I am curious to know how others view me. I am curious to know what others find to be my best and worst qualities. I know how I feel inside. I know how I would like to be seen. I know how I try to behave. But I also recognize that we are most blind to our own weakness. It is usually through family and other close personal relationships that our best and worst virtues are brought forward. Our cherished "other" dredges through and then challenges our most private, and our most deeply held habits and beliefs. We see our truest qualities brought to our attention and sometimes we recoil in disbelief.
"Is that me?! Is that really how you see me?!"
As such, it has only recently occurred to me that perhaps I am not as kind, friendly, and amiable as I think I am.
Losing someone doesn’t lose yourself.
“If you argue against reality, you will suffer.” ~Byron Cady
As I mentioned in the post Invite the Light, I’ve struggled with real connection for the majority of my life. I’ve lost people, jobs, networks, and friendships in such a large number that I wondered if there really was something wrong with me. (The answer is, yes, probably. But you can read more about that in my memoirs.) I’ve had friendships completely dissolve out of nowhere and I’ve held onto friendships long past the time when they served me. I realize more and more that both of these are likely the consequence of my tolerance for crazy. With a particularly irregular model on which to gauge what was acceptable or unacceptable behavior in relationships, I may have developed a higher threshold for crazy than most. Thus resulting in a higher percentage of failed relationships than most. But hell! If my worst relationship problem is loving too much and giving too many second chances, I’ll take it. (The answer is, no, that’s probably not my worst problem. But again, you can read more about that in my memoirs.)
As a result of careful self-reflection and observation, I’ve begun choosing which relationships I can afford to or even need to lose. I’m also deciding more carefully and mindfully in which relationships it is worth investing my time and effort. This means family members, friends, co-workers, and neighbors who have been in my life for years are no longer getting my attention. And others who I may have been neglecting or taking for granted are getting preference of my time and love.
This process was an “A-ha!” moment for me. This is exactly what I have been experiencing from others for years. When I was no longer a rewarding or positive part of their lives, they simply chose to stop investing. And can I blame them for that? Can I blame people for trying to fill their lives with the most fulfilling and satisfying relationships possible? Can I blame people for spending less time and energy on a relationship that was negative for them? Of course not. We all need and deserve positivity and light. Sometimes, I cringe when I think of how hard I must have been to be around. People have shown me love and I’ve been negative, miserable, and self-destructive. People have offered me friendship, and I’ve been dishonest, manipulative, and selfish.
But their choosing to distance themselves from me did not diminish me in anyway. It elevated them to a place where they could be their best selves. And their choosing to find light elsewhere did not dampen my light in anyway. It allowed me the space to see the other person (or their actions) for what they are: a reflection of myself. Whatever reaction they are arousing in me is from within, not from without. Whatever emotion they are evoking from me is on me, not them. And I have the duty to acknowledge this teaching moment for myself and then to make a choice.
Is this a true and honest reflection of how I am and something from which I need to learn?
Is this an unstable or unhealthy relationship that I don’t need or want in my life?
But let me tell you what I’ve learned.
I want positivity, light, love, and friendship around me. I recognize my power to dictate the company I keep. So, I started a campaign to find only those friends who are like me. This doesn’t mean I remain closed minded to anyone different or unfamiliar. It is actually quite the opposite. I am being myself… all the time… with all people. And guess what? People resonate with that and come to me! People see what I am bringing to the table and reflect it back to me!
The natural consequence of choosing to just be yourself is that you tend to attract only those who love and accept you too. And if the alternative is to spend time with people who dampen your light or dim your energy, then you quickly find that it’s totally ok being by yourself instead. In many cases it is even preferable to be alone than to be with people who create negativity or harsh feelings.
Creating a safe space for others to be themselves.
Another beautiful consequence of choosing to allow myself to just be, is that others who can see and accept that freedom, find space for themselves to shine as well. It’s not for everyone. Many people are still caught up in what their family, society, church, media, culture tells them to be. But those who are ready and willing to take the risk find themselves freer in your presence. Who doesn’t want to be around someone so comfortably and so unapologetically themselves?
You don’t have to be friends with everyone.
This leads me to another happy lesson learned on this journey. Despite what they teach us in kindergarten, we do NOT have to be friends with everyone. Not everyone is going to like you or get you. And likewise, you are not going to like or get everyone. Does this make you a bad person? No! Not if you continue to treat everyone with respect and compassion. But let’s not confuse respect and compassion with forcing yourself to be friends with someone who drives you nuts.
When I am trying the least, is when I am at my best.
The best thing about learning to be myself is the burden has been lifted. No longer am I walking around wondering what is wrong with me that others don’t want to be around me. Instead, I acknowledge their lack of interest and move on. I send a little love their way that they find their own people and that people find and keep them in return. Then I dance happily onto the next friend waiting to be made. Because, friends, there is always a next friend waiting to be made.
When you feel like you have nothing to lose, you let it all hang out. There is no use putting up a pretense or trying to impress someone. I call this the theory of “Strangers on a Plane.” Think of a situation where you are meeting people for a set amount of time where you have no known common interest or purpose. This is your opportunity to be real – the realest real you can possibly be. Because who cares what seat 12-C thinks of you, your taste in music/books/clothes, your secret life ambition, your guilty pleasure, or your awkward drool as you crane your neck to sleep in the tiny airplane seat? You will likely never see your neighbor again anyway, so just DO YOU! I embody this philosophy whole-heartedly. And let me tell you, strangers on the plane LOVE me! In general, I’m not a talker and prefer to be left to myself. But on a plane, seat 12-C and I, we chat, we laugh, we talk about spirituality, we talk about family, we talk about travel, we talk about education, politics, children, music, poetry, philosophy. And they feel heard. And I feel seen. And the world is a beautiful happy place like the pre-school playground where you were friends instantly because you just straight up didn’t have pretenses yet and you could only ever do you.
“If we perceive things not as problems but rather as opportunities for learning, we can experience a sense of joy and wellbeing when the lessons are learned.” ~Gerald Jampolsky in Love is letting go of Fear
The moral of the story.
Here’s what I’m getting at: it has only recently occurred to me that perhaps I am not as kind, friendly, and amiable as I think I am. You see, we all have this image of what we are like. But I believe we also all have a skewed perspective of how others see us. It’s not our fault. In fact, we can only ever see ourselves from the inside out. But what happens if we start to recognize our reflection in how we respond to others? What if we take the triggers they activate in us and use them to really investigate why we are we reacting the way we do? What if we listen to their feedback and examine how we are impacting the world? Can we use this information to create a better version of ourselves? In so doing, can we surround ourselves with light and remove ourselves from negativity?
If we allow others to be our mirror, we can learn to see the reflection of ourselves from the outside in. If we stop rejecting the things people say that hurt us and make us uncomfortable, we begin to see the pain and discomfort they cause us as tools to becoming our best selves. Instead of blaming someone for making you angry/sad/hurt, consider thanking them for showing you the roots of what causes you to feel. It is from here true knowledge of self is born.
The most fulfilling and satisfying relationship should always be with yourself. Man, have I had to learn this the hard way. But I’m getting there. I’m learning to love myself idiosyncrasies and all. And sometimes it takes choosing to lose a few friends to finally get there.