Picture this: you read a post on social media that resonates with you. From reading the comments, obviously it does with many others as well. The post is so lovely, you decide to leave a comment too. You compliment the writer for making so many people feel like they have a tribe in a sometimes-lonely journey.
Now imagine that a friend of yours reads your comment. She believes it implies that you’re lonely, and that you believe the online person is more supportive than she (your real-life friend) is. Your friend internalizes it as a diss to her presence in your life. She starts giving you the silent treatment, but you coax her to talk to you and reveal what’s bothering her. When you explain leaving the comment had nothing to do with her or your friendship, she says: “Well I don’t like it when someone pisses on my head and tells me it’s raining.”
Patterns We Create
Those words fell ruthlessly on my ears through the phone. In one moment, from one sentence, I finally realized that it didn’t matter what I said; her mind was already made up about who I was and what my intentions were. This friend insisted that I was:
- Taking a stab at her by commending another person online for helping make motherhood feel like a tribe and
- not valuing “the actual person” who had been “there for me” for nearly 10 years.
It was within the fallout of that decade long entrenched friendship that I was forced to recalculate my route and find paths better suited for me. I had to take radical inventory of myself and recognize how I was a contributor to toxic patterns that left me with feelings of self-deprecation and resentment, and repetitive groveling in the face of stonewalling. I was complicit to behavior that ultimately led me to a place of powerlessness to redefine the relationship. Cutting ties and walking away from the person I shared so much of my life with was counterintuitive to every fiber of my being at the time, but it was also the only clear way of choosing myself.
All Tied Up in Knots
I find a lot of things out the hard way in life. From an early age, I had spunk and a predisposition to being headstrong. As time wore on, I developed a deep seeded need to please others. I wanted to be liked. I wanted to be celebrated, appreciated, and praised. If someone was upset with me, or even if they weren’t and I perceived that they were, my stomach would tie up in knots. I would do whatever it took to smooth over the issue, make the person feel good, and ultimately put myself in a favorable light again. Cringe.
I sustained unhealthy friendships in my past because of that dynamic. Subconsciously, I gravitated to people who were funny, charming, extraverted, generous…but also conditional. All would be peachy until out of nowhere, I’d be cold shouldered, given the silent treatment, and shown body language that indicated dissatisfaction, disappointment, or hurt feelings. In retrospect, I see those behaviors as representations of something unhealed. All the same, I have tended to internalize that treatment as very real proof that I am to blame. If something was wrong, it must be my fault and my responsibility to fix.
Refined by Grit
But everyone is different right? So, while some people want to eat crow while it’s warm, immediately tackling an issue with face-to-face confrontation, others may wish to stew on it in a corner until they’ve decided to sweep it under the rug.
Of course, there are many personalities and methods that fall everywhere between those two extremes. It takes getting to know someone to a certain degree before you’re aware of their personal approach or communication style. For some, that time is never allotted because a sandpaper moment presents itself and rubs the relationship raw before a mutual understanding can be reached.
When I think sandpaper though, I think grit. And when I think grit, I think of what I hope to instill in my children. The resilience and perseverance to push through the tough stuff life throws at you and find yourself more polished on the other side. Don’t go over, don’t go under, don’t avoid—go through. To me, “going through” means allowing tough situations to teach you something about yourself that you didn’t previously know and refine what is unrefined within you. I suppose that process looks a bit different for everyone, but can you imagine if every individual was willing to commit to it? I believe that could change the world.
A Good Hard Look in the Mirror
“Going through” does not mean blaming. The through line involves not shaming yourself for pain you’ve felt but allowing your feelings to sit at the table and be heard. It’s asking yourself, “What do I think I could have done differently? What do I think I did well? How did my lens contribute to the issue? What needs to be healed within me so that I can see more clearly?” Sometimes, a good hard look in the mirror reflects truths we are afraid of at first but are begging to be faced, and honored, so we can mend what’s broken.
Dismantling to Rebuild
Honing my skills to draw healthy boundaries is of paramount importance to me now. I believe healthy boundaries are a cornerstone to strong, lasting relationships. Clear communication is kind, and I value mutual commitment to listening and holding space for what is hard to hear, as well as being given room to share what is hard to say.
Here is what I’ve learned though: sometimes, the way we would hope to approach a situation or what we’ve been conditioned to believe we should do to make someone else feel better is not always what happens or what is best. Sometimes, words are better left unsaid, and relationships are not meant to last. Repairing what is broken on the inside sometimes involves dismantling on the outside what never really made us feel whole.
If you related to this piece, you might also enjoy How I Found Peace in Humbling Myself
Autumn, your posts share Inspiration to the Centering of the Soul. This post reads accountability, self awareness, reflection, compassion, empathy, GRIT, and ultimately GROWTH! People come into our lives for a reason. Relationships evolve from the patterns of our contributions. Sometimes the attraction is a “false perception” of a comfort zone from our experiences in child hood. Taking a “Good Hard Look in the Mirror” is only valuable if it’s honest not in an effort to “Justify” our own actions. You clearly understand this as a catalyst to self-discovery, growth and the ability to become the person we want to be. You are not a child anymore and no longer “child minded.” You are cognizant of the lessons learned from those healthy and unhealthy habits that have shaped you. Blessings have been bestowed upon you by these life experiences that you have had the courage to excavate!! You know the strength in your foundation and are doing a fabulous job building upon it. Those who truly know you, know these truths about you! Embrace your “Tribe!” Love You, Mom