosing, without a Big Boss breathing down my neck. I’m lucky to be semi-successful at the freelance thing, because losing or eschewing a traditional job doesn’t always unfold so smoothly for everyone, millennials included.

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Traditional jobs can be hard to come by for millennials — who are shaping up to be the most educated generation in history (but not the most employed; in 2014, 9.1 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds were unemployed). While the job market is picking up for many, that uptick isn’t necessarily helping millennials, for whom job security has been rocky throughout most of their adult lives. As Andrew Hanson, research analyst at Georgetown University, said back in July, “Young people are the first to be let go by companies in a recession and the last to be let back in.” As of July 2014, millennials made up a whopping 40 percent of America’s jobless masses (that equates to 4.6 million people, in case you’re curious).

As usual, the statistics for women lead to a more complicated narrative. For women 25 to 54, unemployment is 30%. The number of working women has climbed overall during the later part of the 20th century, but those numbers have been sinking since 2000, partially due to economic trends, but also to a recent rise in stay-at-home parenting. (Notably, in wealthier areas, like the Salt Lake City suburbs and the Upper East Side of New York City, rates of women working are lower than in other US regions.) Rates of female unemployment are also higher in more rural and poverty-stricken regions, of course, like the Deep South, Appalachia, Northern Michigan, and various locations in the middle of the country. (Education, or lack thereof, plays a major part.)

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Plenty of American men are jobless, too (in November, 5.4 percent of men over the age of 20). Unemployed guys, reports The New York Times, work out less and feel that they have worse relationships with their families than when they were members of a workforce. Women, on the other hand, are “more likely to say that their health and their relationships with friends and family have improved since they stopped working.”

Maybe that’s because, according to this New York Times interactive that documents the average daily activities of 147 unemployed men and women aged 25-54, females tend to spend a lot more time doing housework and “caring for others” than their unemployed dude counterparts; women spend a whopping six hours on both, while men spend less than three each.

And though plenty of unemployed people spend a sizable part of their day job-hunting, plenty of others seem to, well, futz around. They tend to sleep more than their working peers (slightly more than an additional hour), and devote much more time to entertainment like TV and movies — especially the men. Out of the 65 people who spent more of their day watching movies and TV than doing anything else, 46 were men; only 19 were women. And both men and women sans jobs “spend about 1.5 times as much time socializing as the average employed person.”

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The day-to-day lifestyles of the thousands of Americans eschewing traditional 9-5 workplaces — either by choice or necessity — look dramatically different from those with “normal” jobs, indeed. But as more millennials struggle to find and hold onto jobs in a competitive, overcrowded market, it seems likely that their everyday habits will be forced to evolve, whether that includes six hours of TV, socializing, traveling, care-taking or…something else altogether.

This article originally appeared on Refinery29.com.

TIME advice

How to Make Your Apartment Look Clean in 5 Minutes

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Focus on tidying the stuff at eye level

Whether you want to be prepared for a visit from a neighbor or you just need some peace of mind before you walk out of the door, you want your place looking presentable — fast. Here are 10 ways to eliminate mess, in under five minutes.

Snap A Pic

Before you dive in, take a quick photo of the space. “It’s so easy to get used to clutter that has been in one spot for a while,” points out Emma Chapman, the lifestyle blogger behind A Beautiful Mess. “Glancing at the photo and trying to spot anything that looks out of place helps me to notice little things that I may not have spotted before.” You can then quickly move those little things to a proper, or at least less noticeable, place.

Stash Clutter

In a pinch, toss out-of-place odds and ends into a laundry basket (like this woven one) or a bin that you can stow out of eye’s view for sorting later.

Repurpose Empty Spaces

An empty napkin holder can serve as a de facto mail sorter so bills don’t get lost in the shuffle. Corral rogue office supplies in a pretty mug or glass. Take the impromptu cleanup a step further by throwing a patterned tray underneath for a subtle organizational vibe.

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Sweep Up

Your mission: Eliminate little crumbs or dust bunnies that will stick to people’s socks. “It just makes your guests feel dirty,” says Kadi Dulude, owner of NYC cleaning service Wizard of Homes.

Tackle The Bathroom

Wipe any gobs of toothpaste from the sink, and rinse crusted soap from the dish. Make sure the TP roll is plump, and swish a little bleach in the toilet bowl. Forget scrubbing any mildew-y grout — just pull the shower curtain closed.

Rub Down Surfaces

Don’t worry if your cleaning supplies aren’t well stocked: You don’t need anything fancy to give your shelves or tables a once-over. “Go ahead and use water for everyday cleaning. Just wet a microfiber cloth,” says Dulude. (Remember: This won’t disinfect any surfaces.)

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Fluff The Living Room

Flip stained couch cushions to the clean(er) side, fluff your pillows, and fold your throw blanket. Light a scented candle for instant coziness.

Skip The Underneath

Focus on tidying the stuff at eye level. Don’t bother cleaning under furniture or dusting ceiling fans — people won’t be looking there, Dulude says.

Eliminate Pet Hair

Lint rollers are a must-have tool when it comes to tackling pet hairs. Even more effective than the sticky barrel? Throw on some rubber dish gloves and run your hands over your chairs or futon, balling up hair as you go.

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Attend To Allergies

We’re already sneezing and coughing a ton this time of year. Put visitors at ease by paying special attention to windowsills and radiators, which accumulate dust that can trigger serious sniffles, suggests Dulude.

This article originally appeared on Refinery29.com.

Read next: Here’s What to Do When Your Computer Runs Out of Space

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TIME advice

23 Celebrities Discuss How They Made It Through Their 20s

It's time to put your 20s in perspective

Before she was mourning the state of today’s music, Joni Mitchell was using the power of song to dole out wisdom. In one of her biggest hits, “Big Yellow Taxi,” she offers: “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone?”

That’s exactly how many women feel in their 20s — and it’s because so many women who have aged out of the bracket won’t let you forget that it’s the best time of your life. Your 20s, they say, are your prime years — you just don’t know it yet. “Your beauty will fade,” they warn. “Your body won’t work like it used to once you turn 30,” they cry. “Start using anti-wrinkle creams.” A dinner with your aunts can feel like a whirlwind of cautionary tales.

As a result, we’re all under insane amounts of pressure to carpe diems and dodge FOMO around every corner. And, we’d be lying if we said that pressure wasn’t self-imposed, too.

While we’re still riding the New Year’s wave, it seems like a good time to freshen up our perspective. Namely, we need to re-evaluate the way we talk to and about ourselves, the way we set goals for our personal and professional lives, and the way we measure beauty. Ahead, 23 celebs who’ll put your 20s in perspective for you. In other words: Relax.

  • Meryl Streep

    Actress Meryl Streep at the 15th Annual AFI Awards on Jan. 9, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California.
    Jon Kopaloff—Getty Images/FilmMagic Actress Meryl Streep at the 15th Annual AFI Awards on Jan. 9, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California.

    Meryl Streep’s opinion of her 20s is simple but poignant: “I’m never so sure as I was in my mid-20s.”

  • Queen Latifah

    Queen Latifah during the 2015 HBO Winter panel on Jan. 8, 2015 in Pasadena, California.
    Jeff Kravitz—Getty Images/2015 Jeff Kravitz Queen Latifah during the 2015 HBO Winter panel on Jan. 8, 2015 in Pasadena, California.

    “If I could have talked to my 19- or 20-year-old self, I would have said, ‘You’re going to be fine. It ain’t that serious!'” Queen Latifah told More. In other words, chill out.

  • Katie Couric

    Katie Couric attends the 10th Annual Unicef Snowflake Ball on Dec. 2, 2014 in New York City.
    Desiree Navarro—Getty Images/WireImage Katie Couric attends the 10th Annual Unicef Snowflake Ball on Dec. 2, 2014 in New York City.

    Regarding that big 30 time stamp you’ve set in your brain: Forget it. “I spent my 20s focusing on my career. I dated a lot and it was fun, but I wasn’t ready to fully commit myself to another person,” Katie Couric told Glamour. “It was my selfish decade. Even still, I didn’t make the deadline I had set for myself of becoming a network correspondent by 30.”

  • Anna Gunn

    Anna Gunn at the 'Gracepoint' Press Conference on Sept. 30, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California.
    Vera Anderson—Getty Images/WireImage Anna Gunn at the Gracepoint Press Conference on Sept. 30, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California.

    Anna Gunn wants to make sure you’re not spending your 20s needlessly stressing out. “When I was in my 20s and 30s, I spent so much time worrying: the next job, the next review, the next blog,” the Breaking Bad actress told the New York Post. “It really was wasted time. I haven’t stopped worrying, but now I have the ability to say, ‘I’m going to enjoy the time that I have working and that I have with my kids and my family and my friends.’”

  • Lena Dunham

    Actress Lena Dunham attends ELLE's Annual Women in Television Celebration on Jan. 13, 2015 in West Hollywood, California.
    Michael Kovac—2015 Getty Images Actress Lena Dunham attends ELLE's Annual Women in Television Celebration on Jan. 13, 2015 in West Hollywood, California.

    Lena Dunham tackles one of the major question marks of this delicate age: romance. “Positive, healthy, loving relationships in your 20s…I don’t know if anyone would disagree with it: I think they’re the exception, not the norm. People are either playing house really aggressively because they’re scared of what an uncertain time it is, or they’re avoiding commitment altogether,” she told GQ.

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  • Oprah Winfrey

    Oprah Winfrey commemorates the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Jan. 18, 2015 in Selma, Alabama.
    David A. Smith—2015 Getty Images Oprah Winfrey commemorates the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Jan. 18, 2015 in Selma, Alabama.

    “When I was in my 20s, I was a lost soul. Your 20s are about finding your soul,” Oprah says in one of her online diary entries.

  • Lisa Kudrow

    Actress Lisa Kudrow attends an event celebrating Jennifer Aniston on Jan. 6, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.
    Ari Perilstein—2015 Getty Images Actress Lisa Kudrow attends an event celebrating Jennifer Aniston on Jan. 6, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.

    “The 20s? My title for that period of my life would be, ‘It was the Worst of Times, it was the Worst of Times…’ Did I mention it was the hardest time of my life?” Lisa Kudrow told TV Guide.

  • Amy Poehler

    Actress Amy Poehler speaks during the 'Parks and Recreation' panel discussion of the 2015 Winter TCA Tour on Jan. 16, 2015 in Pasadena, California.
    Frederick M. Brown—Getty Images Actress Amy Poehler speaks during the Parks and Recreation panel discussion of the 2015 Winter TCA Tour on Jan. 16, 2015 in Pasadena, California.

    “I think we should stop asking people in their 20s what they ‘want to do’ and start asking them what they don’t want to do,” Amy Poehler writes in her new memoir, Yes Please.

  • Drew Barrymore

    Actress Drew Barrymore arrives at the Refinery29 Holiday Party on Dec. 10, 2014 in West Hollywood, California.
    Joe Scarnici—Getty Images/WireImage Actress Drew Barrymore arrives at the Refinery29 Holiday Party on Dec. 10, 2014 in West Hollywood, California.

    “It made me want to look at myself and see what behavior I want to bring into my 30s, and what I want to leave in my 20s…I’m such a people-pleaser and from an unstable background. I translate too many things into guilt. I’m ready to let go of that,” Drew Barrymore told People on her 30th birthday.

  • Zoe Saldana

    Actress Zoe Saldana attends 'The Book Of Life' premiere on Oct. 12, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.
    Jeffrey Mayer—Getty Images/WireImage Actress Zoe Saldana attends The Book Of Life premiere on Oct. 12, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.

    Before you freak out about your dwindling youth, keep in mind that, given the chance, you probably wouldn’t go back to being a college-aged woman again. Like Zoe Saldana told Marie Claire, “I love aging. Why would I want to be 21 for the rest of my life?”

  • Amy Adams

    Actress Amy Adams attends The 20th Annual Critics' Choice Movie Awards on Jan. 15, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.
    Taylor Hill—Getty Images Actress Amy Adams attends the 20th Annual Critics' Choice Movie Awards on Jan. 15, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.

    Amy Adams says turning 30 was a “big deal” for her. “It was the age where I reevaluated everything — how I approached life and how I thought about myself,” she told People in 2009. “When I look at my 20s, or when I look at any period in my life, I think about how much time I’ve wasted trying to find the right man. It’s like, if I could go back and do it again, I would have taken guitar lessons or something. I would have put my energy into something that paid off in the end, instead of trying to improve myself for men. Oh, the time and the energy, trying to impress somebody who was actually a big jerk.”

  • Arianna Huffington

    Arianna Huffington attends the Moves 2014 Power Women Gala on Nov. 14, 2014 in New York City.
    Jamie McCarthy—Getty Images/WireImage Arianna Huffington attends the Moves 2014 Power Women Gala on Nov. 14, 2014 in New York City.

    Arianna Huffington has a lot of great advice. But, if you’re in your 20s, her views on how we think of ourselves feel most relevant. “How we talk to ourselves matters. Even our worst enemies don’t talk about us the way we talk to ourselves. I call this voice the obnoxious roommate living in our head. It feeds on putting us down and exploiting and magnifying our insecurities and doubts. I wish someone would invent a tape recorder that we could attach to our brains to record everything we tell ourselves. It would shock us to hear it played back,” she told Marie Claire.

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  • Sienna Miller

    Actress Sienna Miller attends the 72nd Annual Golden Globe Awards on Jan. 11, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California.
    Jason Merritt—2015 Getty Images Actress Sienna Miller attends the 72nd Annual Golden Globe Awards on Jan. 11, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California.

    American Sniper star Sienna Miller doesn’t want you to freak out about someone seeing your college Facebook photos. “I lived my 20s in a very public manner, and if anyone’s 20s are documented it’s not always going to be pretty,” she told The Independent.

  • Louis C.K.

    Actor Louis C.K. speaks during the 'Louie' panel discussion of the Television Critics Association press tour on Jan. 18, 2015 in Pasadena, California.
    Frederick M. Brown—Getty Images Actor Louis C.K. speaks during the Louie panel discussion of the Television Critics Association press tour on Jan. 18, 2015 in Pasadena, California.

    This is gonna make you want to hire a comedian as a life coach: “You’ll be fine. You’re 25. Feeling [unsure] and lost is part of your path. Don’t avoid it. See what those feelings are showing you and use it. Take a breath. You’ll be okay. Even if you don’t feel okay all the time.” — Louis C.K., Untitled

  • Olivia Wilde

    Olivia Wilde attends the "Love Is On" campaign launch event on Nov. 18, 2014 in New York City.
    Monica Schipper—Getty Images/FilmMagic Olivia Wilde attends the "Love Is On" campaign launch event on Nov. 18, 2014 in New York City.

    “Your 20s were for ‘ducking up,’ as my auto-correct would say, and learning from those mistakes,” Olivia Wilde told Glamour. “Now you get to live with that knowledge under your belt…I’m hitting a major milestone: 30, or as I like to call it, the Cut the Bullsh*t and Go Be Awesome stage.”

  • Reese Witherspoon

    Actress Reese Witherspoon arrives at the 20th Annual Critics' Choice Movie Awards on Jan. 15, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.
    Jon Kopaloff—Getty Images/2015 Jon Kopaloff Actress Reese Witherspoon arrives at the 20th Annual Critics' Choice Movie Awards on Jan. 15, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.

    Reese Witherspoon’s got some love advice for you. “I thought I knew everything about love and relationships in my 20s. The ignorance of youth is bliss. As you get older, you start to realize that you don’t really know anything and life is a great traveling journey. Life is unexpected…you just never know what’s going to happen.”

  • Kristen Bell

    Kristen Bell arrives at the 41st Annual People's Choice Awards on Jan. 7, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.
    Steve Granitz—Getty Images/WireImage Kristen Bell arrives at the 41st Annual People's Choice Awards on Jan. 7, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.

    If you’re feeling like you’re almost 30 and may never find “the one,” fear not. Take Kristen Bell’s sage-like advice. “Every woman in her late 20s goes through a period where she just doesn’t believe love is out there anymore, but it is. And I think the minute you stop looking for it is when it comes for you,” she told Cosmo.

  • Cindy Crawford

    Model Cindy Crawford attends the 72nd Annual Golden Globe Awards on Jan. 11, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California.
    Frazer Harrison—Getty Images Model Cindy Crawford attends the 72nd Annual Golden Globe Awards on Jan. 11, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California.

    It’s sometimes hard to listen to a supermodel talk about her body. But, Cindy Crawford’s thoughts on how your body changes are comforting. “I’m actually happier with my body now…because the body I have now is the body I’ve worked for. I have a better relationship with it. From a purely aesthetic point of view, my body was better when I was 22, 23. But I didn’t enjoy it. I was too busy comparing it to everyone else’s,” she told AskMen.

  • Tina Fey

    Tina Fey arrives to the 72nd Annual Golden Globe Awards on Jan. 11, 2015.
    Alberto Rodriguez/NBC—NBC via Getty Images Tina Fey arrives to the 72nd Annual Golden Globe Awards on Jan. 11, 2015.

    “When I was in my early 20s, being called sexy was not part of my experience in any way,” Tina Fey told The Believer mag. “There’s such a small window of time when people want to write any articles about you. If you’re a woman and they say anything complimentary about your appearance, well, I’m not going to complain. I fully intend to keep all of these magazines in the attic and bring them out for my daughter someday. ‘You see? There was a time when people thought your mother was a sexy b*tch.’”

  • Keira Knightley

    Actress Keira Knightley attends the 20th annual Critics' Choice Movie Awards on Jan. 15, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.
    Jason Merritt—Getty Images Actress Keira Knightley attends the 20th annual Critics' Choice Movie Awards on Jan. 15, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.

    Keira Knightley isn’t worried about turning 30 because her early 20s weren’t so fun. She told Glamour that after 25 things got better. “Maybe you stop caring as much about where you should be going and what other people think, which is all the sh*t that makes you very unhappy early on.”

  • Abbi Jacobson

    Actress Abbi Jacobson attends the 'Broad City' Season 2 premiere party on Jan. 7, 2015 in New York City.
    Stephen Lovekin—2015 Getty Images Actress Abbi Jacobson attends the Broad City Season 2 premiere party on Jan. 7, 2015 in New York City.

    Broad City‘s Abbi Jacobson says your 20s are “that time when you’re really, really trying to figure sh*t out… It’s just about trying and creating and putting stuff out in whatever form or medium that you do, and not being precious with it. And in that you’ll find your voice.”

  • Candace Bushnell

    'Sex and the City' author Candace Bushnell takes part in a Q&A event on July 25, 2013 in Sydney, Australia.
    Caroline McCredie—Getty Images Sex and the City author Candace Bushnell takes part in a Q&A event on July 25, 2013 in Sydney, Australia.

    Sex and the City author Candace Bushnell is basically an expert on being single in your 20s. “There are worse things than being 35, single, and female in New York. Like: Being 25, single, and female in New York. It’s a rite of passage few women would want to repeat. It’s about sleeping with the wrong men, wearing the wrong clothes, having the wrong roommate, saying the wrong thing, being ignored, getting fired, not being taken seriously, and generally being treated like sh*t. But it’s necessary,” she writes. Go ahead and stick that on your cubicle wall.

    MORE Lessons I Learned From Getting Fired

  • Susan Sarandon

    Susan Sarandon visits Brooklyn Technical High School on Jan. 15, 2015 in New York City.
    Andrew Toth—2015 Getty Images Susan Sarandon visits Brooklyn Technical High School on Jan. 15, 2015 in New York City.

    In closing, we leave you with Susan Sarandon’s perfect, perfect quote. She told V magazine, “I wouldn’t want to be 20 now. I know so much more, and I’m much more comfortable in my skin, saggy as it is… When I hear young girls complaining about superficial things… You’re at the peak of your physical beauty right now! Just enjoy it and stop worrying about your thighs being too big… If you’re upset with how you look at 25, life’s going to be tough.”

    This article originally appeared on Refinery29.com.

TIME Sex/Relationships

How to Escape the Friend Zone

Chalk and heart shape on blackboard
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I needed to recognize was that everyone has a fear of rejection

This article originally appeared on Refinery29.com.

For a while, I assumed that guys put me in the friend zone because they didn’t want to date a plus size princess (what I affectionately call myself.) But, really, I think it was my own insecurity that was the problem. By holding myself back instead of going after what I wanted, I was the one guilty of putting myself in the friend zone.

In fact, somewhat recently, I realized that many of the guys I’ve had crushes on would totally have dated me, but since I gave the impression that I wasn’t interested, they followed my lead and dropped pursuit. When I was 13, I spent every night talking on the phone with a cute, ginger-haired boy named Kevin. I wanted him to be my boyfriend so badly, but I convinced myself that he’d never go out with a chubby brown girl, so I hooked him up with my little blonde best friend. (Fast-forward about 15-odd years, and Kevin and I actually did end up dating for a while. You might call it my childhood dream come true, and you can read all — well, maybe not all — the mushy details here.)

Then, when I was in college, I fell for an older, thoughtful poet. He was beyond dreamy, and although we’d watch movies in the dark at each other’s houses all the time, nothing romantic developed between us and now I understand why. As fate would have it, I was forced to face my friend-zoning tendencies when I ran into the poet last year at a party and jokingly said “I had the biggest crush on you, but you weren’t interested.” He looked shocked and reminded me that whenever he’d invite me over to watch a movie at his place, I’d just curl up into a tight ball on the opposite side of the couch. My body language had told him everything he needed to know.

The thing is, I’m a big proponent of starting things off slowly — developing a friendship first. But, I had trouble getting past that whole friendship part. There was no doubt I had to change some habits if I wanted to let love in. One thing that helpd me leave the friend zone was accepting the vulnerability that’s attached to being a part of an intimate relationship. Being a guy’s best friend was a position I was comfortable in. I knew how it worked, and I knew the pain that came when he eventually and inevitably started dating someone else. I chose to put myself in the friend zone because it was safe: I knew the score.

I almost never told guys I liked them, because I was terrified of the unknown — terrified of putting myself out there. I didn’t want to be the first one to admit I wanted something more from the relationship. Instead, I was willing to sit back and wait, while pretending I didn’t care either way. I was lying to them and I was lying to myself.

Another thing I needed to recognize was that everyone has a fear of rejection — including all of my male friends throughout the years. My own fear of rejection is based on my weight, but I was also using it as an excuse to keep a wall up and not let my guard down. I can’t even imagine how frustrating it was for my poet crush to want to make a move on me when I was literally curled into myself. What’s worse: By building these invisible barriers of protection around myself, I was essentially asking my would-be boyfriends to try and get through them. And that wasn’t fair at all.

In the midst of these self-discoveries, I was in a friendship where I constantly heard, “Awww, you guys are so cute together; why AREN’T you dating?” and “He CLEARLY likes you, what’s going on?” One day, not too long ago, I made a decision to step out of the friend zone and let my buddy know I was interested in being more than just pals. The conversation started awkwardly at first, as I rambled on about our relationship and how great I thought he was. Somehow, I got the courage to tell him that I felt a chemistry between us and was interested in exploring that. We talked it through and in the end, he suggested taking me on an actual date. Robert and I have been dating ever since.

After we began dating, I started to look at other areas in my life where I was allowing myself to stay in a safe-zone situation. At work, I wasn’t pushing for a promotion; I was in the “friend zone.” And, on my blog, I was in the “friend zone” because I was limiting myself in terms of the kinds of stories I shared. The list goes on.

What I’m saying is this: It can be very tempting to hide behind our insecurities, whatever they are. It often feels easier than taking brave, bold steps, except I learned that taking those strides leaves me far more fulfilled than hanging out in that easy place. I almost always challenge myself to make the harder choice, and I can confidently say that I’ve never regretted putting myself out there. If you’ve been spending too much time in your “friend zone” — in work and/or play — then maybe you should step out of it and see where that takes you.

On her blog, Plus Size Princess, CeCe Olisa has detailed everything from what it’s like to be the only big black girl in a yoga class (fine, thanks!), to her adventures in plus-size dating in the Big Apple. Now, the New York City transplant is lending her poignant, often-hilarious voice to R29.

TIME career

How to Deal With a Boss Who Plays Favorites

The Boss mug on a desk
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Stay focused on your goals during the conversation

My boss is pretty blatant about playing favorites — and I’m not one of them. She’s especially chummy with two of my coworkers (her subordinates) and it’s gotten so bad that recently, I approached the three of them after a meeting, and she excused herself when she saw me coming! I’ve spoken to HR about it, and they said she gave me a good performance review so I had no cause for concern. And, yet, she is so dismissive of me that I spend most of my day, everyday, paranoid that she doesn’t like me or worried I’m going to be ignored in meetings. I’ve been looking for other work, but so far, no dice. Should I just take this job and shove it even if I don’t have another one lined up?

Dr. Veronica Medina, Doctor of Organizational Psychology, Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor
Before you make any moves, I suggest you have a meeting with your supervisor to discuss your concerns. As intimidating as this sounds under the present circumstances, you’ll feel more comfortable if you go in as if you two are colleagues and equals, instead of with the uncomfortable and awkward dynamic she’s created. The most important thing to remember is this: The current dynamic was created by your supervisor, not you, and it points to her failure in leadership effectiveness — not any perceived character flaw of yours.

Even if you did do something to make her dislike you, her senior rank demands a higher level of professionalism. So, if a member of her team feels uncomfortable, then the workload suffers, and it’s her responsibility to acknowledge and correct the issue. And, if she’s not doing it on her own, then you have a right to address the issue and ask for a solution. Now that you’re all pumped up, I’m going to tell you how to handle this situation like a boss:

Outline An Ideal Outcome
The best-case scenario is that you talk it out and she is so impressed by your assertive problem-solving skills that you get into your boss’ inner circle, she high-fives you in hallways, and shouts out, “There she is!” whenever you walk into a meeting. Worst-case scenario is that you address your discomfort by recreating Beyoncé’s “Why Don’t You Love Me?” video, leaving your boss so confused and uncomfortable that she reports you to HR. Though the latter would be fun and might even get you transferred, let’s not go there. Remember: Your No. 1 goal is to improve your working relationship. Remain calm and display confidence as you communicate your concerns.

(MORE: The Psychology Of Who We Want To Work For)

Stay Focused On Your Goals During The Conversation
You might feel tempted to point out all of the times she’s made you feel bad, but the most productive use of your time would be to thank her for the kind review, then say you’re glad to be a part of the team and want to know if there’s anything you can do to be a more integral part of it. In other words, be positive; a laundry list of times you’ve been wronged isn’t going to make anyone feel better.

This approach gives you an opportunity to learn more about what she likes to see in her employees’ performances. Though there’s no excuse for her unprofessional dismissiveness, it could be that she prefers a certain work or communication style that differs from your own. If this is the case, you shouldn’t try to change who you are, but you might attempt to be proactive and do more of the things you know she responds well to. Everyone likes to see results, even with small changes, so your calling the meeting then rising to her standards shows both initiative and ambition.

(MORE: Why We Should Just Accept Our Robot Overlords)

Get In The In-Crowd
Make an effort to talk to your peers — even the ones you feel are getting the preferential treatment. If you’re feeling left out of the office camaraderie, it’s important to start working on developing relationships with your colleagues. It’s likely that you spend most of your time in the office, so as long as you have a few pleasant relationships, the environment overall will feel less tense.

Gaining insight into office dynamics should alleviate some of the stress you are experiencing; things are often easier to deal with once you have more context. And, once you have an understanding of your supervisor’s behavior, you should take a minute to honestly reflect on any way you could have possibly contributed to it. If you’re 100% certain that you’re free from any blame, ask yourself if you even care about this woman 20 years your senior acting like a middle-school diva. It is not your job to be liked — you’re not getting paid for that. If you know your personal and professional value, then nothing else matters. Good luck!

(MORE: Horrible Bosses: The Savvy Girl’s Guide)

This article originally appeared on Refinery29.com.

TIME career

10 Thoughts That Will Make You Feel Better About Your Work-Life Balance

From left: Julia Louis Dreyfus and Stephanie Laing at TCL Chinese Theatre on August 14, 2014 in Hollywood, California.
Tibrina Hobson—Getty Images From left: Julia Louis Dreyfus and Stephanie Laing at TCL Chinese Theatre on August 14, 2014 in Hollywood, California.

I'm lucky because I have a job that I love and that allows me to support my family

Every day, I divide my time and attention between producing TV and being a mom. And, my biggest challenge is being okay with not hitting perfect notes in both of those areas of my life.

The week usually starts off great. On Monday, I’ll pat myself on the back for being a great mom but, come Thursday, I’ll be thinking of all the things I did wrong, and I’ll wonder if maybe, actually, I’m kind of a sucky one.

My family lives in NYC, but my work often takes me to other states. When I’m producing Veep, that means taking the train back and forth to D.C. every week — sometimes twice a week. Heck, sometimes I’m taking a train twice a day for five months just so I can get some precious family time in.

It wasn’t always like this. When my kids were babies, I only produced one comedy special a year; the rest of the time, I stayed at home. But, by the time my youngest was 18 months old, I went back to work full time, and we started a new journey, thereby defining our own normal.

(MORE: Got A Work Question? Ask Us)

I’m trying to get better at being content with feeling like a great mom some days and a not-so-wonderful mom other days. Being an awesome producer AND an incredible mom all in the same day takes practice, and it takes patience.

My family is learning to make it work — imperfect, hard days and all. Coming to terms with the following 10 tenets is just going to have to be enough for now.

Being a mom is exhausting.
We work 24 hours a day, seven days a week — sometimes on very little sleep. On the days I’m not feeling like a great mom, I try to look at it as my day off, give myself a break. I realize that when you’re a mom, there’s no real break, but you can’t be a great mom if you’re not giving yourself a chance to recharge. For me, that means not demanding perfection of myself every hour of every single day.

My kids still love me on days when I’m not a great mom.
I’m not Wonder Woman, and it’s okay for my kids to see that. I might not make it to every school event, but this will not cause our bond to come undone. In fact, if we make up that time by creating our own events, the closeness only gets stronger. I think it’s helpful for my kids to have witnessed a couple of failed family-time attempts, so we can all better appreciate the time we do spend together.

My bosses will still appreciate me on days when I’m not a great producer.
I’m always upfront when I have to leave work for a family event, and I always make up the hours later. Everyone knows not to expect to see me online during my kids’ bedtime, but by 9 p.m., they know I’ll be glued to my laptop.

I don’t expect perfection.
Each day and each hour has the potential to be filled with ups and downs, tears and laughter, a sense of accomplishment and a sense of failure. It’s important to recognize these ebbs and flows as a part of life. We need to accept ourselves for who we are — the good, the bad, and the ugly — because this is what will teach our children to accept themselves and their inevitable imperfections.

We pay attention to the quiet moments.
We don’t live an over-scheduled life on the weekends. Everyone stays busy enough during the week that we like to slow way down on the weekends. Cooking, baking, and sometimes simply ordering in takeout make for an awesome Saturday. I don’t put pressure on myself to have a homemade Sunday dinner each week; rather, our tradition is to not have a tradition.

(MORE: An Ode To Leslie Knope: The Working Woman’s Working Woman)

I’m lucky because I have a job that I love and that allows me to support my family.
I believe I’m a better mom because I have a career, and that works for my family. I also believe I’m setting good examples for my children, especially my daughter, who has a strong career-oriented role model in her life. I applaud stay-at-home moms everywhere — because god knows that isn’t an easy job — but it’s not for me, and my kids understand that.

I’m a mom first.
On set sometimes I break away for Skype calls with my kids. If I’m traveling during the school week, which is most of the time, this might mean doing homework with them over the phone. They think this is hilarious, and they also hate it because it means I’m watching them all the time. But, it’s a way to keep us close even when I’m geographically far away.

My kids have seen me cry.
I missed my son’s guitar recital at school by 5 minutes, and I felt gutted. I had flown home just to be there for that and missed it! I think my son felt worse than I did when he saw my gushing tears, so we decided he would put on a special concert just for me which turned into him playing with the band at a party for the Eastbound & Down cast and crew.

We have “yes” days.
When I’m not working, and my show is on hiatus, I tend to go overboard and schedule large sleepovers and trips. The kids and I love them equally!

My bottom line? It’s not like I look at my kids as competing for my time, but if there were an actual competition, they would win. Hands down and every time. Finding the perfect balance is next to impossible, but developing a system that works for you and your family isn’t.

(MORE: 15 Throw-On-&-Go Work Dresses That Get The Job Done)

TIME career

10 Ways You Can Be More Confident at Work

Producer Stephanie Laing on Oct. 23, 2014 in New York City.
Mark Sagliocco—Getty Images Producer Stephanie Laing on Oct. 23, 2014 in New York City.

A Hollywood producer dishes on how you can feel more assertive on the job — even if you only sort of know what you're doing

We’ve all heard the often-repeated fact that women apologize far more than men, especially when something isn’t their fault. But, if you ask me — and I work predominantly with men — women need to stop apologizing unnecessarily and, at the same time, acknowledge that confidence can include wearing some of our emotions on our sleeves. Sure, our insecurities can make us appear weak. But, no matter you’re in an all-male work environment or not, I always say that’s it’s best to fake it until you feel so sure of yourself that others start to feel the same way. That’s how the saying goes, right?

Ahead, I’ve outlined 10 ways that you can feel more confident and assertive on the job — even if you only sort of know what you’re doing.

Be Engaging
First, look your coworkers in the eyes and put your phone away. There is nothing worse than feeling like you’re getting 50% of someone’s attention. And, if you actually engage in conversation during meetings rather than scrolling through Twitter, you might come up with a killer idea.

Be Bold
Asking for help doesn’t mean you’re weak, and faking it when you’re totally lost is never a good idea. Luckily, I’ve always had respect for someone when they were able to admit they didn’t know the answer, so long as they did their due diligence. It’s a huge sign of confidence, and you can’t possibly know everything. I knew nothing about camera cars when I started directing driving shots on Veep; I asked the crew so many questions, and with each answer, I became more confident as a director. Your colleagues would always rather you ask questions than do something incorrectly multiple times.

Be Humorous
Nothing beats laughter when you’re trying to break down walls. There’s comedy in even the darkest of times, and through laughter, we connect with one another.

(MORE: 30+ Buys That’ll Make You Feel Like A Boss)

Be Heard, But Remember To Listen
Speak up — and that doesn’t mean start yelling. Being loud does not mean you’re confident; it just means you’re loud. But, because both men and women have a tendency to talk over each other and interrupt, it’s important to stop, listen, and wait for the to the person to finish what they’re saying. Never, under any circumstances, let people talk over you — no matter their gender. If someone repeatedly interrupts you, just finish your thought while speaking at the same volume. They’ll look like the real jerk if they continue to yell over you.

Be Polite
Say please and thank you, but never apologize unless you’ve done something wrong or made a mistake. Own it and move on. Real confidence is admitting the mistake and making sure it doesn’t happen again, and kindness still goes a long way.

Be A Student
Do your homework and take notes. If I have a meeting, I make sure to read up on the people attending if I don’t already work closely with them. Sometimes, I find out we have mutual friends, or perhaps they did a project I love. Other times, I find out that we worked together before and it didn’t end well. That’s always tricky to navigate, but at least I wasn’t blindsided by it.

(MORE: How To Wear Denim At Work (Without Looking Sloppy))

Be Straightforward
Say what you mean, and mean what you say. Ask for what you want. Don’t waste time wondering why someone didn’t get the hint; instead, just tell the person. In my experience, most people want to help others. They just need to be asked something specific, and within reason. If they don’t reply honestly and kindly (hello, tip number five!) then don’t waste time on them.

Be Thankful For The Job
If you ask me, ego is a bad word, and conceit doesn’t equal confident. I’m thankful every day that I’m working. And, even if you’re not about to thank your boss, be grateful for the opportunity.

Be Supportive Of Your Coworkers
Confidence does not mean you have to be competitive. As you try to get ahead and be noticed at work, remember those people around you are attempting to do the same thing, Still, that doesn’t mean you can’t support each other: Stay away from gossiping and trash talking your co-workers, since it’ll only reflect poorly on you.

(MORE: 9 Tricks To Emailing Like A BOSS)

Be Optimistic
Let’s face it: No one wants to be around the complainer, or the person whose glass is always half empty. If you’re always bitching about your job (and your life), eventually you’ll be eating alone at the lunch table. Then you definitely won’t be feeling confident.

One last tip for the ladies who work with a lot of guys: Be yourself. Don’t try to be one of the guys. You’re not a guy. You are you. You are human, with all your quirks, whether in high heels or sneakers. Makeup or au natural, you have the ability to do this job like no one else. To truly feel confident, you must be comfortable being yourself.

This article originally appeared on Refinery29.com.

TIME relationships

The Moving-On Manual: How to Get Over Anything

Broken heart drawn in chalk
Getty Images

The idea of ‘letting go’ is so crucial to our mental — and physical — health

This article originally appeared on Refinery29.com.

In a perfect world, all would go just as we wanted — from the outcome of our relationships to our career moves and everything else in-between. But, of course, real life can totally eff with what is important to us, from a quick fling to a long-term love, the perfect job, and the delicate balance of our friendships. As a result, sometimes anything emotional — from anger to resentment and low self-esteem — can infiltrate all unrelated aspects of our lives, too.

“When it comes to the idea of ‘getting over’ something, people often think of it as the equivalent of forgive and forget,” says Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and author of A Happy You. “But, really, while there is the forgive aspect, it’s not about forgetting — it doesn’t mean that you condone what has happened or that it doesn’t hurt — it means that you are releasing the anger, sadness, and resentment that goes along with it.” And you know what else comes out of letting go of a grudge? The negative health aftermath — including legit muscle pain, stomach issues, even migraine headaches — that is sure to be only a few baby steps behind it.

And, while it’s easy to get all hung up on whatever it is that has you bummed — a breakup, the job you didn’t get, a fight with a friend — Lombardo says that once these things happen, really, they aren’t what’s got you feeling down. “What hurts after the fact is not the event itself,” she says. “It’s the present interpretation of the event — ‘I didn’t get the job I wanted last year, so I took a job I hate, and now I’m miserable because I didn’t get the job in the past.’ It’s the perception of what that event meant at the time, but also what it means right now.” This blame game could hold us back from actually getting what we want. “We put a lot of blame on events, but really, how do we know that that’s true? We make this assumption and we can’t change the past, so then we remain stuck in an emotional pattern caused by that event.”

(MORE: Go On, Get Mad! How Anger Can Be Healthy)

So, how do you break the can’t-get-past-it BS that could be the actual thing standing in your emotional way? “Ask yourself: How helpful is feeling this way for me?” says Lombardo. “Instead of thinking that you didn’t get that job because you aren’t any good, really look at the situation and what happened. Maybe you and the interviewer had bad chemistry, or you went in unprepared, or you didn’t really understand the position — really look into the ingredients that contributed to the outcome.”

Seems easy, right? Well, not if you suffer from what most people do — a love of what Lombardo refers to as global generalization. “Instinctually, we want to make sense of stuff, and that can lead us to making sweeping generalizations that act as a defense mechanism,” she says. If you think “I’m never going to meet anyone now that we broke up,” then may be you don’t go out or meet new people, and make it so that is, in fact, the result. “Sometimes, it’s easier to think negatively, and then when that negativity manifests, say, ‘See, I was right!’” she says. “But if you’re going to make an assumption, why not let it be positive?”

Kathy Andersen, a well-being coach and author of Change Your Shoes, Live Your Greatest Life, suggests coming up with replacement feelings. “If you don’t have anything to replace the grief, anger, abandonment with, then you might hold onto them longer than you need or want to,” she says. Whatever negative emotion you have, think about the opposite emotion that you want to have, and one thing that you can do to feel it. So, for example, if you’re lonely, may be you could go for a walk in the park, volunteer, or call a friend. “Once you start with one experience and one feeling, you can bring it into your life more fully and more consistently, and let go of the emotions tied to the event that you don’t want in your life any longer,” says Andersen, who notes that aiming for 15 minutes every day for a month is enough. “The transformation this brings about automatically brings you to the next step.”

(MORE: What Shame & Guilt Can Do To Your Wallet)

And, it turns out, not being able to ‘get over it’ is what can actually lead to guilt, too. “When we can’t move on, we often feel disheartened, because the concept feels like you need to forget about it — but it remains with you, and then you start to wonder what is wrong with you,” says Andersen. “So, many people say, ‘Oh, move on!’ and then we hear that and it doesn’t compute.”

Yet, the idea of ‘letting go’ is so crucial to our mental — and physical — health. “It can affect our psychological health, how we view ourselves, and behavior,” says Lombardo. “If, after a breakup, you feel like you’ll never meet anyone, then you don’t even try to put yourself out there to meet anyone; plus, research shows that holding on to negative feelings can put a huge stress on our bodies, leading to chronic pain and aches, insomnia, and even weight gain.”

While it might sound all new-age-y, experts agree that it all comes down to your view and current perception. This is known as the Law of Attraction, when thoughts come to fruition because your behavior (even unconsciously) reflects that belief (good or bad), causing us to behave differently toward people and vice versa. One of the best ways to move on, according to Lombardo, is to ask yourself what you can learn from this. “We can learn from every single thing — be objective, instead of personalizing,” she says.

(MORE: Stop Telling Women They’re Crazy)

Experts also say that visualizing what you do want is essential. “We are so focused on what we don’t want, and then that’s what we often get,” says Lombardo. “Your brain literally thinks, ‘I guess being miserable for the rest of her life is what she wants, because she says she will be!’” So, basically, mind trick yourself: Andersen suggests first closing your eyes and picturing the perfect job, significant other, apartment, or whatever it is, and experience the positive emotions you feel from that — over time, that can help be the catalyst to get what you do want.

Then, pick up a piece of paper and literally write down how or why you would benefit from getting over x, y, or z. And, accept that the thing you want to get over happened. “Again, it doesn’t mean that you agree, or that you’re necessarily happy with the situation that occurred, but it means that you are accepting that these are the cards that you were dealt, and you can either be pissed about it or decide that you are going to play the best darn game that I can with them.”

How do you know when you may need a pro to help you talk through it? First, simple enough, if that is what comes to mind that you might need, well, then you probably should. But there are other I-could-cope-better red flags: “If you aren’t functioning the way that you used to; if the situation has affected your physical health, like you aren’t sleeping well; or you’re argumentative with friends or loved ones, then you should seek out a professional’s help,” says Lombardo. “Mourn the loss, but if negative behavior after is consistent, then seek out a professional to talk it out.”

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