Thursday, February 20, 2020

Friendship Is the Most Important Life Investment You Can Make

Here is why it makes all the difference.


Over the last several years, I’ve watched my mom amass a widespread group of friends. She has maintained close friendships from decades past, a handful of people with whom she has been closely connected for years. As well as, has welcomed new people in with the passage of time. She has formed quality connections with her neighbors, colleagues, friends of friends, has met people randomly while out dancing who have then gone on to become friends, you name it. She meets people all over the place, many of whom then go on to become friends. This is a skill of hers.
She has a way about her, of welcoming people into her home and life. A warm, bubbly demeanor that people tend to quite enjoy. A fun, high energy, generally joyous spirit.
Here is why friendship is quite possibly the most crucial life investment you can make, in terms of your time, energy, and heart.
Because when the chips are done, and when hard times befall you (as they do every single human being, at one time or another), those friends will rush in with open arms to help pick up the pieces.
Maybe not all of them, but at least some of those friends will.
And that, my friends, will make all the difference.
Whatever the challenge, heartbreak, or trauma might be. Whether going through a divorce, undertaking a home renovation, dealing with the death of someone you love dearly, or suffering a significant medical issue or injury. When these life hardships arise, on having chosen to focus on, invest in, build and maintain close friendships with a handful of people, this will make a monumental difference in how you get through the life challenge.
Because weathering stormy skies and treacherous waters are navigated far more smoothly, safely, as well as, with a sensation as if you aren’t in it alone, when you have some great friends there, ready to help, ready to catch you, ready to be there when you’re in need.
This, of course, is not the purpose of making and investing in friendship. So you have them there in waiting for when in need. The purpose of friendship is many, including and not limited to:
-Joy
-Inspiration
-Companionship
-To offer life insights, wisdom, and alternate ways of looking at the world your way
-To help elicit growth in you
-For emotional support in difficult times
-Someone to adventure with and enjoy life activities with
-To give loving honesty, even if it may be painful for you to hear, when it’s needed for your wellbeing
-Intellectual stimulation
-Love
Friendship is there to add so many riches to our life.
One of the things a great friend does though is to offer some degree of help when the chips are down.
Whether emotional support through conversation, their physical presence, helping you with something which you cannot manage or going out of their way for you in a way that showcases love and devotion.
If you have boatloads of money, though no friends, the hole will be noticed in your life during these hard times.
If you have a great car, a huge house, awesome clothes, and a plethora of people who think you are hot on Instagram, though no quality friends, you will notice it during life phases of heartbreak and hurt.
If you work hard and love your job, though don’t have any high-quality connections in your life, this will glare during trying times.
Thus, you must invest in great friendships. (Great friends worth investing in versus kind of lame friends? Here is how to tell the difference).
This is why people who, when in a romantic relationship and they pour all their time and energy into that, ditching friendships in the process, are making a grave error.
Romantic relationships are equally as wonderful as friendship (no, they aren’t better). They offer many similar benefits, joys, and emotional riches. They also offer a few that friendships do not (mainly, physical and sexual intimacy). It is a mistake, though, to forsake quality friendship connections for one romantic one. Why? Because these connections are of equal meaning and value.
We forget this, in our romantic relationship-oriented culture.
It is a fallacy though, that romance is better than friendship. High-quality friendships and a great romantic connection offer similar benefits and joys. A friend with whom you feel totally at home, with whom you can talk about anything and are able to share your soul, with whom you have great fun, and who you trust and are able to confide in? There isn’t much difference in that from a romance of similar measure (other than the sex part).
When my mom was undergoing an extremely challenging personal project in her life over the last year, numerous friends and loved ones from her life stepped in to assist, in wild and wonderful ways. They made all the difference. In many ways, they were game-changers.
This is why you must invest in friendships. Because facing the tough stuff of life when essentially alone is multitudes harder. Shouldering that burden solo is going to be a far heavier one.
When you meet or already have a person in your life whom you know is high quality?
That should be a top priority and investment in your life, in terms of putting in time, attention, energy, and heart, to building and maintaining that connection.
Especially because, there are many mediocre friends out there for the taking (who are fun to hang with, though without the substance to back it up in those bigger moments), and far less fantastic ones.
It will be one of the best investments you ever make. Find great, high-quality people to be friends with. And then make the building and keeping these connections one of the focal points of your life.
(Attracting great friends, of course, requires that you be a great friend in the process. Why? Because we tend to attract those like ourselves. Thus, if someone isn’t a person of much quality character, people of great character are generally going to stay away. You must be a fabulous friend to attract fabulous friends. Here’s an article I wrote on that very topic if you’d like to review).

Thursday, January 30, 2020

How to Tell If Someone Really Loves You.

Hint: it has nothing to do with what they say.

image by Iga Palacz from Unsplash.com



Someone loves (or, cares for, respects, and values) you if…


They dare to speak up (in a loving way) and tell you when you are wrong, potentially hurting yourself, or others.


They show a genuine interest in the things for which you are most interested, excited, and passionate about.


They prioritize spending time with you regularly.


They listen, with focused presence and interest, when you speak.


They are willing to let go, if you both have tried as hard as you can to make things work, and things are no longer working. Letting go can also be an act of love, because it releases both parties so they can move on, heal, and find someone who is a healthier, better match at that point. Emotionally mature, healthy adults let go when a relationship, friendship, or other connection is no longer working.


They make an effort to get to know and get along with the people you love most. Even if they don’t fully jive with or love these people themselves, they do it as an act of love towards you


They are curious about you. Their inquiries are not just obligatory. They are truly interested in getting to know who you are. The things you think about, what scares you, your life dreams, current life experiences, and feelings, etc.


They remember and acknowledge the significant happenings in your life. Birthday, new job, a major medical issue, a breakup, etc.


They are reliable, trustworthy, and kind toward you.


They have the courage to tell you when they think what you’re doing is not ok.


You see it in the way they look at you.


They are open to feedback from you, even when it’s hard to hear, and then they attempt to change, grow, and tailor their actions going forward.


They have the courage to challenge you, when and where you need it most.


They go out of their way for you. To let you know that you matter to them, to spend time with you, to make a gesture in an attempt to uplift you when things are tough, etc.


They are not just around to hang out when it’s convenient. They also bend themselves sometimes in order to make it happen to hang with you too.


They care about when you are hurting, physically or emotionally. This upsets and pains them, and you know it based on their reaction and sense of empathy toward you.


They are excited to spend time with you.


They are forgiving since both of you will mess up at times. And love requires forgiveness.


They are willing to make adjustments for you.


They take action to solve problems when they do arise between the two of you. Not passive, half-hearted, lame action, but overt, motivated ones.


They do not hold grudges.


They respect your “no.”


They come when the chips are down and when you are truly in need. They are there, emotionally or physically. Ideally both.


They celebrate you. On your birthday, wedding day, on the day of your child’s birth, when you finally walk again after physical therapy, at graduation, and on the other significant occasions of your life. They get psyched for you and make this known.


When you spend time together, it isn’t always what they want to do. They are flexible, open, and make a point to partake in and try things you enjoy and want to do as well.


They laugh and play with you.


You can read a plethora of other articles like this of mine, on all topics (relationships, friendship, love, family relations, health, psychology, feminism, culture, and books) here on Medium.com.

The link to my author page and all articles is here!  Thank you so much for reading.  Have an inspired, healthy, productive, and joyous day.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

As You Grow Stronger and More Confident, People Won’t Like You, and That’s a Great Thing.


As you grow more confident, and with that confidence tends to come greater comfort in speaking up with regard to things like personal boundaries, not wanting to remain in situations that are harmful or distressing to you, and voicing dislike for things that you deem wrong, you’re going to ruffle some feathers.
Do not confuse my wording “stronger and more confident” with argumentative, self-righteous, nitpicky, or bullying, as these are not even close to the same thing.
Someone can be strong, confident, and decide not to take garbage from others, all while picking their battles and still maintaining a sense of poise, kindness, openness, and good manners. You need not be rigid, inflexible, or ever starting fights in order to have great boundaries and be a strong person.
However, once you begin saying “no” where you may have said “yes” prior (even though you didn’t really want to), once you start speaking up when someone is rude or offensive to you where you didn’t before, once you go ahead and walk away from or turn down time spent with others around whom you’d rather not, people are going to have an issue with it.
They’re going to get upset. Some might even get angry.
Why?
Because people don’t like to be told no.
They don’t like to be challenged or called out. People do not enjoy being held accountable. Most people you meet and know do not have the emotional maturity, bravery, or sense of personal accountability to meet such an interaction head-on and acknowledge where they might be wrong. Instead, most will rear back and hide, grow defensive, or, they will get pissed.
Toxic people hate being called on their dysfunction. Alternatively, half of them don’t even realize they’re toxic, nor do they care to examine this.
Controlling people do not like being challenged or losing control.
Bullies feel angered when they aren’t able to push people around.
“Dumpers” (my name for people with whom we have monologues- not conversations, who just dump, and dump, and dump on us their life story, dramas, feelings, thoughts, etc, with nary a question or interest back towards us) feel offended, confused, and insulted when people stop letting them dump and instead, excuse themselves elsewhere.
Wallowers hate positive people because then they aren’t permitted the attention garnering pity party. And, your joy in opposition to their unhappiness makes them bitter and jealous.
Even the good guys, friends, romantic partners, healthy and good-hearted family members, some of these people are going to feel disappointed, hurt, even angry at times when you put up perimeters and boundaries with regards to your own needs and emotional health.
That’s ok.
Because you know what the alternative is?
Ever bending, molding, and changing yourself to fit everyone else's wants and needs. Rushing about this way and that to step into whatever role each given person wants you to be, in that situation and during that time. Living your life via catering to everyone else.
This is a life lived in silence and emotional repression, (eventual) resentment, weakness, and without boundaries.
It’s a life in which you lose yourself for the comfort of others.
Thus, when you start standing up for yourself? (Which again, is not synonymous with being unnecessarily combative or mean). People are going to get angry. Fights might occur. And yes, you might even experience estrangement with some people or, at it’s most extreme, a few relationships even ending altogether.
Know why this is a great thing?
It weeds from your life the people you don’t want there anyway. The ones who refuse to respect you and your boundaries. The ones who don’t truly care deeply about you anyway and instead, care more about control, negativity, hurting others, and mostly, themselves.
It rids your life of the people who aren’t right for you.
And remember, just because you share DNA does not mean these people are right for you. There was no choice involved in that at the beginning. You were born and thrust into the situation without any semblance of a choice on your end. The sad truth and result of this is that many people with whom we share blood are grave mismatches for us. Sometimes, they are even harmful. You will discover this when both, you learn to look unbiasedly, openly, and bravely at these relationships and when you get up the guts to then act accordingly.
On the flip side, with the people who aren’t dysfunctional or harmful? It makes your relationships that much healthier and happier with these people. Exuding boundaries with people who truly respect and love you, more often than not, has generally positive results, even if some feelings get hurt occasionally. Thus, with the people you want in your life, and with regards to those who are truly good for you? This will be a good thing.
Some residual effect which, don’t count on this, though if it happens, can be a significant positive for everyone involved: people could learn some crucial life lessons via your speaking up and standing up to them.
When we dare to speak openly to others, our loved ones, family, friends, you name it, with regards to how they might be acting inappropriately, unhealthfully, even harmfully, yes, they’ll probably get mad. They also just may examine themselves more closely in a quiet moment later on, and consider what you’ve said or pointed out.
This can be a seed planted that results in eventual growth.
Because if you don’t dare to speak up, if the person isn’t aware of or informed where they might be wrong or harming others, how can a person ever learn from it, change, and potentially grow? The answer is: they can’t.
And lastly, the final effect of all this standing up for yourself and daring to bring forth your inner bad-ass, boundaries, and sense of strength?
You will feel better about yourself.
Emotionally and mentally healthier, more capable, more in control of your relationships and your life. You will feel braver, and your confidence will continue to grow and flourish as you practice this behavior more and more. You won’t remain in situations or around people who cause you significant distress or who hurt you. You aren’t going to sit, steeped in bitter silence, watching dysfunction unfold around you. Instead, you’ll speak up.
You’ll become emotionally healthier and thus, the people around you will by residual effect (since, if they want to be a part of your life, they’ll need to adapt to your perimeters if they want to spend time around you). And, the people who aren’t good for you will get walled off.
There is essentially no downside to growing stronger, braver, more confident, and outspoken with regards to your needs, feelings, and personal boundaries. Yes, it might result in some painful, awkward, tough moments. These are temporary though. And they are unavoidable when we choose to live a life that is emotionally healthy, happy, and with strong personal boundaries.
Only good things happen over the big picture when we stop accepting bad behavior from others and when we dare to speak up.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Why, as a Culture, We Are Terrible at Romantic Relationships.

Because we aren’t ever taught directly, nor do we seek actively learning how to have good ones.


As children, we move through preschool, middle, and high school learning about various topics that are deemed relevant to us, from history to calculus and literature. Yet, nowhere on that agenda or syllabus does it include learning in any depth about relationships, though especially with regard to romantic ones. For instance, what does a healthy relationship look like? How does one go about choosing a healthy and great fitting romantic partner? And, how does one be a healthy and top-notch romantic partner themselves?
Nowhere do these questions arise during our education from children into young adulthood, other than potentially for a few minutes in health class, where abuse may or may not be touched upon. That is about it though.
In no way are we directly taught how to seek out, create, and maintain a quality romantic relationship. Nor, how to be a healthy and rockin’ romantic partner ourselves. (The same goes for friendships as well, though the focus of this article is on romantic relations).
As we grow up and proceed through life, our sole role models for romantic relations are first, our parents. This then potentially including our siblings, and then eventually, the friends with whom we surround ourselves. We watch the romances of these people play out, in healthy or, likely more often, unhealthy ways, then assuming this to be how relationships are and how they function.
We learn about relationships by watching and observing a small intimate circle of those surrounding us, and this often, to our detriment.
If most, or even just some of these relational role models in our lives aren’t good ones, it may take us years to eventually figure this out. Meanwhile, we go along, assuming these to be a blueprint for how romantic relationships look, are, and should be.
Further, most people do not actively seek learning and accumulated knowledge on the topics of relationships, friendships, and romantic ones, as well as education on what makes family connections healthy or not, as well as improvement on communication skills, and what healthy relationships look like in general.
The majority of people just go through life, living and learning via trial and error along the way. And even then, plenty of us do not choose to examine those patterns, choices, or lessons very carefully and then make the same mistakes again and again.
This does not tend to result in much wisdom with regard to romantic relationships. It, more often, will result in settling, choosing many wrong partners before and even if one eventually chooses right, and possibly even choosing flat out unhealthy relationships, romantic, as well as platonic and familial.
We do not teach, in our culture and to children growing up, many of the skills which are truly needed and actually necessary for that child to go forward with which are most likely to result in their best life possible. Geometry and Home Ect do not truly assist one in leading their most emotionally healthy and relationally successful life. And the consequences are seen across the landscape of frequently ill-fitting or even resigned and unhealthy romances, which are the norm rather than the exception.
When books like 50 Shades of Gray and Twilight come out, we follow the screaming crowd of fans, not tending to look closer and truly examine the nuances of what we are supporting and falling for at the drop of a hat. Because “everyone else loves it” too. When in fact, both of these books depict possessive, controlling, semi-abusive men who treat the women they “love” as objects to be molded and controlled to their will. This isn’t sexy and it isn’t love. It’s abuse and it’s icky. Yet, whole hosts of young adult women have grown up thinking these movies and books are examples of romance.
We could change this. We could much better equip our children to both be better great partners themselves, as well as, to more likely choose healthy relationships for their own lives. We could also avoid people getting into terrible relationships in the first place as well.
Offering several mandatory classes in and throughout school, so in preschool, middle, and high school, as well as in college (and making these courses requirements), each one tailored, of course, to the appropriate maturity level and age range to whom is being taught. And, on our own, choosing to have the personal agency and turn toward the pursuit of continued learning throughout our lives (even if we feel like, at the moment, we don’t need to and we’ve got it down) with regards to healthy relationships, better communication, and such.
These two things would be relevant steps that would make a real difference in terms of helping people learn, and early on, what healthy relationships look like and do not look like, as well as, how to be a great partner (and friend, and healthy loved one) themselves.
All of which would significantly reduce the incidence of choosing crappy relationships over the course of one’s life, as well as, would cut down on passing this cycle down to one’s own children and so on. This, resulting in far greater life satisfaction and relational happiness for people across the board.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

We Are a Culture That Makes Light of and Encourages Substance Abuse.

Look closely across the cultural landscape, specifically with regard to alcohol.
Happy hours, and two for one drinks. “Ladies Night” and “80s Night.”
Weddings, birthday parties, Christmas and Thanksgiving, all most certainly celebrations during which alcohol is served up and consumed in abundance. It being unquestionably assumed that this is a given on any holiday or celebratory occasion. (Hell, Oktoberfest is a holiday that revolves and centers around the act of drinking, period). And, each of these is often used as an excuse to “let loose”, semi lose control, and thus, drink too much.
Housewarming gifts are frequently bottles of alcohol.
Someone I know, for every instance of someone new landing a position with the company he works for and then beginning working there, it is recognized with a scotch tasting.
Upon boarding an airplane, flight attendants serve hard liquor, wine, and beer alongside water and soda. Alcohol just being a given option and considered a norm.
Keg parties, beer pong, beruit, funneling alcohol, and power hours.
“What a week, I need a drink to relax,” people frequently say. Our society normalizes and even encourages the using of substances in order to manage our emotions and “feel better.”
During the Superbowl, alcohol commercials run abound.
On turning 21, we celebrate this person's newfound permission to drink alcohol as though they’ve achieved something significant, profound, thrilling, and life-changing.
Television shows, movies, and songs are often paired with drinking, made into “drinking games.”
Every advertisement that features alcohol as the product showcases glamorous, sexy, confident-looking people, often in sultry and sexually charged scenarios, attempting to get us believing that drinking is synonymous with both becoming one ourselves as well as the attracting of hotties, as well as, is a seductive activity in general (when in reality, consider anyone you know when they are drunk. “Sexy” is probably far from the adjective you would use to describe their behavior and aura).
“I like to have a drink every night to unwind after work.” An oft-made social remark throughout our culture. Again, using and relying on a substance in order to relax, feel better, and manage stressful emotions.
People downplaying, writing off or dismissing with regard to friends or loved ones who drink a lot with remarks like, “yeah, Jason always drinks a lot on Saturdays,” or “sometimes my dad drinks too much when he’s down, but you know, it happens. He doesn’t always do it.”
One of the most common, go-to dates is out for drinks. People often having several in order to “loosen up” and feel more comfortable around each other. Instead of challenging themselves with feeling the nerves, that initial awkwardness, and uncertainty, and yet, pushing through and learning to manage these tough, uncomfortable feelings on their own, they turn to a substance to help manage or even mute those feelings.
We make light of, even make chic, sexy, and completely encourage substance abuse in our society.
Even addiction is dismissable, assuming the person can function.
As long as someone isn’t stumbling around the streets homeless, or missing work constantly, or selling all their worldly possessions and stealing to pay for the substance in question, we don’t afford the abuse of alcohol much mind.
Instead, we laugh about it, dismiss or downplay it, and even urge it on.
I’m sure everyone has heard the background chant directed their way of “chug, chug, chug, chug!” At least once in their lives, though likely many more.
“Let’s go out drinking tonight,” the oft-made announcement come weekends for young and older adults alike. And of course, with nary a bit of confusion about the meaning, “drinking” referring to alcohol and often, to consuming it in some degree of abundance.
The weekend drinking can be especially insidious because, as long as someone relegates their drinking to the weekends, people rarely peg them as having a problem. When in reality, plenty of people who excitedly anticipate each weekend for the chance to then go out, drink, and “let loose”, do in fact have a drinking problem.
We wrongly assume that to be an alcoholic, someone must drink every day.
We also wrongly assume that to be an alcoholic, one must frequently get fall down, blackout drunk.
Someone can be an alcoholic who does not drink every day, as well as, someone can be an alcoholic who does not get blackout drunk.
Alcoholism is more about habitual behavior.
Does someone drink often, and following the same type of pattern? (Whether it’s two drinks most nights after work, or raring to drink come every single weekend, both of these people can be alcoholics).
Do they rely on or use frequently, the substance in order to “feel better”? To de-stress, manage their emotions, to “loosen up” or “have fun”?
Are they unable to set a limit? For example, if they say, “I'm not going to drink this week,” are they able to stick to this? Or, if they say, “I’m only going to have a drink or two tonight,” does that statement then reflect the reality? This cannot be hit or miss. It must be consistent. If someone is frequently unable to set and stick to a limit, they likely have a drinking problem.
Do they go out of their way to drink? For example, when hanging out at home with this person and they find, there is no alcohol around, do they then need to go out and get some, even though it’s inconvenient for them to do so? Do they seek out alcohol in situations where it isn’t particularly prominent or forwardly present?
Weare a culture that is problematic, who turns a blind eye to, as well as encourages, makes light of, laughs off, and even makes chic substance abuse, and even addiction- assuming it’s functional addiction.
“It is not a measure of health to be well-adjusted to a sick society.” Thus, just because “everyone else is doing it” doesn’t mean it’s healthy, good, or an ideal way to go about life.
Consider this issue more closely over the next coming weeks of your life. Watch carefully the way our culture promotes and encourages substance abuse. Notice how you feel, physically and emotionally, when you do not abuse substances. Observe how many of the people around you go along, almost blindly with the crowd, regarding this prevalent culture issue.
And, if you dare, challenge it. Both inside of yourself, and potentially even with some of the people you love, whom you observe may have substance abuse problems of their own.
It is only when we begin pushing back against, questioning, challenging, and refusing to go along with the aspects of our culture which are unhealthy or harmful, that the chance stands of things shifting, both within ourselves, as well as the world at large.