Sunday, October 14, 2012

You're Not the Boss of Me

Random light bulb moment: 12th bday party with group of girls I'd been surrounded with forever.
Popular girl #1 "Why'd you invite us? Why didn't you invite your real friends?"

Mean girls (aka: bullies, "frenemies," or meanie pantsies) are at the top of my list of People Who Suck. Not that that girl was a mean girl. She wasn't really. She was just blunt as shit.

When it comes to growth and change, most parts of that journey are intolerable at first. When you've spent your life a natural people pleaser, being disliked is baffling, painful, and, scary. Not being liked by or friends with people I'd grown up with was as puzzling as it was painful. When I took the time to connect with who I was at that party, I finally saw my younger self didn't know there was another option besides just continuing to be nice and trying ignore the feeling of being not quite accepted. When I evaluated those relationships objectively and even talked to my therapist about it as an adult, the message received from all those relationships came through as "Look and act the part we want you to or you're out."

That shit still hasn't gone away completely and it probably never will. It's inevitable at some point in life, everyone will get this message. It preys on our deepest insecurities and fears and can render anyone mute. It works wonders to keep us frozen in place. It also guarantees we will resist cutting people out of our lives who aren't good for us, maybe they're even toxic. We fear if we hurt someone they will hurt us back, maybe they'll even stop loving/liking us. Maybe they'll even leave.

Learning that some things are worse than someone leaving you is the path to freedom. I have been guilty on so many occasions of keeping people in my life who were only there conditionally. As long as our relationship was all about them, we were besties. The moment I crossed them, however, or stopped doing things the way they liked them, relationship over.

The pisser is, I would feel guilty and hurt when these friends would not return phone calls or always have more important drama to attend to. I actually cared more about how they were feeling and what they were thinking than what I did. Inevitably, this led to certain friendships continuing long past their expiration date. Not everyone is meant to be friends forever. It's a great concept but when put into practice it seldom works out. Letting things stew for years, however, guaranteed that when those friendships ended they went down in flames instead of quiet dignity. I regret that part of things but I am grateful for not turning back around and trying to fix things, to mold myself back into whatever they wanted me to be.

A huge part of why I'm good at what I do is my ability to sense what people need me to be. Some folks need a cheerleader, others a parent, still others an antagonist. The lesson I learned in school of "Meet people from wherever they are at" resonated deeply with me then and still does to this day. When it comes to my work life, that is completely acceptable. Outside of the office, however, being what people want me to be can be exhausting. Not to mention much, much, too hard. Somewhere along the line, after the end of some particularly old friendships, I had to accept that all things have a start point and an end point. That although it was painful initially to end those relationships I was truly better off. These were people who'd long since stopped making me feel good about myself or around them.

Who needs people when I have a Paulie dog?

Opening myself up to the idea that I'm fine has been really new for me. I've stopped viewing myself as a failure over relationships that have ended badly and instead, try to stay focused and in the moment - no more ignoring or drifting off needed. Thoughts and feelings can hurt like hell at times but the good news is I'm the boss of them.


  1. Good post! I had a friend I shouldn't have been friends with tell me I got too boring when I realized that I was drinking too much, being too mean to everyone, feeling too angry and lost all the time, and finally decided to stop. My getting my act together wasn't exciting enough for her. We're so not friends now.

  2. Thanks! Yeah, seriously - that chick had to go! I'm just done with regrets. I don't hate anyone, it feels so much better to be ambivalent. And it's way easier to stop myself from behaving like a jackass when I just don't give a crap!