Friday, March 30, 2012

Women, Politics — and No Confidence, Again

Here's the link to the total Washington Post article about women and politics that I refer to below:

"It’s no longer a question of biased attitudes or entrenched resistance — at least, not on the part of voters or the political establishment.

'Study after study finds that, when women run for office, they perform just as well as their male counterparts. No differences emerge in women and men’s fundraising receipts, vote totals, or electoral success,' wrote [researchers]Lawless and Fox"

After researching 4,000 men and women, who were plausible political candidates, they concluded:

• Women are more likely than men to believe that voters are biased against female candidates
• Women are less confident in their own qualifications to run for office. "While 35 percent of the men they surveyed pronounced themselves “very qualified” for office, only 22 percent of the similarly situated women did."

The questions that come to my mind after reading this and many other articles about women and lack of confidence:

 * How do women lose confidence or fail to ever acquire confidence?

They believe the criticism of others, translate it into negative self-talk?

They learn the habit of putting themselves down early from modeling mothers', sisters' friends' negative self-talk?

Individual women also feel less confident as part of the "lessser confident" gender group?

Is it part of women's DNA? Hope not! Is it something we have some control of? For sure.

Part of my  interest in brain imagery and neuroscience is triggered by the desire to determine the anatomical, physiological source of NST which might lead to greater understanding of exactly HOW to eliminate the habit.
Women, Politics — and No Confidence, AgainSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Men and Sex — Jaffe Says Men are Getting Surprisingly Complicated

In an attempt to create gender equity by writing about men and sex, as I wrote about women and "asms",  Wednesday March 21st, I had a hard time coming up with some equally as interesting content. At least from my perspective, "What Do Men Really Want?" in the April 2012 Psychology Today quoted lots of research, noted the article was referring only to heterosexual men, and didn't say much that was new or startling. You'll need to judge for yourself from this shortened version. The full article apparently is only available in the full paper magazine. http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/201203/what-do-men-really-want

What stood out to me first, were the four large photos of women in tight clothing and unusual poses ( 2 with bottoms up). They seemed in strange contrast to commentary in the story which suggests that men are now less interested in acrobatic sex with acrobatic women as one of several changes in men's behavior. Maybe I didn't get the purpose of the poses. I'd love another perspective from a man or woman reader.

The opening gambit in this article by Eric Jaffe, under the title states: "There's the stereotype. And there's the reality. But the reality about what men want in women and from women is getting more complex by the minute. Men and their motives — stop the presses! — are evolving."

Averring that men can be surprisingly complicated, ( sometimes they want to cuddle, enjoy chick flicks, and a good personality in a woman)
 underneath their apparent simplicity, ( they want women and sex), the writer didn't seem to substantiate his generalizations. Actually I'm feeling and thinking that this post about the boring article is also boring!

If you have found a newer, more intriguing or startling article, post, or research study on the topic of men and sex, please send it along or offer to write a guest post. I'm interested, I'm all for gender equity, and I like to know what's going on with men too.
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Monday, March 26, 2012

Fiction and Neuroscience — An Oddly Provocative Couple

A NYTimes Opinion article by author Annie Murphy Paul proclaims that support for the value of fiction has arrived unexpectedly from the field of neuroscience. Wow. Although I write nonfiction, I certainly read fiction; most recently The Grief of Others by Leah Hager Cohen which I read with an unusual kind of enjoyment. I noticed how much her language engaged my thoughts and feelings in a way that had not happened to me previously. The Opinion piece fit what I felt and thought while reading Cohen's book,  but couldn't clearly understand or describe. Until now.

 Paul cites specific research and summarizes: "Brain scans are revealing what happens in our heads when we read a detailed description, an evocative metaphor or an emotional exchange between characters. Stories, this research is showing, stimulate the brain and even change how we act in life." (My bold, not Paul's)

Coincidentally, I had just scoffed at a line of the Writer's Guidelines for Psychology Today.
     “Tell us why and how your story will change people's lives, if applicable, and mention sources you might contact.” 
 Daunting, I thought. An article would need to be expertly written by a highly credible, influential person to change someone’s life, if that’s even possible. Neuroscience and Paul changed my mind. It is possible. 

"Reading great literature, it has long been averred, enlarges and improves us as human beings. Brain science shows this claim is truer than we imagined," Paul concludes.

I'll follow up in a later post with examples of cortex stimulating metaphors from Cohen's books. Any readers who have samples from their own writing or reading, please comment and let us know!

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Friday, March 23, 2012

Can NST Produce Positive Outcomes?

 "Our goal isn't a life without stress," Stanford University neurobiologist Robert M. Sapolsky says. "The idea is to have the right amount of stress." That advice applies particularly to external stressors that are short-lived and manageable. For example, a friend says you're a lot of work, another rejection letter arrives from an agent, your computer crashes, you have a bad toothache or headache.

Those external stressors become short-lived and manageable only if the internal stressor of negative self talk is managed. Often NST hangs on long after the external stressor is gone. E.g. even after the friend has apologized for her offensive comment, the whirling mind still wonders, "What did I do that made her think I'm a lot of work?" "Am I demanding, obsessive, a pain?" "Maybe I am. I know I talk too much."

Eliminating negative self-talk is essential to coming up with the "right" amount of stress. External stressors will always exist, daily, for most of us: work, money, relationships and breaking appliances, electronic devices, and shoelaces. Lots of past posts have focused on  eliminating NST and specific techniques. (Check out the red topic boxes) Right now, I'm finding psychological distancing of all kinds works best: waiting to act, reallocation of attention, distraction, detachment, actual physical distance. What works best for you?

I don't know anyone, client, friend, or family member who has benefited from the stress of NST. If you have, please let me know. I'd be very interested and would like to publish your experience. Or you could write a guest blog.
Can NST Produce Positive Outcomes?SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Sex — A Change of Pace and Possibilities

Today's post is slightly off the track of usual topics, which is probably a good idea occasionally. 

First I ran into this article: http://bodyodd.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/03/19/10759818-no-sex-necessary-women-have-orgasms-at-the-gym-study-shows

Here's a direct quote:

"Women may not need a guy, a vibrator, or any other direct sexual stimulation to have an orgasm, finds a new study on exercise-induced orgasms and sexual pleasure.
The findings add qualitative and quantitative data to a field that has been largely unstudied, according to researcher Debby Herbenick, co-director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University. For instance, Alfred Kinsey and his colleagues first reported the phenomenon in 1953, saying that about 5 percent of women they had interviewed mentioned orgasm linked to physical exercise. However, they couldn't know the actual prevalence because most of these women volunteered the information without being directly asked."

This wasn't a surprise to me — or news — because I've had several colleagues over the years who were sex therapists. I roamed around a bit to see if I could find in writing what I thought I knew from my office mates. Here's the link and a direct quote:

"Kegel exercises create an increase in pelvic vascularity which means more blood flow and more veins in the pelvic region. This will increase your awareness of the clitoral and vaginal sensations that lead to orgasm. Any stronger muscle will contract more powerfully than would a flabby muscle, and hence the likelihood of stronger orgasms is much higher with stronger PC muscles."

Doing Kegel immediately prior to, or even during, lovemaking can increase the probablity of female orgasm on the spot!

As many of you know from yoga, tightening and releasing muscles in the thighs, abdomen, and pelvic floor are often part of the practice. The term "yogasms" was coined to describe the apparent spontaneous response that some women experienced.

Is this a secret, even among women who know? A secret from men? Or do most women and men know about this interesting connection — except the researchers at Indiana University who just found out?
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Monday, March 19, 2012

Accelerate the Move to Acceptance of Women as Leaders

       Marcia Reynolds PsyD and author of Wander Woman, whom I've lauded in earlier posts, has great insights and understanding of high-achieving women. She posts for Psychology Today and also for the Huffington Post. Here' a paragraph from a recent Reynolds' Huff post titled, "Do Mean Girls Win at Work?" The article pushes for women and men to accelerate the evolution of women as accepted leaders.

 What caught my attention in particular was point #4:  

"Help women strengthen their confidence. The reason women don't self-promote as well as men is because they spend more time finding fault in their work than celebrating their wins.  A post for the Harvard Business Review noted confidence as a major factor keeping women out of the corporate suites. As Jill Flynn, Kathryn Heath, and Mary Davis Holt wrote: 'Having combed through more than a thousand 360-degree performance assessments conducted in recent years, we've found, by a wide margin, that the primary criticism men have about their female colleagues is that the women they work with seem to exhibit low self-confidence.' "

Here's an additional quote from Harvard Business Review:

"What we've found in our work is that career momentum for women is not about adding job skills but about changing everyday thinking and behaviors. We don't think the majority of high-performing women need to make major changes. Small adjustments in how they think and act can improve not only how confident they seem, but how confident they feel." 

Yes,  I'm biased. Eliminating negative self-talk, said out loud or internally is a big part of the solution to the problem of others' perception of low self-confidence  and felt, believed low self-confidence. E.g. "I really haven't had enough experience to take on that project", doesn't convey confidence to others, said out loud. Said internally, it doesn't build confidence. "I look forward to the opportunity to work on this project," shows a realistic, and not over or under confident expectation to yourself and others.

My addition to  Reynold's and the Harvard Business Review perspective is that negative self-talk is the primary factor that causes low-self-confidence.  Now's the time to get rid of it if you have any interest in being a high-acheiveing women, a leader, an influencer, a role model, a women that men and women would like to work with.
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Friday, March 16, 2012

Are you an Independent Women — Financially Speaking?


 Some interesting data about women as consumers below, coming from a marketing piece for M2W conference, April in Chicago. Roger Conant (blog site HerMoney!) has become a zealot on the topic of women and money. Roger used to push the topic on car salespeople, with success. He now touts a great fit for women in Credit Unions; less scary than banks, more relationship oriented, untainted by Wall St. scandals, equally insures funds, with a regulatory agency too.  I'm convinced and heading to my local CU.

 "In the Penn Mutual 2nd Annual Worth Survey for Women, 71% of respondents characterized themselves as Independent Women:

~ Women who characterize themselves as independent are more likely to be on track with respect to paying off debt (33% vs. 19% of non-independent women), building up their savings (26% vs. 18% respectively), and guaranteeing they will maintain or enhance their lifestyle during retirement (26% vs. 17%).
~ Independent women are significantly more likely than those who do not view themselves as independent to say they are on or ahead of target for being able to save for future travel (29% vs. 18%), and save for a home remodel (20% vs. 10%). Source: Penn Mutual 2nd Annual Worth Survey for Women, 2010

Are you an independent woman?  Please comment below.

Women account for 85% of all consumer purchases, including everything from autos to health care:

~ 91% of New Homes
~ 66% PCs
~ 92% Vacations
~ 80% Healthcare
~ 65% New Cars
~ 89% Bank Accounts
~ 93% Food
~ 93% OTC Pharmaceuticals

Does this fit for you? Please comment below.

Women process information & make purchasing decisions differently than men:

~ 59% of women feel misunderstood by food marketers
~ 66% feel misunderstood by health care marketers
~ 74% feel misunderstood by automotive marketers
~ 84% feel misunderstood by investment marketers; Source: Yankelovich Monitor
~ 91% of women in one survey said that advertisers don't understand them;
Source: Greenfield Online for Arnold's Women's Insight Team
~ 70% of new businesses are started by women"

Other, older research says that women generally want to understand but even more they want to be understood by all, particularly men.
Has that changed? Please comment below.
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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Maureen Dowd plus Men/Mascara/Pantyhose

Maureen Dowd's Sunday March 11th NewYork Times article sent me into tears of laughter as I read it to myself in bed, next to my husband. The title? "Manlashes, Manscara and Mantyhose"  She's discussing "the end of men". Or is it really the beginning of men catching up with women in terms of fashion and cosmetics?

What made me laugh out loud was the new lingo. Not sure if Maureen made the words up, or if the fashion/cosmetic industry has been the source of creativity.
• Mantyhose is also called brosiery and guylons.
• Manscara and manlashes for you know what.
• Manskirts. In Seattle the "utility" skirt is quite popular.
• Tights, just another form of mantyhose, now are printed with starts, skulls and checkerboards
• Web site e-MANcipate.net sells men's hosiery exclusively and includes instructions on putting them on!

My husband was slightly offended by my loud, teary laughter. I wasn't making fun of men. It was just so crazy, particularly after focusing on "the more things change, the more things stay the same", I was confronted with a potentially GIANT international culture change.

WOW! What's your take on the trend? Funny? Brave? Silly? Sad? The new macho? Metromale only? European not American for sure?

Here's a link: http://www.news-record.com/content/2012/03/12/article/maureen_dowd_manlashes_manscara_and_mantyhose
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Monday, March 12, 2012

Déa Vu All Over Again — And the More Things Change, the More . . . .

The more things change the more things stay the same. You've heard it before, here on IWO — http://www.blogger.com/post-edit.g?blogID=5630711609871539058&postID=4861801994654717421   And you've heard it in many theres. So much more melodious in French. "Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose ..."  

The learning is simple. In the big picture of nurture vs. nature, nothing much changes. Maybe that's the underlying reason I'm dismissive of new stuff about gender differences: old stuff with a different tilt. It's not news that culture influences people's behavior.

The recent research report about gender differences in science and math http://bigthink.com/ideas/gender-differences-in-science-and-math-abilities-not-in-this-matrilineal-society" concludes that in patrilineal societys, men's performance on spatial tasks is better than women's. In matrilineal societys, the performance of men and women is the same.  The study was carried out in India.

 In the US, the "old" reasons given for the finding that girls performed less well on science and math than boys were:

• Navigating spatial relationships is the only gender difference apparent at birth. Infant boys do it better than girls. 
• Boys continue to improve because they use the skill more than girls. E.g. baseball and other sports as very young children, Leggos, skooters, bikes, wagons, racecars and tracks, kites etc. Young girls are often playing with dolls, paper and other, art projects, and are less interested in toys and activities highly connected to spatial relationships.
• Culturally, there was a time when teachers and parents opined that girls weren't naturally good at math and science. Girls bought it and stuck with that belief.

Efforts were made to turn the tide, but so far not much noticeable progress. I'm thinking it's a good idea to encourage kids to try everything and anything and see if they enjoy it or not: whether it's peas, carrots, or broccoli — or numbers, letters, scooters or dolls, Leggos or puzzles, crayons or clay, iphone apps or fishing.

The exposure to experience isn't a one time deal. It's ongoing. Big transitions are at 2, 5, 11 or 12 and 15. Same issues of cultural influence pressing hard. Girls in particular need to be shepherded through these potentially ambivalent times. What's the most fun for me? What am I good at? Can I get better at things I like, but aren't so good at?  Do I like the same things as my brother — or not? Do I hate math or just think I do because my best friend does? Will boys still like me if I'm really smart? Or if I'm a jock? Do I care? Should I care?

Déa Vu All Over Again — And the More Things Change, the More . . . .SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Friday, March 9, 2012

Retro 6: Quick Summary of 3 Ways to Eliminate NST

If you want more information about any of these techniques, just look for cognitive restructuring, problem-solving and detachment and you'll come up with more posts about each and all of these techniques to eliminate negative self-talk.

 Here's an article I wrote for a Syracuse University health newsletter. I'm publishing it here and now, early 2012 as a good, quick reminder of the basics of eliminating negative self-talk and as a reminder of the roots of this blog: the book project, "Handbook #1 for Intelligent Women: Break the Negative Self-Talk Habit."

The September 30th Live U article in “Mind”, focused on negative self–talk — a useless habit that keeps us stuck, feeling miserable. Those ugly thoughts blast us, ”I’m not good enough,” or ask, “What’s wrong with me?” Regardless of whether you call that inner voice your critic, a demon, or the pain in the neck, it creates stress, reduces confidence, and decreases productivity. Now is the time to kick the habit.

Here are three major skills you can practice. Research supports the effectiveness of all three in combating self-sabotage. What works best for you?

• Cognitive restructuring is psycho-babble for changing what you’re thinking and saying to yourself.
1. Alter the thought from negative to neutral/realistic. E.g. “I’m making this situation even worse. What an idiot,” to “I’m managing this tough situation. It’s OK.”
2. Visualize a STOP sign blocking the voice of the critic. Imagine yourself turning down the volume on the negative thoughts or feel the inner critic’s words evaporate into space, like steam from boiling water.
3. Use a short robotic repetition of a comforting and realistic thought to drown out the voice of self-criticism: “I will be fine.” “ I’m doing OK,” or “ I can do this.”

• Problem-solving thinking produces another proven way to reduce the stress of NST.
1.      Ask. Do I have some control over the situation that’s the focus of negative self-talk? Work problems, appearance issues, relationships?
2.       If you have control, then identify the problem, gather some information, generate possible solutions, try one out and evaluate. It’s a cyclical process, so if your solution didn’t work, try another one. If you have no control over the situation, move on to skill three, detachment or letting go.

• Detachment moves you away from nasty NST and the resulting bummed out feelings.
  1.  Notice the voice in your head, without judgment or reaction. If you hear instructional, neutral self-talk, pay attention. If it’s negative self-talk, say to yourself, “Oh, the critic is talking,” rather than, “When am I going to stop dumping on myself all the time?”
  2.  Remind yourself that NST can be discarded with no loss or harm.
  3.  Shift attention away from the internal negative thinking to the external moment and action. If you are walking or talking, writing or reading, staring out the window, purposefully spend attention on anything but the inner voice. Meditation, yoga, mindfulness experience help in getting to this slightly altered state of consciousness.
  4.  When the voice of the critic arises again, demanding attention, reallocate attention back to here and now. Let the critic voice fade from inattention, and diminish as before.

Recent neuroscience research says breaking a habit is harder than previously believed, but it can be done. The old NST habit has to be weakened before the new realistic thinking habit can be acquired, so start now. Leave negative self-talk far behind when you graduate!"

And for blog readers, leave negative self-talk far behind, now or soon in 2012!

Retro 6: Quick Summary of 3 Ways to Eliminate NSTSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Retro 5: The Three Step Program: Start to Stop Negative Self-Talk

 Another adaptation of a previous early post on eliminating NST. On Friday, March 9th, I'll have info on the 3 primary categories of HELP in breaking the habit: problem-solving thinking, cognitive restructuring, and detachment/distraction. By then you'll be able to find your away around intelligentwomenonly. com and add to your skills in eliminating NST. You'll also find new and previous posts about stress reduction, psychosocial, cultural, and political trends, plus other information related to intelligent women.
 Breaking the negative self-talk habit doesn't require a 12 step program — even if you're addicted.  It starts with the three steps below. Then  you're ready to try out different techniques and discover which ones work best for you. We all need more than one technique. What works for me may not work for you. It's good to have a repertoire; different outfits to try on for different circumstances.
Here are the 3 A's — the starting point.
Acknowledge without judgment,  “Yes, I may overthink, like many other women.” The term comes from the book Women Who Think Too Much by Susan Nolen – Hoeksema Ph.D. and identifies the process of growing negative self-talk, from a simple statement to a huge tangled, intertwined bundle.

Accept as truth that negative self-talk generally does not motivate change or to improve performance. The voice of self-doubt and self-criticism isn’t a tool for increasing self-worth or confidence. If it were effective at producing positive change women wouldn’t still be putting themselves down at age 30, 40, or 50. They would have changed — to be smarter, or thinner, or prettier, or more assertive, or confident and outgoing.

Allow yourself to accept the risk of changing your thinking habits. The worst thing that can happen is that you can't find techniques that work for you right away. And there are always new ones to try out — like the rubber band technique mentioned in the October 24th 2010  post.
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Monday, March 5, 2012

Retro 4: Reframing — NST is a Habit, not a Neurosis

 Another slightly altered post from May 17, 2010 to help new readers catch up with the theme, ideas, philosophy of http://intelligentwomenonly.com  I'm enjoying this retrospective and hope you are too!

The title of my new book-to-be is Handbook #1 for Intelligent Women: Break the Negative Self-Talk Habit, rather than Cure the Negative Self-talk Neurosis, for a reason.  Self-talk, NST or PST, is learned behavior. Normal, average, negative self-talk is no more a neurosis than positive self-talk — unless it grows into an obsession or a delusion, which is not the average outcome for self-talkers of any kind. The book is focused on everyday intelligent negative self-talkers, not those at the tail end of the bell-shaped curve.

If you label your thinking behavior as neurotic, there’s a tendency to feel screwed up, a loser who needs a lot of therapy. If you think instead that NST is a habit that you'd like to get rid of like any other habit such as biting your fingernails, eating ice cream every night, or tweeting 24 times a day, you might not feel bad about yourself. You might make a plan and take action, which would help you to feel even better.

The change in perspective is good practice in reframing, a technique of cognitive restructuring — looking at the same picture/facts/ information with a different frame attached to it. Changing the frame, changes the perception. Recognizing that your negative thinking is only a  habit that you want to dump is a reframe. It's realistic. Then consciously making a plan, and implementing it a little at a time, while reminding yourself, "I'm moving slowly in the right direction," can help.

For new readers, check out the red box on the blog that's titled Techniques for a variety of helpful steps for moving forward and away from the habit.
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Friday, March 2, 2012

Retro 3: What Can We All Learn About Realistic Thinking, NST, and PST from Laura Munson?

Continuing with the retrospective this week and probably through next week too. Now that I've started, I'd like to complete the round on negative self-talk and update all other sections too: new blogs on the roll, smoother, simpler techniques for linking, updated intro comments.  The slightly altered post below comes originally from May 10, 2010.

The title of my new book-to-be is Handbook #1 for Intelligent Women: Break the Negative Self-Talk Habit, not Cure the Negative Self-talk Neurosis. If you label your behavior as neurotic or whacko, then you think you need therapy. If instead you recognize that you'd like to get rid of an annoying, unproductive habit, then you're more likely to take action, to do some problem-solving thinking, develop successful techniques to break the habit, and end up as a realistic thinker.

The purpose of eliminating negative self-talk, the NaSTy habit, and reducing expectations of positive self-talk, the PeSTy habit, is to move  toward internal and external resolution of stressful situations. The concept is simple. The execution is harder — even for intelligentwomen.

Laura Munson (http://lauramunsonauthor.com/) in her book, This Is Not the Story You Think It Is, gives a very good example of living in the mode of realistic thinking under difficult circumstances. Yes, she occasionally gets sidetracked by her own negative inner voice, which she refers to as her Evil Twin Sister Sheila, but never allows herself to be a victim. Nor does she project an image of a perfect woman coping with rejection, parenthood, and a disappointing career with grace, brilliance and confidence. it's hard not to find her very real and likable, even if you don't agree with her.

As Munson explains early in the book, she had recently made a personal commitment to "not wanting" in order to take full responsibility for her own happiness. Her commitment came after years of "bashing herself bloody" (sounds like NST to me). She experienced a release from fear and a welcome sense of freedom through her commitment. With the help of her therapist and all the books (". . Buddha to Jesus to the Sujfis to the Christian mystics to Dr. Seuss and beyond") she had been reading for years, she understood finally and suddenly that basing her happiness on situations over which she had no control didn't, doesn't, and will not work.

When her husband unexpectedly told Laura that he didn't love her and wasn't sure if he ever had loved her, she was able to stay calm with her commitment as she answered, "I don't buy it." No hysteria or panic, no NST — "This is a catastrophe. I can't deal with this. What have I done to deserve this? How could he say this to me?" Also no PST or denial — "He doesn't mean it I'm sure. Everything will work out. We have a beautiful family. He'll change his mind and stay with us." She used realistic self-talk including problem-solving and cognitive restructuring. She also distracted herself regularly during the months following her husband's disavowal. She detached when the emotions of the situation became huge, then returned again to realistic, instructional thinking with a calm state of mind and emotion.

  Munson's success is not in saving her marriage, it is in saving herself. This book could be inspiring to many women, in many different and difficult situations where they don't have control and their NST overwhelms them. Although inspiration perhaps wasn't her goal, she has saved readers time on the learning curve by telling her story. Women may find their own unique way to use Munson's philosophy or approach, but they will end up saving themselves if they, as she did, take responsibility for their own happiness.
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