One of my biggest personal flaws is cultivating one-sided relationships that end up hurting me. I attract narcissists who, at the end of the day, don't have my back. For the longest time, I have allowed people who treat me like an afterthought to cycle through me life at their leisure. But I'm not blaming them--I accept that I've allowed this behavior in the past with my eyes wide open and with the attitude of just letting it go.
But the letting it go hasn't served me well--it's only benefited them. As they show up only when they need me, I am left alone in the 'in between' when maybe I need a friend to just spend time with or share a laugh. If it's not on their time table, then they don't have the time. Period.
Or, worse, they're the first to backstab and throw me under the bus based on conjecture or rumor--zero facts. Is that a friend I really need to mourn the loss of? No. Yet, I still find myself missing someone who was really only a placeholder for someone more authentic, filler in the void of loneliness that caused me to settle for less than what I deserved.
I think we all go through periods in life when we know we are compromising our standards simply to avoid being alone. After being widowed, I had a gaping hole in my life where my best friend had existed. I floundered, brought people close who hadn't earned access to the inner circle, assumed a confidante type relationship too soon, and ended up burned and often hurt.
It's taken me a lot of time to realize that self-love isn't just about exercising or eating right or getting a facial every now and then. Respecting oneself also means having standards for the people who get close enough to hurt you--do you really trust them--can you--have they earned it?
Do you know they won't leave your house to gossip and tear you down? Do you know they aren't just using you for your expertise or help and that, once they get it, they won't disappear for months? Do you believe that they care about your heart enough that they would never intentionally stomp on it? Do you feel that they know your true heart and would go to the mat defending you in your absence? If not, then they need to stay in the "acquaintance zone" until (and if) they prove themselves worthy of your friendship.
Why is this so hard for me to implement? It seems easy enough on the surface. I can recite it to myself repeatedly, but then when someone shows back up in my life after an extended absence, I'm too willing to take them back into the fold. Guess what? They disappear again, usually more hurtful than before, and it's simply a cycle I can no longer accept.
Perhaps the death of my husband made me co-dependent in some ways--maybe I needed human connection so much that I reached out to anyone who was there and willing to step in. I'm the first to admit that only-parenting while building a career is damn hard--and lonely. Perhaps that need to feel connected to someone blurred the boundaries. I was too eager to pick up the checks for dinner and buy concert tickets back then--only to be told years later when finances became stretched that people my age should be better off.
I own my mistakes. I take full responsibility for my actions--then and now as I say, "no more." It's time for me to respect myself more by demanding a higher quality of relationship in my life.
I'm not perfect. I'm flawed. My life is chaotic. I work a lot. I always give people the benefit of the doubt and trust too easily. I like getting wild and letting loose because the weight of the world is always on my shoulders. Money is tight because I'm a single mom with a college student and another one about to go. But, more importantly, I'm a good friend who is honest and has integrity. If people can't see that, if they don't automatically believe that after knowing me, then they aren't my friend and perhaps never wanted to be. That's been the hardest part for me to accept---that maybe, yes, they were never as invested in the friendship as I was and I simply wanted to believe it was a deep connection so I didn't feel so alone.
That's the part that makes me doubt my judgment and my heart.
But no more. My life isn't a revolving door for people to show up, shit on me, and leave only to return as if nothing ever happened because good ol' Amber will just 'go with it.' I look at all I've accomplished and all that I've survived and think, "I deserve to be treated better. No more settling. No more disrespect."
I own all the good, too, you see. I own the scars, the drive, the battles, the heartbreak, the creativity, the successes, the failures, the triumphs, the joy, the adventures, and all the love I've cultivated between my kids and me. I'm giving myself respect--which is true self-love.
If your personal relationships aren't allowing you the freedom to express yourself or embrace your successes, then it's time to rethink the people you've allowed into that inner circle. That inner sanctum should be a safe place for you to fall, a place of support and celebration. Even if it's a party of one at times--don't compromise your standards.
Wishing you all green lights and happy days...
Amber Lea Easton
Amber Lea Easton is a multi-published author of romantic thrillers, contemporary romance, women's fiction, and nonfiction. She also writes five different blogs, volunteers for children's literacy, and advocates for suicide awareness. In addition, she is a professional editor and mother of two extraordinary human beings. She currently lives in a small cabin high in the Rocky Mountains where she is completely aware of how lucky she is. To find out more about her books, please visit http://www.amberleaeaston.com.