The other day, a good friend told me about her decision to let go of a less-than-healthy relationship. Though she cares deeply for a certain fellow, she’s begun to see that he has a remarkable ability to rain on pretty much any sunny day that comes along.
“He’s throwing away something that could be so good for both of us, but he won’t accept compliments, praise, help, or – dare I say it – love from anyone…and since that’s his choice, I don’t try to stay in contact now. I deserve so much more than that.”
YES! She does!
I told her that I have a saying.
“Far be it for me to take Misery away from someone who clearly enjoys it so much.”
Now, don’t get me wrong. Sometimes it’s depression that leads someone to push joy away with such persistence. And when that’s the case, professional treatment really CAN make all the difference in helping someone find their way to recovery.
But sometimes it’s something else entirely: a personality style, a world view, a stubborn desire to cling to an old worn way. Sometimes, folks, as crazy as this sounds…
And no, they don’t see it as a choice. If you told them that, they’d say you were crazy, that you don’t get it, that you don’t CARE.
That’s not true, though, is it?
I told my friend that I was sorry to hear about her fellow, but I applauded her conscious CHOICE to take better care of herself. That’s the part she has control over, the only part, actually, and I am genuinely proud of her for figuring that out.
But for so many women who intuitively nurture – call it maternal instinct, caregiving, or just plain kindness – these people are super seductive, aren’t they?
They pull us in with a hint that perhaps WE can make them better, WE can show them how much happier they could be if only… WE could be the ONE who makes all the difference for them.
In fact, if we’re not careful, their misery might be contagious.
I was reminded of that when a client of mine told me about an experience she’d had with a good friend that was startling in how SUBTLE, and how destructive, it was.
Those two have been best friends for years. They worked together for a long time, take vacations together, share the same sense of zany humor. Their’s is the kind of friendship that only evolves over decades of shared life experiences.
So every now and then, her friend will come to stay with her for a few days, maybe a week. They have a nice long visit; they play, laugh, shop, talk. In short, they ‘hang out”, and they’ve done this off and on for years.
But even good friends can undermine a Courageous Woman’s confidence.
My client has a group of foster children in her neighborhood that she’s taken under her wing, much like a favorite aunt might do. She’s been good for them, and they’ve been good for her. So when her friend came to visit, they went shopping for a few things. My client needed a new pair of khaki pants for her job, and she wanted to buy some Christmas treats for those kids.
She wrote to tell me about her experience.
[She] found little faults with everything I did last week, from the pants I bought for work to the candy I bought to put in the kids’ Christmas boxes…
“Well, they do look like men’s pants, but the women’s look the same way and these fit better…if you want to wear men’s pants…” about my khaki pants…the only pair that fit…
“The kids are going to have rotten teeth because of all your candy…” When they live on fast food and candy day in and day out… “But, then you’ve never been a mother, someone has to do the right thing.”
It was a couple of dozen silly little Christmas candies…
I could see it happening. I could feel myself having to be defensive about…my desire to give the kids something that will make them happy…and I fought it.
It worked anyway. When she left on Friday, I came home so depressed that it took several hours to work back out of it…
It had actually been a GOOD week. They’d had fun; laughed a lot, like always. So it took a while after her friend left before she realized what had hit her, why she felt so bad.
So this is my warning to you, Courageous Women.
And know this: poison often comes disguised as helpful language.
It may be said:
“for your own good”
or “just a little advice”
or they were “just kidding”
or “just trying to help”
or “you’re just too sensitive” because…
they “didn’t mean anything by it…”
…but it’s poison, none the less.
And it’s LETHAL — to our dreams, to our sense of Self, to our potential, to our contribution to the world.
It’s lethal to our Confidence.
So I only have one thing to say to you about this.
Don’t let it in.
Now, how about you? Have you had this experience?
How have you handled it?
Share it with us in the comments below!
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Photo Credits: Shawn Carpenter (spcbrass) on Flikr