Staying True to Yourself

A lot of people like to change themselves when they get into relationships.  To a certain extent, that’s understandable.  After all, if you really care about someone, you should be willing to put in some effort to make it work.  That said, there’s a huge difference between making compromises and changing who you fundamentally are to please another person.

“I don’t want you to give up your life, I just want to have you in mine.” – Harry, from Secret Diary of a Call Girl,  Episode 4.8

If you’re in a relationship, you need to love the other person for who they are.  And you need to feel comfortable with who you are.

“And I can’t love him and ask him to be someone different.”- Kari, from If Only by Cherise Sinclair

Being in a relationship and being true to yourself should never be mutually exclusive.

This applies to every kind of relationships, not just romantic relationships.  I’ve found that in all my relationships, I try to change myself to be more like what I think the other person wants from me.  Sometimes, I’ve found that they really just wanted me to by myself and that they’d truly love me for who I am.  There were, however, times when I knew that being who I am meant losing the relationship.  It’s sad when that happens, but I’m starting to see that a relationship like that is never going to work out and is only going to hurt me in the end.  It’s sad, but I just have to let those toxic relationships go.

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It’s Good to Have a Reminder

I had an excellent day today.  The kind of day that breaks through the fog of numbness that characterises my days with depression.  The kind of day that reminds me of what my life was like before my struggles with mental illness.  The kind of day that makes me not only feel alive again, but makes me want to live.

I think it says something about me that today was spectacularly wonderful despite the fact that I didn’t spend time with my friends, it was Chinese New Year and I wasn’t spending time with relatives and I wasn’t going out doing something new and exciting.  In many ways, by most people’s standards, my day was exceedingly ordinary.

I had tea with a teacher from my school and one of her friends today.  On the way back, we talked about stuff.  My problems, mostly, and how she thought that I had really similar struggles to another teacher at the school.  And at some point in the discussion, she happened to mention her own struggles.  It meant the world to me.  From time to time, my friends mention that they feel guilty for burdening me with their problems, but it’s never felt like that.  I feel good when people share their problems with me.  I feel respected, valued, trusted.   For a teacher at my school to share something like that…I know a lot of people might feel it’s inappropriate, but to me it meant that the teacher saw me as a person, and not just as a student.  In a world where I often find myself wondering if anyone truly sees me, that’s something that’s really important.

In the end, it all comes down to that.  After months of trying to fill the emptiness in my life.  Of trying to break through the numbness that surrounds my emotions.  After years of struggling with depression, the one thing that makes it better for a day isn’t something exciting or special.  It is something that is extraordinary in its ordinariness.  Some days, it’s good to have a reminder that the little things in life actually matter the most.

Approval

A while back, someone described his horse to me.  He said his horse would bring him things, or bring things to little children, and speculated his horse probably wanted the approval.  A year later, I got a dog.  It was easy enough to realise that she’d do things for a reward of getting to play fetch, but eventually, I realised that even when she wasn’t being rewarded with her favourite toy, she’d still often do what I asked.  My approval was enough reward for her to comply with a request, even when she didn’t want to do whatever I’d told her to do.

Approval isn’t something we often talk about, and yet, it’s something that governs most of our lives.  My earliest memories involve seeking the approval of various adults I liked.  Even now, I find myself evaluating my self-worth, not on my own terms and values, but often on whether I am able to gain the approval of the people I like.

It’s perfectly normal to desire approval from others.  We’re very social beings, and our desire to please others is what makes us able to function as a society.  Sometimes, though, we find ourselves trying a little too hard and giving up too much to be accepted by others.

I hate disappointing people.  I really, really do.  I hate it to the point where I will agree to do things that are difficult/unpleasant for me if someone asks me to and I will make huge decisions in my life that aren’t necessarily the best for me just because I don’t want to disappoint someone.  I have known for quite a while that I’ve been spending my life living someone else’s dream, and yet I didn’t want to change, to live life on my own terms, simply because the fear of disappointing others and the desire to gain their approval was so strong.  In small things, this is okay, and it’s what helps people to have smooth social relationships, but when I make big decisions according to what others want, it can really hurt me, because I’m not making the best decision I can for me and that can have a huge impact on my future.

It’s hard to break free from the need to please others, to gain their approval.  The reasons why I do that are so tied up with my past, and my self-worth being predicated on others’ opinion of me and my anxiety regarding other people and everything… But I have to do this.  For me.

Friend Love

Friend Love

I’m seventeen.  A lot of my classmates are experimenting with relationships, with the idea of love, and I am too.  I’ve been in love (or so I think, anyways), but there have been moments where I was drawn to someone but it didn’t feel quite the same.  Was it love?  Was it friendship?  I didn’t know.  Then I came across this comic and it described my experience so completely that I knew in that instant, that I’d finally found the word for what I was experiencing.  So I thought I’d share it here, because it’s a really cute comic and it meant something to me and maybe it will mean something to you.

Letting Go

One of the hardest things in life is letting go.  It’s something we all need to do at some point, but that doesn’t make it any easier.

A friend of mine recently entered into a relationship that is already showing signs of being abusive.  I and several others have pointed out our concerns to him, and although he agrees that the relationship is problematic, he doesn’t want to leave because he still loves his significant other very much.

Although I’ve never been in a relationship, much less an abusive one, I have faced situations in which even though I knew it was best for me to let go, I didn’t want to.

“Don’t give up”, “you only fail when you stop trying”, “nothing is impossible”… Our society constantly tells us that nothing is beyond us and that no matter what the situation we’re facing, we should never back down, never let go.  It’s easy to see the appeal of the idea.  And indeed if we gave up as soon as things got hard, we’d never go anywhere.  However, it’s equally important to know when it is a good idea to give up, and it happens sometimes.

It’s not so very hard to let go of something we know to be impossible.  What’s hard is letting go of the very small chance that you might have succeeded.  Turning your back on something that is actually possible is hard to justify to yourself, but it’s something we have to learn to do.

It amazes me just how much I’m willing to sacrifice for the smallest chance at something that’s really important to me.  My happiness, self esteem etc.  All for the tiniest glimmer of hope that I might have succeeded.  At some point, I think I really need to learn that if just trying for something that isn’t likely is going to cause me to lose a lot of important things, I need to let go.  But it still feels too much like giving up.  But the hardest thing to learn, and one of the most important, is when to let go of an achievable dream

I’m seventeen, and that means I’m having to decide on what I want to do for the rest of my life.  On one hand, I have my dreams of being a veterinarian, dreams of spending the rest of my life doing something I love and am passionate about.  On the other hand, I have to look at the very real possibility of not being able to find a job once I graduate, and the near-certainty that in this profession, I will not earn as much money as I would being, say, a doctor, which is what my parents want me to do.  I think I have a fair chance at getting into veterinary school, and to give that all up for money and job security seems ridiculous, but even so, it’s hard to say that following my dreams is going to be the best thing for me.  Situations like this are the worst, because although letting go might be wise, the self-doubts, the “what-ifs” will continue to haunt me.

In the end, it all comes down to one big question.  When do we let go and how?  And I don’t have any answers.

A Quote I’d Like To Share

A former teacher shared this quote with me and I decided to put it here.  I don’t know who the original author is, so it’s not credited, but it’s not mine, either.

“Life is full of imperfect things and imperfect people. I’m not the best at hardly anything, and I forget birthdays and anniversaries just like everyone else. What I’ve learned over the years, is that learning to accept each others faults and choosing to celebrate each other’s differences, is one of the most important keys to creating a healthy, growing, and lasting relationship. Life is too short to wake up with regrets. Love the people who treat you right and have compassion for the ones who don’t.”

On Friendship

I have a pretty awesome best friend.  Or at least, I think she’s pretty awesome.  She’s also still single despite wanting a relationship, and she sometimes finds it difficult to make other friends.  So why is it that I think she’s great and wonderful and others don’t?

Sometimes people look at prospective friends based on quantity of positive and negative qualities, and that is a good way to look at it, but that in and of itself is defined by what strengths you seek and what weaknesses you can live with. For example, one of the weaknesses that tends to rule out close friends for me is “excessive liveliness”. For many, that’s a positive quality, and I do respect that, but I know my own limits and I realise that my capacity for dealing with people is drained significantly faster when I’m with high-energy people doing high-energy activities or holding conversations where exclamation points reign supreme. So when you consider a person’s positive and negative qualities, you’re looking at it from the perspective of what you seek and what you can accept, as well. Further, for some, Buddhism would be a weakness (if someone were Christian and only sought a Christian mate, for example), but to an agnostic, a religious preference would be neither a strength nor a weakness, merely a random fact about the other person, much like their preference for a certain colour (which is also a weakness for some… I don’t know if I could live with someone who wanted to paint the wall of every room in the house bright red or green…) or their appearance (which matters not at all to me, but is highly important to some).

The thing is, everyone has faults, and friendship (or any kind of relationship) is merely a matter of finding someone whose faults are things you’re willing to tolerate and whose strengths are things you value. There are people I know whom I would never be friends with, not because they’re bad people, but simply because they’re all wrong for me. And likewise, many, many people are unwilling to be friends with me because it’s not a good match. There’s no absolute. The only thing is that one hopes the people you consider a good match feel the same way about you… Because that’s not always the case.

Unfortunately, I’ve fallen in love with people who don’t seek people with my strengths and who cannot tolerate my weaknesses.  I’ve deeply desired friendships with people who just don’t like me.  And that happens.  I used to think that if I liked someone, it would be because we were similar and that the other person would automatically like me back.  It doesn’t work that way, and it hurts when someone you like doesn’t like you back, but when all is said and done, there isn’t anything you can do except to pick up what’s left of your heart and walk away, because holding on to something that you never had only leads to more heartbreak.