I ended 2018 on a positive note, feeling so great about the things I had managed to accomplish, and about the people that I had around me.
And then one thing happened, then another and another, and here I am, three months into 2019, feeling like an insecure teenager again but like I’ve aged 30 years at the same time, doubting whether I had really progressed as much as I thought I did.
There are a few things I’m struggling with at the moment, but they all boil down to one thing: whether or not the people around me are genuine and sincere.
My mother once told me that I am the glue of our family. I have a very unusual family set up, with two distinct sides, and somehow, I make it work with both. I’ve ended up playing a similar role in my professional life, and I have played this role in my various friend circles throughout my life.
While it all sounds very complimentary (and in some cases it is) this habit of being everything to everyone, trying to keep things together, has resulted in me always wondering, “Do people only want me in their lives simply because of what they can get from me? Or do they like me for me?” It is an insecurity that I’m beginning to think I will never shake, no matter how much I progress personally or professionally.
All relationships are hard. Whether it’s family or friends or colleagues, it takes work to make any relationship work. With certain relationships, there are conditions that ensures effort, binds it, makes one put in the work – whether its blood ties in the case of family, a marriage certificate or vows for spouses, or an employment contract for work – and also helps the relationship weather any challenges it may face.
But friendship is the one relationship that has nothing binding it – no blood ties, no contractual obligations, no guarantee of a salary. It is simply a choice made by two people to be in each other’s lives and a commitment to stay there through whatever. As an adult, with ever increasing responsibilities, it becomes the most difficult relationship to maintain.
I’ve been trying to come to terms with some very hard truths when it comes to friendship:
1. I have a fair few friends, but less than a handful who are true friends.
2. I don’t just need friends to be there for me during dark times… I need them to be there for me when I win too.
3. Many of my friendships are very one-sided.
4. A “best friend” is a concept I no longer believe in.
After a lifetime of putting others first, it is proving a difficult habit to break because it feels like I’m rebelling against my nature. I’m a giver. It’s a legacy both of my parents have left me with. It makes me happy to give to others.
But I’ve given to the point where others now just expect me to give all the time. And to add insult to injury, they question what I give, question my motives for giving, take without appreciation, and want more than I’m able to give. Glue wears thin as time goes on. I feel depleted, like I have nothing left for myself.
Building up my emotional stores is proving to be one hell of a challenge (especially when people expect an explanation of your choice to put yourself first for once).
As much as I’d like to be, I’m not Jesus, and I need to stop denying the fact that I too have emotional needs…and I’m no longer prepared to give more than others are willing to give to me.
When I’ve built up my stores again, I need to redistribute – to those who will appreciate and reciprocate – and learn to keep some of myself for myself.