Auntie Dillon Answers: Self image and doubt

Hello everyone, and welcome to a special summer edition of Auntie Dill. The semester may be over, but I’m still here dispensing advice from my rocking chair on the front porch. Well, I’m really dispensing it from my ancient computer at my desk job, but let’s stick with the more romantic imagery.


Hey, Auntie Dillon! I am a lesbian, and I’ve had a crush on a girl for a while now. I don’t think she likes girls, but sometimes the way she acts around me (grabbing my hand without warning and leading me around, for example) gives me a false sense of hope. How do I cope with this without getting unintentionally led on and while getting to still be her friend?

When you have a crush on somebody, it’s easy to see everything through a romantic lens. Many people are just naturally affectionate with their friends, and actions like the one you describe don’t necessarily signify any feelings beyond platonic companionship. It seems to me that the best course of action would be to let your friend know that it makes you uncomfortable when she holds your hand and use that as a jumping-off point for a broader discussion about boundaries. A good friend will respect your limits no matter what.

I’m really struggling with self image. Last semester had a really bad effect on me, spurring me into this depressive slump, and I lost sight of myself and my weight. I know that if I can just make myself do it, I can get healthy again — but for some reason I’m having the hardest time grasping that mindset. Any advice on getting the mindset and strength to keep going?

Self-image problems can be self-reinforcing. When you don’t like how you look, you can feel so down that you take care of yourself less, making you feel even worse about your image and starting the cycle over again. You mentioned weight a few times in your question, and I want to caution you against seeing weight as synonymous with health. You can be healthy and have a good self-image at any weight, and losing weight quickly is often very unhealthy. Focus on eating well and getting some exercise every day. Taking care of your body in those ways will make you feel better.

I graduated from university last summer and applied for master’s degree programs (because my parents wanted me to), but I didn’t get into any of them. So, out of misery I took a year off and started a one-year course in graphic design, plus I’m currently learning a new language. The problem is I really don’t know what to do with myself: All I want is to work in an office in a print and publishing sector (making magazines and other creative things). I’m stuck as my parents have so many expectations of me, and I don’t know if I will be able to achieve it. They’re like the strictest people I’ve ever known. I’m in my early 20s and still I’m confused about what to do whereas people of my age and my friends are doing these “cool” jobs. I’m clueless most of the time. The idea of not getting a career scares me a lot.

I know how hard it can be to feel like you’re being left behind and not meeting people’s expectations. It’s important, though, to take stock of the things you have accomplished. You say you’ve taken a “year off,” but to me it seems like you’re doing a lot to make progress toward your goals! Learning a new language is always valuable, and taking a course in graphic design will set you up to get a career in the creative field you aspire to be in. It’s hard when your parents have expectations that you can’t meet, but at the end of the day, you are in control of your own life. You have to do what makes you happy — you can’t live your life for anybody else. Good luck, and keep up the good work.

Summer can be an emotionally taxing time of year. We spend all spring building up to what we expect will be three months simultaneously full of fun and relaxation and advancement toward our long-term goals. In reality, without the usual structure of school or work, we can feel lost and find ourselves in very negative mindsets and end up feeling sad and unsatisfied when August comes around. To avoid the summer slump, try to set small goals every day that you know you can accomplish. This will help avoid feelings of aimlessness and keep the days from slipping away from you. Be sure to lean on your loved ones when you feel down because while sadness is unavoidable, isolation only makes it worse.

And please, wear sunscreen.