Throughout my lifetime I’ve had the privilege of making many friends, but not all of those friendships have lasted. Time and distance are the biggest culprits when it comes to friendships drifting apart into aquaintences. There are other culprits I can point to in a select few of those friendships though – pride, selfishness, intolerance, and an inability to grasp reality. Looking back, I can see things that I did or didn’t do wrong in my friendships, so I don’t put all the blame on the other parties. I do my best to learn from the past and move on, but I don’t forget the past entirely – that is impossible. I have a history of getting myself into abnormal relationships with people – the people and my relationship to them are both abnormal many times. I chalk it up to a strong desire to help other people and a willingness to sacrifice myself in the process. I can think of at least five past relationships in which I focused too much on the other person and not enough on myself. Wait, you can focus too much on others and not enough on yourself? Yes, you can. That concept seems foreign to many, and was certainly not something I was taught in my Baptist church or school. “Jesus, Others, You – what a wonderful way to spell JOY!” is what I was taught. The thinking seemed to be that us humans are so selfish we will always take care of ourselves anyway, so keep your focus on God and then other people. Focusing on other people is huge, and we do tend to be selfish, don’t get me wrong, but I know very few people who truly take care of themselves. The push is to be active with this charity or that, to give of yourself here there and everywhere… but when do you have time or energy to devote to your own well-being?
Some recent events have shown me that I have been focusing way too much on meeting the needs of other people while putting my own needs aside. I need to take care of me before I can take care of other people. I need to make choices because they are right for me rather than build my life around what other people want/need. If I need to eat something (or not eat something) I need to make that choice and act on it regardless of how inconvenient or unreasonable it is to/for others (I have special diet needs). If I need to stop and regroup, de-stress, do yoga, whatever, then I need to do it and do it for me. I have to make my decisions with my well-being – mental, physical, and spiritual – in mind rather than focusing on what other people say, need, want, etc. Once I am taken care of, then I can better take care of others. Remember what the flight attendant announces at the beginning of each flight? If cabin pressure drops and oxygen masks are needed, be sure to put your own mask on before helping others with their’s.
I have been starving myself of oxygen while attempting to help others put their masks on; it’s taken me this long to realize it. I first began to realize something was wrong when a once-vital friendship ended rather abruptly last year. The friendship had existed for about two years and had its wonderful moments, but it was full of manipulation and selfishness. By the time it ended, my self-esteem had been beaten down, I felt incompetent and incapable, and the negatives greatly outweighed the positives. Once the friendship was removed from my life, my quality of life began to improve drastically. I learned to accept who I was and not to be afraid of the things that made me unique. I started dreaming again, without the fear of judgement and persistently negative feedback. I found peace of mind and stopped stressing over keeping people happy. The initial pain and confusion gave way to relief and happiness. I am glad to be rid of such a stressful influence in my life. This experience has taught me the importance of not tolerating negative relationships.
I choose to be positive. I choose to surround myself with positive influences. I choose to remove stress from my life whenever possible. I choose to take care of myself first. I choose to be me.
What do you choose?