Dear Harriette: I am so sad for my daughter. She has an on-again, off-again boyfriend who is stringing her along and killing her self-esteem. She is such a sweet young woman, but it’s almost like this man has occupied her heart and mind. Regardless of what he says or does to her — nothing violent — she keeps going back for more. I don’t know how to help her. I have pulled out all the stories I can recall about my friends and me with bad-news boyfriends when we were growing up, but she doesn’t hear anything. She needs to walk away. How can I help her make that choice? — Bad-News Boyfriend
Dear Bad-News Boyfriend: This may be the perfect time for professional support. When a person’s self-esteem is dashed, it can seem impossible to climb out of a bad situation. I know people in similar relationships — or worse — who have shared that they feel like their boyfriend had control of their mind and soul. When that is happening, no matter how much you love your daughter, you may not be able to help her. Find her a therapist with whom she can discuss her life and talk through her challenges. That professional may be able to help her find a bridge back to herself.
Dear Harriette: I have brightly colored hair and a nose piercing. I know my image is not always seen as professional, and I find that to be a reason why I get turned down for jobs. However, my image is an expression of myself, and I am not willing to change. I honestly feel that times are changing with my generation starting to move into the workplace. People should not judge each other based on how they look, but by what they can do. I am well-qualified in my field, and I feel that should speak for itself. What do you think about the professional world evolving? — Self-Expression and Work
Dear Self-Expression and Work: It is true that at this time in history, the workplace offers much broader opportunity for potential employees to express themselves freely. Yet it is still largely true that for many, if not most, jobs, dressing in some version of professional attire and styling is preferable. Many employers look to hire people with the necessary skills and worldview to match or at least fit in to the culture of their company.
The good news is that in many creative fields, there is a lot of flexibility around piercings, tattoos and hair color as well as style of dress. If you look hard enough, you are bound to find a company in a creative field that may welcome you if you have the skill set required. This may require you to move. Bigger urban centers tend to be more welcoming of diversity of all types.
Since you have experienced rejection firsthand that you attribute to your appearance, you may also want to reconsider how you present yourself in a job interview. Without compromising your integrity, what choices could you make that define you more professionally without denying the core of who you are? A mistake that people sometimes make is not understanding that it is possible to “be yourself” while also being respectful of what is expected of you where you are going. When you learn how to balance your personal desires with the requirements before you, you will likely find your life much more effective and fulfilling.
Dear Harriette: My kids and my neighbors’ kids have just started playing with one another, and I am happy that they are friends. However, my neighbors have a different set of rule for their kids that I don’t really agree with for my own. We live by the woods, and while they allow their kids to run out and play near them, I am not comfortable with that. I’d rather my kids play in the front yard.
Since my neighbors’ children are a bit older, they usually take the lead in these play sessions and often try to convince mine to come with them near the wooded area. I don’t want to break up this friendship, but my kids’ safety comes first. How can I resolve this situation? — Out of the Woods
Dear Out of the Woods: The fact that you live near the woods means that it is only a matter of time before your children venture out to explore there. If you want to control that experience, I recommend that you go on small hikes with them so that you personally get to see what is in your woods. You can let them know what to look out for and what to avoid. If you don’t really know, scout out someone in your community who can teach all of you.
You can still make the rule that your children have to play in the front yard and that they cannot go into the woods without your permission, but it’s unlikely that your rule will last for long. So prepare them. If there is a scouting group in your area, consider signing them up for that, too, so that they can learn how to safely explore the woods.
Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.