Before I began to take my emotional and physical wellbeing seriously, I was just sort of on autopilot in terms of who I spent my time with. Basically, if I sat beside you in school, or if we worked together, and you seemed cool, that automatically translated to us being friends! While it’s great to be open and friendly, I now strive to choose my friendships more consciously. This just means setting some boundaries as to who gets to be in the inner sanctum of my friendship circle. Before spending a ton of time with someone, I try to evaluate whether or not this person has a vision for their life, what their beliefs are, and whether they genuinely seem to care for my wellbeing. I seek out friends that I can be myself around, but who will also motivate me to be the best version of myself. I want to have friends that I can laugh and have a couple drinks with, who I can share my sorrow with, who I can tell my dreams to(maybe even those secret dreams that I haven’t even whispered to myself). Most of all, I want to feel supported on my journey, as I seek to support others.
In a perfect world, we would all have friends and family who uplift us, encourage us, inspire us, and hold us accountable. Realistically, we all have some challenging relationships in our lives, be it with certain friends or family members, neighbours or co workers. Other people push our buttons. They trigger us. They make us examine ourselves. We’ve all heard the story of the crabs in the bucket; when one brave crab tries to crawl out, the others will try to drag him back down. In the same way, when we try to elevate things in our lives, old friends and family members will object to the change and try to pull us back down. This can be very, very difficult to deal with. It’s almost like a tug of war, with you in the middle! Your future is calling you, beckoning you forward, and past relationships and ties are trying to pull you back.
Honestly, there have been times when I’ve just wanted to isolate myself. It can be really hard when you’re trying to make positive changes and the people in your life who should be most supportive are giving you the hardest time. Imagine if I’m trying to meditate in the evening and get a good night’s rest as an act of self care, and I have that one friend who wants to come over and drink wine all night long. The friend thinks I’m being a downer, and I think that they’re being selfish for not respecting the lifestyle I’m trying to create.
It may be tempting to want to isolate ourselves when the people in our lives seem to be dragging us down. Sometimes it turns into an outright confrontation. Certain changes we make can trigger feelings of rejection and anger in those around us. Honestly though, even if we were stuck on a desert island with no other people around, there would still be obstacles and challenges for us to overcome. This isn’t to say that disrespectful or even abusive reactions from our loved ones are ok, or should be tolerated. When we are trying to make positive changes in our lives, and our friends or family are being unsupportive, it’s critical to set boundaries. Please believe me when I saw that this is easier said than done! I have been learning to set healthy boundaries with people in my life for years, and I still mess up sometimes. I give too much, and get angry. I let them in a little too close. Life is a learning experience, and sometimes a bit of frustration is part of the tuition.
Unfortunately, mental illness runs in both my adoptive and natural family(yeah, I sure won the family jackpot. Ha!). So as far as my family goes, we have had a dysfunctional and strained relationship. It’s gotten better now; I’m learning how to communicate with them in ways that are safe and healthy for me. For example, I have one family member who likes to watch the news and get paranoid about every minor thing that is, or has a chance of, happening. I don’t want to cut this person off completely, but I also don’t want her calling me at all hours, trying to convince me that Some psycho is going to kill me if I step outside or something silly like that. So I don’t give her my number. The ball is in my court, and I call when I feel mentally strong enough to not be bothered by her extreme anxiety. Do I feel guilty at times? Yes! I know how much my family would love to have me near, but I also know that they are suffering from mental illness, and unwilling to get help. My goal in life is to self actualize, to examine my life, to feel good! I simply cannot be myself and carry out my mission in life and be intertwined with these people where they’re at in their journey right now.
I think it’s unrealistic to cut out every person in your life who doesn’t completely support you on your journey. People really can change and grow, and sometimes patience is the key. Learning to set boundaries with these people, and not let them run amuck with their own agenda as to how you should spend your time is most important. And simply reflecting on yourself and being willing to take ownership for having allowed some of these people to enter your life is a valuable practice. I am at the center of all my conflicts, and so are you. For each and every friendship or relationship in my life that turned sour, there were definite red flags that I chose to ignore. Moving forward, I strive to make more conscious decisions about who I make friends with. Who I decide to share pieces of my soul with. I’m hungry for lasting friendships.
I find that the more time I invest in people who uplift me, the less time I have to even worry about the rest. Some of my old friendships have just dwindled off, and I’m fine with that. There have been other occasions where I’ve had to speak my truth and out and out cut people out of my life. A part of me will still always love those people, but I have to love myself, and setting that boundary is a great act of love.
Simply setting the intention to have more soul supporting friendships and relationships can in itself help to manifest positive change. You can even say out loud, “I open my heart to long lasting, soul supporting relationships”. It may seem silly, but just putting that affirmation out there is planting a seed for your future self. And above all, you need to nurture the most important relationship you’ll ever have- between you and you! How you treat yourself sets the precedent for what others will see as ok to do. Love yourself, not just when things are going fine; love yourself in those moments when you really, really mess up. In those moments when you’re raw, real, vulnerable. Facing your own stuff is powerful, it’s messy, it’s beautiful. Have compassion for yourself. It will all be ok.