Your happiness and self-worth shouldn’t be entirely dependent on others. But the truth is, personal relationships do have an influence on how you feel, and that includes how you feel about yourself.You will only ever be as great as the people you surround yourself with; so be brave enough to let go of those who keep bringing you down.
An old college friend, Axel, and I grabbed some coffee this morning to catch up. About halfway through our conversation he admitted to me that he was really stressed out. The more I listened to his story, the more I realized that many of his relationships felt like a burden to him. The people he had surrounded himself with weren’t supportive in the least. But it was a burden to which he’d become so accustomed, he didn’t even know he’d been carrying it until he spoke to me and was able to lay down the heavy load for a while. The pain of relationships that aren’t working are like a subtle background ache – we don’t notice how much they hurt because we’ve grown so used to the constant discomfort.
How have you been feeling lately? How are your relationships going? The two can be more intertwined than we often realize. As soon as I suspected Axel’s relationships might be having an impact on his happiness and self-esteem, I asked him a question that made him think:
What should a healthy relationship provide for the people in it?
Truth be told, life is way too wonderful and short to waste time with people who don’t treat you right. So surround yourself with people who inspire you to smile. People who help you up when you’re down. People who would never take advantage of you. People who are honest and genuinely care. They are the ones worth keeping in your life. Everyone else is just passing through.
If you feel like your relationships are bringing you down, here are some signs you may be hanging with the wrong crowd:
1. They say you don’t have what it takes.Never let someone’s opinion of you wash away your inner strength and spirit. Never sacrifice who you are or what you aspire to be because someone else sees things differently. Sometimes even those who you consider to be close confidants will carelessly crush your potential with smiles on their faces. They will discredit your ideas, exhibiting zero emotional support, and try to persuade you to forget part of the person you are, along with the person you are capable of becoming.
It usually takes just a few negative comments to kill a person’s dream. Don’t speak these negative comments to others, and don’t listen to those who do. Don’t let people interrupt you and tell you that you can’t do something. If you have a dream that you’re passionate about, you must protect it. When others can’t do something themselves, they’re going to tell you that you can’t do it either; and that’s a lie. These people are simply speaking from within the boundaries of their own limitations.
Don’t let weak minds convince you that you aren’t strong enough and smart enough. You are. Surround yourself with people who help strengthen you – those who see greatness in you, even when you don’t see it in yourself.
2. They don’t support who YOU are.We are all weird in some way. What sets you apart may seem like a burden, but it’s not. Most of the time it’s what makes you so incredible.
You need to know that everyone deserves love and respect without terms and conditions. Everyone has a right to live their life the way they want. Everyone has the right to be happy without feeling guilty. No one has the right to hurt anyone. No one deserves abuse of any kind. No one is not good enough to be exactly who they are. And yes, this includes YOU.
Always choose to be true to yourself, even at the risk of incurring ridicule from others, rather than being fake and incurring the pain and confusion of trying to live a lie. It’s OK to do what you want to do. It’s OK to be happy with yourself and the way you live your life. It’s OK to say no to others and yes to your own desires. There’s no better freedom than the freedom to be exactly who you are. Give yourself that gift, and choose to surround yourself with those who appreciate your decision.
3. They only respect you when you live their way.Real friends (and family) meet in the middle. When there’s a disagreement, they work out a solution that works for both parties – a compromise, rather than a need for the other person to change or completely give in. If someone around you is all take and no give, you have to take a stand.
It takes a great deal of courage to stand up to your enemies, but just as much to stand up to the people closest to you. Sometimes bullying comes from the most unlikely places. Be conscious of how the people in your closest social circles treat you, and look out for the subtle jabs they throw. When necessary, confront them. Do whatever it takes to give yourself the opportunity to live authentically.
Exercise your inner genius. Listen to your inner voice. Try what you want to try, go where you want to go, and explore the depths of your own intuition. Don’t accept false choices just because someone else doesn’t feel what you feel. Don’t let others leash your dreams and your future. If something feels right, it probably is. Give yourself the fair chance you deserve. You CAN, so don’t listen to anyone who says you can’t. Do anything you want as long as it’s not hurting others. Don’t take crap; you deserve better.
4. They create and thrive on negativity.It isn’t easy to remain positive when negativity surrounds you, but remember that you have full control over your attitude. Think of it this way: An entire body of water the size of the Pacific Ocean can’t sink a ship unless it gets inside the ship. Similarly, all the negativity in the world can’t bring you down unless you allow it to get inside your head.
This is your life. You may not be able to control all the things people do to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them. You can decide not to let their actions and opinions invade your heart and mind. And above all, you can decide whom to walk beside into tomorrow, and whom to leave behind today.
5. They condone your self-abuse.Always keep in mind, first and foremost, that you have to treat yourself the way you want others to treat you. The amount of abuse you tolerate in your relationships is often equal to the amount of abuse you heap on yourself. If you are used to telling yourself that you’re ugly, that you are destined to fail, and that you’re not capable of performing in the world without someone holding your hand, then you will accept and feel most comfortable in relationships with people who reinforce these same negative beliefs.
This is precisely why you need people in your life who truly know and love you – true friends and family – people who see the pain in your eyes while everyone else still believes the empty smile on your face. In other words, don’t look for people who will solve all your problems; look for those special few who will sit down and face them with you.
6. They make you feel unattractive.Sadly, we’re taught to believe that miniature waists and perfect tans are beautiful. We’re made to believe that blonde hair with blue eyes will win every time. But the truth is, originality is beautiful. Big brown eyes, green eyes, blue eyes alike. Curves, and lots of them. Your natural skin tone is beautiful. Your hair color and your smile. Your voice, your laugh, and your personality. Every inch of you that shines with your unique essence…
You are truly beautiful just the way you are. If someone close to you says otherwise, they aren’t as close to you as you think. Period.
7. They aren’t there for you when you need them most.Surround yourself with those who believe in you, encourage you, and are willing to support you when it rains, not just when it shines. It’s during the toughest times of your life that you’ll get to see the true colors of the people who say they care about you. So don’t make too much time for people who rarely make time for you, or who only make time for you when it’s convenient for them. Know your worth.
And remember, relationships are rarely 50/50 at any given instant in time. You can’t always feel 100%, or a full 50% of a relationship’s whole – life is simply too unpredictable for that. So on the days when you can only give 20%, the other person must give 80%, and vice versa. It’s never been about balancing steady in the middle; healthy relationships are about two people who are willing to make adjustments for each other in real time as needed, and give more when the other person can’t help but give a little less.
AfterthoughtsIt’s not always where you are in life, but who you have by your side that matters. Some people drain you and others provide soul food. Don’t jeopardize your dignity and self-respect by trying to make someone accept, love and appreciate you when they have proven that they are incapable of doing so.
When you leave the wrong people behind, the right things start happening. What would happen if you surrounded yourself with people who made you better? What would happen if you started spending time with the RIGHT crowd?
Think about it.