A lot of people seek self-compassion because of problems experienced in their relationships. They either have a significant other, who is concerned about their well-being or they notice a pattern of becoming resentful, overwhelmed, and emotionally reactive in their relationships. These experiences are not only true for romantic, but also platonic relationships. Have you ever felt like the friend with a little less power in your relationships, the friend that did more for the other, and seemed to be more responsible for the other person’s emotional experience?
This is common in a lot of relationships. People often find themselves in these relationships for three reasons: a. it fits the pattern of their relationship to a parent or other early relationships; b. they are striving to be better in a certain area of life (work or passionate past time) and spend time with people of greater skill or social level; or c. they feel like they have few friends, and worry about losing the friends they have.
Success In Meeting Our Partners’ Or Friends’ Demands Vs. Successful Relationships
In all of these scenarios, it is important to note that we have a tendency to confuse success in meeting our partners’ or friends’ demands with a successful relationship. By successful relationship, I mean one in which both parties are empowered, and feel able to present and be accepted for the most fundamental parts of themselves.
Let’s look at one possible scenario. Your partner or friend loves roller coasters, but they make you feel uncomfortable and afraid. If you ride the roller coasters for them, you will be disempowering yourself. You cannot prioritize your well-being, and be readily available to exchange it to meet your partner’s or friend’s needs. Of course, there is the exception that they have made sacrifices for you, and you are making a sacrifice for them to continue your symbiotic relationship. In this latter case, you would still be coming form a self-compassionate, empowering stance because a relationship that involves mutual support still prioritizes your well-being.
Why Do People Stay In Disempowering Relationships?
People are aware, at some level, when these relationships are taking place. So, why do people stay in them? Well, there are a couple of reasons. The first is basic cognitive dissonance. It is harder to change a consistent behavior, so people are more likely to change their attitudes. In this vein, people make excuses for how they really need this kind of relationship or imply certain intentions from their partner or friend that are not perceptible by others. For example, I need a friend who is more social than I am, so I appreciate his willingness to take charge of plans all the time. Another example might be, I know my friend seems like they are very invested in their agenda, but they always help me when other people are not looking.
The second reason is that some part of you wishes that someone would care enough about you to make countless sacrifices in your friendship. This is the “I wish I had a friend like me” theory. It is so easy to forget how “a friend like you” will eventually become burdened, overwhelmed, and resentful. You cannot get more personal power by borrowing from the power of others. You just get the temporary illusion of more power, which falls apart when this friendship sours, leaving you bitter and probably guilty.
Just Do It For You
This brings us back to the ethos of this piece: Just Do It For You. You have to find the will to guage what you need, and do your best to do things that prioritize your well-being. Sure, they may affect your relationships short-term, but long-term you will have healthy, empowering relationships. Let’s be honest, you deserve to be in affirming relationships. Sacrificing your needs is not noble, it’s punishing, and if you present yourself as someone, who deserves punishment, then that is exactly what the world will do.
However, if you present yourself as someone deserving of love, recognition, and encouragement, then the world will give you that too. So, practice self-compassion, and do things just for you, when you can. You would be amazed at the effect a small action can have on you, your friends, your partners, your family, and people in your work place. Self-Compassion is not just for you. It is for everyone.
365 Days Of Self-Compassion. Day 213. In The Books.