I was reading through a blog post of another blog I readily follow, and I had an epiphany of sorts that has let me to understand that I need to do more introspective work.
The writer was talking about being ‘friends’ with those of whom she provides some kind of service. The service could be as insignificant as going to the mall with them whenever they wanted, or as significant as always being available, at the drop of a hat, to babysit or run an errand they can’t get out to do. The writer went on to say what it’s like to start making friends who like her for her, and not what she can give/do for them.
I nodded my head, having gone down that same path over the past handful of years. I have consciously erased some people I would have called “friends” at the time they were in my life, understanding that I was, in a way, being taken advantage of. Being the “giver” that I am, I’m often first in line to offer help to someone who could use it. Add “empath” to the mix, and I’m the first in line offering help to someone even when there has been no conscious show that they need help.
I could write many paragraphs about those people and the stories behind my decision. One had gotten so bad that it became part of the list of reasons to move from Lancaster to where I am now, because that was the only way I knew I could escape it. And yes, I realize I also allowed it get as bad as it was.
At times, I look at the few very close friends I have an ask myself, “Why do these people want to be my friend?” I had realized that part of me had always rushed in to help and be of service to people was because, in a weird way, I was trying to buy added value into having a friendship with me.
For so many years, I had to fight against my parents to try and get them to like me for who I am, not for my accomplishments. I know I never fully succeeded, but I also know I did break some of the boards of the fence. Why then, is it so difficult for me to accept that people will like me for me, not what I do for them?
I turned my tables on myself while I’ve been writing and began asking myself, “Well, why do I like the friends I like?” I was surprised that I couldn’t come up with specific reasons. My friends are non-judgmental (at least outwardly), always friendly, always willing to listen, often inspiring and just comfortable to be around without pretense. I know I have quirks and times I’m being difficult, but they just accept that as part of who I am. I also realize that I can choose to be my authentic self with them without recourse. I have never chosen to be friends with someone other than recognizing that they bring something priceless to the friendship – themselves.
I bring many of those same things to those friendships. I try to be non-judgmental and am learning to preface my judgement with the words, “If I were you – and I’m not – I would….” as a way of indicating that I’m merely giving a different option to something that they may not be seeing on their own. I actually recently asked my bestie about something I was struggling with, and prefaced my question, “If you were me – which you’re not – how would you handle such and such?” and she really gave me great insight and advice. I took her advice and used it, and I’m still thanking her for the benefits of my choice to handle the situation in the way that she suggested! To my friends, I bring laughter, silliness, sarcasm, honesty, a shoulder to lean on, and someone who will always offer an opinion. Apparently, those things are enough!
I have whittled down the need to do/give with these people, and while I like making my friends feel special and let them know I’m thinking about them, I can do that in small ways because it makes me feel good to do so. I honestly know that the small circle of true friends I have haven’t asked me to be of service to them in any way. I will just need to stop and think before doing anything – even small – is 100% for my own joy and 0% to give them reason to keep me as a friend.
Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks????