I used to be a total people-pleaser. At one time in my life, not too long ago actually, I really cared about what other people thought about me. Cared to the point of going out of both my way and my comfort zone to please everyone. I couldn’t stand the thought of hurting someone’s feelings.
In recent years, I’ve become much less concerned. Perhaps living in New York for the past 15 years has toughened me just enough to unhinge my Southern upbringing. The one that taught me to always be nice. Always be polite. And never say anything bad about anyone. At least not to their face.
With Age Comes Wisdom
The older I get, the more I find myself doing what I like to call “sanity gardening.” It’s my own personal process of weeding out the crazy in my life. I suddenly have no patience for any person or situation that creates chaos. Julia Cameron, in The Artist’s Way, referred to people who are confrontational and chaotic as CrazyMakers. When I read that book in my twenties, I’m certain that I myself, was a CrazyMaker, and the biggest chaos creator in my own life.
Thank god that one of the benefits of getting older is that you do, indeed, get wiser. You start realizing how short and how precious life is. Suddenly, you no longer feel obligated to spend a Friday night out with your extremely rude girlfriend. The one that always snaps at the hostess, the waiter, the cab driver, and goes ballistic on anyone who might accidentally bump into her that evening. Or the friend who is such a bad drunk that you know you’re going to spend the majority of your night apologizing to other people on her behalf and then getting cursed out by said friend because you’re not “fun” anymore. (Since when did it become fun to be a complete ass to other people?)
Breaking Up With So-Called “Friends”
I’ve had a few friends (both guys and girls, and both non-romantic) who I’ve known for very long periods of time that I’ve had to “break up with.” And even though I knew I should have weeded these people out of the sanity garden a long time ago, the very fact that I had known them for so long made me think that I had to stay in the relationship. That I was somewhat obligated to put up with their bad behavior simply because of the investment of time.
The first official break-up is the hardest. Technically, I should really call it a break-off, because I always try to take the high road and resist any type of confrontation or fight. I simply make myself less available to the person. I gradually stop seeing them or talking to them. I don’t say bad things about them or post negative things about them on social media. I wish them well in their life. I just no longer want to be a part of that life.
The problem with this approach is that these types of people rarely accept the break-off. It’s one less person in their life that they can espouse their chaos upon. One less person accepting of their bad behavior. And they’re not having it. They’ll either try to guilt you or berate you into admitting that you’re wrong, they’re perfect, and of course you’ll continue to be their friend, because if not, you’re a total bitch and need to grow up.
After making the mistake (once) of listening to a (former) friend’s voicemail where she called me virtually every name in the book because I no longer wanted to be friends (and honestly, why would anyone want to be friends with someone who calls them horrible names?), I changed her name in my contact list to “Cruella” as an intentional reminder not to answer her call or listen to another one of her angry messages. The delete button is a beautiful thing. My sanity weeding has become so fine-tuned that I don’t even bother listening to a negative voicemail or reading what I’m sure will be a negative email.
Bad Business Breakups
I’ve also had business colleagues I’ve had to part ways with and jobs I’ve had to leave because they were such toxic environments. I once had a job in Manhattan that was so stressful that I would actually start to have panic attacks in the mornings when I would get within one block of my workplace. I had to practice yoga breathing in order to even be able to walk through the door. I’ve given up lucrative freelance jobs because the person I was working for was such an asshole. That’s one of the joys of freelancing. You kind of get to choose your co-workers. And I refuse to work with anyone who doesn’t know how to behave properly and show mutual respect for other people. The money is not worth it if you dread speaking to or seeing a particular person every day.
Even with Stylaphile, as this blog continues to grow and I get approached by more and more brands who want to work with me, I have to be super-selective about who I choose to promote or sponsor. I’ve poured thousands of dollars of my own hard-earned money into sponsorships of a few brands that I truly loved and believed in, only to get taken advantage of, mocked, and not given any support in return for one of my own events. (Not so much as even a single Tweet or mention!) But I would never speak badly about these brands publicly. I simply thank them for the lessons learned and wish them the best in the future.
Quality, Not Quantity Counts
The thing is, the older I get, the smaller my circle of friends becomes. And I am 100% okay with this. My closest friends range from someone I’ve known since 6th grade to a few people I’ve met recently. But the common denominator is that when I am hanging out with or talking to these people, I’m happy. I’m relaxed. I’m laughing. I’m not trying to think of excuses to get off the phone or leave the party early. These few people that I’m choosing to spend my precious free time with are precious to me. They enrich my life rather than complicate my life. They are the flowers (and the evergreens) in my sanity garden.
In doing all of this…in weeding out my sanity garden, in breaking off from people I find to be toxic, and in sincerely wishing them the best in their lives (lives that I no longer want to be a part of), I am realizing that some folks have probably done the same thing with me. Perhaps I was a chaos creator or a toxic relationship in their life at some point and they had to let me go.
I just want to say to any of those people, “it’s okay. I get it. I understand. And I wish you the best.”
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