Updated: Sep 20, 2019
Sunday Style is a New York City based digital publication on personal style.
Be Good To Yourself
Relationships are only as good as you are to yourself. If you don’t have grace for yourself when you fall, how will you have it for someone else when they mess up? And they will. No matter how hard you try to have a non-confrontational friendship, or an open and honest partnership, the one thing you can guarantee is that messes will happen.
Entering any kind of relationship is like giving a toddler a cup of milk and not expecting her to dribble or spill it. Not a single toddler has developed the motor skills to drink with the coordination of an adult. And let’s face it, half of us adults spill our drinks for no reason anyway! But that doesn’t stop us from hydrating — we need it for our livelihood. And I’d argue the same goes for relationships. Messing up does not constitute a failed relationship. Only giving up does. But we can’t avoid the simple truth that relationships are necessary to maintain stability, happiness, and fulfillment in life.
When we hurt someone we love and care deeply about, it can easily feel like there’s no turning back to “how things used to be.” And that’s mostly accurate — it may never feel the same as before, but if you learn from your mistakes, it can actually improve that relationship tenfold. In life, failure is the key to growth — whether in career, love, or friendships. How many of us have had a friendship grow sour just to be the exact thing we needed to make a new friendship flourish? Or think of the amount of times you had to bomb an exam in school, just to finally understand the material and pass the class.
That’s to say, we shouldn’t invite mistakes with reckless abandon, but when they do happen, don’t beat yourself up or be swift to attack the other person if you’re on the receiving end. Take it in. See it as an opportunity, a wide open window blowing in a draft of fresh perspective. Reflect more on the why than on the what.
The Power of ‘No’
If you’re a chronic people-pleaser, a proud perfectionist, a type-A personality, or any variation of the three, you’ve probably found yourself making decisions based on others more than once. Many of us can probably say it’s more of a tendency than an anomaly. Of course, there’s a level of selflessness we all need to have in our relationships, but it becomes a problem when we feel as though we’re pitting our decisions against ourselves. It’s a suffocating feeling, as though we have no choice to deny ourselves the same consideration we give others.
This happens to me when I run into conflicts planning time I spend with others. My initial reaction is to do what I have a tendency to do too often — try to make everyone happy by figuring out a way to make several plans happen in the same day or weekend. Essentially, I overbook myself for fear of saying “no” to one person, letting them down, and potentially leaving them feeling “less-valued” than the person I say “yes” to. But notice the keyword there: fear. Why should fear be a factor in spending time with people I love? Does it stem from past experiences in which I felt terrible for disappointing someone? Am I so afraid of hurting someone that I’d rather hurt myself by stretching and striving to please everyone?
It can be as simple as this: One friend asks you to coffee and before you’ve responded your boyfriend asks you if you want to catch a movie the same day. It’s easy to allow yourself to feel like a strand of rope being tugged on either side, crippled by the thought of having to choose between them.
But having adult relationships means no one is dictating how you should live your life — no matter how much you care about them or how much you genuinely want to spend time with them. If I can make decisions about the apartment I live in, the job I have, how I spend my money, what I eat, and how I manage my time, why is it so hard to decide who I choose to spend my time with? As much as we’d all like to think our time slips away from us, we have more control than we often admit.
No one can force you to spend time with them — not even that acquaintance who thinks you’re better friends than you are, but in reality, as much as you hate to admit it, you dread spending time with them. (We’ve all probably had that person at least once in our lives.) You always feel bad if you don’t meet up with them when they ask, because you don’t have much in common with them anymore and they kinda drain the energy out of you. But why do we feel bad for something that isn’t in our control? Because honesty could hurt them?
Well, yes, that’s very likely. But it doesn’t do that person any good to begrudgingly spend time with them either. They deserve to spend their time with someone who truly values it, just as you deserve to spend your time with someone you truly value.
Giving ourselves the room to breath and say “no” or “later” is often better for everyone. You can focus on being in the moment with one person now, then completely shift that focus to the other person later. It may take a week longer to finally meet up with everyone, but they’ll usually appreciate quality over immediacy (of course, that’s not the case if there’s an urgent reason to see them like a health issue or breakup).
Whatever choice you believe is best, be confident in it. If people don’t understand, then it’s not for them to understand. We don’t need to make up excuses for things we shouldn’t feel guilty about, like having alone time, prioritizing our health, or focusing on one friend in need.