If you've ever worked with a team, coached a team, or led a team, you know that one person who wants all the success but doesn't want to put in the hard work. The basketball player who wants to shoot 80% from the field but doesn't want to shoot 10,000 shots over the summer. The student who wants to score 100% on the test but doesn't want to study. The coworker who wants to be respected in the field but doesn't want to put in the time. It's easy for us to want to reap rewards with as little effort as possible; however, this lifestyle isn't conducive for prolonged success. The same can be said for our relationships with others.
Day 5: Know Yourself Before You Engage with Others
I've always felt like I was just outside the circle. All my life, I've had tons of acquaintances: teammates, roommates, coworkers, and casual friends. However, I've never felt like I fit anywhere. I always felt like people kept me at arm's length and pulled me in when they needed my support. When you see someone like me from the outside, it looks like all is well because that person is always surrounded by people. As I'd gotten older and I watched my high school and college friends stay close while I drifted away, it became a little lonely. And to be completely honest, I was doing what I'd mentioned above: I was gauging my relationship with others without a scale to measure it on. I was expecting to have fulfilling relationships with others without having a reasonable relationship with myself.
I don't think it's abnormal for our friend circle to shrink substantially as we age. We go through seasons of life, and we don't go through them at the same pace. So, people ebb and flow in and out of our lives as our seasons match up and digress. Recently, I learned that I was a highly sensitive person, and this was life-changing for me. I shared a bit about this on Facebook, but to provide a brief summary, it just means that my brain is wired in a way that causes me to be more physically and emotionally affected by stimuli in the outside world. For example, I could be sitting in a waiting room and be simultaneously noticing the flickering light in the corner, listening to the conversation of the woman beside me whose husband is in the hospital, getting chills from the song playing on the radio by the desk, and contemplating whether or not the stray cat I passed on the way in is too cold. Twenty-percent of the population is believed to be a HSP, and it comes down to actual wiring of the brain.
As I was processing this revelation, I took the time to get to know myself. And, I came to a few startling and comforting findings: I need to feel emotionally connected to the people I have in my circle, shallow relationships drain me, I notice nuances that cause me to read too deeply into people's actions, and my expectations in relationships are based on how MY brain works which causes them to be too high. Prior to understanding my qualities and characteristics, I'd often find myself becoming frustrated when friends wouldn't provide emotional support which I perceived to be easy to provide. I'd find myself thinking people were mad at me based on their responses or actions. I'd often get upset or feel left out because I was holding my friends to a standard that was subjectively created based on my personality and characteristics.
To put it simply, you base your expectations on what you would do or try to do for the people around you.
**DISCLAIMER: This is not me saying that people have the right to abuse, take advantage of, and hurt you because it's their norm!**
However, I am telling you to give your friends a fighting chance by understanding that your emotions and expectations are framed through your own lens. We all develop emotionally, socially, and mentally at different paces and with different norms. A relationship is actually far more complicated than it appears. It's two people with two very different minds and lived experiences who are trying to contribute positively to the lives of each other while also pursuing their own growth and development.
To give your relationships with friends, family, coworkers, and significant others (I made that plural so it would be parallel with the rest of the list, but if you have multiple significant others, you may want to reevaluate your situation) the highest likelihood for success, make sure you're aware of your individual expectations. What do you expect of what you would define as a "good friend" or a "good coworker"? Are those expectations reasonable? How did you construct those expectations? Are they aware of the expectations you're holding them to? What do you contribute to them?
Getting to know ourselves, our flaws, our experiences, and the way all of these things contribute to our relationships is not easy. It requires you to be honest with what you've experienced, who you are, and how these both contribute to how you engage in relationships. However, your relationships will be more fulfilling for both you and the people in your life when you're giving everyone a fighting chance.