Hello dear friend,
Have you ever had one of those moments that stops you in your tracks and leaves your cheeks burning and chest tight as guilt/shame/regret sit sour upon your tongue? Have you ever been suddenly presented with a view of yourself so at odds with your own self-perception, that it leaves you wondering what other flaws in your personality are still hiding from your own view? A moment that makes you feel slightly sick to your stomach as you are faced with a proverbial mirror that reflects a “you” that you thought you would never be? I sincerely hope not, but if you have, too, maybe this will be relatable for you…
For quite a long while now, I have struggled with remaining calm around one of the mother figures in my life. Our relationship is complicated at best – I love her dearly and I want her to be proud of me…yet at the same time I feel I often disappoint her by not living up to her expectations of me. As the years have passed, I have found it easier not to say what I am thinking around her. I never know when something I say will end in her crying and upset with me yet again. I have learned not to share my hopes and fears with her, because she judges my every decision through the lens of her own experience and values…and is not at all afraid to state exactly how I am messing up yet again. Not a great relationship, yeah? But one I find myself unwilling to break. And honestly, we all see the world through the lens of our own experience and values, yeah? But…well, I thought that I do a good job of trying to see things from other perspectives. I thought that I knew better than to make others feel the way I felt (still feel) when this mother figure offers me advice…
So I think you can imagine the sick feeling of surprise that shot through me during a conversation with one of my dearest friends. She’s been struggling with various stresses, which I’ll omit for sake of privacy, for quite a while and I’ve been noticing she is falling back into patterns she has displayed in the past when she is struggling with her mental health. I’ve approached her a few times about it, but she keeps brushing me off. During this recent conversation, though…god, I still feel sick about it. She rather forcefully reminded me that she isn’t me, that she can handle her mental health and her stresses in her own way, that what worked for me and what I think I’m seeing are not applicable to her. She told me she would have to stop talking to me about the things that matter if I can’t learn to simply listen…wow, yeah, ouch. I failed her as a friend. I failed her, and myself, by exhibiting the same behavior that brings me so much pain. It has never been made more clear to me that, as has been said by others before, the traits I dislike in others are the ones I most need to work on resolving in myself.
Talk about a wake-up call. I know I’ve been doing so much work to try to break my negative thought patterns, to heal my past pains, and to become a better (best?) version of myself. While I thought I was making such good progress, this conversation threw into clear, sharp focus the reality of how much I’m still not facing my own self-hate, my own negative behaviors. *sigh* Change is hard, isn’t it? So what can we do? In my case, I’m going to be listing all the traits that have left me feeling uneasy or sad or hurt when I’ve interacted with others, so that I can start identifying where and how I’m owning those traits myself. I think that it is only through spending more time learning about and acknowledging what makes me, well, me, through identifying how I want to be perceived vs. how I am currently being perceived by those around me – well, those whose opinions matter to me, that I can start to embody the me I want to be. Not an easy task, by any means, but a challenge I am ready and willing to undertake. Wish me luck?