The common mistake of overestimating your own relevance

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As an admirer of design and poetry, I feel ashamed for reading and (occasionally) agreeing with these cheesy pictures.
The quotes have the poetic quality of fortune cookies, are poorly designed and popular on Tumblr. No matter how blatantly trivial the statement is: Sometimes they fit very well.

When taken for granted people often experience a lack of appreciation. Their kindness and care have become a standard while the work and effort behind are left without credit. Obviously, this imbalance is problematic and will lead to conflict sooner or later. Whether this is reminding on an ex-partner, a former friends or even family member: The motivation to support people shrinks drastically in the face of ungratefulness.

It’s weird. With autumn being around the corner and the weather growing colder I found myself becoming harsher as well. As if trying to compete with the trees shedding their leaves, I am eagerly cutting people out of my life. The last weeks have been undoubtedly tough but the stress helped me to open my eyes. Some people are straight up shit. Like so shit that I have really no reason for keeping them in my life.
The story in short: While I made an effort to support these people as good as I can, I did not have the impression of gaining much of the friendship apart from disappointment, weak excuses and empty promises. I am currently struggling with many things at once and I do not have any energy to spare. Especially not for people who are hardly trying to be useful. Fuck them.
This time the overall conclusion was very very simple: Bye.
It is a practice I do on a regular basis since keeping my environment healthy is just too important. Moreover, it is a question of efficiency as well.

How dare I?

To make this perfectly clear: these cuts never come suddenly. I give warning shots on different occasions. The final decision of letting people go is always a conclusion of incidents in the past.
On good days I try to give people a fair and useful description of why I am tired of them.
On bad days I keep it very short.
On very bad days I tell them to fuck off.

Do you know that is very funny though? Sometimes people have the damn audacity to try convincing me that I do a grave mistake. As if I am about to lose something precious.

“You can always text me if you change your mind.”
“Are you sure you want to do this?”
“It would be a shame to end things like this.”

Ok, so first of all, no. Just a big NO.

Why on fucking earth should I want to endure this attitude much longer? It is obviously god damn easy saying this from their position. You had no disadvantage from the friendship and are in fact losing a useful toy here.
It’s pretty much asking: “Yo dude, you sure you don’t want to do some emotional labour for absolutely nothing in return?” (Surprise the answer is still no.)
I fail to see what I gain from changing my mind. Where is the value of this relationship? What makes it worth all the shit?

To me, it feels as if we have two different judgements colliding here. While one party feels unappreciated, the other sees hardly a problem in the current dynamic. For them, the friendship has been functioning before and still is. Reading this choice as a mistake is oddly logical.
It does not change anything about my feelings though. No matter how much fun and laughter I have shared with people: In the end, it has little meaning to me if strangers can easily replace them. How am I supposed to make the world a better place when my well-being comes too short? It is not my job to teach people about being a good friend to me.

Displaced Trust: A painful lesson

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Photo: Jenny L.

Only a few things hurt more than a loved person letting you down. Whether it is your significant other, your best friend or even your own family: it hurts, maybe not so much physically but emotionally.

My trust does not come easily and I am sceptical towards most people. A friend who hurts you – even if it’s unintended – feels more gruesome and painful than usual. It is because we were neither prepared nor protected for this fall.
We call people friends and we keep them close for a reason. Ironically, it is that very reason why these moments leave us paralyzed.

I always thought I was a good judge of character and can see through lies. It seems that my vision gets clouded when I have invested a certain amount of trust in people. Why so? Calling somebody a friend – especially close friends – comes with many responsibilities. You tend to be more honest with each other, caring and protective. These are the differences between your friends and a brief acquaintance.

Would I call a person I just met last Sunday when I am having a panic attack? Probably not. The idea of presenting myself that vulnerable to a stranger doesn’t seem pleasant. I guess this is also one reason why therapy tends to needs some time until it progresses: Opening up to somebody we don’t know (yet) and therefore don’t trust is hard. In other words, the act of building trust in a person is a form of work by overcoming your own distrusting nature.

There is a reason why I don’t burst into tears when the bus driver was rude to me this morning. During the day I am aware that I will need some wall to protect me from unfairness. It is sad but the reality we live in. On the contrary, I had tears many times when a friend said something equally rude in the heat of a discussion.

Besides the trust and love we feel, we also see a set of expectations towards our friend. Or maybe it’s just me. I tend to assume that my friends and I have similar values. Whatever I would do for them I like to believe they would do the same for me. This concept of mirrored devotion does not work. The abilities that I have and the circumstances I’m living in are not the same as the ones my friends face. We are different and I forget about it. This concept is meant to disappoint. When you build up a set of expectations on this theory it can differ from the reality a lot.
I guess I need to look at it from a different point of view: How is the other person supposed to know the extent of my devotion if we never talked about it? Therefore, how is the other person supposed to know what I expect from them?

With that in mind, I try to recover from my current disappointment. Somewhere torn between “This just can’t be true! This is a big misunderstanding!” and “Wow, that person was my friend and did it anyway.” I try to evaluate what happened. For now, I feel that my expectations were too high and my trust not really justified. I feel stupid and I started to doubt my own judgement in the oddest moments now.

If friendship was a game then my expectations were its rules and I believed that my friends and I were both following them. Seeing it that way it reminded me a lot of the following quote from Peter Pan:

“Not the pain of this but its unfairness was what dazed Peter. It made him quite helpless. He could only stare, horrified. Every child is affected thus the first time he is treated unfairly. […] After you have been unfair to him he will love you again, but he will never afterwards be quite the same boy. No one ever gets over the first unfairness; no one except Peter.” ― J.M. Barrie

Not my friends

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I do love my friends with all my heart and I am usually excited to meet their friends as well. For most of the time I get along with them very very well and it enriches me on many levels. I tend to believe that interesting people enjoy each others company.
However, this is not always the case. On very rare occasions I get reminded that disappointments come in all shapes.

While I do value my friend’s company hanging out with their crowd can be a pain in the ass – for different reasons. Not having the option of simply leaving or avoiding interaction with people you are not connecting with sucks balls. You are forced to deal with the situation and being forced is something I hate.
Embracing these situations is a lesson I had to learn after being extremely rude and anti-social at several events. Apparently taking your book and sitting on the balcony all by yourself while everyone is playing games is not the most respectful way.

  1. Realize that there is something good in these people even though all you can see is a disappointing existence. Find it and focus on it.
  2. Remind yourself that it’s not about you but about your friend. It’s their day and this is why you are here in the first place.
  3. Find the most interesting person and try talk with them.
  4. Find a safe place where you can retreat when shit gets too much in order to rant with your other friends. Make an exit plan if needed.

Be honest

I won’t lie here: I have very high standards when it comes to my environment. My time is simply too precious to be wasted on people I don’t like. In the past, I had several situations where I realized that my friends are hanging out with people I am not connecting with and it is very hard to say: “Sorry, but I don’t like your friends.” Being nice has nothing to do with faking affection. There is no need on lying to your friends and it should be in your and your friends’ interest to have a foundation of honesty and trust. Use kind words to explain them, that you don’t enjoy being around these people while underlining that you are happy that your friend is happy with them.

However sometimes nice words are not doing their job and your friend might feel offended or hurt because their peer group is not good enough. Well, that sucks because their friends are indeed not good enough but they should kind of get over it and stop inviting you to their crap sit-ins or bring them to your parties.

I usually say that I am sorry because I truly am. I wish these people would be less disappointing, but here we are. What should we do? If your friendship is strong you will find a way and get over it. If not and your friend keeps pushing these people on you well knowing that you don’t like them: Is that person really your friend?