In my last post (The Art of Self-Mastery) I said the first step was to stop comparing yourself to others. This can sometimes leave those that have spent their lifetime trying to live up to the ideal perfect “other” uncertain about their authentic self. I get it, let us not forget my time in a psych ward, I ended up there because I had completely forsaken myself. I bought into the societal and parental hype that I was not good enough, I could and should be better than what I was. I had tried to alter myself so much that after my release from the hospital I really didn’t know who I was or what I wanted from life anymore. Step 1 and 2 were done hand in hand in my case.
So, if you, like I had, are finding that you really don’t know who “you” are anymore than welcome to getting back to basics. You are still in there but you are going to have to move some things around, even discard some long held beliefs about who and what you should be and try some new things out. Keep what makes you happy and scrap anything that ends up making you feel guilt, shame or just out of sorts. This includes people and it might take some time and there is nothing wrong with that. This is your life and it is an ongoing journey not a race. Don’t let someone else set your pace.
The first thing I did was remove toxic people from my life, or I should say that they removed themselves. I have to admit that I was devastated when these people made a mass exodus from my life. I literally grieved the loss because I was fragile and I took them at their word that I was too much effort and they couldn’t be there for me. I wish that when they came back later I had kept that door shut but as the old adage goes, “hind-sight is always 20/20.”It was my “not seeing the forest through all of the trees” moment. There will be several epiphanies like this along the journey.
It took them several years but they did return. I was overjoyed (but, admittedly, a bit leery) when they started coming around and in no time things were back to normal. The difference was I had years to heal and grow…I had wandered out of the trees and saw for probably the first time in my life that huge forest that I had been in. I had made new friends, supportive friends, friends that liked me just as I was. I, suddenly realized that most of my previous relationships didn’t have that. Our normal relationship wasn’t a healthy relationship.
“Normal” wasn’t nice. I was openly put down and guilt-tripped and shamed and they treated it as a joke. A hurtful joke at my expense. I tried to rationalize these assaults as just awkward moments, them being uncomfortable with the situation, perhaps things were just strained due to the long time away…I had a list of excuses for them; for why they were treating me so horribly and a lightbulb went off…none of this was new. This is how it had always been and I was falling right back into my old pattern of making excuses for their bad behavior and next would come me trying desperately to be who I thought they wanted me to be and on and on it would go. Why? I had been down this road and I didn’t like where it had taken me.
I decided I wasn’t going back into that situation and so, I shut the door after the last one left and stopped answering their calls (figuratively, of course), after all it is hard to totally walk away from your family and the “friends” that have been in your life for so long that they have become family, especially when the toxic friend/family member lives with a non toxic friend/family member (why cut off your nose to spite your face?). I had come to the conclusion that this was a matter of self preservation and I had to take responsibility for my sanity and well being.
I was no longer going to allow myself to be a victim. This always sounds easier than it actually is, which, in my opinion is why we humans get stuck in this portion of our self-evolution. It is much easier to play the victim and blame everyone else for our perceived misfortunes than take responsibility and be held accountable. In the end I found that it was much healthier to just “own your shit.” It also keeps those pesky toxic people away.
Their main agenda is to make you feel bad about being you, it is a perverse way of making them feel temporarily better about themselves. If you don’t buy into their insults, guilt-trips or shaming because you know and accept yourself for exactly who and what you are then they really can’t get you involved in their special brand of crazy. You no longer react to their bad actions. End of fight. They eventually move on to someone else and you get to be healthier and happier.
This does not mean that you will never have to deal with this type of person again but you do become more adept at realizing who they are before you have wasted too much time, energy or money on said toxic person. I like to think of it as a super power. You now possess the ability to detect a toxic persons bullshit in under 2 seconds. You can smile sweetly as they ramble on with their incessant nonsense knowing full well that you are on to them and nothing they say matters. You are resolute!
But….how do we get to that point? Boundaries! You gotta make them and let no-one break them…