Carolyn Hax: Advice

Focus on all aspects of personal beauty

While I’m away, readers give the advice.

On feeling down about your looks:

Most schools use a variety of standardized evaluations to determine the relative intelligence of their students. Unfortunately, the emphasis on “verbal” and “performance” skills on these standardized tests ignores a range of other strengths as well as learning styles. Howard Gardner of Harvard University and his colleagues developed a more comprehensive approach that identifies at least eight “intelligences.” Thus, it is not how smart you are, but “how you are smart.”

This same concept applies to people who don’t feel attractive. Thus, it is not how pretty you are, but how you are pretty. It is not how handsome you are, but how you are handsome. The focus can be on your eyes, your smile or the caring you show for others, especially the love in your heart that makes others feel the shared joy of spending time with you.


On accepting a child’s path when it isn’t one you would have chosen:

When I was 19 and home from college I told my parents that I had embraced a different religion. The seeds for this had been planted while I was in my early teens, but I couldn’t say anything because “my house, my rules, my church.” I was a responsible emerging adult, not that that matters.

My mother decided instead that I needed to move home so that she could “re-parent” me, because I “clearly wasn’t ready to be on my own.” Which was ridiculous. I didn’t move home and the dust took a decade to settle. We could have had a different relationship if she’d been willing to see me as a separate person instead of an extension/validation of her parenting.

Parents: Try, however imperfectly, to build an adult relationship with your over-18 children that includes the awareness that they are not you. You won’t be sorry.


On being a force for smoking cessation:

Most people who can quit (relatively) easily have quit, and people who still smoke usually have other stuff going on. Sometimes that other stuff is as simple as not having good smoking cessation materials covered by insurance. It can also be a lot of toxic stress (job or otherwise), or mental illness — about 40 percent of people with mental illness smoke and sometimes they feel that smoking helps manage their symptoms.

So, the best way to get someone to quit isn’t the dad-lecture-rant-style, which will probably make someone smoke more because of added stress. Instead, it’s the opposite: Reduce the things that are making it hard for someone to quit, like work stress, money stress, family stress. The best thing loved ones can do is be a positive and supportive force in the smoker’s life.

Public Health Researcher

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