When I was growing up I was socially awkward.
Much to the surprise of anyone who interacts with me today I didn’t talk much. My mother tells me people would often ask her if I was a mute. Once I reached puberty I suffered from severe acne, I was greatly insecure, I felt ugly, I thought I was fat and I had no idea how to style my hair and so I often left it uncared for.
But the thing about me being an awkward kid is that while I was never popular I don’t recall a time in my life where I didn’t have a genuine friend.
I attribute this to advice that I received from my mother.
My mom would always tell me, “To have a friend you have to be a friend”.
She further warned me that if I mistreated people I could not expect to make friends.
Now I must confess that I haven’t always been kind to people. I went through angry phases in my life where I wasn’t exactly someone anyone would want to be around. But even during my angry phases I knew that if I wanted to keep a person in my life as a friend I had to be a friend to them in return.
The other day I was having a discussion with others about whether or not being nice to people is overrated.
They explained to me that being nice isn’t worth it.
I told them that I didn’t feel comfortable knowing that I had mistreated another human being and that it caused me not be able to sleep at night.
But the thing is I totally understand where they are coming from.
I have been nice to people only to have them mistreat me.
This is because being nice will not result in the whole world being nice to you, since no matter what you do someone isn’t going to like you.
But alternatively being mean to people definitely won’t result in everyone being nice to you either.
When we mistreat people we eventually find ourselves alone. Even if you have a partner in your life who stays with you through the abuse you will still find yourself feeling alone, because you will have an emotional wall up preventing yourself from being vulnerable and you will not be able to be close to them because you won’t allow yourself to properly care for them.
Thus, even if they are physically present you will still feel alone.
Another thing that I had to learn was that while the advice my mother gave was indeed correct I needed to further complete the concept and recognize that I had to be a friend to myself in order to have healthier friendships.
I truly believe being a friend to oneself is an essential key to having richer friendships.
For without practicing that crucial step you may do as I did and go about being nice to people without having any boundaries or standards for what you will and will not allow them to do to you.
Being kind to myself meant I had to come to a decision of how I would and would not allow others to behave in my life.
When people mistreated me I had to learn to remove myself from the abuse, to forgive them and redirect myself towards people who did not mistreat me. I had to learn not to take their mistreatment personal but rather to recognize it as an indication that they were not a person I needed to keep as a part of my story. I had to learn not to become so lonely or so desperate for human interaction that I accepted abuse and/or neglect. Furthermore, I had to learn that when someone mistreats me and/or decides to walk out of my life that it was not rejection but rather redirection to my best path.
Thus, I had to learn to be a friend to myself – and not just any kind of friend, I had to learn to be my best friend.
Many of us would be outraged to hear that our friends were enduring some of the very things we allow ourselves to go through.
For example, if we found out our friends were involved in a physically abusive relationship we would try our best to remove them from it, if they were not tending to their health we would encourage them to do better, if we heard them speak negatively about themselves we would tell them not to do that any more.
Why don’t we become outraged to know that we are allowing ourselves to be abused?
When you raise the standard for how you treat yourself and how you allow others to treat you, you will start to attract people into your life that will happily meet your standards. The work comes in sticking to our standards and boundaries and loving ourselves enough to wait until better comes.
As we make the decision to treat ourselves better we may go through a spell of time where it seems we don’t have anyone in our lives. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that no one willing to treat you with love, care and respect will ever arrive. Continue to work on becoming the best version of yourself, continue being kind to people, and removing yourself from toxic relationships and believe me when I tell you, if you treat yourself well and others well, BETTER WILL COME!
I remember at one point when I left a toxic relationship, I was so angry at myself for allowing the abuse and at the other person for the pain I endured during our relationship that I just thought about it nonstop. To let it go I had to forgive myself and I had to forgive them.
What helped me to stop focusing on the person who didn’t love me was I made a list of everyone who actually did love me. My mother, my children, cousins, other friends, coworkers, aunts, uncles, grandmother and my sister. By the time I completed my list I had almost 100 names listed. I decided that when ever I thought of the person who didn’t love me that I would do an act of kindness for one of those people on my list. Whether it was a phone call, a text, a greeting card, a gift, a prayer or a positive thought, I redirected my attention towards those who I knew sincerely loved me and those bonds strengthened.
Another word of caution is that life may allow people to come into your path during that time who may initially pretend to care about you, but as time goes by their actions reveal that they really don’t. I myself have fallen for this trap of settling for the person they pretended to be in the hopes that maybe that fictional person will come back. But the thing about interacting with these imposters is that in our guts we know they are not genuine. Trust your gut! Don’t go for potential. People are often on their best behavior when they first meet you. So give the interaction some time and if the person reveals their true self as someone engaging in behavior below your set standard of treatment or a boundary buster, love yourself enough to LET THEM GO!
Furthermore, when people do come into your life, be sure to be your genuine authentic self. Don’t try to be someone you are not, because you will lose yourself in the process. Also if you are fake, you will attract others who are fake. Be yourself and the people who will love the real you will indeed come.
This isn’t just something I think, this is something I know. I noticed the better I treated myself the richer my relationships became. I can truly say when I married the concept of being a friend to others with being a friend to myself the caliber of people who entered my life changed for the better. And the people who didn’t want to treat me well either left or I asked them to leave.
The more I love on myself, the less inclined I am to endure abuse and that is a good thing.
So the advice my mother provided me which pulled me through those awkward years is still moving me forward and I pray it moves you forward as well.
© Renata Pittman and RenataNicole, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Renata Pittman and RenataNicole with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.