Recently, I read a post by Lindsay at A Design so Vast where she explored the ambiguous nature of relationships. In her eloquent narrative she discussed the reality that relationships, by nature, are without clear rights and wrongs. It was a thought-provoking discussion that left me considering the quality of my own relationships.
I do, occasionally, take the time to reflect on how I am affected by my relationships. Lindsay’s post incited me to take that extra step, made me think about those who have “unfettered” access to me. My first reaction was that there are few people who I would characterize as having an unrestricted role in influencing my life. My husband, my parents, a small handful of friends. But really, if I’m perfectly honest, this is not entirely true. Truth be told, it’s more likely that I, in fact, let too many of my relationships guide my actions and decisions. When I take a moment to really reflect, I can easily recognize the impact this has on me.
In her post, Lindsay wrote:
There is a fine line between wanting to help each other be better people and being downright destructive.
This was the very trigger that set me to thinking. Lindsay touched on an important point, that in our relationships we should trust others and be free to let go. What I wonder though, given my belief that there is a fine line between what is helpful and what is not, is at what point does that trust become misguided? When do our relationships move toward something that isn’t right for us as individuals. When do we become motivated by what others want us to be and not by who we want to be? It can be very easy to lose oneself when trying to meet the expectations of others. I know, I’ve been there. The expectations of others have shaped my life in very profound ways. I’m a pleaser. I seek approval. I strive to be what others want me to be. It is who I am.
It’s a timely discussion as I move toward a better understanding of myself and who I want to be. Part of that process absolutely should be the evaluation of my relationships. I first started to consider this idea when Kristen at Motherese wrote about all the different voices we take on in our lives. I am the type of person who takes on different personae for different relationships. The differences are subtle, but they exist and are motivated entirely by what I believe others expect. It’s a reflection of how I approach all of my relationships. Sometimes I speak and interact outwardly and with confidence, sometimes with authority, sometimes as a subordinate, and sometimes with hesitation. I wear many hats, each selected on the basis of who I’m with.
When I step outside of these safe roles I’ve developed, then I feel the most insecure. I worry about how I will be perceived and received. The best example I can give is when I’m in a room full of women (some close friends, some just friends) I can feel myself trying to blend all the roles/voices I’ve created for my relationships with each individual. I’m trying to meet the various expectations I think they have of me, or the various roles I’ve prescribed for myself when with them. It’s complicated and stressful. It’s unhealthy. I should feel confident enough to be myself, always. But I’m not.
Moving forward, I recognize this vulnerability. Describing it is a good first step toward feeling more secure as the woman I am so that I can feel confident projecting her in all my relationships. I’m working on getting there. I’m discovering new ways to find value in myself.