I had a conversation with someone at the market the other day and they were telling me a terrible story about something that their friend said to them. It was discouraging and mean, and immediately I thought “Why would you have a friend like that?”
Years ago, when I was a corporate dude, I had a lot of friends. In fact I prided myself on how many friends I had. It was almost like the more popular I was, the more value my life had. I also had a collection of friendships that were bronzed by longevity, a group of friends that were at the top tiers because I had known them longer than anyone else.
Despite having a close circle of friends, I wasn’t what you would call happy. I think the problem started because I wasn’t very popular in school. Trust me, I have no qualms about it, I was a weird ass kid… I mean I wasn’t scary weird, just quiet, awkward, and unsociable. I think my need to fill in the empty space, caused me to not question my friendships and feel grateful that people were actually willing to call me their friend.
It wasn’t until years later that I started to take notice of the dynamic personalities that I took on around certain people. How in most cases, I was too afraid to be myself, and how I wasn’t really sure who that was any more.
Some people that I considered really close friends ended up being the most toxic. I didn’t realize it, because we had slowly over the years created a dance in our relationships, where I willingly played a role and they played theirs. It was like our dynamic was perfectly choreographed.
A truth that I had to face, which was very difficult for me was this. You will allow people to abuse you slightly less than you abuse yourself and others, or you would leave immediately. It is only because you think you deserve it, that you make all the excuses to stay. Either from the beginning, or slowly throughout your relationship, you allowed yourself to stay and take the toxic relationship.
This wasn’t a happy thought from where I was standing. I wanted to deny it, and say it was just some crap that some stupid self help guru made up.
But, once I started thinking about it, I couldn’t stop. I realized that the source of my unhappiness had noting to do with the people I surrounded myself with. I surrounded myself with toxic people, because I was toxic to myself and others. A positive person entering my life wouldn’t last long in that dynamic, they would get weeded out eventually or simply leave.
I had to change my relationship with myself.
When I started on this journey to becoming my biggest cheerleader, most of my friends were put off by it and called me all kinds of names.
I associated it to this analogy:
You go to a bar every night and meet with five friends. Every night, you complain about your job, your spouse, the weather, and yourself. You all commiserate about how tough things are for you and how life sucks. All you know is the inside of that bar, that is where you are comfortable.
Then one day, you go for a walk instead. The day is beautiful, and you stand by the ocean. At first you are uncomfortable, and not really sure what to expect. Part of you wants to run back to the bar, the other part of you wants to see where this goes. So you stay. You sit in the stillness and watch a sunset for the first time and you are overcome with beauty.
You go back to the bar the next night and try to convince your friends to stop their routine and experience the sunset like you did. You tell them that it is beautiful, and that you feel amazing. They tell you that you have changed, and they feel like they don’t know you any more.
At that point you have a choice… Go to the sunset alone, or stay at the bar.
Choice is yours.