Category Archives: Self-Improvement

How I’m learning how NOT to be a predator magnet!

Gaining the confidence and skills to discourage predators

Gaining the confidence and skills to discourage predators

So after I started recognizing all the qualities that were drawing abusive people, narcissists and con-artists towards me, I knew something needed to change! I was shy, a wallflower, non-assertive, lonely, and lacking self-esteem, but I think my two biggest issues were I had zero to no boundaries and I was kind of desperate. In fact, I didn’t start dating abusive men until my late 20’s. Before that, I’d dated all nice guys. What changed? I honestly think it was the biological clock issue. The guy I dated through most of my 20s was not the kind of person I wanted to marry. But, as I got closer to 30, I started panicking! Instead of waiting for a man who really fit my values and gave me time to get to know him, I fell for the charm and insistence of a man who turned out to be a narcissist. He wanted me to move in with him and get engaged pretty fast, and I went with it. I should have had some boundaries and given myself time to really know that person. I used to have a lot of strict dating rules, but I let go of them over the years. I have to admit, when I was more strict, (especially about sex early in the relationship,) I did not end up with jerks. Hmmm….

So this is where I need to learn about boundaries as well as learn to say “no” without guilt or explanation. How sad that it never occurred to me before that I could say “no” to people without feeling like I had done something wrong! I also realized it was okay to be a bit choosy. I don’t have to date whatever guy asks me out. I can say “no” and wait for someone who is a better match. (Duh!)

I started reading about boundaries, co-dependency, good relationships, self-esteem, success and more. Here are some of the things I learned could help me avoid being targeted by bullies and predators:

“No” is a complete sentence.

I don’t always have to defend myself or my choices. If you get caught up defending your valid life choices, the bully is going to back you in a corner demanding you explain yourself. Nope. I don’t need to explain a thing! Bullies want a reaction and they want you to keep talking. Sometimes, moving on without a word is the smartest response. Furthermore, engaging and defending yourself makes you seem weaker because you care too much about what others say rather than remaining confident in your own truth. The more you say, they more a bully can find to pick on.

I need to STOP telling people too much too soon. Bullies will take your insecurities and run with them! And the more you tell people, the more they have to work with when they want to mock, stalk or prey on you. People with poor boundaries violate their own privacy by giving away too much information which shows predators that they are easy targets.

I need to practice self-control. Instead of letting myself get caught up in romance, I need to limit myself and give myself time to think instead of rushing in. The romantic predator is hoping to overwhelm you and push you into a relationship to get you hooked before you know what is going on.

I need to beware of making hasty decisions–especially if someone is pushing me–and stop being afraid to ask questions.

I need to recognize my needs and desires and speak up for them. Predators want an easy target. If you start being a “pain” and asking for equal rights, they are probably going to move to someone less difficult to control. Plus, if I don’t know what I want, how am I going to meet the right people?

I need to stop being mousy and start being bold.

Those guidelines work with an emotional predator, but from a crime perspective, we are less likely to be targeted if we move with purpose and look around us to let the predators know we’ve seen them. This article has some really interesting information. For instance, studies show that the way we walk is hugely important to how predators choose us. It shows our confidence levels. To quote the article, “What distinguished the likely victims from the rest of the pedestrians was their posture, body language, pace, length of their stride, and overall awareness of their environment. Criminals judge a person’s level of self confidence by the style of their walk, such as a walk that lacks interactional synchrony, wholeness, organized movements, and a flowing motion. This signified to the perpetrators that the pedestrian lacks self confidence. On the other hand, those who walked fast and fluidly were less likely to be victimized.”

But this is the part that really surprised me: “Even though it is thought that women who dress provocatively are the most likely to be rape, studies show that women with passive, submissive personalities are more likely to get raped. These women tend to wear clothes that are concealing such as high neckline, long pants and long sleeves. This may sound ironic but, predatory men can identify submissive women by their style of dress.” Wow. If we dress like we are timid, even if we think we are covering up and protecting ourselves, it’s a signal to a rapist that we are actually more easy to prey upon!

I think all of these things come down to inner strength and confidence. If we have it, we project it. We trust ourselves, we value our own privacy and personal boundaries, we walk without fear, and we dress with confidence. Just small changes in the way we view our selves can show predators that maybe we aren’t such great targets after all.

I have been thinking a lot about how to protect myself emotionally, but the information about the importance of the way we walk has me thinking. Protecting yourself from predators isn’t just about setting guidelines in your mind. It’s about every part of you and the image you project physically and emotionally. Live like you matter. That’s something I never used to do.

Why do predators pick the people they pick? And why do they avoid other people?

Remember, the narcissist sees something of great value in you or they wouldn't be trying so hard to get it for themselves by smashing it out of you.

Remember, the narcissist sees something of great value in you or they wouldn’t be trying so hard to get it for themselves by smashing it out of you.

For most of my life, I have felt like a magnet for abusive people. I got taken advantage of more than I’d like. I was abused and neglected by my mom, abandoned by my dad, bullied by other students, mocked by my mother’s relatives. I got conned by a carpet cleaning company, charmed by a salesperson at a traveling renaissance show, cheated at a pawn shop, screwed over on a car repair. I married a narcissist, dated a con-artist, married a sociopath. I was sexually harassed by a “nice” old man who pretended to be my friend, actually…sexually harassed a lot from touching to lewd comments, stalked by a woman from a support forum, bullied by an aggressive co-worker, and more.

Every time, I said, okay, I must be weak. I am going to be stronger and smarter next time so I don’t get screwed again. And I’d go back to living only to have someone con me again or bully me when I tried to stand up for myself.

A few years ago, I posed the question in a group I was in: Why are some people prone to being victimized? One woman said she had never had been sexually harassed. Really? I have even had college professors say creepy things to me and ask how I am in the bedroom. Seriously. Some of my stronger female friends said that no man dared say things to them. But it happens to me a lot.

So, I decided to Google, how do bullies pick their victims? How do predators pick their prey? How do abusers pick their targets? Why are these jerks drawn to me?!

Here’s part of what I found:

They choose people with poor support systems–because there will be fewer people to help and advise the victim

For the same reason, they pick outsiders or people who are less popular–because there is less of a support system

They choose people with poor self-esteem, often people who have been abused before–because previous victims with low self-worth are more likely to think they “deserve” it

They choose people with poor boundaries–because people with poor boundaries are often afraid to say “no” or stand up for themselves

They choose people with passive body language–because they look submissive and non-confident in themselves and their surroundings. In fact, studies show that a known sociopath can pick out a previous victim from a crowd of people just based on body language.

They choose people who will react–when people react instead of ignoring, bullies get a rise out of their response

They choose people who speak out about injustices, broken laws or other bullying–because they don’t want to be called out

Bullies also aim for popular people who do well at their jobs or socially–because of jealousy

And bullies go for all ages! This page about toddlers shows some reasons that one kid will be bullied over another:

  • Anyone who’s different – whether that is their looks, weight, accent, clothing or interests. Disabilities make some children an easy target.
  • Those who are small or young – and not so able to defend themselves
  • Those who will react quickly – popular targets are children who get upset or cry easily
  • Kids who are not sporty or are poor performers at school
  • Anyone who is socially anxious or struggles with shyness

I was each and every one of those. Ouch! But I know it now. Yay! And that is a big part of why I started this site to document all the things I read and learn on my journey to escape being a target.

Now bullies are one thing, but physical predators are another. A predator with a mental illness knows who to go for. This article states, “Psychologists have known for years that human predators select their prey based on signals given off by their potential victims. In a matter of seconds, the predator acquires a sense of who is and isn’t a suitable target. For every victim that is attacked, many more are past [sic] over. What are the criteria that predators use to select their victims? I’ll tell you.” The same article goes on to explain the details of The Grayson/Stein study done with violent convicts. They showed the predators videos of people and asked who would make a good victim, and the predators independently picked the same people! The researchers concluded that the potential victims walked differently–as though they were less confident with themselves and less aware of their surroundings.

In romantic relationships, abusers look for all of the above listed qualities, but narcissists in particular also look for people they can leach off of. They want someone attractive, desirable…a prize to show off. They want someone loving and sweet that they can take advantage of. They want someone popular who can boost their own social standing. They want people who have good qualities that they don’t have.

Basically, bullies, predators, abusers and jerks are looking for someone who has what they want and someone who will be easy to overcome. Studies show that people who have been victimized once are more likely to be victimized again. Once you’ve been abused, you gain traits and qualities that you might not be aware of…but the predator is!

Look at these crime statistics:

“One of the best predictors of future victimization is past victimization.”

4% of victims endure 44% of crimes

Compared to women with no history of assault, odds of a new assault double for a woman who has been assaulted once, quadrupled after two assaults and were TEN times more likely after 3 or more previous attacks. Statistics are even worse for people who were sexually abused–especially as children.

So if you feel like you are being victimized again and again, you probably are. You might have the body language or personality traits predators are drawn to. You might seem vulnerable without a support system. Normal people wouldn’t seek you out, but predators are far more aware of you than you are of them.

Next up…learning how NOT to be the target anymore!

You as YOU make you–the Kardashians and the power of transformation

You as you make you

You as you make you

Like many of us, I know much more about the Kardashians than I would like to know. I see posts about them in my Facebook newsfeed, and they look so outrageous, I end up looking at the articles. What strikes me most, is they must have to wear huge amounts of make-up and spend huge amounts of time to look like the characters they play. Personally, I’d rather be doing more interesting things, but what I find intriguing is that they completely transform themselves into different people in order to play a part and create income. They prove that you can be as YOU make you.

Kylie Jenner before and after from thegloss.com

Kylie Jenner before and after from thegloss.com

In older photos, they look like typical teenaged girls, but in recent photos, even the “baby” of the family is different. Yes, a lot of this is due to plastic surgery, butt injections, lip injections, and who knows what else, but some of it is just careful make-up and strategic eyebrow waxing. I write a lot about transforming one’s attitude and mind, but what about your body? It’s how actual stars and faux stars make a living. Arched eyebrows, plumped lips, contoured cheek bones, glossy hair extensions, long false eye-lashes…. and several hours later, a Kardashian goes from typical female to cartoon character.

Kim Kardashian before and after from Hollywoodlife.com

Kim Kardashian before and after from Hollywoodlife.com

I’m no fan, but I do realize that this family of women, who haven’t actually done any form of work, have created a multi-million dollar empire simply by transforming and selling themselves. What does that say for us? It says we all have the capability of doing the same. These women are just as naturally pretty as the rest of us. In older photos, you can see that none of them were glamorous. Cute or pretty, yes, but not bombshells. And I’ll bet now, underneath the make-up/masks, they look very different. They are a public example that, if we wanted to transform our bodies and create new selves, it wouldn’t be out of reach. Yes the procedures would be pricey, but just the make-up and working out can go a long way.

Marilyn Monroe before and after from celebrityplasticsurgeryxp.com

Marilyn Monroe before and after from celebrityplasticsurgeryxp.com

Look at other transformed women like Norma Jean…I mean Marilyn Monroe. She went from normal girl to bombshell–just by remaking herself and creating an image. She just made herself into this new, bigger-than-life creature that was so different from her original self. You can look at old photos of many actresses and see how very typical they looked before they physically made themselves into the women they wanted to be. Many success authors speak of creating an image for yourself–a brand that you can sell–and these women take it to the extreme. But, they also demonstrate the selling power of transformation and creating an image. It’s something to think of. Perhaps there is something you can learn from the Kardashians 😉

Reputations and learning from people with good, (or bad,) reputations

So I’m reading this book again:
Click here to purchase 365 Ways to Become a Millionaire: (Without Being Born One)

I am still not a millionaire! But, I keep the book by my bed and I read through a little bit every few nights. Last night, I found a tip that really resonated with me. Number 102 says “If you want to see how powerful a reputation is, write down the reputations of several people you know personally. It will become clear why people either are attracted to them or avoid them.”

This is part of the chapter about building and protecting your reputation because it is the most important part of your career or business. I thought I’d like to take this one step further. I want to make a list of what is good and bad about those people’s or companies’ reputations, and learn lessons from them. Why is one person well-liked and another despised? Why is one person successful while the other one is stuck in a dead-end job. I know from experience that working hard is not necessarily the key to being promoted. There is more to it and I want to do what the successful people are doing and learn from them!

Learning about resilience, class and determination from…Legally Blonde


Click here to purchase Legally Blonde

This one is another non-book review. I am in the middle of reading a bunch of interesting books right now, so I’ve been slacking on the reviews; however, it hit me today that I wanted to blog about the merits of this movie!

I discovered this movie on accident a few years ago when it was on TV and I was flipping through the channels. It starts out so silly that I sat there mesmerized and wondering what the heck this was! It is true that on the surface, this initially appears to be a very silly movie about a silly rich girl. I think that’s why I had never bothered to pay attention to it when it was new. But for whatever reason, I caught it on TV one day and kept watching it.

This is actually a really good movie! It’s not a classic or anything, but as I watched it, I was very impressed with the character of Elle Woods. Yes, she seems to be a shallow girl with shallow interests, but if you keep watching, you see that she is loving and loyal and she cares about the people around her. She’s cheerful and upbeat and, she just happens to be blessed with good looks and a great figure, too. But it’s her character qualities that stood out to me. She is the kind of person that we should aim to be more like.

Why? Well, I already mentioned she is loyal and caring, but she’s also determined. She comes up with a goal and she works and works until she succeeds. She doesn’t give up despite the roadblocks. This is a great quality to have! Imagine how much we could all achieve if we pushed and didn’t give up? Good for her!

Next, not only is she cheerful, but she remains even-mannered and polite to the people who hurt her. In the first movie, there is a group of girls that has decided she is just too stupid and blonde to be part of their circle. They treat her poorly and make sure to exclude her and embarrass her. What does she do? She doesn’t sink to their level. She feels hurt, but she puts on her smile and carries on. Again, a great attitude! By refusing to be mean back and by maintaining her thoughtful behavior, she wins their friendship, but more importantly, she shows that she is the bigger person.

Throughout both movies, she continues as a cheerful, determined woman who hits setbacks, but doesn’t let them drag her down, who meets enemies but doesn’t retaliate against them, who refuses to expose her friends’ secrets, and who remembers who her friends are. Hiding underneath this chick flick are some really good life lessons.
I enjoy watching this movie, because I think in many ways Elle Woods is a great role model. (Yes, I did say that!) I always come away smiling, and feeling good and empowered about my future. While I wouldn’t want to be exactly like her, I think we can learn something from her character’s kindness and her determination to succeed–not just how to act, but how to treat others.


Also, I didn’t know this, but there are books too! I found it while I was getting a link for the movie. I have no idea if they are good or not, but they sound fun! I even found a Barbie! Too cute 🙂

Choose your friends wisely–make sure they build you up!

 

Your friends are a big influence on you. Choose them wisely!

Your friends are a big influence on you.
Choose them wisely!

I’ve always heard sayings like “choose your friends wisely” or “your friends are a reflection of you.” For the most part, I never really thought about them, but the other day, I saw a situation that helped me realize how important it is to choose friends who help you become a better person rather than friends who drag you down or get you into trouble.

I remember when I was in high-school, I was a goody two-shoes–very quiet and a hard worker, and I never got into trouble. My best friend was a bit of the opposite. At times, when she would get in trouble at school or work, people who didn’t know me would assume maybe I was like her. It almost ruined an after school job for me when she got fired and I was still working for the same company. Our boss assumed I might be a trouble maker as well and started treating me like I was.

Recently, I was friendly with a group of people who shared a common interest in one area, but were very different people in other areas. A couple of them I was really starting to like and was becoming friends with. A couple of them I did not like at all because I found them to be mean. I had a pretty good opinion of one woman in particular because she seemed smart, tactful, and reasonable. Over time, I saw her behaving more and more like one of the meanies in the group as she started joining in their increasing bullying of other members of the group. My opinion of her plummeted and I decided this was not the type of person I wanted to be friends with. I want my life to improve and I don’t think that can happen if I’m hanging out with an adult bully!

Now this lady is probably normally a very nice lady just as I had originally thought, but she was taking on the mean behaviors of another person and sliding backwards in life. As I watched this, (and heard others express similar disappointment in her change,) I realized just how much it matters who you choose as your friends. Not only might you look bad when people associate you with them, but you might starting following their bad influence. These weren’t kids–they were middle-aged adults! Let’s strive to be better people and beware of those who would drag us down. Positive influences only!

Backsliding while learning to have boundaries

Dating checklist: 1. Don't be desperate 2. Don't settle 3. Don't hang on too long to something that's pointless

Dating checklist:
1. Don’t be desperate
2. Don’t settle
3. Don’t hang on too long to something that’s pointless

Boy have I done some dumb things lately, but I learned a lot too. I like that I was able to at least realize I was making bad decisions, even though I don’t have willpower to avoid them yet. Knowing and backing out are good first steps! And I’m moving forward. So here’s what I did:

First of all. I’m single. I have been in relationships most of my life since I was 19, so I’m not a fan of being single. I have been alone for two years since I kicked an abuser out of my life and I’m ready to not be alone. I want cuddles and friendship and later more, but I’m also very busy and don’t get out much. So when someone shows interest, I respond. I’ve met a couple people I was very interested in this year, but things just fizzled out. Most recently, someone I would not normally be interested in contacted me online and we started sending long messages. That was fun! I love being able to have long conversations and get really excited about them and I haven’t had that in too long. (In fact, I very much regret losing someone really wonderful, with whom I could talk until dawn and still be energized, due to bad timing a few years ago.) The person I was e-mailing with expressed gladness about our messages and what began as my only replying to be nice led to my being interested…because the other person expressed interest first. FIRST mistake! I should be interested in people because I am interested–not because I’m desperate for anyone to notice me!

It turned out that the person and I had some differences that should have been deal breakers, and I could tell he realized that and started backing off. But, I was so happy to have someone to talk with again, that I insisted the differences didn’t need to be a problem, even though if I were honest with myself, they were. SECOND mistake! I kind of convinced this person that we should continue pursuing whatever possibility there might be, but things never were the same. We went from fun long messages to small talk and finally flirting. I went from being the educated woman with all kinds of intellectual interests to the ditz who threw out some sexy talk to keep someone pseudo-interested. And I knew it! THIRD mistake!

I could tell this person wasn’t really engaging in conversation and I wasn’t really setting myself up as a valuable lady anymore. I’d start stupid little chats when I was bored and sometimes realized that he was barely answering. So I kept trying. FOURTH mistake! Oh, but he sure noticed during late nights when the chats got a bit steamy. Then he paid attention. And even though that is totally not who I am with virtual strangers, I had fun with it. FIFTH mistake!

This person was totally nice but he’s still a male and even though I knew in my head that he wasn’t really into me, I was bored/lonely/whatever enough to keep flirting and being my normally optimistic self. And of course that will keep a man “interested” on a superficial level. SIXTH mistake!

I told this person if we were going to pursue things, I’d like to move to phone calls and meet soon, but I had to nag him for a call. SEVENTH mistake! And there wasn’t much chemistry during the call, (although I’m shy, so that might be understandable.) When I hung up, I thought “ughh!” that was NOT what I want. (And it wasn’t like the guy I missed out on some years ago.) And I still kept trying! EIGHTH mistake! Guess what? Just because there is some interest at first, doesn’t mean you have to pathetically chase it when it’s clearly dissolving! And yet I did.

As things got out of hand, I realized this was not the real me, or how I wanted to be seen or what I really wanted. I realized I was making myself the easy go-to girl while this person was clearly dating people he respected more because they weren’t making fools of themselves. What was I thinking?! I know better than this! I prod my girlfriends when they do dumb things like this…and yet I did it. The authors of The Rules would be shaking their heads at me. The authors of He’s Just Not That Into You would write a chapter about me. And I know these books to be fully accurate and I usually trust them. But I was silly this time despite knowing the truth.

And you know what else I did? I passed up two dates with men who would be good choices for me…because I was talking to this guy. One of the guys I turned down was a great match and very enthusiastic about meeting me and THAT is what I really want. I’ve lost count of how many mistakes I made!

While I was going through this dumb phase, I knew I was doing everything all wrong. Quite frankly, I once broke up with an ex-boyfriend who was short, overweight and balding because I couldn’t feel attraction, and yet this person had the same qualities, (although to be fair, this guy wears it well.) So I made a list of what I really want and tried to remind myself that this person was not going to turn into what I really wanted, and even though I’m very broad-minded, he clearly was not that into me.

And, as soon as I pulled back from getting steamy in chat and said I couldn’t sleep with him…guess who lost ALL interest and got a bit mad at me? Yep. I had a feeling that was all he wanted–especially since our chats were mostly at night and he always turned them that direction. GAZZIOLLIONTH mistake!

So what have I learned? (Or re-learned?) Oh so much! But here are a few things:

First of all, I will always be open-minded to imperfection, but the spark has to be there–as well as genuine, enthusiastic interest on both sides that doesn’t require me to dumb myself down or do some chasing. Don’t be desperate. Don’t settle. Don’t hang on too long to something that’s pointless. I’ve been in good relationships and the real thing doesn’t leave you constantly wondering if the other person is interested–this whatever-it-was left me in that state, and try as I might, I wasn’t fooling myself. (But I did make a fool out of myself!)

So, I realize I have so much more to learn about respecting myself, valuing myself and letting others value the real me, expecting and getting respect, maintaining boundaries and more. But, I’m open to that and I’m refreshed in my desire to constantly improve!

Always be true to yourself because back-stabbing yourself hurts worse than when others do it

Always be true to yourself and your values

Always be true to yourself and your values

I literally feel sick to my stomach right now, because I realize I have completely disrespected myself, my boundaries, what I feel is right, and my integrity. I put a low value on myself and behaved in a manner that is not in keeping with what I really feel or want in the long term, and I betrayed myself for the thrill of short term fun. Fortunately, no real damage was done, but I realized in my desire to find a relationship, I rushed ahead too much instead of respecting myself and showing the other person how to respect me as well. (In case this is cryptic, I’ll avoid gossip by stating that no one-night-stands were involved. That’s really, really not for me!) I acted like a real ditz and a bimbo, and didn’t really show the real me or the way I want people to see me. I think I basically set myself up to be someone’s fling by being too “easy” instead of looking for a guy who wants more than flirting. There’s every chance that said guy might want a relationship, but I have acted like a plaything instead of a respectable woman, which destroys any opportunity for the kind of relationship I want. What the heck was I thinking? I am experiencing dissonance between my actions and the real me, and it feels terrible.

The playfulness and flirtiness are definitely part of my nature, but I usually reserve them for relationships–not as ways to get someone who probably isn’t truly interested in ME to be a bit interested for a while. I feel like I acted like a peacock to get temporary attention when I really want a dedicated partner.

So what have I learned? Be true to yourself. If you are a smart girl, don’t try to be flirty for fear that a male will lose attention if you aren’t! He might find you amusing for a while, but you know who he’s going to keep seeing? The woman who respected herself all along, the woman who expected typical dating courtesy, the woman who wasn’t desperate. I’ve learned a lot and I’ve documented a lot of it in this blog, but clearly I have more to learn.

“Should have” is the most useless phrase in the world

"Should have" is the most useless phrase in the world

“Should have” is the most useless phrase in the world

We’ve all made mistakes–sometimes horrible choices that screw up our lives for months or years to come. We often confide in other people and try to find a way to clean up the mess. The absolute least helpful thing you or anyone can do is focus on what you did wrong and talk about what you what you “should have” done. What are you supposed to do? Get in your time machine and go back to make the right decision? No! You can’t do that. So what’s the point of beating yourself or others up about what “should have” happened? It’s a waste of time. It also causes you to get stuck in the past when what you really need to do is move into the present and think about the future…and how you can correct the problem. So next time you find yourself worrying about what you “should have” said or done, stop right there and move on to what you are going to do next instead. It’s the only way to keep moving forward!

Don’t let others tell you what you should have done…ask them what happens next instead.

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