People always find something to criticize

Want to please everyone around you? Don't even bother.

It's a fact of that life that people always find something to criticize you about, whether it's your new car ("it's so small"), the decorations used at your wedding reception ("they're so tacky"), or your profession ("she could have gone into something more lucrative").

Needless to say, someone will always take issue with something you do or don't do.

Should you care? Absolutely not!

As long as you're happy, that's all that matters. Be confident in your choices and do whatever gratifies you. It is, after all, your life and not theirs.

I'm of the belief that people who have a knack for putting others' choices down are probably dissatisfied with their own. Perhaps feelings of envy are bubbling below the surface, and they try to make themselves feel better by undermining the other person's successes. Thus, misery loves company.

It's a shame that these folks have nothing better to do than critique others when they should really be focusing on improving themselves and working toward achieving their own goals.

Comparing oneself to others serves little purpose. Given our disparate personalities, attitudes, behaviors, and long-term objectives, it's like comparing apples to oranges.

Is throwing shade at someone for, say, their wardrobe going to enhance your life in any way? Probably not. If anything, it makes you look jealous and insecure, as if that individual's choices or lifestyle are making you feel uncomfortable or uncertain about your own.

Instead, we should compare ourselves to who we were last week, last month, and even last year in order to assess just how much we've grown and accomplished over a given span of time.

We have every right to criticize ourselves as we see fit, but passing judgment on people we may not even know that well is not right.

Put simply, people should mind their own business. It's no one's responsibility to tailor their life around the needs and wants of others.

Next time you hear someone not speaking in glowing terms about something that pertains to you, shrug it off and go about your awesome life. You don't need anyone's approval -- not now, not ever.

Friday Fun Facts you may not know

As my readers well know, even though this blog centers primarily on how people think, every now and then I like to throw in a tidbit or two concerning key figures and events in American History.

Not only is history my second biggest passion after psychology, but at the end of the day, both subjects are more entwined than most people realize.

Historians aim to understand the rationale behind the decisions that Thomas Jefferson, Martin Luther King Jr., and other figures have made, dissecting everything from their upbringing and social relationships to their innermost fears and aspirations.

And while historians delve into these men and women's personalities, psychologists -- for their part -- cannot paint a full picture of the individuals without essential historical facts like when they were born, the places they lived throughout their lives, etc.

The month of February has witnessed countless important events over the past 200 or so years, two of which occurred 37 years apart on the same day -- February 21.

1848 - The death of a former president

On February 21, 1848, John Quincy Adams -- former U.S. president-turned-Congressman -- suddenly collapsed from a cerebral hemorrhage as he stood up from his desk in the House of Representatives to defend his no vote on a bill. House members carried him to a bed in the Speaker of the House's private chambers, where he later died.

Adams, the son of former President John Adams, served only one uneventful term as president. Arguably, his greatest contributions to the country came as secretary of state to President James Monroe. Not only did he help negotiate the Treaty of Ghent, which ended the War of 1812, but Adams played a key role in the formulation of the Monroe Doctrine, which warned European nations that the Western Hemisphere was closed to further colonization.

Adams is remembered for going head-to-head with Andrew Jackson in the presidential elections of 1824 and 1828, emerging victorious only in the former. He was vehemently against slavery, promoted education, and pushed for a system of internal improvements ranging from roads to bridges.

1885 - Washington Monument dedicated 

If you've been to Washington D.C., chances are you've seen the 555-foot-high marble obelisk built as a tribute to America's first president.

After Washington's death in 1799, plans for a memorial were discussed, but none were actually adopted until 1832, the centennial of his birth.

Though the cornerstone was laid in 1848, it wasn't until 1876 -- thanks in part to rancorous political bickering and the bloody Civil War -- that Congress passed legislation appropriating funds for completion of the moment.

The Washington Monument was formally dedicated in February 1885, and three years later it opened to the public. When completed, the monument was the tallest structure in the world; it remains today the tallest building in Washington, D.C.

Why you don't need anyone's approval

Many people claim to despise Facebook these days, as they say it serves as a constant reminder of things they either don't have or that aren't going as smoothly as they'd like.

Those who are single and yearn to be in a relationship are forced to see a barrage of posts of their friends cuddling with their significant other.

Those who are in a relationship and long to be married (but they can't for financial or other reasons) have to sit through endless wedding pictures.

And then those who are married or in a relationship -- and have either chosen not to have kids or desire them but haven't had them for one reason or another -- often see their Wall saturated with baby pictures.

Let's not forget those who boast of their shiny cars, vacations, or dining experiences seemingly every single day.

This leaves many of these people feeling like losers -- ones who can't get anyone to "like"or comment favorably on their content because it revolves around things  people don't seem the least bit interested in, like food recipes, cat videos, and fun facts.

But here's good news: You don't need their validation.

If you have to be married with kids or sunbathing in the Caribbean for people to have any interest in your life, you're in the wrong crowd.

Sure, our interests, lifestyles, and priorities evolve as we get older, but people should be able to navigate such changes in a relationship that has a solid foundation.

Whether you're in a relationship, have kids, or have the money to dine out at luxurious restaurants shouldn't define you as a person. It's not as if we're a walking to do list with items to check off.

Sadly, people are conditioned to believe that if they don't follow the herd mentality -- doing things in the manner and order that most others do -- they are failures. And things like Facebook likes reinforce this type of thinking.

Though relationships are an important facet of one's life, we should never rely on anyone's approval but our own to feel happy about ourselves.

People lead different lives. They have dissimilar interests, goals, attitudes, beliefs, problems, backgrounds, and lifestyles. Why should their opinion of us hold so much weight? It shouldn't!

As long as we're happy with our own lives, that's all that matters. Don't get so down on yourself just because someone fails to like your post or pat you on the back. Don't feel as though you're any less than your friends or loved ones just because you aren't as wealthy as them or haven't achieved as many life milestones (marriage, kids, etc.).

Again, your life is your own. You'll get there in due time. And who says you have to have kids, get married, or own a yacht to be happy? Two people can define happiness in entirely different ways.

Do whatever makes YOU happy and forget what everyone else is doing. Don't allow societal pressure to dictate the decisions you make in your life.

The #1 sign you're in the wrong relationship

Do you ever have this nagging feeling that your love life could be better if you were with someone else? Have you questioned whether you're better off being single?

The most telling sign that you're in the wrong relationship is when you feel that you'd be happier with someone else or by yourself. 

There could be a slew of reasons why you would be in such a predicament. Perhaps you rushed into the relationship without getting to know the other person, and once the so-called honeymoon stage faded and his or her true colors came out, you realized the two of you are far less compatible than you ever imagined.

Or, it's possible you entered into the relationship for underhanded reasons: your partner comes from money, you were on the rebound after your last relationship went up in smoke, or you simply felt lonely and wanted someone to give you some attention.

Once you come to this realization, it's time for a serious talk with your partner. You might discover that he or she feels exactly the same way, and the two of you can then part ways amicably (or even remain friends).

What you should NEVER do, however, is go down the slippery slope of infidelity. Before you cheat, do yourself a favor and end the relationship.

Let's face it: If you have that strong of an urge to be unfaithful, your relationship just isn't satisfying you for one reason or another. If you feel you'll be unable to resist the temptation to cheat while you and your partner try to work on improving your relationship, then you ought to pull the plug before you cause him or her a world of serious hurt.

However, a wandering eye may not necessarily be the root of the problem. Maybe you've realized that you would be happier being single, at least for now. It could be that you want the flexibility to go out with friends more, date different people, or follow your own passions. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.

But, as in the case of cheating, your partner ought to know as soon as possible. That way, you can both end the relationship and he or she is free to find someone who's ready for a serious commitment. Never string the person along for selfish reasons (e.g., they're helping you pay the rent). They deserve to be happy just as much as you do.

Unfortunately, far too many people these days are in relationships for the wrong reasons. I only wish people wouldn't enter into them without giving it some serious thought. After all, you could potentially be hooking up with someone you'll be spending a good chunk of your life with.

That's why it's so critical to set the ground rules early in the game. Whether you're looking for a serious commitment, casual sex, or just a good friend to keep you company, be clear about your intentions from the get-go.

That way, both people know what to expect and it mitigates the chances of hurt feelings.

Surviving Valentine's Day when you're single

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone.

Now, I know today isn't the happiest of days for those who are still on a quest to find Mr. or Ms. Right.

And to them I say: Don't fret. It's not the end of the world. You'll find the right person when the time is right.

I was actually in your shoes at one point. In the days leading up to the holiday every year, I wanted to lock myself in my room, bury my head under a pillow, and fall asleep until February 15.

The commercials, the decorations, the balloons, the flowers, the heart-shaped boxes of chocolates: It was all so torturous! "Why can't I be with someone special on Valentine's Day like so many people I know?" I asked myself wistfully.

Thankfully, my dry spell came to an end in 2005, when I hooked up with the woman I would end up marrying years later.

Eventually, it hit me: I would not have been so melancholic over being single had I not:
  • Thought that a partner would "complete me": Little did I know at the time that a significant other isn't supposed to make your life feel complete. Only you can do that. A partner enhances your life by accepting you completely. 
  • Compared myself to others: If my friends had a significant other to enjoy the holiday with, I should have been happy for them while using music, exercise, sports, and other interests to distract my mind. Their lives are their own, so why feel envious?
  • Paid so much attention to the commercialized aspects mentioned above: Much like Christmas, Mother's Day, and Halloween, Valentine's Day is just one of many holidays that are commercialized to death. That countless stores and flower shops want to rake in gobs of cash should have no bearing on my mood. 
What do the above points have in common?

They describe ways in which I was allowing external forces to influence how I felt about myself when, as I've indicated in other posts, happiness really comes from within. 

In this digital age, it can be difficult not to feel down in the dumps when people are constantly gushing about their relationship/marriage on Facebook, posting endless pictures and videos with their partner. 

But remember one thing: You are in control of how you choose to react to events. A situation will bother you insofar as you allow it to. 

Rather than detest Valentine's Day, why not feel optimistic you'll find someone by the time the holiday rolls around next year? (Granted, it's only 365 days away.) Think about what can go right rather than assume only the worst. 

However, you need to consider what you can do to better your chances of finding love:

  • Do you put yourself out there so as to maximize your opportunities? For example, do you stay cooped up at home every weekend, or are you open to going with friends to parties or other places where you might meet someone?
  • Have you tried online dating?
  • Have you asked friends or family if they know someone who could be a good match for you?
While I would never encourage anyone to rush into a relationship or settle for someone they're not compatible with, you can't rest on your laurels and wait for someone to magically fall from the sky. You have to do your part as well.

Believe in yourself, be patient, and don't close the door when an opportunity comes knocking. There's someone out there for everyone!

And let me remind you that Valentine's Day isn't just about celebrating relationships with significant others. It's called the "day of love," so why not celebrate your love for your parents, friends, and other special souls in your life? If anything, Valentine's Day should an everyday thing. 

Whether you're single or married, you deserve to be happy on Valentine's Day just as much as anyone else.