Most people are afraid of success to some degree, if not only for themselves, but for those around them. Whether they realize it or not, they’re rooting for others to fail.
The people who do the most criticizing, taunting, judging, and trolling are the ones who are the most terrified. They’re usually the ones who have done the least and have tried the least. And their way of dealing with it is trying to bring you down with them.
It’s time that you stopped listening to the people who know the least, but yell the loudest.
Life is hard enough as it is. You’re unsure about yourself to begin with, having to navigate a job and friends and being an adult and paying your bills and everything in between. You are in a strange stage in your life and you often feel like you have no clue what you’re doing. Like there’s no solid ground to stand on right now, and very few things that you can say you’re certain about.
So on top of all the things you’re already worried about, why add trolls to the list? Why bother with their opinions? Have they done something worthwhile with their lives? Have they mentored you or taught you something? Probably not.
Trolls can be anyone, anywhere. They’re not limited to the internet. They can be friends, enemies, co-workers, even family members. And a lot of the time, they’re disguised as someone else – as someone who “just wants the best for you” or someone who “doesn’t want to see you get hurt.” There’s another way to say this: they don’t believe in you. They don’t think you can do it. They don’t want you to do it. They want you to sit back and play it safe, with them. They don’t want you getting up and doing things and leaving them in the dust.
It’s not like you’re the only one that is scared. Every person who’s ever done anything worthwhile has been scared at some point. But they did it anyways, because they were more focused on accomplishing their dream than they were on what other people might think of them if they failed.
What if Oprah had believed that she wasn’t talented enough to have her own talk show one day? What if J.K. Rowling had listened to the people that told her that she would never publish a book? What if Hilary Duff had decided that collaborating on a Disney-produced Christmas song with Lil’ Bow Wow in 2002 was a bad idea? One of those three examples was a joke, but I won’t be clarifying anything further.
The point is, you’re going to be scared your entire life. You’re going to be uncomfortable. That’s how it should be. If you reach a point where you’re completely comfortable and nothing scares you ever again, it means you’ve given up. Life should be about putting yourself out there and pushing yourself to limits that you didn’t think were possible.
This is not to say that you should always walk around being petrified and uncertain. It just means that if you don’t open yourself up to the potential of failure, you’re never going to get anywhere. You’re never going to grow.
For a long time, I was terrified of publishing my writing. Because writing is where trolls flourish. They can hide from behind a computer screen and make judgments about what you have to say, without ever having produced anything themselves. It’s terrifying to write your thoughts down and then lay them out, without defense, for the world to read and pick apart. But it also makes you feel the blood in your veins again.
Putting yourself out there makes you feel awake in a way that hiding from the world never could. Plus, if I hadn’t decided to start sharing my writing, I would have never received an email from my Grandmom that said “Good job on the article you wrote for the internet.” That’s a gem of a Grandma-sentence right there, and it was worth all the trolls in the world.
Each minute that you spend questioning yourself, the trolls are winning. The longer you’re afraid to try, the stronger they get. You’re never going to be able to completely shut them out, but you can keep them at bay enough to start trying.
And as long as you are trying, the trolls will lose.
One of the most common misconceptions regarding behaviour change is relying on motivation to begin new, positive behaviours and willpower to refrain from old, negative behaviours.
The problem is (1) Motivation is unsustainable in the long-term and a lack thereof can be used an excuse not to start. That’s why habits trump motivation: Once a behaviour becomes a habit, it becomes automatised and you become less dependent on motivation to begin.
And (2) Willpower is like a muscle. The more decisions you make in a day, the more fatigued it becomes; to use a strength-training analogy, think of your willpower as “training to failure”. And when that happens, you’re more likely to succumb to the temptation of bad habits. This is known as “Decision Fatigue”.
However, what if you could bypass motivation and willpower entirely when implementing new behaviours? You can – once you understand “Choice Architecture”.
Carolyn was a director of food services for a large city school system and was in charge of hundreds of schools, with hundreds of thousands of children eating in her cafeterias every day.
One day, after a conversation with a friend, Carolyn decided to conduct an experiment. Her hypothesis was as follows: Without changing the menus, would manipulating the way the food was displayed and arranged in the cafeterias, influence the children’s purchasing decisions?
Carolyn gave the directors of dozens of schools specific orders on how to display and arrange the food. For example, in some schools, the deserts were placed first, in others, they were placed last and even in a separate line. French fries were placed at eye level and in others, carrot sticks.
Carolyn’s prediction was correct: The consumption of many healthy foods increased by as much as 25%.
Thaler and Sunstein commented:
School children, like adults, can be greatly influenced by small changes in the context.
The big lesson here is small and apparently insignificant details can have major impacts on your behaviours. And those details are often a result of how you design your environment.
The Fogg Model
According to B.J. Fogg, a professor at Stanford University, in order to do a behaviour, you need three elements:
In order for a behaviour to happen, a trigger, and the ability and motivation to do it, must all converge simultaneously. 
For example, let’s suppose you want to lose 14 pounds and start running every day after work. You may have the ability and motivation to run, but if you don’t identify a suitable cue – like running as soon as you return home – you’re unlikely to resist the temptation of a bad habit like watching television because it’s easier. The path of least resistance is hard to resist.
However, what if you were to remove the ability to watch television?
Become a Choice Architect
Decision makers do not make choices in a vacuum. They make them in an environment where many features, noticed and unnoticed, can influence their decisions. The person who creates that environment, is, in our terminology, a choice architect.
– Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein. 
To become a choice architect is simple: You need to make behaviours you want to do accessible and behaviours you don’t want to do inaccessible or at the very least, lessaccessible.
If we return to the previous example, if you removed the batteries from your remote control and placed them in another room; repositioned your living room furniture and unplugged you television; you’re removing your ability to do it with ease.
In other words, you’re designing that behaviour to be lessaccessible. You may still have the trigger and the motivation to do it – and if you really want to do it, go ahead – but because your ability to do it has been reduced, you’ll feel more resistant.
Similarly, if you placed your running shoes by your front door, your running clothes out and shrunk the self-compliance hoop so you didn’t need motivation – say, only committing to running one mile – you’d be forging a new path of least resistance. That new behaviour would become moreaccessible than the former, watching television.
Here are a few more examples to think about:
If you’re dieting, removing any ingredients from your cupboards that aren’t on your diet plan; serving smaller portions on smaller plates and planning your meals in advance, will reduce willpower failures.
Deliberate practice, as a musician, can sometimes be a burden, but placing your instrument in the centre of your living room, like Shawn Achor did, can vastly increase the likelihood you’ll practice daily – even if it’s a mere 20 seconds closer.
You want to go to bed earlier? Set an alarm to trigger your nightly ritual, leave your laptop and mobile phone in another room; and leave a book on your bedside table. In other words, make sleep an easier option that checking emails and social media.
A Final Word
If your default behaviours are decided in advance, a lack of motivation and decision fatigue become the least of your concerns. Remember, when a positive behaviour becomes the path of least resistant, it becomes an easier path to forge in the future. Can you imagine the possibilities?
I’m no stranger to this beautiful gift from the “god of the interwebs.” I accidentally — but wonderfully — stumbled upon a forum of sorts a few years ago. It was a time when I just recently moved to America, 6,000 miles or so away from my home country. I didn’t know anyone and I had no friends at the time. This forum became my outlet of expression.
The internet is a melting pot of diverse amazing people. It started with a simple forum post, that quickly led into a conversation with strangers that I’ve never met before, but felt like I’ve known my whole life. Forum conversations became private messages, from there you move to Skype/Yahoo (or the like) where it starts from simple chatting, to voice calls, to video chats. Once you’ve really become comfortable with your online friend, next comes the swapping of cell phone numbers.
Oh, your friend lives on the other side of the world? No worries. We have apps for that now.
I’ve made friends for life because of this process. They know my most painful secrets, have heard my real laugh, know my embarrassing stories, and know my inner nerd like the palm of their hand. I am myself when I talk to them, no holds barred. A part of it may come from the anonymity of it all. You have the ability to be whoever you want to be — even if that means being yourself.
The circumstances may be virtual, yes, but the bond that you create is real. You share a piece of you to the person on the other end of the web; laughing until your belly can’t stand the pain, crying to the point where it was almost impossible to breathe, celebrating an accomplishment, being an ear for each other’s frustrations… you share raw emotions. It’s liberating. And no questions asked, you do the same for them.
I built an online friendship with a handful of people from that forum. We added each other on messenger services, and became friends on various social media platforms. Because when you’re thousands of miles away, how else can you communicate? A community was created where we were alike, yet different as individuals at the same time. We came from different countries, we were of different races, we had different cultures, and various native tongues, yet none of them became an issue, because we didn’t make them an issue (the different time zones did kind of suck though).
Countless hours of online gameplay were spent, ‘drunk group call nights’ were held, playful banters here and there, multiple book recommendations, amazing song suggestions, and artworks were shared. Movies were started with “Okay, we press play in 3… 2… 1… GO!” It’s surreal how real it can be. And the effort? Surely touching.
I’ve seen them grow and flourish over the years. The once shy English boy who didn’t even say a single peep, became the heart of the group and found love in the most unexpected of places. The Texan girl who shares the same emotional struggles as you, and just gets you in a deeper level than most, eventually became your best friend. You’re genuinely happy to know that she is doing okay. And you’re ecstatic to know that your friend from Virginia finally hit his goal weight and is doing his best to live a healthier life. They are genuine people, with genuine feelings.
From the French mademoiselle whom you had a falling out with, only to come back up stronger in the end, to the Canadian musician with a killer playlist who striving to live his dream, to the Indian girl whom you protect and annoy like your own little sister, back to Europe to your German soul sister, all the way down under to that Aussie guy with the hot voice (and accent!), it’s a virtual global road map of unforgettable people. Anyone who has had one knows that an “online friendship” is a precious thing. We try our best to keep it intact. Our real lives do get in the way at times, but at the end of the day we know that when push comes to shove, we’re there for that person. And no difference in time zones, internet lag, or shitty cellphone service will keep us away from doing our part as their friend.
A friend was recently visited by an awful ex-boyfriend.
“Seeing him was like running into a ghost, you know?”
I understood what she meant, and in light of Halloween, it got me thinking.
Encountering an ex-lover is exactly like being visited by a ghost. It’s a flicker of your former life; an unnerving flash of your past. You catch a glimpse of them and you’re frozen stiff. Shivers fire up your backbone as your mind rapidly recovers painful, timeworn memories.
Haunted with nostalgia, the blood falls from your face and you spit out an incomprehensible, “Hey.”
Spooky, and odd. You were once so connected to this ghost, but now there are new, informal conditions. At one time you shared a toothbrush, yet the sentiment has eerily transformed into an atmosphere of unease.
This startling apparition of your past relationship leaves you feeling jolted and anxious. Be prepared for it. It’s the paranormal-first-sighting-since-the-demise-of-your-bond with this lover, and it’s terrifying.
How to Cope with a Close Encounter of the Ex-Kind
Clear the ghost. Make it obvious this ex is not welcome. Be uncompromising, but not mean.
Wear your Halloween costume for a few months to avoid any fluke encounters.
Be confident in dealing with your ghost. Like animals, exes feed off fear. Emulate Bill Murray in Ghostbusters.
Perform an ex-orcism. I recommend using a trusted platform like Wikipedia or Ask Jeeves for instruction. They are sure to offer a variety banishing rituals for all types of horrible exes.
Make peace with the ghost. Melancholy is meant for October 31, not for every day. The sooner you forgive the ghost for the gloom, the better you’ll feel.
Many people question how we can actually make a change in our society that helps women and men become more equal and I think the solution is simple. Raise your children to be feminists.
I was raised a feminist. And I didn’t even realize it until the subject generated so much buzz. It’s a hot topic and almost everyone has had a conversation about it.
But what does that mean to raise my children like that? Should I never give them razors to shave their legs? Should I tell them to never trust men? Should I always encourage them to be as masculine as possible?
Here’s a fancy secret:
Oh, but Heather, you’re 19. What do you know about raising children?
Well, I know that you should always have an endless supply of ice cream for bargaining and tears and a solid collection of Disney movies so obviously I’m very qualified to give advice.
But really, I’d like to give a big shout out to my parents for the things they’ve taught me to help me feel comfortable in my abilities.
Here are some key facts I’ve been taught growing up, many of which I never thought were that special but they seem to be a good starting point for the ideas that should be put in anyone’s brain.
1. Girls can be good at science and math.
Actually, in my house no one was good at math, but I think that had more to do with our boredom with the subject than lack of ability.
Recently there have been some ads like this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XP3cyRRAfX0 one. That showcase how often girls are discouraged from pursuing STEM interests. In our house we were all about doing science experiments and we enjoyed, and were praised, for doing well in science classes.
Side note: I was also praised for having a writing talent and it was ALWAYS my choice to pursue a career as a creative. (My parents tried and failed to convince me to be an engineer. The really stressful, banging my head against the wall, writer’s block days I question why I didn’t choose that path.)
2. Girls don’t have to be silent.
Quiet women don’t really exist in my family.
Being taught that your ideas can be creative and unique and smart and worth listening to really shapes how much you’re willing to speak up.
If something or someone makes you uncomfortable, say something. If you think you have a good idea for a project, say something.
You have just as much right to say something when the time is right than anyone else in the room does.
3. You can be compassionate and not be seen as soft.
It’s okay to care about people and it’s okay to express your emotions. Doing so does not make you weak.
The world would probably be a better place if more people took stances of empathy.
Liking makeup and owning four different kinds of curling irons and various combs and brushes doesn’t make you a priss. (It probably just means you grew up in the south and your momma wasn’t going to let you out of the house unless you brushed your bed head.)
Beauty standards don’t have to be everything, but there is a lot of value in putting on a shirt that’s not wrinkled and a pair of real pants. People take you more seriously when you care about how you look, even if your style isn’t the same as theirs
4. Do things to make yourself happy not to please other people.
How you dress, how you speak, how you act, and what you want to do with your life are your decisions and your decisions alone.
If you want to drape yourself in pink glitter or camouflage, it’s your choice.
If you want to be a teacher or a construction worker, it’s your choice.
If you want to be quiet and reserved or loud, it’s your choice.
As long as you’re not hurting anyone with your actions, you can do whatever makes you happy.
5. Girls can take care of themselves.
I don’t think I’ve ever been taught that I can’t do something by myself just because I’m a girl — well, maybe walking by myself at night but that’s a whole other rant to be had.
I can change a flat tire.
I can carry my own boxes when I move.
I can open a jar by myself.
The idea that women need men for trivial things like this is ridiculous and should probably be a little offensive to men that that’s all they’re useful for.
I can’t kill the spider, but whatever. No one’s perfect.
6. Tears don’t make you weak.
One of my favorite quotes is, “The cure for anything is salt water — tears, sweat or the sea.”
Now I’m not personally a big fan of crying but one of the best pieces of advice my mother has ever given me is that sometimes a good cry fest makes you feel better.
It’s not a sign of weakness. Let the salt and Kim Kardashian-level ugly crying face happen and then move on.
7. You can be anything you want to be.
I’ve touched on this a few times already but I feel like it needed its own point.
Being a girl doesn’t limit the things you get to do in life.
You can want to get married and stay home with your family one day AND aspire to have a career.
Stay-at-home moms are rad. Being in charge of a company is rad, too. Women that do both deserve an award. And if you choose to do one and not the other, you are not less than in any way.
8. There are many other things you can be in life that are much better than being pretty.
Don’t get me wrong, my parents have always told me how beautiful they think my sisters and I are, but we always were complimented on our brains, our humor, and our wit much more often.
I think this has more benefits the older you get because you’d really be amazed how many adults like to use the insult, “yeah… well …she’s not even pretty!”
Who cares? She’s got a degree in neuroscience I think she’s okay with her life.
And on a super related note, being smart or athletic or whatever you are doesn’t take away from beauty so you shouldn’t believe that either.
9. There are A LOT of men on your side.
There’s some kind of idea that’s out there that teaches people that all feminist hate men, which is really ridiculous, because the majority of men support women’s rights. (One time my dad proclaimed that he would never shop at Macy’s again because they don’t support equal pay for women.)
Being a feminist doesn’t mean you hate men. It just means that you think you should be on the same playing field as them.