What do you believe?
This isn’t a question about spirituality. This is a question about your core beliefs about yourself and how you manage and construct your life as you age.
What do you believe in order to add new friends to your life?
As of late I have discovered I have not always been the greatest person when it comes to picking out friends. I am starting to get better at this, but my past continues to poke me in the eye in the meantime. Since I was old enough to hold hands on the playground, I have gathered as many friends to me as possible. At any time over the last five decades there has been a large group of people I called “friend” and all of them received my love and attention 100% of the time. After 50 years that’s a lot of time spent loving people. Unfortunately for me, it was a lot of time spent loving the wrong people.
If you were to fast forward the last five years my life would look like one of those electric bug killers, with me being the wicked blue light and people I thought were friends being the flies that get zapped. You’ll notice that I am not referring to myself as flypaper because that would mean they got stuck on me and hung around.
That old so-called friend would come flying at the bright light that was always me. The panacea, the open accepting arms that always had what you needed and could say the nicest things because I love my friends. These people would just take what they wanted and most times, more than they needed, and then flit off to the next bright light leaving me empty, alone and more often than not, with hurt feelings. They never gave anything back, not even friendship. Most of the time I’d find out later they talked a blue streak of gossip about me and feigned not to like me one bit. Those kinds of flies can make a bulb burn out faster than you can say “narcissist!”
I had surrounded myself with people that had no idea what a friend was. All they knew was how to keep tapping me to try to fill their perpetually empty cup. I tried treating them the same way! I tried being unavailable. I tried asking them to do things like weed my flowerbeds or organize my closet while I sat on the bed and acted like I had no clue how to start. I tried not showing up with a gift, only to feel so guilty that I showed up the next day with the gift that I had lovingly picked out especially for them and wrapped months before. I could not do it! I could not treat people the way they treated me, which was badly, in my opinion!
The reality here is they treated me the way I allowed them to treat me.
Sit with that for a few minutes before you continue reading.
When I started exploring why this continued to happen to me I began making personal boundaries for myself. I would make the rules, but the minute one of these frenemies would pop back up and want to make amends so they could start the cycle of abusing and using me all over again, I would break my own rules and let them back in. I was my own worst frenemy!
Finally I started sticking to the plan and that’s when something started happening to me and to people around me, that I had no clue how to deal with. People started getting angry with me. They lashed out and said words that I never thought I’d hear them say to me. The old me wanted nothing more than to make this stop and I could have easily turned back to them and smiled with open arms and these people would have ran to me, even after telling me how much “they always hated me for being the biggest loser they ever knew and that everybody hated me anyway, so no great loss.”
But I stayed strong and you want to know how I did that? Keep reading…
People I allowed into the comfort of my heart long ago have begun to buck and resist these new-fangled personal boundaries I spent so much time making for myself. They don’t like being shown the door. They abhor being told my truth. They tell me I’ve changed and they can’t stand me now. That took some getting used to, hearing those mean epitaphs from people I used to adore.
Oh, it’s painful, but I don’t miss any of them once they finally leave and I have no regrets, no remorse and no intentions of ever rekindling any kind of bond with any of them.
I used to believe that those folks that could meet someone, find something about them they found irresistible and attractive and then adopt this as a new part of their persona, almost to the point of being the other person’s twin, were kind of awesome. They reminded me of the chameleon lizard, able to change color to match their new environment.
As hard as I tried, I could never change the color of my outer layers to match someone else. It was an exercise in futility because the real me always leaked out the sides and made a big runny mess of my tromp l’oeil. I decided to sit on the sidelines and just admire those that could.
Until I learned much later in life that those lizards I spent so much time around glad-handing and admiring, were actually the worst kinds of people on the planet.
This brings me back to what I believe.
I used to believe that I did not know how to pick good friends, but I now know that I have picked great friends over the years. Once the flies started dropping after being zapped and the lizards moved to different plains to shed their skin, the good people I nurtured connections with remained and those are the reasons I am able to stay strong while the toxic ones fade into my past.
Once I figured out what a real friend “felt like” I knew who I would need to enforce my boundaries around. I instinctively knew who would be toxic and I could avoid them. Try doing that in a small town. This should be an Olympic event!
Now I’m not saying that you will never have to deal with a toxic friend again, because if history serves me so far, you will deal with some of the same ones over and over and over again. They will lay dormant in your life for a time, but as soon as you think you can rest easy, they pop back up. They do it to me all the time. One of them will spread a nasty old rumor that gets repeated to me, or they might call out of the blue and ask me to have coffee, like nothing ever happened to make me steer clear of them, but they just noticed my absence. They come back and you will be prepared now. Just smile, nod and say “Not today”.
What I will take away from today’s lesson is that you don’t need to spread yourself thin over the masses in order to feel loved. You simply have to love the ones that love you without an agenda. Love the ones that see your new personal boundaries and applaud them. Love the ones that lift you up when you need it and allow you to lift them up when they need it too. Nurture those connections in life and let the rest of them go.
Even as strong as I might sound here, I am not finished with my journey. I am still a work in progress and not even close to being your litmus test. But this is one of many roads I will explore this week in my quest to stop taking it personally. I discovered there is a definition for this conundrum and steps you can take to eliminate the need to ever take something personally again.
My next topic will be about confidence. Where does that elusive self assurance come from and is it something we can learn to develop over time?