Self-worth: a work in progress

How much is a friendship worth?

Better question: how much are you worth?

After work the other day, I was speaking with “Caroline” about one of her friendships. It seems her friend “Ben” (fake name) was always bailing on their plans mere hours before the start of them. Caroline was frustrated but didn’t want to say anything; she didn’t want to bring it up because she was worried she might lose the friendship. A natural fear, and I admit I have the same feeling sometimes.

But my question to her (thanks to my therapist – ha!) was, “Do you really think your friendship will last if you don’t share your frustrations?” The answer is no. Most definitely not, and she knew from experience. Recently a different friend had been incredibly judgmental of her, ambushing Caroline with a five-minute rant about her supposed failings. And even though Caroline wanted to address the grievance, to stick up for herself, she didn’t. Why? Because she didn’t want to confront her friend and end up losing him.

Bet you can guess what happened. They don’t talk any more.

So with this recent example, I pressed her to talk to her friend. There are a million ways to say what needed to be said:

  • It really ruins my night when you cancel our plans last-minute. I understand you have other obligations that can get in the way, but this is becoming a regular occurrence and I feel like you don’t value our time hanging out. Is there something going on? Are you okay, feeling overwhelmed?
  • I was so excited to do our pizza night, and you bailed!?? What’s up with that?! Geez man I’m beginning to think you either don’t want to hang out with me, or you are getting this HUGE crush on me and just can’t keep your feelings secret any more! haha!!! Seriously though, I hate that we haven’t gotten to have a movie night lately….
  • Hey, so, lately you have been canceling our plans and they are always during the week when something comes up. Maybe from now on we could make plans on the weekend. What do you think?

There were ton of ways Caroline could confront the issue with Ben. In the end she chose not to say anything. Again. And I can understand the impulse. Maybe it wasn’t as important to her as she let on. But the root of her feelings relate to something inside many of us that allow us to be neglected, taken advantage of, or ignored. Something that tells us not to recognize our needs, our wants, our desires because verbalizing them – according to this inner voice – will make us somehow less likable.

I got an email like this once! Image source: http://www.care2.com/greenliving/love-shame-and-self-worth.html

I know the feeling. In relationships and friendships, the fear of rejection can be so strong it derails self-confidence. We value our friendships and loved ones so much we don’t want to risk losing them. Perhaps we think we are unworthy or undeserving, not good enough, or unlovable. Perhaps we lack trust. For some reason we are convinced we will be cast aside. We trivialize our feelings, ignore our needs, downplay our desires. Little problems become big ones. Big problems bring us the reality we sought so desperately to avoid: the end of that relationship. If Ben was not interested in being friends any more (something Caroline suspected as a possibility), whether or not she said something it would happen if that’s what Ben wanted. But how she felt about the ending that friendship was up to her.  And right now, she felt rejected. Is this some sort of “I’m the victim” addiction, or a trend that needs corrected? What about her value? Her self-confidence? Saying how she felt – standing up to her fear of rejection – could do wonders for her self-image. Regardless of the outcome. Acknowledging her feelings, and seeking to address the issue (however passively), would at least leave her feeling satisfied because she did the best she could. Acting on her emotions in a healthy way – a way she could be proud of – tells herself three very important things: she is deserving of healthy friendships, her feelings matter and should matter to her friend, and she is a good person capable of addressing her problems with fairness and maturity.

This pyramid offers a good breakdown of our needs.... .... Source: http://usableworld.com.au/category/social-networks/

There is a balance needed in recognizing when it is necessary to confront an issue within a relationship. Sometimes it isn’t worth it. Sometimes it is. When my husband asks me, “Have you made your breakfast yet?” every morning, I get a little annoyed sometimes. But I try not to snap at him or bring it up, because I know he is saying it out of concern (and because I have a tendency to run late and a breakfast is something I cannot skip). Knowing his actions are motivated from care, and knowing they are harmless, I don’t need to say a word about it (ironically, he’ll read this post and know it anyhow — sorry honey, it was a good example! Keep asking – I know I need to hear it!). But there are times when it is important to say something. And it can be difficult. But it needs to be done if we are to have any self-respect at all. Good luck!

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On another note: my Kickstarter campaign is over in just THREE days (March 22nd in the evening). The fund-raising goal has been exceeded by $150!!! Thank you! I can’t wait to send out the rewards! If you still want to pledge, there is time. Please spread the word if you think anyone is interested. There is a link at the bottom of this page and at the top of the main Be Nice. page. And Happy Spring!

🙂

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For Muse: Crushes

"The Kiss" by Francesco Hayez (courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

I had to give this one a lot of thought after a reader asked me to write on it: how to talk to crushes. And this is for a few reasons: first, I talk all the time. So my attentions to a particular crush wouldn’t seem much different from any other day I bet. Second, this isn’t exactly a “be nice” thing, but if put in the right perspective it can be. Being confident in yourself is part of being “nice” to yourself. So I think it fits. Third, I’ve been with the same fella for 6 years now.  So, I’ve been out of commission awhile. Now, remember: this is just my opinion. Always trust your judgment first. I’m definitely not an expert. But here goes!

I’ll tell you how it worked out when I talked to my biggest crush EVER: my husband. I met him at an art opening of a show we were both in. He walked off the elevator and it was immediate: I had to talk to this guy. So without thinking I walked right over to him, put out my hand, and said, “Hi! I’m Jen. Who are you?” with a huge smile on my face. Now the key to doing this was no thinking. If I thought about it, I would get insecure and I would not say a word. And getting insecure is exactly what happened that evening.

We had a blast walking around, talking about the art work. I don’t even remember what we said, I just remember making sure I was being cool and not sounding like a moron. Things were going great! It was me and him alone virtually the whole time we viewed two entire floors of work. But then came, as we stood around digesting the show, this little, short-haired, petite cute girl. I was always intimidated by those girls. Here I was, 5′ 10″, at the time I was a size 18, and naturally next to a 5′ 5″ skinny blonde with stylish clothes and that mysterious “cool” vibe, I figured I was defeated by default. I thought, “Oh, she’s pretty, she’s probably his girl friend.” So while he made conversation with her I wondered off, insecure and angry with myself for being such a chicken. He left the party and I was devastated.

But then I got brave again, and found his email on our college directory (slightly stalker-ish, but hey, it worked!). I emailed him with the “Hey, that was fun and I liked getting to know you. Would love to talk about art again. Want to hang out?” And he wrote back, “Yeah! Here’s my number, here’s when I’m free.” (PS–it was fate because he NEVER checked that email, but just happened to that weekend.) So, we hung out. And my insecurity prevailed again because I assumed he might just want to be friends even though we spent 3 hours just swinging on swings at a park talking, plus dinner, plus seeing some art. I should’ve known he was into me when he called each day he said he would (he called every other day), when he picked me up and we went out to dinner. So I told him, “I like you,” on our second date. He was shy, and said nothing! UG!  Again, thrown into tumult. What was going on?!!

My friend Michele suggested some “game” type strategies. They didn’t work. Jake wasn’t into “games.” He was oblivious. And playing games wasn’t like me either. So finally, I took some of my own advice. Be blunt. Be reckless. When I don’t think, and speak, it works best for me (with him at least!), so I said, “Look, I like you. And I don’t know if you like me because you haven’t said so. And it’s fine if you don’t like me that way, but I just want to know. Because if I don’t stop liking you this way soon, I won’t be able to be friends with you and I really like to talk to you so I’d like to be at least friends. So do you like me or not?”

And he said “Yes.” The rest, as they say, is history.

My suggestions are these:

  1. Always be yourself, from the start. Be true to your feelings, your intuition, who you ARE. Your love interest will either like you or they won’t. It’s nothing you can change. If you change who you are, eventually the relationship will fail because you aren’t being you. So just be you from the start because that pain is probably less than the pain of being in a relationship that feels like a lie. Want another argument about being the true you? It’s unfair to assume someone won’t be into you the way you want them to be. Give your crush his/her due credit and give them the privilege of knowing the real you. You are awesome, and it’s just a matter of finding some other person whose “awesome” jives with your “awesome.”
  2. Just treat them like you might when you want to make a new friend–at first. It might take the pressure off. Then after a few tries at talking, you can tell them you “like” them. They’ll know you by then and probably have an idea of if they “like” you too.
  3. Talking to crushes comes in waves of pure mindless bravery and bouts of crushing insecurity (if you’re anything like me). The important thing is to always try to defeat the insecurities  and go for what you want, even if it scares you. Worst case: s/he won’t “like” you. And what you get out of that is knowing that you care enough for yourself to go after what you want. That is something pretty special. Best case: s/he is into you. That would be sweet.
  4. When in doubt, just talk. Could be about anything. Don’t know what to say? Make a comment about something you are into. They might pick up on it. Still short on words? Ask questions. People love to talk about themselves. Give them a chance, and they might take it. And then you can respond with a story, or another question. It’ll get the ball rolling.
  5. There may never be a day when you feel ready to talk to your crush. Or maybe you just need to build confidence for a while and then you will go for it. You know you best, so trust your instincts and believe in your qualities and go for it when the time is right. If you know that you are a good person worth befriending, that will come across to your crush, and that is a very attractive trait to have.

I hope this gets you thinking. I’m sorry I’m a little out of date on the whole crush thing. Just remember to be safe, make smart decisions, and to be good to yourself. Those are most important.

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I’m going to keep you all updated on my Kickstarter project with every post until its deadline in March. This is my first update!

KICKSTARTER FUNDS RAISED: $59! Thanks to those who gave! We’re nearly 20% of the goal! Only 78  more days left to support the Be Nice. Guide to Farting and Pooping! Find out more by clicking HERE.