Updated: Aug 23
(Please tell me you know where this reference comes from)
I am in a constant (almost daily) struggle with difficult people in my life. The easy answer would be to disengage, but that ain’t always so easy, is it? So what do I mean by difficult people? Those whose chosen misery upsets my effortful pursuit of peace. I know you definitely have some of these f*ckers in your life:
They’re never happy or satisfied.
They don’t live the kind of life you admire or wish to emulate, yet they feel compelled to give unsolicited advice.
Their pet peeves and irritations are endless, yet they wonder why everyone else is so problematic.
Passive aggressive? Check. Check. Check.
I should feel honored that so many people trust me enough to share some of their deepest secrets and struggles. Sometimes they’re looking for help finding a solution to a problem and other times just needing a non-judgmental shoulder to lean on. And mostly I do feel honored. Mostly. There are always a small few who remind me of how much I need to protect myself and my own spirit. Who make me take a critical look at each person coming into my life and decide how much I can or cannot reciprocate in that sharing or problem-solving. In short, (after you’ve read only two paragraphs lol) sometimes I feel that for as much as I listen, I myself struggle to be heard. I know I’m not alone.
Dear reader, I know you’re a good person. I know you want to be thought of as kind, a great listener, supportive, positive, a team player, etc. But when your patience is tried and you have had ENOUGH- how do you protect your spirit?
Here are 5 little nuggets of truth I’ve picked up along the way... they’re not solutions, just food for thought:
1. I heard this on a podcast once: Beware of relationships out of convenience or proximity. Often, the people who are close by - your neighbors, coworkers, people you see at your favorite workout studio - are not the people who are meant to be in your life in a deeper capacity. It’s not to say these people cannot be in your circle, but rather I’m suggesting you have a strong vetting process for who you allow yourself to be vulnerable with. Brené Brown calls this Marble Jar Friends. (P.S. You should google this) Basically, she tells the story about how her daughter’s teacher keeps a marble jar in the classroom. When the students are good, she adds marbles and a full jar results in a party. When the students are not so good, marbles get taken away. When we’re vetting friends, we can use this same concept because people should have to earn your trust, earn the right to hear your story, and earn the access to your most precious asset - your time.
2. This one’s tough, but there comes a point where you have to just cut people off. It’s basically a breakup, which I know is uncomfortable, but you owe it to them and yourself to be honest. Sooooo rip off the f*cking bandaid and get over it. Sure, you could “ghost” them or keep making up excuses, but 1. That’s mean and 2. You wouldn’t want someone to do that to you. Please be empathetic and respectful the person’s feelings and ego. The chances of them not being offended is very low to begin with, but it costs you nothing to be kind.
3. This one is more family-oriented because I find that these are some of the most difficult relationships to manage - especially if the environment is tense, un-nurturing, or judgmental. During the process of separating from his wife, a very close friend was surprised by his family and friends vehement disagreement, gossip, and abandonment. Here’s what I said, “Your family is comprised of people. People with opinions, trauma, emotional baggage, and varying levels of emotional intelligence. Just like any human relationship, we make choices that will allow us to either grow together or grow apart.” And while it takes work to keep a relationship whole, joyful, and trustworthy, I think it’s important to ask yourself - does this relationship feed you? Does this person make you want to become better? Do you enjoy your time in their presence? If the answer is no, it’s probably best to start figuring out ways to limit your exposure to the toxicity.
4. If the person causing you stress is a person who supports you financially (parents, spouse, whomever) it makes the situation a little more delicate because it adds a level of fear and insecurity. Every situation will obviously be different and some cases are extreme, BUT for most of us- THAT. SH*T. IS. ON. YOU. I saw a quote on twitter the other day that said something like “My mom told me I could do whatever I wanted once I left her house. She didn’t tell me how much “whatever I wanted” would cost.” I’m not here to make judgements, but I will say this - If you are an adult and have the capacity to work yet feel financially stuck underneath the thumb of another adult, I want you to explore why. Like actually, the big WHY. Some great follow-ups are: What are you afraid of? How did you get here? Is this temporary or is it “the plan”. What action(s) do you need to take to be financially autonomous?
5. Resist the temptation to act out of obligation. This is also a great practice in saying “no”. At times, there will be work events, strategic coffee dates, or a friend who may need your help. Consider these to be outliers because let’s face it - we all have things we’d rather not do. The next time you feel compelled to act out of obligation, I want you to notice the feeling in your head, heart, and gut when you wouldn’t consider the event an an outlier. If you find yourself saying, “…but she’s been my friend since 3rd grade!” Or, “Yeah but I feel bad because this person always takes my class.” Or even, “She’s been asking me to hang out for months, I just wanna get it over with.” RED FLAGS BITCHES. If you feel shame or guilt or just exhausted by the whole thing, you should probably reconsider. On your death bed, you won’t be thinking about how you never went out for an Aperol Spritz with Susan from your yoga class. Girl, bye.
The more awareness you have, the more emotional fortitude you can muster. No, it’s not easy. And you shouldn’t be looking for the easy way out anyway. This isn’t amazon. Real life doesn’t work that way. Here’s what can happen: each time you make a decision that supports your growth, you’re adding a marble to your own jar. You’re trusting in YOURSELF and your ability to make decisions and keep people around that will have a positive effect on your life and wellbeing.