“Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness.”
– Thich Nhat Hanh
Throughout my years I can definitely say that I have experienced some “growing pains” if you will. I don’t just mean the embarrassing notion of puberty, learning that deodorant is a thing you should use, or comparing my bologna sandwich lunches to the other kids with Lunchables. I am more talking about my constant search for “approval and acceptance” from others through my awkward years. This search for acceptance was hungry and constantly on the prowl.
Throughout youth, you are constantly bombarded with the idea that you must be accepted from everyone, on very different levels of course. Teacher must give you a gold star for your work, Mom and Dad must kiss you on the forehead for your good behavior in public, and Coach must give you a high five for scoring the game winning goal. If you are conditioned to believe this is how you are accepted by society, you are brutally brought down when it does not come to fruition.
Unfortunately, I was totally warped by these ideas and they soon translated into my friendships.
I am sure you can tell that in my friendships I also sought after acceptance, and it became more important to me than my own personal happiness.
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We must bend to not break, but really, at what cost?
Being completely vulnerable in this post, I have to say that University was not a walk in the park for me. Playing on a varsity team, you are constantly seeking the “approval” from your teammates and the upper years while trying to find yourself. I quickly was in a spiral of finding out “who I was” while trying to be everyone else. I was very unhappy and clueless on how to fix my state.
I debated long and hard about quitting the program all together because I couldn’t find the right way to fit in. The more I acted like someone I didn’t even know, the more unhappy I grew.
So there I was, confused about what to do, living on my own, in the middle of family conflict at home and feeling completely alone.
In the end I could not be happier I stuck it out because I did end up coming out of the experience with great relationships. I also realized there were some relationships I needed to realize, brought me more negatives than positives, and now is the time to let go those fallen connections.
My search for approval and acceptance
If you do choose to hang around bad friends, there is one positive, they make excellent teachers.
As the Dalai Lama said, “In the practice of tolerance, one’s enemy is the best teacher.”
I was putting more value in the relationships that were toxic in my life, versus the ones who cared for me.
I became obsessed with seeking their approval.
I was convinced that everyone needed to like me, so I would invest all of my energy into the ones that were, in hindsight, dragging me down the deepest.
My first steps were to realize I am happiest when I am truly being myself, and when I surrounded by people who embraced the real me. You can tell the importance of a relationship based on day-to-day conversation and action, there does not need to be a life altering event.
When the negatives out weigh the positives, whether it be a romantic or a friendly relationship it might be time to re-evaluate.
“As painful as it is, there comes a time when we need to ‘break up’ with a friend in order to live authentically and to be free”.
– Jinhee Junis
So how do we decide when it is time to phase these people out of our lives?
1. What does this friendship mean to you?
What kind of friendship is it? Are you keeping this relationship based on history or based off of how they actually make you feel? The theory that we must keep people in our lives because of how long we’ve known them is honestly the most ridiculous thought. We should keep people in our lives that we know have a mutual respect for us, not based on time.
The definition of friendship means something different to different people, but I think that we can all agree that it is easy to tell a good friend from a bad one whatever that means to you.
Keep in mind though that friendship is the mutual affection of two or more people.
Remember you don’t need a certain number of friends, just a number of friends you can be certain of.
2. Do the positives outweigh the negatives?
When you hangout with this friend are you overwhelmed with positive or negative vibes? Do they embrace your successes or do they downplay them?
I have been in the situation where, if I were to succeed in an area of my life, this friend would try to bring me down somewhere else. I wouldn’t feel empowered once our conversations were over, I would feel like my dreams were unattainable. No matter the topic, a good friend will always do their best to listen versus dismiss you.
I’ve called a friend before and had the opening line, “okay, I know this is stupid but I need you to tell me it’s stupid…” and then we chatted for an hour.
Friends listen to what you say. Best friends listen to what you don’t say.
3. Is there a balance?
In any relationship there is always give and take, this is the same with friendships. When think about the friendships I now cherish dearly, I see a balance in our outreach and effort. But when I look back on friendships that were more work than anything I see a one sided effort. Both parties need to choose to grow together or else the process can be extremely painful and unfulfilling.
In a friendship even the smallest gesture can have such a strong impact on the future of a growing relationship.
4. Is it okay to let go?
There is never an easy way to go about distancing yourself from someone in your life, and the process does not just happen overnight. It is of course okay to take time when letting go of a relationship, this is definitely not an easy process. Whether it be a break-up with a friend or a romantic interest there will always need to be time of grieving and healing. But once you celebrate your life with positive people you will notice a change in your self-worth and happiness.
To authentically be free and live your life according to your own parameters, sometimes this is a necessary step away.
5. You’re inner voice
It is no one’s fault when things come to a close in a relationship. Sometimes people just grow in different directions. If you are no longer benefiting from a relationship you have to listen to your inner voice. How do they make you feel? Is this relationship pushing you to be the best person you can be?
You will instinctively know all of the answers to these questions.
6. Stay open and available
I found that when I stayed open about my relationships and I kept certain people close and others at an arms length, I in turn ended up being much happier.
Do your best to avoid being jaded by relationships of the past.
Staying open to new relationships, while being true to yourself and accepting the direction that you are going, will present you with the opportunity to build your life from the foundation up. From all of these points you will be able to determine whether it is time consider if you are in an unhealthy friendship.
Love you all. Keep people in your life that raise you up because those are the people that will help you reach higher than you ever thought possible. This all starts with self-confidence and realizing that “you” are the only person you need to be in society.