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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.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I am definitely stretched too thin, and now it's causing me a problem. I work freelance on many projects. I am a member of two civic organizations. I am active in my church and in my children's schools. I find it hard to say no because I know how to get things done. I have become the go-to person for everybody, it seems.

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Just recently, it started falling apart. I double-booked myself for two very important projects. They are occurring literally at the same time. One is for work and one is for church. I have to work, but I feel horrible letting down my church. I told my pastor when I realized my mistake, but this is pointing to a bigger problem. I can't juggle all these balls. It is too much. How do I get out of some of these commitments? -- Entangled, Detroit

DEAR ENTANGLED: You need to push pause on everything for a moment and regroup. First, take a nap. Literally rest yourself so that you have the presence of mind to think straight. Next, pull out your calendar and look to see what you have already committed to doing. Now, build in time for rest and for play. Look closely to see what you must remove in order to create this more flexible schedule. Now contact those individuals and tell them that you will not be able to participate as fully or at all because you do not have the energy to do that anymore. "No" is a complete sentence. Use it.

Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to askharriette@harriettecole.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106

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