Loving other people does not mean losing yourself in relationship. Relationships are meant to help you find out more about yourself not give up who you are for another person.
Through e-mail, I agreed to pick up and return my friend Katherine to the airport. Two weeks before her arrival, something came up requiring me to change plans for transporting her back. Still through e-mail, I assured her I would find someone to give her a ride back.
She arrived and I was there to greet her. After some time together, I confirmed I was unable to give her a ride back to the airport. The news came as a shock. Nothing I said could convince my friend I had sent a second e-mail two weeks earlier; she thought I was lying.
It was not easy, but the truth was no matter how much I wanted validation from Katherine, there was absolutely nothing to be gained by arguing with her. Leading with the heart is caring more for friendship than pride, so I chose to let go of my ego’s need to be recognized as right. I did not want to be angry with her, nor did I want our time together to be uncomfortable. The only option I saw to ensure peace of mind was to be patient, accept what was, and allow the situation to resolve itself.
A few weeks after my friend returned home, she was having repairs made to her computer when several mysteriously lost e-mails arrived in her in-box. Among them was the one I had sent.
My friend was distant and embarrassed for not giving me the benefit of the doubt. She was upset at herself for allowing hurt feelings to invent all sorts of reasons to justify turning her back on me. She was also angry at herself for discounting my history of honest and loyal behavior. Throughout the entire exchange I stood strong knowing I had done the right thing and I was telling the truth.
I learned when we place more importance on what other people think of us than what we know of ourselves we in essence don flowing silk robes and place ourselves in the middle of a dense rose garden. Life situations and interactions with other people become masses of twisted thorns, ripping and tearing at our fragile self-image. No matter how painful the thorns are or how deeply they tear at us, we are uncomfortable standing on our own two feet in our own truth. Without someone to validate us and boost our confidence, who will we be?
Today, I am confident in who I am, what my values are and what behaviors I want to share in my relationships. Yet I know what it is like to lose myself in relationship. There was a time I let the opinions and behaviors of others overrule what I knew was right and best for me. But, every time I went against my values in order to fit in with the crowd or endured and ignored abusive treatment, I suffered.
My low self-esteem caused me to look outside myself in an attempt to make me feel better. I ignored other people’s negative behavior, preferring to create a fantasy of who I thought they could be. Too often I went along with the crowd, even if it meant putting myself in danger. I repressed my own needs to please other people, and allowed myself to be treated like a doormat. Not standing up for myself showed a lack of self-respect and made me an easy target for abuse. And, I attempted to love others while not knowing how to love myself.
To break the pattern of losing my individuality in relationship I had to learn how to be a strong half of a healthy relationship. By focusing on my behavior in the unsuccessful relationships I’d had, I realized to have any chance of creating the fulfilling, positive relationships I wanted, I first had to determine who I am. I needed to figure out what type of character I wanted in a life-partner. I had to determine what it means to be a good friend and partner. I needed to know what it really means to love and be loved. And, I had to accept I cannot control or change anyone but me.