Category Archives for "Growing Up"

How to build self-esteem when you’re not as attractive as your friends

Tyna asks: Could you talk to me about self-esteem? You talked about dressing well, etc…. Unfortunately, I don’t even feel like I love myself that much. (I tried to harm myself). I always feel like nothing I wear will look good anyway, as I am not that slim. People seem to prefer slim People, which am not. When I am moving around with my friends, it’s them people will notice, and my head goes back to, “Maybe you are ugly or maybe you look fatter than all of them, and therefore are unattractive.” I don’t know what to do Shirelle.

Hi Tyna 


My biggest wish for you is that you realize how normal your feelings are.  MOST people feel inferior a lot, and almost ALL people have trouble about their appearance.  Of course, there are degrees of these things, and if your anxiety is truly overwhelming you, I very much recommend you find a good psychotherapist to help you with it (they are really good at anxiety, and can probably get you feeling at least somewhat better within a few weeks).

Everybody is worse at some things than most people.  Most people aren’t the very best at anything.  This is absolutely fine, and does not cast any bad light on anyone’s worth.  I will never be as fast as a greyhound, as big as a Great Dane, or as smart as Lassie.  Big deal!  I know I’ve got some worth (at least to you – you didn’t write that annoying collie, did you!  You wrote ME!).  And I especially know that I have worth to my dearest friends.  They don’t want a smarter or stronger or prettier dog – they love ME.

So you’re feeling inferior.  Well, look at the two of us.  I can almost certainly run faster than you.  I’m very sure I can bite harder and bigger than you can!  But you can probably talk.  You can probably grab things with your hand.  You probably can do math.  You can probably sing.  Well I can’t do any of those – so who’s the inferior one here?!

But you don’t need me to put down your sense of inferiority – if you liked and respected it, you would never have written that letter to me.  What you want is to move past it.  And the best technique I’ve ever heard for that is to 

master something.  Lots of people never master anything, so they don’t really realize how much they can do!  So is there something that you love?  Do you love music, or art, or building things?  Could you take a class, and learn to play the violin, or make beautiful pots, or rebuild a car engine?  Just the act of doing one of those things will make you feel immensely better about yourself.  And doing it to the degree of mastery?  Oh Tyna, you won’t believe how good you’ll feel about yourself!  Like the day I caught a squirrel and brought it in and dropped it at Handsome’s feet as he was climbing out of the shower!  I felt so great!  (It was funny, his reaction wasn’t exactly what I expected though – something more like, um, terror!).

The other thing I really recommend is to try to catch yourself when you say things that put yourself down.  When you walk into a room of strangers, do you tell yourself “No one here wants to know me, I’m unwantable?”  Well, that would be a really good thing to talk yourself out of.  How about replacing it with “I don’t know anyone here, but if I’m friendly, probably someone here will like talking with me.”  It’s not huge confidence, but it’s the truth, right?  And your believing that will make you more attractive!  I know that sounds weird, but it’s true!  

So you say slim people are more attractive than you.  Maybe one thing you could master would be losing a little weight?  Sure, maybe you’ll never be as skinny as Taylor Swift, but, again, the better you feel about yourself, the better you’ll look to others.

Speaking of singers, I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of publicity about the great singer Aretha Franklin, who passed away recently.  She battled weight issues her whole life, and was famously deeply shy, but was one of the most sought-after and beloved humans of the last century.  Why? Because she had such mastery over her art, and showed such joy in doing it.

Again, my friend, I’m not going to tell you this is all easy.  But the better you can feel about how you treat yourself (AND PLEASE, WRITE ME BEFORE YOU CONSIDER CUTTING AGAIN!  I have a few questions about that on my website, and desperately want to help you not fall into that behavior ever again!), the better you’ll come off to others, and the more attractive you’ll be.


Great!  Good Luck, and I hope to hear back from you soon,


What to do when you’re only attracting bad people

Tyna asks: I just feel awfully worthless. I recently broke up with my online boyfriend just because I couldn’t get myself to send him nudes. I tried to explain to him that I wasn’t comfortable with it. I hoped he would understand, but it turns out I was wrong. It somehow hurts. Actually it does hurt. Because he is not the first guy who has shown very little interest in me as a person. I feel horrible. Most guys that come into my life see me as a sex thing I guess. They talk about one or two things and the rest is about sex. All my friends have boyfriends who are committed to them. It hurts me because I don’t have one at this age. (22) when they receive phone calls from their boyfriends, I can’t help but admire them. I keep wondering how it feels to have someone who cares about you and checks on you from time to time, someone you can share everything with. I don’t know what to do. I feel demotivated to do anything. I just feel like no matter what I do, no one will appreciate me or notice me anyway.

Hi Tyna –


Ouch!  This letter hurts to read!  On a few counts!


So first I want to talk about him.  Obviously, I have nothing against online connections – you and I have one, after all!  But our relationship is very open.  I’ve offered to give you advice, you wrote me, and I’m writing you back.  That’s all fine.  But if I wrote you now and said “Send me a photo of your family,” I’d hope you’d be very weirded out!  “What is this dog doing?  Why does she want my family photo?  Something’s weird here!”


Similarly, if you met someone online, and they say they want to meet in person, then okay, I’m all for it (as long as you do it in a way where you know you’re safe).  Or if they ask for a photo, just to see what you look like.  But he’s asking for nudes.  That’s not what you showed up for.  (And certainly no one has any trouble finding photos of naked people online; even Vladimir Putin can be seen wearing hardly anything!).  No, he’s asking you to do something you’re very uncomfortable with, and I’m VERY VERY VERY VERY glad you said no!


You did the right thing.  Now if he asked if you’d be up for that and you said no, and he said, “Okay, sorry if I offended, I was just wondering,” and went right back to being the guy he’d been before, I’d say “fine, big deal.”  It’d be like when my human Handsome is cooking food and I come by asking for some and he says no, for whatever reason.  He shouldn’t be angry at me for asking, but I should also accept his answer (well… after trying a little!).


But second, what really hurts here is that this guy’s behavior adds to your experience of not being wanted for yourself.  And sure, it hurts to see your friends in relationships, I get that.  It’s like when I was in the pound, seeing other dogs get bought by people while I was left there to just sit in a cage… and eventually, maybe, far worse.


Now I wish I could tell you exactly how to find that great boyfriend, and get into a healthy relationship.  And I can’t.  But I can tell you one thing – getting Continue reading

What to do when your boyfriend or girlfriend chooses their family over you

Shirley_av asks: My boyfriend’s family came to know everything about our relationship and gave him a choice to choose between family and love, and so he chose his family over love, and her mother made him promise not to talk to me. But I want to save my relationship. What can I do?

Hi Shirley_av –


I wish I had a great, clever answer for you, but we pups are just not that smart.  I can certainly relate to the feeling you’re having – it feels like every time I’m locked in a cage.  Whether at the pound, or at a veterinarian’s hospital, or a groomer’s.  I hate being locked up, and even go a little crazy to get out, but of course the cages are built for dogs to not be able to leave.  So I’m stuck.  For what seems like forever.  And it’s living hell.


My friend, if your boyfriend were forced against his will to not see you, I’d say there’s a chance.  Then it’d be a Romeo and Juliet sort of situation.  But he was offered a choice, and made it.


And so my best advice is to move on.  And I know that’s devastatingly hard.


I’m not saying you should expect to feel good about it, or that your bad feelings will end soon.  They might take weeks, or months, or longer.  But if you can do whatever you can to move forward in your life, and into a new chapter, one of two things will happen.


First, he Continue reading

Should one stay in a relationship with someone of a different religion

roshini asks: My boyfriend is a male chauvinist; he never understands my feelings and perspectives. I don’t like breaking relationships and so I thought to adjust with him, but later on I couldn’t, and we had lots of fights. He has trust issues with me. He is afraid to marry me since we are from different religions. Now I need to decide what to do – to be in this kind of relationship or to leave him!

Hi roshini –


Have you ever heard of John Gray?  He wrote a famous book called Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, and a number of sequels to it.  At one point, he wrote about the question of whether couples should share interests, or have an “opposites attract” dynamic.


His answer was that it doesn’t matter.  That it can be delightful when both of you like horror movies or football, and it can be fun when you disagree about lots of things.  But, he argued, what matters is that the partners share Values.  Core moral values.  Especially if they’re thinking of having and raising children.


So she loves reading sappy romantic novels while he plays violent first-person-shooter video games?  That can be okay, if they agree about those big issues – like religion in their lives, or whether it’s okay to commit crimes.  Or the roles of men and women.


That last one is a big one.  Because you can disagree about politics and just avoid discussing how you vote, but your beliefs about a woman’s place is in a home will show up every hour!


So you can probably see where I’m going with this.  I have no idea how old you are.  If you’re thirteen and want to have someone to go to the school dance with, then all I care about is Continue reading

Is death the answer to the painfulness of life?

PERFECTION asks: Shirelle, is death the answer to all problems and sadness in life? I’ve always wanted to shut myself off to the world. I’m in pain for far too long and I think that’ll be the only way to maybe at least get over the pain.



Quick answer to your question:  No.


Absolutely not, no way, impossible, forget it.


Now, now that I’ve said that, let me make one exception.  If you had a terminal disease, and were in constant awful pain, and only had a short time to live, it’s possible that I could agree that the best thing would be for you, in a way agreeable to your loved ones (and of course, only if in accordance with your religious/moral beliefs), to end your life sooner.  After all, that’s what you guys do with dogs, cats, horses, and so on, and that’s an act of love and kindness.


But if you’re young and healthy, the fact is that anything you did to end your life would cause more pain than you’ve ever experienced.  To more people than you even realize.


You see, when a person feels good about life, they feel some of the connection to everyone that we dogs feel all the time.  You open a door for a person you see needing it, you smile at little children because they make you smile, you see a car in a big hurry and let them cut in front of you.


But when a person feels depressed, empty, hopeless, or sad, they tend to feel completely disconnected.  Like no one sees them, no one cares about them, and they don’t care about anyone else.


The fact, PERFECTION, is that you are more connected to more people than you can begin to realize.


What would it do to you to find out that your neighbor killed himself?  Would you wonder if you could have done something to prevent it?  Even wonder if you were responsible in some way?


And what if that were your uncle?  Or your parent?  Or your brother or sister?


Or your own child?


I don’t know a lot about your life, PERFECTION (only that you ask great questions!), but I’m betting you have a Continue reading

How to ask someone to be your boyfriend or girlfriend

Outcast asks: I chickened out on asking the girl I like to be my girlfriend. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I just need an idea on how to tell her. Do you have any idea I can use?

Hi Outcast –



I hardly ever disagree with things people say when they ask me questions, but in your case I’m inclined to.  You say you “chickened out,” and that there’s something wrong with you.  But from what you’ve written me before, it sounds like there were lots of reasons to suspect that she’s not ready for a relationship yet, and would reject you.


Now yes, I did encourage you to go ahead and try if you wanted to.  And I would have loved you doing that.  But as it is, I wonder if you actually had a smarter voice than me, that little voice inside your head, that read her correctly.  And said “Don’t do it, Outcast.  At least, don’t do it now.  Let her grow, and let your relationship grow.  And see where that goes.”


I’m a big fan of instinct, and live much of my life by trusting mine.  And I find one huge mistake humans make is to not listen to theirs, and instead trust some idea they’ve been told.


So I’m not going to call you chicken, or say something’s wrong with you.  Instead, I’m going to say you are smart, instinctual, and sensitive to her feelings.


But NOW, with all that going for you, what can we do to win her over?!


Well, you’ve told me she’s been hurt before in a relationship.  One easy thing is to Continue reading

How to live up to a crush you see as perfect

PERFECTION asks: I kinda have a crush on my friend. She’s actually the kind of girl that’s very responsible, intelligent, good, and I could even say she’s PERFECT and I was thinking, If I’m going to pursue her, shouldn’t I be just like her?



You know, PERFECTION, perfection is an interesting thing. There is such a thing as perfection in mathematics, in physics, even in chemistry. But I think it ends there.


After that, what we call “perfection” is actually subjective. Some people say they hear perfection in the cleanliness of a Mozart sonata; others might hear it in the messiness of a jazz improve or a hard rock jam. Some see perfection in a simple elegant church tower, others in that wild Frank Gehry museum in Bilbao.


And when it comes to other living beings, it’s completely subjective. The woman you call perfect will be, to another person’s eyes, uptight and boring. And the person they call perfect might be, to your eyes, troublesome and irritating. People often say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Well I promise you, perfection is too.


And in the easiest example I can give, my human Handsome is very open about it: he thinks little children are perfect, he thinks animals are perfect, but he thinks the greatest example he’s ever seen of what he calls “Superhuman Perfection” is… me.


Now no one knows my flaws better than he does. He cleans up my shedding hairs, he has scars from my biting him and tripping him as a puppy, he has weakened hearing from my barking in his ears, and he’s the one who cleans my poop up in the yard.


And yet, still, he says I’m perfect.


Meanwhile, I know his flaws. I’ve seen him make horrible mistakes in his life, I’ve been in the car when he lost control and crashed it, and I can’t tell you how many times he’s accidentally stepped on my tail. But still, I see him as perfect too.


You see, when we really love something or someone, it’s perfect. Because you’re seeing past any imperfections and appreciating what is. Do you know what “continuity errors” are in movies? Where there’s a mistake that means one shot doesn’t fit with another? (Like let’s say someone’s in the same scene but wearing a different shirt in different shots – though it’s usually a lot subtler than that). Handsome will gladly point out those errors in his favorite movies. But then he’ll tell you he wouldn’t change a thing – they’re just part of the perfection.


What’s imperfect about a flower? A mouse? A cloud? It can’t be imperfect, it just is itself.


So this girl – you say she’s intelligent, responsible, and good. And you’re thinking you want to be just like her? Well, I’d say that what you really are experiencing is Continue reading

How to help teens whose parent won’t let them date

ChilliPepper asks: My son (17) has fallen in love with a beautiful young lady (also 17). She seems to be going through depression because of circumstances at home. Now her mom has forbidden her from seeing my son. This is breaking her heart as well as my son’s heart. My son is the only reliable solid in her life at the moment. She wants to run away from home and has even considered suicide. I don’t know what to say to my son to comfort him or what to do to help her.

Hi ChilliPepper –



What a terrifying situation! For all of you!


I’ll be honest with you – I don’t think there’s a perfect answer to this. I imagine you and your son would get into trouble for helping her run away, and her suicidal feelings make it dangerous for her to stay home.


But I do know what I can recommend. And I’ll warn you, it’s very very hard.


I’d suggest you Continue reading

What to do when you realize your relationship is over

Deadpool asks: I was in a kind of relationship with this girl, though we never labelled it. We both said we love each other, the first 2-3 months gave me the best feeling in the world; however after that it has not been good. When you are into a person so much you might not realize small changes in them, but I surely know things are not the same. We text each other just as a formality now; tired of all this I left the particular social media on which we were talking without telling her, and she didn’t even call or text me to know why. I don’t know why there are these changes when nothing bad happened between us. I always try to make her happy. I don’t know what to do.

Hi Deadpool –



I have some very sad news for you.


Do you ever watch those medical TV shows, where a surgeon is trying desperately to save someone’s life, and their heart has stopped but the surgeon keeps madly pressing on it over and over, screaming to the other doctors that there’s still a chance, but that computer behind them shows that there’s no heartbeat, that the pulse is just a flat line going across, emitting a cruel steady beep?


It sounds to me like this relationship of yours has flatlined.


That doesn’t mean it was bad or wrong, or that there’s anything wrong with you or your girlfriend.  It just means it’s Continue reading

How to handle parents unable to accept romance between races AND What to do when someone treats you differently after drinking

Marina asks: I am going through something. It’s so stupid but I don’t know what to do. For about a year me and this guy had something going on. We never made a move because he is black and I’m white and my parents would freak out. We kind of moved on and he has a girlfriend now. We still talk a lot, because we just have this connection. Always making awkward eye contact. Two weeks ago we were both drunk and we kissed. I realized I didn’t care what my parents thought and that I wanted to be with him. Long story short, he said we could be together but just keep it quiet until he sorts things out with his girl. Last night I drunk dialed him and asked him like what now? Like it’s been two weeks? He just said “we can talk tomorrow”. But I haven’t heard a word. I feel hurt and yeah I don’t know what to do?

Hi Marina –



Well there are two stories here, two very different stories!


The first one, about you and a man of a different race getting attracted to each other, but holding off because of your families, is of course as old as storytelling.  Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner… these stories of love beyond boundaries will live as long as people insist on believing in their differences.  (For what it’s worth, I don’t know my parents, but I am a mutt, so I certainly have nothing against interracial romance!)


In this day, parents getting upset about racial differences feels a bit silly.  Handsome loves to tell about a cousin of his in Kansas, as pink-white and Germanic-looking as any woman has ever been, who had a child with a man of full-African background.  Her grandmother was very upset, fearing that no one would accept the child socially.  But all this was happening during an election in which the child of a white woman from Kansas and a black man from Africa was being elected as the President of their country!!!  (Needless to say, that little girl has grown up just fine, and even been a magazine cover-model!)


So if things were to work out between you and this guy, my advice would be to treat your parents with loving patience, but slowly pull them into the 21st Century, and accept that these differences just don’t meant what they once did.


But then there’s the second story:  What the Heck!  I hate to say it, but it sounds like this guy’s one of those humans who’s a different person when he’s drinking.  There’s a great old movie called City Lights about a poor tramp who befriends a millionaire with a drinking problem; whenever the millionaire is drunk, he sees the tramp as his best friend and welcomes him into his home, but once he’s sober, he forgets he knows him and kicks him to the street – and this repeats over and over.


Now I might be wrong; maybe there’s something else happening with this guy.  But if I’m right, and anything does move forward with you two, I have some very strong advice: either get him to stop drinking, or never again believe what he says when he’s intoxicated.  Some people are extra-friendly when they’ve had a few; some people are mean; this fellow sounds like he’s not dangerous, but just untrustworthy.


Or to put it a different way, we all know it’s bad to let your friends drive a car when they’ve been drinking, right?  Well, let’s say this guy shouldn’t drive a relationship in that condition either!


I’d love to hear where this goes.  But for now, my only advice is to sit back and see what happens.  You’ve done everything right so far.  It’s now all up to him.


Thanks again!



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