I’m a nurturer and a fixer. I always have been. Over the years people around me have come to know me in that way. I wore it like a badge of honor. If there was a problem that needed solving, I jumped right in and took it on as my own. If someone was in financial trouble, I was the first person they called. I was unofficially in charge of keeping my extended family connected. But my responsibilities didn’t stop there. At work, if I believed someone was being treated unfairly, I intervened. It didn’t matter what the cost was to me and my career. I felt I was strong and had a duty to stand up for those that could not advocate for themselves.
Then 2020 came. I was overworked in a job that took a lot with little reward. Covid was running rampant and my nine and eleven year old were doing online school. After managing kids all day, dedicating up to sixteen hours to my career, and attempting to carve out time to connect with my husband, I had nothing left to give. Still, when family, friends, and associates reached out in need of help, I sprang into action, providing advice, encouragement, and financial support.
I looked in the mirror and saw bags forming under my eyes, had trouble sleeping, and really felt like something was missing in my life. I was angry and negative. I believed I had been used by everyone and that they needed to pay for taking me for granted. I stayed in that negative space for months. Then at the end of 2021, it hit me. What was missing in my life was me. I had been so wrapped up taking care of people and in how I was perceived by others that I had neglected my own self-care and ignored that little voice inside me telling me I was doing it wrong.
I began to focus on myself and what made me happy. I’ve often told others that when a plane is going down, the flight attendants tell adults to put their oxygen masks on before helping their kids. Unfortunately, I found myself not practicing what I preach. Some changes needed to be made. I started thinking about what I wanted out of relationships versus what I was getting out of relationships. From there I came up with a list of relationship characteristics that will ensure I am creating healthy boundaries and being supported in the same way I support others:
- We show up for one another personally and professionally – Everyone needs someone for something from time to time. Being the go-to person around the clock is exhausting. Make sure the the relationships you are in are recipricol. Connecting with people should be about give and take. Whether you need advice or just to vent, there should be people in your life that are available to you.
- We check on one another – You should not always be the first to reach out when you haven’t heard from someone in a while. Relationships that only survive due to a one-sided effort are not worth it. Form authentic connections with people that care aout you and your wellbeing and exhibit that through actions.
- We share information and resources – Nothing is worse than a friend who tells you all about their successes in life but intentionally withholds information that can help you in your quest for greatness. Surround yourself with people who want to see everyone around them win. Crabs-in-a-barrel mentalities are a recipe for dysfunctional relationships. There is enough room at the table for everyone to eat. Make sure everyone you align yourself with shares that belief.
- We speak life into one another – There are two kinds of people in this world; those that kick you when you are down and those that reach down and lift you up. I prefer the latter. You should be able to talk about your mistakes and failures without the people that proport to love you piling on. Associate with those that offset your negative feelings with words of affirmation.
- We are honest and authentic – While speaking life into friends and family is important, it is equally imperative that we tell them when they are in the wrong. Transparent, respectful dialog is key to healthy relationships. Criticism should be constructive and not belittling. Be specific when giving negative feedback and provide achievable solutions. When criticizing others, act with empathy and tact and do it privately. Speak up when you feel slighted. Even with the best intentions, some will take offense and tune you out. Those people just may not be your people and that’s okay.
- We support without gossiping – Friends and family share their deepest darkest secrets. A lot of the times, it’s either implied that the conversation should stay private or said outright. That doesn’t stop the person on the receiving end from sharing with a significant other or heading over to a different circle of friends to share the juicy details. The practice is hurtful, disrespectful and disengenuous. Keeping confidence is a rare commodity these days. Be that human being that others can trust and make sure the people you are venting to are ethically sound.
- We celebrate wins together – There are some people in this world that will compare every success you achieve to their position in life. They secretly despise you, while smiling in your face and hoping to outdo you. I have never understood this mindset. I love having people that inspire me in my presence. There is a saying, “If you’re the biggest fish in the pond, find a bigger pond.” Be in the company of people that love to see you prosper and be willing to drop anyone plotting on your downfall.
- We take accountability, learn, and grow – The most important thing you can do for everyone in your orbit is acknowledge when you are wrong. Many people struggle with this. I have in my younger days. As I’ve grown, I’ve learned that taking accountability and apologizing when I am at fault frees me from the burden and gives the other party permission to forgive. I’ve seen many relationships crumble as too many things were left unsaid and unacknowledged. Get the elephant out of the room and communicate so everyone can learn and grow from life’s lessons.
I once saw a meme advising to stay away from “still” people. Still complaining. Still broken. Still jealous. Still not growing. Still living in the past. Still making excuses. Birds of a feather flock together and if you continue to keep negativity in your world, it’s sure to rub off on you.
Applying these rules to every relationship I have has been life-changing. Removing takers and negative people from my life has changed everything. I no longer carry burdens that do not belong to me. I take care of my needs first, filling my cup so I have something to pour into those that deserve it. Life is to be lived and I am intent on living my best life.
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