Maintaining relationships is an age-old conflict; there are enough books and movies about what happens when a romantic, familial or even friend relationship goes sour. Because we’re all people, right? Different people with different opinions, outlooks and preferences. This, of course, is what makes the world so special -- there’s always something to learn and a new experience to be had. The other edge of that sword, though, is that getting along with people isn’t always the easier thing to do.
Naturally, we all find people, groups and partners that we choose to spend our lives with, and I don’t think anyone truly goes through life as happy as they can be without people to share ideas and experiences with.
What I’ve been seeing more and more of, though, is this “cancel” culture and a newfound need to “cut” people out of your life that don’t solely contribute positivity. It’s like the Marie Kondo-ing of our company.
It’s a concept I’ve bounced back and forth between supporting and struggling to understand. On the one hand, of course you don’t want to involve “toxic” people in your life -- obviously, nothing good is going to come from that. You want to be a little selfish and do your thing, do what’s best for you at all times. But at the same time, if you don’t balance that with being a good friend and supporting others that you care about, the next thing you know the only people you talk to on a regular basis is your cable provider’s customer service agent. And your cat.
The problem arises when someone has very, very low standards for what this “toxicity” is. Your friend skipped out on brunch after promising they’d be there -- so, is she cut off? There seems to be a disconnect in finding that happy medium between owning your life and doing things for yourself with being a present and supportive friend and partner.
Obviously, no one wants to be a people-pleaser. It typically comes from a place of insecurity, of needing to be liked and wanted and needed, and that’s just not how someone should go through life. So, we shun that frame of mind, opting instead for the other extreme: vaguely socially-acceptable selfishness.
No mores BS! Anyone who isn’t contributing to my life somehow is cut off. Tell me if I'm wrong.
OK...but does this mean you are contributing to others’ lives, or should you be cut off, too?
It’s a paradigm I’ve seen a lot of recently that can be difficult to navigate, especially when you’re in a transitional stage of life. If there are changes happening to one part of your life, you’re tempted to make equal changes in other areas -- switching jobs, getting married, moving cities. You start to reevaluate what you have and where you’re at mentally.
But these are the times that we need good relationships the most. Leaning on others is sometimes the only way to fight through something and come out the other side feeling strong as ever.
Is there a way to mold your surroundings to what you need for yourself while still being present and helpful to others? Sure: Invest in the relationships that are worth it.
That worth, for me, means that I give and get equally from a relationship. If it’s sustainable, a person is willing to equate what you put into it with their own efforts. It’s when that balance isn’t happening that I think it’s completely appropriate to clean house -- albeit, without announcing on social media that you’re “cutting people off.” Being a good friend or partner doesn’t mean we have to kiss *ss every chance we get, just that we should be reciprocating what we’re receiving when the relationship is worth it.
You can’t maintain a relationship without some back-and-forth, but down with people pleasing as long as you’re getting an equal part out of it.
In that sense, there’s room to be selfish with your time and maintain good company throughout your life. It’s not a three-strikes-and-you’re-out game, but a necessity for mutual respect and understanding.