Do you every notice that you are more "you" around certain people? There are people who know me as well if not better than I know myself. Those who get my humor, with all its' sarcasm and dryness. Those who understand that if a Hallmark Christmas commercial comes on television, I will, without fail, dissolve into a puddle of tears. Those who know all my weird quirks and eccentricities, (from detesting the color purple to being terrified of spiders and weenie dogs) and find them charming and adorable, not at all annoying and stupid…..those are the people I want to spend my time with.
There are times when I quip off something quite funny and sarcastic and get nothing but a blank stare and crickets chirping. I'm laughing like a crazy person on the inside, not only because what I just said was worthy of a Comedy Central special, but because the person I'm talking to is just so completely oblivious to the humor. Those are not the people I invite to my birthday party.
How much time do you spend trying to be someone you're not, to please someone else? Do you have a tendency to be in relationships that aren't right for you and spend all your time and energy trying to re-shape yourself into the mold that person has made for you? Sometimes it may even be unspoken, it may not be a demand another person has made on you, but rather a habit or pattern that you have developed somewhere along the way. Maybe you just need to be a "pleaser".
This reminds me of the story of the "Runaway Bride". Julia Roberts plays a character that keeps repeating the same self destructive pattern with each man she dates. Instead of letting the relationship progress naturally to determine whether or not she is compatible with these men, she changes everything about herself…..from the clothes she wears, to the way she eats her eggs, just to fit what she thinks each man wants or needs. When relationship after relationship fails (well, technically, she makes it as far as the altar, but gets cold feet and runs away) someone finally points this pattern out to her. And as difficult as it is for her to hear, once it finally sinks in, and she realizes that she has been punishing the men in her life because of her own insecurities, she is able to take the time to actually focus on herself and on her own character. She is able to determine for herself what her preferences are, what her beliefs are, what kind of clothes she feels comfortable and beautiful in, and of course, how she likes her eggs.
Sometimes we find ourselves bitter and angry in relationships because we feel like we have lost sight of who we are as individuals, when, truth be told, we have no one to blame but ourselves for letting it get to this point.
When I separated from my first husband, he and I had a conversation that would stay with me for the rest of my life. I apologized to him for trying to change him. I apologized for marrying him thinking that I could "fix" him. I told him how wrong I had been for thinking that my love was strong enough to heal all the hurt and heartbreak he had endured in his life before me. I apologized for not being myself, for trying to change myself to fit what I thought he wanted and in turn, never allowing him to see the "real me". In that conversation, I made a promise to him, as my friend and the father of my son, and to myself, that never again would I go into a relationship with that mindset. I would never again be with a man with the agenda that I can "love him whole". How unfair is that to the man I'm with? How unfair is that to myself! I never realized how destructive my thought process was until it was too late. In hindsight I realized that I went into that relationship with the idea that I could help this man to become the best he could be; in essence, love him for the man he had the potential to become, instead of loving him for the man he already was.
In the process, I allowed myself to be changed, which brought out the worst in me and made me lose sight of who I was. I changed my hair, I changed my clothes, I gave up friends that should have been life-long friends, and anything else I thought would make us more compatible. Not that it was because of him, but in the midst of all the pretenses, I fell away from my walk with God, which was the most detrimental of all. In the end I consoled myself with the notion that I had "tried everything" to make it work, when the truth of the matter was, with the mindset I had going in, we were doomed from the beginning.
It is difficult enough to find a compatible friend or mate, but when you try to force compatibility by changing yourself or the one you are with, all you have is the perfect recipe for disaster.
Over the next months I spent a lot of time figuring out what my priorities needed to be...God, my rock, first and foremost, and my beautiful son, who was the absolute best thing to ever happen to me, my family, my close friends. Then I spent time on me. Focusing on bettering myself. Reading, learning, studying, working out, traveling, eating new foods, meeting new friends, bonding with old ones…doing so many of the things that I never allowed myself to do for fear of alienating someone else. I also spent a lot of time reflecting on the mistakes I had made, and setting some standards for myself and others for future friendships and relationships.
Some time after my marriage ended, I spent the evening with some friends, one of whom brought along a friend of his I'd never met before. We had a sort of instant connection, and ended up talking for hours and hours that night. He told me about his recently failed marriage and his child, and I shared my story. I told him all my "stuff" right up front. All of it, the good, the bad, the ugly. The first night I met him. I had no intention of being in a relationship any time soon, but we were having a conversation that felt like it may develop into a friendship, so I spilled my guts.
I told him everything I had done wrong in my past relationships, how I had hurt others that had loved me, how I had been hurt by those I'd loved. I explained in detail all that I had learned from my mistakes, and how I planned to never make those mistakes again. The underlying point of the conversation being, Hey! I now know who I am, what I want, what I can live with, what I can't live with, and what I can't live without. Wow! What an incredibly freeing that conversation was! I didn't even realize it until after he left, but I felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I realized I actually meant everything I said….that I had learned some incredibly valuable lessons from all the pain that I had caused and from the pain I had dealt others.
At the time, I didn't even know if I would ever see this man again, but that conversation changed me. It changed my perspective. And even though I had already made up my mind how I would do things differently when I got into another relationship, saying it all out loud (and to a stranger, no less) sort of concreted it and made it real. As the words flowed out of my mouth I felt lighter and lighter, and stronger and stronger. The best way I can describe it, is to say that the experience was freeing. Like I could finally let go of all my mistakes and all the heartache I had endured and start fresh. And this time I would know better.have fun!
Fast forward 2 ½ years later………in my wedding vows to this same man, I promised to love him with all I have for all that he is, and to give him all of me, the real me, no matter what.
If you find yourself becoming bitter or exhausted from the effort you are putting into a relationship or friendship, try taking a step back and reevaluating the situation. Ask yourself these questions:
- Can I be myself with this person?
- Do I allow them to be who they are and love and accept them for that?
- Does this person pressure me to change or imply they would love me more if I did?
- Am I happy and content just being me with this person?
- Do I worry taking this person around other friends and family, fearing they may discover the "real me"?
Carefully consider your answers to these questions and determine whether you need to seriously re-evaluate the importance of this relationship in your life. Trust me, if this person is truly your friend or truly wants to be in a healthy, loving relationship with you, they will want you to be you! Not some watered down soaped up version of you…just you. Don't be afraid. It may take some time to find true friends and a true love that will accept you just the way you are, let's face it, we're all a little weird! Keep your standards up, keep looking. You'll find others just as perfectly imperfect and goofy as you and you'll fit together like a hand in a glove! Just remember….You deserve it.
If you have a tendency to build up a protective barrier around yourself and refuse to let people see the real you, what you must realize is that, by building those walls, you prevent yourself from making true connections and in turn, you lessen your chances of forging lasting relationships.
Oh, and one last thought…..keep in mind that while you're wasting time in relationships that don't fit, you very well may overlook or be overlooked by the people you could truly connect with!
The bottom line is, it is better to be hated for who you truly are, than to be loved for who you pretend to be!
Excerpt from the book "Anything But Ordinary, Please!"