Wednesday, 2 April 2014
Oh how I know this to be true! I referenced in my last post a quote by Dr. Phil - "You teach people how to treat you" and I believe this to be true. Sadly, I was close to 40 before I realized I had collected a lifetime of people who I was allowing to treat me as "less than."
Yeah, that's right. Less than!
Listen, no one's perfect. We all make mistakes. We've all said and done things to the people closest to us that we probably shouldn't have. Sometimes the mouth starts going before the brain engages. We've all been there. Likely on both the giving and receiving end. The trick is realizing you've hurt someone's feelings, and apologizing. Not because you have to, but because that's what decent human beings who care about one another do.
This whole turning 40 thing is truly a journey in self-discovery for me because what I've realized is that I've spent a great many years, and a whole lot of time and effort trying to "make" people understand. "Make" them treat me differently. "Make" them realize I am worth their while. "Make" them see that their own actions are driving a good friend, good daughter, good sister, good neighbour, away. And let me tell you, all that trying to change other people into what I need is exhausting!! And - here's the kicker - it doesn't work!!!!!
People are who they are. I know that sounds obvious and overly simplistic but I think we've all had those thoughts.
- if only X would just respect me as a parent this would be so much easier
- if only X would realize their constant jokes and snide remarks about my life and my choices are hurtful and not funny
- if only X would realize that my time is important too and not leave me waiting every time we get together
- if only X would put as much effort into this friendship as I do then things would be better
- if only X would realize that I am a 40-year-old woman with a great deal of life experience and treating me like a useless child drives me away
You can insert your own "if only" statement, but you catch my drift. I have had all of the above run through my head at one time or another. Sometimes simultaneously! Ouch! And what finally hit me like a ton of bricks when the 40 train rolled into town, is that none of those people HAVE to do any of those things. None!
My friends don't HAVE to respect my time. My family members don't HAVE to stop making snide cracks about my life. Lifelong friends don't HAVE to put in as much effort as I do. And parents don't HAVE to treat their children like adults. No one HAS to do anything.
Sooooo, what I now try to wrap my head around is how to take Dr. Phil's advice and teach people how to treat me - differently. Some of these patterns of treatment have been ingrained for 10, 20, 30, even 40 years, so it will be no simple task. And part of what I now struggle with is determining how to proceed (and if I want to), knowing that some of these things may never change. These people have choices. As do I. So what do I need to do differently in my own life and in my relations with these people in order to be more accepting of who they are as human beings. Or not......
Because along with the acceptance of the fact that I have zero control over how these people choose to lives their lives and treat the people around them, comes the realization that the solution here may be harder to swallow than I thought. Are you willing to accept certain behaviours in people because they are important to you and you want them in your life? Because clearly no one is perfect. Least of all me! Or are they more than just behaviours (which can be changed if we so choose), but personality traits, things that have been ingrained and a part of their psyche their entire lives? (as a side note, I believe these too can be changed with a helluva lot more work and some heavy duty therapy! Trust me on that kids!)
The friend who constantly leaves you waiting at coffee dates - that's a behaviour. And you can teach them how to treat you. New Rule: if I wait more than 10 minutes (and you haven't texted me that you have a flat tire, a vomiting child, or have been abducted by aliens) then I will be leaving, because my time is important too. Not rude, just direct. And a request that they respect your time. There, I'm teaching you how to treat me, right? Ok then......
So what about the whole personality trait thing? Here's where I'm hoping my psychotherapist friend will jump in with some comments, cuz this is where I start to struggle. What if this "way of being" that continues to make you feel less than, is the way this person has been their entire life? What if this is the way you see them treat everyone around them, not just you? What if the circumstances of their lives (some known to me, some not) have created this way of being for them and that is their comfort zone? What if you know damn well that talking to them or challenging them on their treatment of you will be met with anger, opposition and a steadfast inability to bend, for anyone? Then what?
See, I'm stuck again! Where is the line between acceptance of a person for who they are (which we have all been taught to do. Hell, I teach my own kid that!), and knowing that the person that they are and their way of being does not jive with yours and is not a healthy relationship for you to be in? Is there a line? Can we practice acceptance of people's differences if those differences leave us feeling sad, anxious, frustrated, hurt, less than?
And if we can't, then how do we extricate ourselves from those relationships that are leaving us feeling less than?
Because, as the quote at the top of the page says - "What you allow, is what will continue."
So maybe it's time to stop allowing it. The trick is figuring out how.
~ The Lazy Gourmet