I have had a very difficult relationship over the last few years. On the surface, things look great. We are incredibly cordial, warm and we meet and greet with hugs. While I cannot speak for how my friend experiences our relationship, it has been incredibly challenging for my husband and me, but a lot, lot more for me given the sensitive person who I am. My biggest pain is that I don’t feel accepted & respected for who I am and always feel judged, evaluated and somewhere implicitly told that I am less worthy than them due to my choices on every dimension – parenting, work, family, self, world.
I had in many ways tried many ways to take care of myself and yet while I have gotten more skilled over time, the pain, the struggle, my inability to navigate this relationship in a healthy, sustainable way still exists. A few weeks back, I had the luxury of spending many, many hours with my journal and Brene Brown’s latest book Rising Strong which in my opinion is her best book till date and I learnt a few interesting things about myself, this relationship and how I can best navigate this journey forward.
Here is a beautiful framework that Brene suggested to navigate a situation like this –
- Trust that people do the best they can
Yes, even though I am hurt with my friend’s words, I truly believe that she is doing the best she can and has no intentions of hurting me. I may never fully understand what is driving her behavior but given what she knows about herself, me and life overall, she is truly doing her best. This is the only way I can keep judgment out of my mind, judgment on what she should do, how she should behave and relate to me. This is incredibly hard for me and I haven’t mastered it but I have been getting small glimpses of peace when I start with the positive.
- Fully process all my emotions
Brene suggests that in order to fully move on with such struggles we need to be brutally honest with what we are experiencing and that often underlying such feelings are our own struggles and our own emotions that need to be processed and dealt with so here’s what I learnt about myself & our relationship through the process of genuine and honest self-exploration.
There was a strong component of people pleasing & trying to prove to my friend that other ways of living life were just as worthy in addition to her choices. Not necessarily that my way is better than hers but there are many other ways of parenting, working, relating to money, etc. When I would share my point of view, there was somewhere some aggression and the desire to prove my point. I had too many moments of my ego & inner critic reminding me that “I am not good enough” and my heart would gently come in and say “ I am enough & worthy of love and belonging.” This conflicting pattern was always there… Brene believes that we don’t compare when we feel good about ourselves; we then look for what’s good in others. When we practice self-compassion, we are compassionate toward others. I need to pay more attention to the feeling of “I’m not good enough” and choose love for myself.
I was too focused on being nice & kind but had gone too far. So many times I said yes because saying no felt scary and that I would be judged for not investing in the friendship and not because her presence filled up my heart. My ego is much more alive in this relationship than I would have liked it to be.
Our conversations have been most peaceful when I haven’t opened up my heart, when I haven’t spoken my truth fully, when I don’t go deep with what’s showing up in my life or my views on the world. If conversations were kept to the surface, there was less conflict, less hurt feelings for me…
I feel peaceful & content in knowing that I utilized all the tools that I am aware of in keeping this friendship alive and nourishing but I am not getting too far and this is OKAY. I truly wish this friendship could be rich and nourishing as I believe that she isn’t aware how hurt I have been yet I don’t feel safe bringing this up. Somewhere I secretly desire that the air clears up and we have a beautiful relationship. Conflicts make me very sad.
- Establish boundaries with Integrity & Generosity
Even though I had boundaries, they weren’t enough and I was still getting hurt. I had read a lot about boundaries and had applied many of them, but again they didn’t work the way I would have liked them to. Brene explicitly mentions that the trick to staying out of resentment is establishing better boundaries and instead of blaming others we need to take more responsibility of our own needs.
Here’s what Brene has to say on this –
“ What boundaries do I need to put in place so I can work from a place of integrity and extend the most generous interpretations , words, and actions of others?”
Living with integrity is saying – “Yes, I’m going to be generous in my assumptions & intentions while standing solidly in my integrity and being very clear about what’s acceptable and what’s not.”
In this relationship, I learnt that boundaries didn’t just mean staying away or not meeting often, it truly meant that I need to be very, very careful about how much of myself do I let seen. If I am struggling with post partum anxiety and I am asked – Hey, how are you doing? I will be emotionally healthier not being fully authentic with what’s showing up in my life if I don’t feel psychologically safe. This one is very difficult for me as I then struggle with the real point of a friendship if I can’t speak my heart but Brene is right in that we should only reach out to people we trust – a person who has earned the right to hear our story and who has the capacity to respond with empathy.
What are your thoughts on Brene Brown’s framework? What are some of your other tools on navigating difficult relationships?
P.S. – The link to Brene’s book is an affiliate link meaning I will be getting paid a commission if you purchase via this link and I will be donating that to the Miracle Foundation via the 10K project. This is my first time experimenting with the affiliate link so please send me a note if you purchase so I can make sure it all goes through.