Friendship has always been extremely important to me so I was really surprised when I began removing myself from unhealthy friendships. I value routines, consistency and I can be loyal to a fault. Once I'm committed to and invested in something it's unnatural for me to disengage, regardless of whether what I've committed myself to is good for me or not.
Because I was brought up in a toxic environment, I had an extremely high tolerance for dealing with toxic personalities. Instead of protecting myself and limiting my interactions with these personalities, I would justify and rationalize irrational behaviors. At times the friendships I was involved with could become infuriating, but I would always make myself available to accept more of the dysfunction. I was so used to dealing with high conflict personalities that I honestly didn't realize removing myself from these friendships was even an option. In the environment I grew up in, I wasn't allowed to have respect or create boundaries so I didn't know how to demand and enforce them.
A few years ago I read a book called The Five Types Of People Who Can Ruin Your Life, by Bill Eddy and it blew my mind! As the saying goes, knowledge is power and had I read this book in my twenties I could have saved myself a lot of grief. A close friend of mine, who was a witness to my unhealthy friendships, repeatedly tried to educate me on the effects that certain personality disorders could have on my overall well being. Unfortunately, her warnings never fully sunk in. When someone treated me in a way I didn't deserve I would make excuses and allowances for the bad behavior. This would only cause people to continue with subtle forms of disrespect that, when challenged, would easily be explained away in a gaslit manner.
I often blame and question myself because I teach people how to treat me. I'm embarrassed when I think about how much negative behavior I allowed myself to entertain. But I also have to forgive myself because the person who was supposed to teach me how I should be treated didn't treat me so well at the time. Toxicity was all I knew, and although it was exhausting to deal with, I became an expert at enduring toxic behaviors.
I've gotten a lot better at protecting myself, but old habits do die hard. I guess I could say I'm still in recovery because it's not always easy to identify when someone isn't good for me until I'm already knee deep. One thing I've worked out is that I seem to be a huge magnet for narcissists. Depending on the type of narcissist I've attracted, it can be difficult to initially recognize their traits. But now I know, and as G.I. Joe says, "Knowing is half the battle."
I was fortunate enough to cross paths with a beautiful human who showed me what I deserved out of friendship. My relationship with her woke me up to the fact that I didn't need to involve myself with anything less. Ever! The key factors in the foundation of our friendship are maturity and respect which were missing in the friendships of my youth. Friendship really shouldn't be so complicated. It shouldn't be draining or exhausting, it should be fun and uplifting. Life is hard enough so it's a true blessing when you find a friend who enlightens your life.
How have you surprised yourself?
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