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"You're not learning anything unless you're having the difficult conversations (...)Sometimes when you get clear about who you are, others get less comfortable because they liked who you were..." -Gwyneth Paltrow.
I read this quote this morning and found that it really resonated with me. I spent a good portion of my youth playing the overly-passive friend/girlfriend/etc., and found that when I started to really stand up for myself- my relationships changed completely. Some changes felt right, and I was happy with them. There have been other changes that I've had a much harder time sifting through my emotions on.
In my romantic relationships, becoming my own person has been one of the greatest accomplishments (and continual battles, still) that I have undertaken. It's so much easier to run and hide when the going gets tough, or to mold myself into who someone else wants me to be because it dodges an argument at the moment. Far too often, in my dating life, I've had a policy of the other person saying "Jump," and my response being "How high?" It's easy, it's peace-keeping, and it makes the person I care about happy, at least for the time being. Don't get me wrong: I am a firm believer in compromise, and making the person you're with as happy as possible. But if it's at the cost of your personal values and interest... I just can't push myself to be that person anymore. I can't emotionally afford it. For one thing- I would't be happy not being true to myself. For another thing- neither is the other person. Have you ever met "that couple?" The one where one person sets the bar and the other person does whatever it takes (on a consistent basis) to please The Boss? Sometimes, you should sacrifice. I believe that 100%. But if you are making ALL the sacrifices and the other person is just pushing and pushing, no one is happy. You're unhappy because you're devaluing yourself and denying your rights as a human being. And the other person isn't happy because you've made yourself an object to them, a possession. And it is my firm belief that nobody can respect a partner who places little to no value on themselves. Sometimes, saying No is really tough. I'm not advocating that you go around saying "No," just for the sake of being assertive. If it's not that big of a deal, don't make it one. I DO believe, however, that saying "No," when you really mean it can be empowering not only for yourself but for your relationship. Setting boundaries allows for two people to remain TWO people, and not lose themselves in each other. It's all very romantic to say you've "lost yourself" in a relationship, but seriously- if I wanted to spend all my time with an exact replica of myself, I'd look into cloning.
As far as my friendships- in some cases this has been easier and in others it's been much MUCH harder. For as long as I can remember, I've been a peace-keeping kid. Also, for as long as I can remember ALL I wanted in the whole wide world was to be accepted by my peers. I blame it on being the youngest of 5 kids where everyone was, in my eyes, SO cool. I wanted to be quirky like my oldest brother, assertive like my oldest sister, athletic like my other brother, and uber popular like my other sister. Anyone who knows anything about being "cool" as a kid knows that the harder you try, the less "cool" you are. Lets just say I tried REAL hard. Lets also say that I performed "skipping" as my talent in my third-grade talent show. And yes, that's exactly as cool as it sounds like it was.
Fast forward to high school: Ooooo, I wanted to be popular SO bad. I can remember seeing a "trendy" girl in my school wear the same shoes I had bought (before her!) and my inner Me was pretty much like, "Yep. Totally nailed it!" For the record, I didn't. I wasn't cool at all. SO- this was a lot of my life. Trying really hard, and falling totally short. And I had friends who accepted me, but I often wondered if that was because if they said something was cool I was pretty much doing it. A lot of my teenage years were spent in a hodgepodge of feelings between "I'm doing awesome stuff," and "But this stuff isn't really making me very happy." Well into my 20's, I was passive (or passive-aggressive), gullible, and timid. Friends would flake on me, not call me on my birthday, leave me out, and worse- and I would buy into their promises that it was no big deal and I should forgive them. After years of this, I'd finally had enough. I was unhappy. I felt unimportant and unloved by the people I trusted the most. I wont drone on about it- but it was really pretty sad and pathetic. I finally started standing up for myself. If people flaked out on me, I stopped making plans with them. When my friends continually disregarded my feelings, I stopped believing their claims that they loved me and cared about my well-being. And I'll be honest: that was a really hard pill to swallow. Looking to someone I'd known for most of my life and realizing that I hadn't REALLY been a priority to them for that entire time made my heart sad. But walking away from people who had hurt me also opened my time up to people who DID care about me. I found that I wasn't spending my time waiting for people who would never call. I wasn't compromising or holding my tongue about things when I felt like I wanted to speak up. I was around people who showed me, every day, that I was worth being a good friend to. And it felt really, really good.
As this transformation happened, I think that some people were uncomfortable with the updated "me." And a few friendships that I had began to fizzle out. Friendships that, after all that, were never really equal in the first place. And now that I've gained some momentum on the ol' Self-Esteem Express; I see these types of friendships a lot sooner. People who want me to go places or do things that really aren't in my best interest. Friends who invite me to do things that THEY want to do, with no reciprocation of coming to things that are important to ME. People who push others to do things that are demeaning, just to get a kick out of it. Those scenarios make me uncomfortable- and for that reason, I no longer join in. I can see how some people might feel like I'm being 'judgy,' or boring. And maybe I am. But to me, it just doesn't make sense to try to prove myself to other people anymore. At the end of the day- my opinion of me is the only one I'm left with. And these days, that's enough.