“How can people be so damn demanding!”
Well, I honestly hadn’t seen that one coming. I was not expecting such a silent rebellion from myself. Those words, that reaction. It was very unlike me.
The very fabric of my life—my definition of healthy friendship and self-worth—changed for the better thanks to that rebellion, or as I call it now, a personal revelation.
To give you a glimpse, I decided to write some real-life conversations down.
Person X: Hey, can we meet?
Me: Sure. But I need to check my…
Person X: Please, it’s very important.
Me: Eh, alright then.
After a very long conversation:
Person X: It’s been almost 4 hours. You know, I really feel better now. Thanks.
Me: No problem at all.
Me: Hey, would you like to meet?
Person X: Ah, honey. I can’t. Sometime later,
Me: Hey, do you have time? I would like to have your opinion on something.
Person X: Shall I call you later?
And Person X never calls unless he/she has something going on in his/her life.
Why is it that people around us keep telling us their problems, expecting us to be the one who makes the wisest decision for them?
It is almost as if they want us to live their lives for them. The next thing we know we’ve become an invisible decision-making machine whose thoughts don’t actually matter. We are expected to say what the other person wishes to hear. Essentially, our authentic point of view is worthless.
Being the middle child in the family, I was always okay dealing with people and their problems. Somehow, I guess I learned how to become a successful mediator. But this, being a cry pillow for someone, was a whole different job.
There was actually a time when I got so good at being a cry pillow that I preferred not showing how I really feel and think. I could both be there for the needy people in my life and avoid all the drama.
What had brought me to that state of mind?
How did I manage to surpass the stormy feelings from the people around me and myself?
What was wrong with me?
I guess I was not thinking at the time; I was just trying. Trying to be a decent person. Trying to be a good friend. But my subconscious mind knew what was wrong.
Finally, I rebelled against the people in my life whose idea of sharing was, listen to me and my problems 7/24 and be there every time I need you because life revolves around me and my gracious presence. I stepped into a healthier stage in my life in terms of communication. I needed to go through something like that to differentiate real connections from fake ones.
No one had ever really warned me about how needy and self-centered some people could be. On the contrary, I was told that being a good listener, welcoming, and accommodating were important as they’re the sole indicators of respect and love. So, I don’t realize how exactly I ended up becoming some sort of a sponge to soak up everyone’s problems.
What went wrong?
I was just trying to give as much love and support as I could.
But there was one thing as clear as day: I was wasting all my energy and time.
And for what?
For people who never had enough time for me when I called or needed them.
Instead of questioning their selfish attitudes, I began to question myself.
It was obvious. I was incredibly unfair to one person: myself.
The values I learned from my family and what I was taught are still precious to me. But today, I know there is a big difference between knowing and experiencing something in practice.
How these people use friendship to dignify their selfishness is shocking to me. If you ever have any trouble, they will not pay any attention, or worse, they will criticize you for being fragile. And they will continue talking about themselves and their lives.
It’s a twisted cycle, isn’t it?
But it is entirely normal and functional, according to them.
I did not fully understand some of the concepts around sharing. More precisely, the boundaries of those concepts when it comes to my life. Whining, complaints, requests for advice… Was that really what friendship or connection was about? Was that how people bonded with one another? How could I know? I was taught that relationships should be about sharing and communicating.
This one-sidedness is all about taking. It’s a selfish form of a relationship.
It was so easy. All I needed to do was say no. But at that, I had always been terrible. So, I let my inability to say no deeply affect the quality of my life.
Some things are just as important as being a good listener, being welcoming, and nice. They were my personal boundaries, my rules, and my priorities.
Yet, I know we all do that. We all become those who carry other people’s emotional baggage for them at some points in our lives.
We do that willingly yet unconsciously. But this single-sided selfish form of communication always gives birth to two things: the exploiter and the exploited.
This goes on until we’re reminded that we have a life to live too.
You have a life to live too.