The Washington Post

While I’m away, readers give the advice.

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

On conquering self-esteem issues:

I had a self-esteem problem in my early 20s. The best advice I ever received — and it’s so simple, it’s astounding — was “Run your own race.”

I worked, hard, on training myself to repeat that phrase anytime I was being overcritical of myself, or comparing myself with others. It taught me to be the best version of myself, not a poor imitation of someone else. It truly changed my life.


On not being thrilled about the child on the way:

I am a 51-year-old woman who has a healthy, close relationship with my mom.

For a college assignment, I interviewed Mom about my earliest beginnings. I learned she was surprised by the pregnancy and in fact refused to accept that she was pregnant until she outgrew her clothes. At the time she was 24, and already had a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old. She told herself that once the baby came, she would feel differently . . . but she didn’t.

And then when I was 6 weeks old, my brother was in a terrible accident. My grandmother took over the care of my sister and me while my mom stayed round-the-clock at the hospital for months — coming home to have lunch with my sister, then 4. She said she was more concerned about her because I was just an infant and my grandmother was meeting all of my needs.

Eventually my brother and mother returned from the hospital, and my grandmother moved back to her own home. My mom said she isn’t quite sure what happened and why, but when I was 18 months old, she lifted me up and was overwhelmed by how much she loved me. Even as she related this story to me 18 years later, I could see the guilt she felt for those early months.

The reality is that I’ve only felt love from Mom. She did all the right things to care for me, even when she didn’t have the emotions to support it — and she told me over and over and over how much she loved me and how special I was.

There are a lot of issues that can keep us from having the excitement we want — but loving a child is more than being excited about a pregnancy. It’s the long-term care and support . . . and love that matter.


On dealing with a difficult parent, cont’d:

Your mantra is: “I cannot fix my mother. I cannot fix my mother. I cannot fix my mother.”

I can’t do it, either. It took a long time to realize it. It took even longer to really accept it. Even now, I find myself hoping. But then I catch myself and let it go.

I can’t get her to walk even half a mile a day to help regulate her blood sugar. I can’t get her to stop thinking that everything my brother’s mother-in-law does is designed to keep her from the shared grandchildren. I can’t get her to stop taking everything a politician does as a personal attack on her and a few people she cares about. I can’t. She doesn’t want to stop. So she won’t.


Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or Sign up for Carolyn Hax’s column, delivered to your inbox early each morning, at



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