Recently, I was asked to share one of my favorite quotes and this one immediately came to mind. “Learn from the mistakes of others….you won’t live long enough to make them all yourself.”- Eleanor Roosevelt
At my age, I feel like I’ve made more than my fair share of mistakes in relationships. I would like to share a few with you in hopes that I can save you some heartache. Here’s my list of five big things I wish I had known much earlier in my life about getting along with others.
Mistake #1 - Thinking I should or could do everything all of the other women in my life were doing as well as they were doing it.
Long before social media, women were comparing themselves to each other. We compare our homes, our wardrobes, the success of our children, our charity service, our husbands, our hairstyles, our shoes, our purses, our Christmas trees, our recipes, our workouts, our workout clothes, our vacations, and so on and so on and so on. I am not sure if it is an innate trait or something we learn at a young age, but comparison starts early and “comparison truly is the thief of all joy.” - Theodore Roosevelt
In my younger years, I would avoid situations that made me feel less than in any way. For example, I might avoid hosting a dinner party at my house for fear that my décor wasn’t up to par or that my cooking wasn’t gourmet. I would avoid joining friends in an exercise class for fear that I wouldn’t be able to keep up or that my clothes wouldn’t be “right”. I avoided “Girls Night Out” celebrations because the conversation might take off in a direction in which I didn’t have anything to contribute.
What I now know is that each of us is different….and that’s not only okay, it’s amazing!! I am so grateful for my friends who are great decorators or cooks….we have all the parties at their houses. I love my friends who work out every day and get grumpy if they don’t. They inspire me. I know that I have friends with nicer cars, bigger homes, fuller social calendars and higher IQ’s than mine and I love them all. But, I also know that my friends count on me for advice and honesty during difficult situations. If they are wondering about something in pop culture, it’s a good bet I’ve heard about it or can, at the least, recommend a podcast. They know I love college sports, Hallmark movies and self-help books. We all have strengths, weaknesses and unique interests. Together we are much better than we are apart. My friend, you are enough. Identify your strengths, thank God for them and live fully just the way you are.
Mistake # 2 - Chasing after friendships that were never meant to be.
This is closely related to mistake #1. If your people aren’t loving you for who you are (assuming you aren’t engaging in toxic, unhealthy behavior)…it’s not your problem….they’re just not your people. Oh what I would’ve given to have known this at the age of 30. Let me give you an example. Many years ago there was a group of women that I thought I totally wanted to be a part of. They were cool and up on all the latest trends. They were funny and laughed a lot together….usually at the expense of someone else. Honestly, looking back, they were a real life “mean girls movie” adult edition and I was Lindsey Lohan…looking in from the outside. It was only a few months into our “friendship” that I became the recipient of their mean girl activity and got my feelings hurt. This kind of thing hurts badly when you are 14…..it REALLY hurts badly when you are 30. Those feelings of rejection took me years to work through and I questioned over and over again why they didn’t want me. Fast forward a few years and I had an opportunity to be in close proximity to them for several days as we worked together on something. I came home and told my husband, “I have NO idea why I ever thought I would be friends with them…..I don’t even LIKE them.” And I meant it….it wasn’t a “woe is me I’m better off without them” kind of thing…I genuinely did not enjoy their company. God knows better than we do who we need in our lives and who we don’t. Real friends don’t have to be chased….they just are. “When someone shows you who they are…..believe them the first time"(Maya Angelou). Actions really do speak louder than words. Those folks whose behavior never seems to line up with their words probably don’t really mean what they are telling you. We are to love everyone….we don’t have to be best friends with them. Look around and see who is there for you….those are your friends. No matter how old you are.
Mistake # 3 - Setting unrealistic or uncommunicated expectations for others.
I can tell you through my experiences both personally and professionally that if we could all learn this lesson, conflicts would dramatically decrease and our lives would just feel more peaceful. “Unmet expectations are the source of all resentment.”
I am especially guilty of expecting my husband and children to read my mind. I am a dreamer and I paint pictures in my head of the way things should go, never share my expectations with anyone, and then lose my mind when things don’t go as I wanted them to. I’m still learning, but let me tell you about a win for me.
Last year for Christmas, after being disappointed over Christmas card photos to the point of tears for several years, I told my husband and children exactly what I wanted for Christmas. I wanted just the four of us to have an evening totally devoted to getting dressed up, having a nice dinner together, heading to the Opryland Hotel to see Christmas lights and taking photos until I had the one I wanted for Christmas cards. As I communicated this, my husband’s first response was, “Wouldn’t you rather have a car?”
On the night of the event, the family complied with my request (not without grumbling a little), but I came away more satisfied than in most years and we made it home without a knock down, drag out fight. No one can read your mind…be clear with the folks you love.
Mistake # 4 - Assuming no one else has ever felt this way.
In my experience, women want to know they’re not alone, yet too often we keep all of our stuff to ourselves. We fear that if someone really knew us, they wouldn’t accept us or understand.
The Enneagram changed my life in this area. It gave me the words to help communicate my feelings and then led me to people who think and feel just like I do. Once I had language around all the crazy things I thought I felt and could talk about it with others who felt the same way, I knew I had my people! It was so validating for me. In addition to learning my own number and its traits, being able to understand my family and friends and developing language around their thoughts and feelings helped even more! We all want to be understood. Those who truly love and care about you will stick around when you share the hard stuff. You don’t have to do life alone and I can almost assure you, someone else feels exactly the way that you do.
Mistake #5 - Thinking everything is a competition.
I’ll just be honest with you. I struggle greatly with jealousy and comparison. It’s not that I don’t want you to have it (whatever IT is). I just might want it too! Comparison is not only the thief of joy, but the catalyst for discontentment. We can all win. A win for you does not mean a loss for me. God has really been working on me in this area and this is why I believe I’m so passionate about sharing with all of you. I want your relationships to be healthy…..and I want you to live an abundant life full of freedom, joy and happiness. We have choices. We can choose to be jealous and bitter or we can celebrate the wins of others. I’m trying to do the latter a lot more often. I encourage you to cheer somebody on this week….even if they do something much better than you. I promise you’ll get a blessing too.
I hope these tips help you along your own journey. If you are struggling in your relationships, I would love to help! Please reach out to me and let me know how I can be of assistance to you in any way. Send me a message and let me know if there are topics you would like to hear more about or questions I might can answer. Life is not supposed to be as hard as it feels sometimes….there are choices we can make and changes we can implement that will change everything! Let me help you learn from my mistakes. And never forget, you are so loved.
"For God so loved the world that He gave his only son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16