Be the friend you want to see in the world

Successful relationships take work, we are taught. The same applies to how cultivating a functional relationship between the different facets of yourself takes getting outside of yourself and outside of your own way to know yourself better.

Getting to know someone – and not just believing everything everyone around you says about them as the gospel truth – goes a long way in the both of you gaining each other’s trust and respect in the long run. Anyone in any sort of meaningful relationship will tell you that sitting down with someone, listening to more than what they are saying with your initial judgement put aside, is really one of the best ways to get to know them.

Starting and building a healthy relationship with someone goes beyond simply choosing someone you know and like. Befriending them involves diving or tip-toeing, if you will, into the layers of them that a lot of people would rather not and cannot venture into. It involves looking into another with eyes of wonder, and using a generous dose of the benefit of the doubt to gently let them unfold before you as you quietly observe and learn to embrace them.

Even closer to the core is the kindred spirit — a person whose values are closely akin to our own, one who is animated by similar core principles and stands for a sufficient number of the same things we ourselves stand for in the world. These are the magnifiers of spirit to whom we are bound by mutual goodwill, sympathy, and respect, but we offer each other these graces from one another’s polished public selves — our ideal selves — rather than from intimate knowledge of one another’s interior lives, personal struggles, inner contradictions, and most vulnerable cracks of character.

Maria Popova, Reclaiming Friendship: Exploring the concentric circles of human connection through the lens of our ideal and real selves.
Friendship – Brain Pickings, Maria Popova

A friend is a person before whom we can strip our ideal self in order to reveal the real self, vulnerable and imperfect, and yet trust that it wouldn’t diminish the friend’s admiration and sincere affection for the whole self, comprising both the ideal and the real.

Maria Popova on Friendship

Unconditional acceptance ceases to thrive in a space of selective ignorance and denial of the various dimensions of the object of your affection. Acceptance, by the way, is not a half-hearted acknowledgement of your friend’s less favourable characteristics, with the distant hope of slowly “training” them into what you prefer. Acceptance involves learning someone, and deciding whether you’re ready to join the wolfpack, or respectfully keep it moving.

No matter how long or well we can spend hiding from the world or ourselves, remember:

The dark is only a monster to the one who spends too much of their time hiding from it.

Keeping it moving, I’m afraid, is not a luxury we are afforded when it comes to ourselves. You either deny yourself, or you slowly embrace and teach yourself whatever it is that you would like your beloved future self to know.

We blame our inability to maintain external relationships on societal excuses engrained in us as norms that run along the lines of “boys will be boys” and throwing typical labels such as “daddy issues” and “jealous tendencies” around. The reality is that the most common factors to the flourishing or ending of the relationships we are in are usually the two people involved.

My behaviour in various relationships is connected to the quality of the relationship that I have with all of myself, before I can fully commit to another, in one way or another.

For instance…

What do you say to yourself in trying times? We mostly know how to step back from heated arguments. “Step back when emotions are running high”, I have been repeatedly told, “before you say something that you might regret”. So I train myself to take time out, detach from impulsive, negative words which could do more harm than good to my loved ones and the bond we share. I take a break as advised and swear to come back when I’ve cleared my head.

But what do we say to ourselves and think of ourselves when truly disappointed in our actions? Do we use the same affirmations we would love to hear coming from our significant others during our screw ups or are all bets suddenly off when dealing with internal issues?

Take healthy relationship advice to heart. But also take it into careful consideration. If you find that you can still apply it to yourself and it works, then it is a gift you can learn to share with your loved ones. If not, then how can you expect from others what you do not even expect of yourself?

Let not giving to others take from you, but grant the next person the courtesy to take the same advice. Remember – to listen carefully, to speak kindly and frankly and to look with soft eyes. Look within and spread the love, for goodness’ sake!

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