As I reflect on the past decade+ of trials and tribulations, successes and experiences, one very important lesson jumps out at me: It is so important to surround yourself with the right people.
People will see you as an external version of themselves. They see what they like about themselves, or what they don’t. They see someone they want to be, or someone they failed to be. Someone they used to know and like, or someone they used to know and didn’t like. Or they see nothing. They see a blank slate that they can impress or mould into someone who sees them a certain way. So that they can feel they are that way.
People will treat you according to factors like this, not based on who you are. Unfortunately, these same blind people can shape how you see yourself based on how often you have to tolerate their input.
It would be nice to think our interactions were actually worth something on their own but they are not. They are tainted by the participants as echoes of their past or their emotional needs.
(If you find someone who is not like this, grab on with both hands and don’t let go.)
BUT this doesn’t have to be a bad thing! What I realized is how important it is to surround yourself with people who believe in you and make you feel good. Even if it’s just a reflection of a clear bias in your favor. Seek out people who sincerely think highly of you and support you. No reason not to game the system.
These people are harder to find than the prickly ones, but it so important on the road to creating the amazing life you deserve to leave the crappy people in the dust and only cultivate the posse that will support you.
Looking back, what I noticed was that some of the people I allowed into my life in my 20s who were subtly abusive ended up seriously corroding my sense of self over the years.
When I say abusive I mean they were condescending or dismissive about my value/skills/voice, they acted superior to me, they were quick to jump on what they thought were flaws or they generally would allow themselves to make me feel bad because it made them feel better about themselves.
I allowed it to happen because I thought these mild, subversive negative flourishes were based in things I needed to work on. These people were in my life for a reason after all – they had aspects of themselves that I liked, respected and wanted to be around.
Over years this behavior took a toll on who I knew myself to be.
After a lot of build-up and eventually leaving these bad people or situations, I always snapped back to who I really am. Sometimes it was nearly instantaneous. Sometimes it took a few months. And with the luxury of distance it became easy to see how treating me badly had been a kind of therapy for those doing it.
When I was in university I took psychology classes and I remember one that covered how some parents will project abuse they suffered as children onto their own children. So for instance, if the parent had done poorly at school and had been berated for it, that parent will then berate their child the same way. Their child doesn’t have to be particularly weak at school for it to happen. Just being on the flip side of that interaction is the therapy for the parent. It’s not that they suffered abuse (something they need to confront within themselves, process, forgive and move on from AKA having character), it’s that that abuse is a right of passage for them to pass on.
If a parent can be so blind to their own child’s right to respect and love, it’s easy to see how adults can use the same tricks to nurse their own hurts via others.
At this point in my life I know who I am and what I’m capable of. So when someone tries to treat me badly, they are taking a serious gamble. They are gambling that deep down, some part of me believes that I deserve that abuse so I will allow it. However, if there is no part of me deep down which believes this, I will see the person dispensing unpleasantness as stupid, weak, maladjusted and all respect I had for them will be gone. I have no respect for abuse of any kind.
I use to think that, maybe, abuse could sometimes be high-minded. Mainly because the people dispensing it always make it seem like it is.
But I’ve seen that I myself would never, ever, treated anyone in an abusive, manipulative, or disrespectful way regardless of the many varied situations I have been in. I always resort to being uplifting and supportive of others whenever I see that they are fragile in relation to me.
I would never talk down to someone, try to make them feel small, belittle them, purposefully stress them or make them feel bad. The more important my role, the more I use it to support and empower those around me to be their best.
When I realized this, I lost any sympathy for those who dare treat those around them badly. I can see them now for who they are, and the fact that they are carrying forward old hurts which they lack the strength of character to overcome. The more abusive someone is, the weaker they are inside.
Looking back at the years when I didn’t know this and tolerated this behavior makes me even more resolved to surround myself only with the best people moving forward. Because there is no winning over the broken people, and I owe them nothing. I used to want to save them. LOL
There is no coming to a point where they see your worth; where they treat you with respect. The less character a person has the less they are able to see you at all. You will only ever be a vehicle for their needs.
I’m very fortunate to know this now. Many people don’t. They think the negative and abusive people in their lives are that way because of something they’ve done to deserve it. No.
I can handle difficult people. But the ones that try to get under your skin and lessen your worth, I have zero tolerance for… It’s a decidedly unfeminine disposition, but as women get older they allow themselves to drop such ridiculous pretenses.
Life is too short for abusive friends, partners and coworkers. There is no saving them or making the situation better, and you’ll lose parts of yourself when you care about them long enough to try. Freeze them out.
There are enough amazing people out there to fill a life with. If they are hard to find, work on yourself until they are the only people gravitating in your experience. Phase out people who make you feel bad in any way.