Make Like Harvard and Get Selective: Challenge 1

Posted on August 5, 2011


Remember the friend I told you about in the issue of August’s newsletter? (If you haven’t signed up for the newsletter, click  here to join). The one who acted like people were doing her a favor when they went out with her?

Many may not like to admit it, but being given even a modicum of  someone’s time and attention can feel like much more than it is when you’re single until, that is, you get your thinking fixed. As long as you believe that you’re not worth that much, you’ll continue to settle for crumbs from others. You’ll stay in unfulfilling relationships, you’ll have a difficult time setting boundaries and you’ll continue to get your heart broken.

Do you:

-Have a tendency to make excuses for other’s bad behaviors?

-Often make fun of yourself with self-deprecating humor or put yourself down to others?

-Purposefully resist speaking up for your needs because you’ll fear that others will leave you if you do?

-Try to be as low-maintenance as possible (and don’t ask for much)?

-Have a habit of doing things for others out of obligation, fear or guilt?

-Continue to hang out with friends or date people who have treated you poorly in the past?

-Do whatever it takes to get others to like you or to earn their approval?

If you answered ‘yes’ to even one of these questions, it’s a good sign that you have a self-worth problem. And it you do, it’s time to make like Harvard and get way more selective about who you let into your romantic life. It’s time to start the self-worth challenge. (For more on the Self-Worth Challenge, see here).

Challenge One: Define your non-negotiables

The very first step you must take in your journey of building up some self-worth is to figure out what you will not tolerate from others. I love to use Harvard as an example of selectivity because I have many friends with graduate degrees from there. I’m quite familiar with how their whole selection process works.

Before my friends even applied to Harvard, they knew there were some things this fine institution would not accept. These criteria are clearly stated on their website.

If you tried to enroll into Harvard’s graduate school with an undergraduate GPA below 3.0, low GRE test scores and mediocre letters of recommendation, you would immediately be placed into the reject pile. Why? Because Harvard is selective. They won’t  read your purpose statement, they won’t call you in for an interview, they won’t waste any of their time on you when they see that you haven’t met their initial selection criteria.

You could learn a lot from Harvard. Before you go out for coffee or dinner with someone (and invest an afternoon or evening of your time on them), you’ll need to figure out if the other person meets your initial selection criteria.

And one of the first steps to figuring out the specifics of your criteria is to make a list of things you don’t want in a relationship, things you won’t tolerate or don’t want to put up with. We call these things your non-negotiables. These are the things that are so important to you in relationships that you’re not willing to negotiate on them.

Maybe you’re a devout Jew or Hindi or Muslim and already know that you don’t want to end up with someone outside of your religion. A person’s religion therefore, would be one of your non-negotiables. Perhaps you don’t want to deal with the age difference problems that occur when someone you date is much younger or older than you. In that case, for you age is a non-negotiable.

Now my non-negotiables may look very different from yours. And your non-negotiables may look very different from your best friend’s. And that’s okay. This isn’t an exercise in trying to prove something to others. Your list of non-negotiables is not something you have to defend or explain. It is your list for your relationships.

Setting up your list of non-negotiables is a way for you to get clear about a very important essential relationship boundary-what you will not put up with.

So go ahead and take this first challenge. Make your list. Be honest and true to yourself and your needs as you write it. And then keep this list nearby-you’ll need it for the subsequent challenges that come along this month.