Day 22: Obligation or Opportunity?

Authors Note:  This is the 22nd entry in a 23 part series – my reactions to each item on the post 23 Things Every Woman Should Stop Doing.  Please join the conversation.

ImageDuring this time of the year, chances are many of us have been traveling around to visit family, friends, and others with whom we have a chance to connect as we travel back to our childhood and/or family homes.  As we do this – and as we wind down our travel time – consider this:

21. Spending time with people out of obligation. Just because you spent every waking moment of your elementary school days with someone doesn’t mean you have anything in common with her now. There’s no need to see every old friend and third cousin who passes through your city. Be intentional about who you spend your time with and allow yourself to let some relationships fade away naturally.

This one goes hand in hand with the post relating to entry number 20 – “Day 17: Albatross or Songbird” – when we talked about cutting off/banishing toxic friendships/relationships with your life – and entry number 2 – “Day 2: Affirmative Action” – where we discuss saying “yes” to everyone even when you don’t want to do something.  However, this one goes in a little bit of a different direction – in this case, what we’re really talking about is a sense of obligation.

When was the last time you went back to visit your family, and you heard that one of your old elementary or high school friends was in town?  Or better yet – someone’s first cousin, three times removed, was visiting, and they’d really “love it if you’d stop by” (even though the last time you saw this person was in 3rd grade and you have zero contact with them now)?  Unlike saying “yes” to everything because you don’t want to – in these instances, I tend to have this feeling that goes something like this – “I really don’t want to go – but I SHOULD go – because it’s (family/friend/etc.).  If I don’t, (fill in the name of relative or other friend) will be really upset with me.”

Talk about issues colliding!  Here we have a situation in which you DON’T want to do something, that you are possibly connecting with people who add zero value to you at the present moment (or who maybe never did except when you were FIVE), and the “good girl syndrome” all blending together in an obligation casserole.  I mean – how much guilt, regret, disappointment, etc., can you handle all at once?  

Evidently – quite a bit.

These moments happen to us all.  At these times, I tend to focus on what is important to me.  Do I really need to/want to connect with this person? Maybe or maybe not.  Is this a possible relationship that I can reconnect with and really learn from? Could be.  Is this a relationship that – when I was active in it before – brought me joy and/or something more, or that I contributed positively to?  Possibly.

When I consider these things – I come back to what fulfills me and brings me joy.  But I also consider the joy of the other person as well.  I end up splitting these moments at about 50/50.  Sometimes I go and sometimes I don’t.  Sometimes – I’m just too tired to function and I know that I’d be a horrible companion/company for the evening, so I spare my grade school friend and/or relative the bear of dealing with a grumpy JPK.  Other times – I change my mindset and embrace the possible.  I’ve rekindled some amazing connections this way.  

The point of all of this rambling is simple – you have to do what is best for you at that moment.  Go if you want to – or if you feel ready to go . Don’t if you don’t want to.  Never let the lone sentiment of obligation rule your decision, for if you do, you will become a slave to it, and that will never bring you or anyone else around you joy.

How do you handle situations like this?

JPK 

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Day 17: Albatross or Songbird

ImageAuthors Note:  This is the 17th entry in a 23 part series – my reactions to each item on the post 23 Things Every Woman Should Stop Doing.  Please join the conversation.

It’s time to talk about relationships that run the course, cycle out, or simply fade away.   Consider this post today:

20. Holding on to toxic friendships. Banish any Regina George-like frenemies from your life ASAP. Life is too short to waste time with people who make you feel like crap.

Let’s start with this.  You are important.  Your opinions and values are important.  And your self-worth and self-concept are important.

Now – let’s move on to this.  You are a person.  People grow and change as they mature.  Think about yourself at age 10.  Were you the same at 10 as you were at 16?  Did you need the same things, like the same things, or have the same self-concept at 10 as you did 16?  What about at age 25?  30?  35?  50?  60?  Do you have the same skills? Are your interests the same?  Do you need to be challenged in the same way?

And finally – are you different now than you were then?

I’m going to guess that the answer to these questions moves in the direction that you are different now than you were when you were younger.  I bet you like some different things, and that you live in a different way.  I’m also going to guess that you would really like to surround yourself with people who make you better, and stronger, and more fulfilled.

However, I’m also going to guess that you have at least one relationship you may be hanging on to purely out of obligation, out of habit, or possibly out of fear.

Please know, I’m not talking about those people that you cherish and that you’ve known since childhood.  Many of these folks in our lives help keep us grounded in a way that connects us to our youth and our beginning.  My sisters and some key friends from high school and college are prime examples of this (Cherie, Stephanie, Sarah, Renee, Tiffany, Shannon, Ed, Alison, Sue, and many others play this role for me).  They knew me when I was very young, and they know me now.  They know my core – and they know when I’m not being true to that core.

However, there are those in our lives that we simply outgrow.  You know who I mean – and I bet you have a few in your lives now.  These are the people that when you interact with them leave you drained and exhausted.  These are the people you have to gear yourself up to talk to, instead of being excited about hearing their voices.  These are the people that when you are in town, you secretly hope won’t find out you’re around so you don’t “have to see them”.  These are also the people you stay connected with on social media that do not add value to your experience; rather, they detract and frustrate you (beyond academic or cognitive discourse) and make your life a more negative space.  Finally, these are often the people who are not supportive, and who passive-aggresively (or sometimes overtly) tear you down in order to make themselves feel better.

I’m telling you to let them go – and let them go now.

You may know the saying – “People come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.”  What I take from this quote is that each relationship is different – and has a different purpose.  You will always have people who stay with you for a long time – for a lifetime, even.  You will also have people who stay with you (and with whom you stay) for a short while, or a season.  And you will have still others who are part of your life for some purpose – to teach you something, for you to assist, or for you to better understand – and then this relationship is over.  The season and reason category sometimes are the ones we hang onto far too long.

Remember that we learn about ourselves through all relationships – positive and negative.  If we hold onto those negative relationships – we do nothing but stunt our own growth and close ourselves off from new, more nurturing and possibly the life-long relationships we crave (and need).  So think about your current relationships.  Are there ones that need to go?  Let them go.  Are there ones that need to be nourished because they really are for a lifetime?  Feed them.  And are there ones that have simply run the course of a season?  Then acknowledge the gift of their time and their lessons, and move on.

As I said in the beginning, you are important.  Your opinions and values are important.  Your self-worth and self-concept are important.  And you deserve to be surrounded by those who understand this – and to whom you give this same gift of understanding.

Release the albatrosses, and live with the songbirds, for these are the friends who truly make your heart sing.

Day 10: You > Me?

Authors Note:  This is the tenth entry in a 23 part series – my reactions to each item on the post 23 Things Every Woman Should Stop Doing.  Please join the conversation.

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Comparison is a killer – and when we compare our own real lives to someone else’s life on social media, we will always lose.  Consider this entry from the post:

8. Comparing your real life to someone else’s virtual one. Spending a ton of time obsessing over your own online life can be anxiety-provoking — but so can obsessing over other peoples’ virtual personas. Research has shown that Facebook addiction is correlated with lower self-esteem. And who wouldn’t feel bad sitting in bed on a Monday night scrolling through your ex’s vacation photo album or the enthusiastic statuses your friend in the fashion industry posted during a celeb-filled party? Instead of playing a constant game of comparison, which studies have shown can actually magnify feelings of depression, just close your laptop and enjoy the present. At least it’s real.

What a powerful message – and one that (again) women largely ignore.  You know what I mean – you look at some of your friends Facebook or Twitter feeds – and its full of amazing pictures of them doing amazing things, talking about their latest promotion, their kids awards, their family traditions, their fitness triumphs and their amazing new publication/car/award/outfit/etc.  Immediately you begin to feel bad.  Little messages begin to play in your head, “Why can’t I get (insert thing or honor here)?”,  “Is my job good enough? Shouldn’t I have a different role by now?”, “Their family looks so happy, how come mine isn’t that happy?” and even “I wish my (job, life, career, friends, kids, house, personal record, etc.) was as good as (insert name of amazingly perfect friend).” 

Here’s the bad news – by comparing yourself to others, you classify your life and yourself as “less than”.

Keep this thought close to your heart – just because someone didn’t tweet about something negative, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. It doesn’t make them better than you, or you worse than them.  Maybe they are having a hard time dealing with a situation, and choose to keep that private.  Perhaps they are in denial about hardships in their own lives, and are using social media as a way to keep an image of their lives they truly want.  Or maybe still, they simply want to share joyful moments to keep things in a positive frame.

I get it, I really do. I don’t really have the luxury to shut off social media at some points during the year, so there are times that I will do things for my own psychological self-preservation.  I have some friends on social media who enjoy sharing about their accomplishments and successes.  I do celebrate them – I love it when people succeed and are excited about it – but I’m also a realist.  Sometimes, I have to own that I am simply not in the headspace to see/hear/read the Facebook announcement – and then get notified every single time someone likes and/or comments about it – and react positively.  I am human, after all.

Blissfully, there are tools on social media that can help.  I have hidden specific posts before, turned off additional notifications, or blocked someone’s feed for a short time.  These actions allow me to come to grips with my own demons (and we all have them) before I jump back in and publicly embrace their success.  Perhaps you feel this is petty; perhaps you don’t. However, it’s worked wonders for me, and allows me to be a better friend, family member and colleague.  I love my peeps – but I love my own wellbeing, too.  By using these tools I’ve found ways to be peaceful, supportive and celebrative of both others and of me.

To sum it up – continually comparing yourself to others is emotional and psychological death.  Enjoy who you are, celebrate your successes, deal with your crap, get to know yourself again, and celebrate the success of others in ways that are meaningful (and healthy) for you.

Now go post your success on Facebook!  Trust me – you’re pretty cool. 🙂