DEAR HARRIETTE: I have become part of a group of female colleagues at my job who like to go out for dinner and drinks once a week. It’s nice to get to know these women, but I am in an entry-level role, and I can’t afford to keep up with them. I don’t want to come off as not wanting to spend time with them, and I also don’t want to cry poor. How can I handle this? I know that bonding with colleagues can lead to opportunities, but this weekly engagement is way above my pay grade. -- Can't Hang, Rochester, New York
DEAR CAN’T HANG: Perhaps you can go for drinks with the group but not stay for dinner. If you bring cash, you can give the money for your drink(s) plus tip to one of the people who will be staying, and then you can dash out without making a scene or having to share in the cost of a group bill, which often can become unwieldy.
You can also say at some point along the way that you can’t afford it. Trust that you won’t be the only one. Perhaps you can commit to joining them once a month. That may be an amount you can manage.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I ran into a guy who started his career at the same time as me, some 20 years ago. This guy stuck with the career path and has done well. I have floundered a bit. What gets under my skin is that he isn’t even all that good at the craft. What I see is that sticking to it counts for a lot. I think he had a lot more confidence in himself than I have had over the years.
Anyway, I am feeling kind of down because my career never took off. Seeing this man and his success has made me feel worse about myself. I know that envying others is a sin, but I can’t help but feel like I missed the boat and he didn’t. How can I change my attitude? -- Wanting to Be in Other Shoes, Los Angeles
DEAR WANTING TO BE IN OTHER SHOES: Thank you for your honesty. Recognizing the feeling you had when you came upon this man for what it is can be helpful. It is true that it can be hard to accept someone else’s success when you are not feeling successful yourself. But you are right to know that it is dangerous to envy this man. This will only make you fall into a deeper pit of self-loathing.
Consider this encounter from a different perspective: Running into this guy could serve as motivation. This may be your "aha" moment. It’s not too late for you to restart your engine and reinvigorate your career. Rather than letting this man get you down, let him inspire you to take a step toward your own goals and dreams. Turn this painful moment into a positive for your life.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)