I’ve been battling with a relationship.
It’s one of those complicated ones, where you know what you want to do, but you aren’t sure if your intention is protective or avoidant.
I chatted to my girlfriends about it, and they supported me wholeheartedly, but isn’t that what friends do? I asked my Mom and she gave careful and gentle guidance. My husband picks up his battle-axe if I even mention someone is causing me distress, which is reassuring, but not helpful in this particular situation. I was still lost.
Until now. A friend posted an article on Facebook and a light went off inside my head. The article, by writer and educational specialist Linda Stade, is titled The Question That Will Help Teenagers Find Their Tribe and the question she asks in the article is “Who do you like yourself around?” It’s meant to help young people find a healthy group of friends that resonate with them, but I found the question really helpful at my age as well, and perhaps it can help you too.
Who do you like yourself around? Such a simple question with such profound and far-reaching consequences if we act on our answers. You know which interactions leave you feeling buoyant and energised and which leave you feeling somehow less than you were before.
So I thought about it. I have so many relationships in my life that bring me joy. I also wear many hats. Wife, Mother, Daughter, Daughter-in-law, Editor, Friend, Colleague, School Parent. I show different parts of myself to different people and people also bring out different parts of me.
I’ve recently completed a leadership course where I was one of the youngest participants and I was pleasantly surprised when others on the course described me as a calming, organised influence. How they saw me made me feel so good, especially when I see myself as dropping the ball a lot of the time. Then in almost the opposite sort of interaction, I opened up to a weekly class I was attending about how anxious I often feel, like I’m constantly treading water. And they listened to what I had to say without judgement. Two groups of people, acknowledging diametrically opposing sides of me, in spaces where I could have felt exposed and yet I came out of both feeling good.
You know those relationships where you spend time after an interaction rehashing the whole thing over in your head, making up responses for the other person, that are also in your head, and then reacting to them, in your head, until you are the scriptwriter, director and entire cast of your own imagined dramatic miniseries? I know some of you do.
Those relationships leave you feeling diminished, unsure and unhappy. They trigger reactions that are stress producing, and they give very little reward in return. Sometimes in these instances, we can’t choose to walk away. We can, however, recognise them for what they are.
When I can be me, with all my contradictions and constant mind changing and effervescent over-enthusiasm and still feel accepted (even celebrated), those are the people I like myself around (you know who you are, and I thank you).
Those are the times when I don’t feel the need to walk away rehashing the conversation, worrying about gas-lighting and having those conversations (that are only in my head) between me and the other person, creating all sorts of drama that isn’t there. That’s who I feel good around. That’s who I feel relaxed around and that’s who I like myself around.
So, who do you like yourself around?