Friday, 26 December 2014

What Makes a Good Friendship?

I want to start off with stating what is not a healthy friendship. Some people drain the lifeblood out of you, They are always negative. Their story is the worst one ever, and your problems can not possibly compete with their's. They will monopolize the conversation and not really listen to what you have to say. It is almost like they have an addiction to sympathy and a "poor me" way of thinking. Basically, these people are self-absorbed and have nothing to give. You begin to feel that the relationship is one-directional. OK, everyone has some baggage, unresolved issues, but if there is no effort for self-improvement, these people remain stuck. Their misery will start to effect your personal happiness. I call these people "takers".

Another type of person to avoid are the well meaning people that want to make you their make-over project. I call them the "control-freaks".They say they have your best interests at heart, give you criticism to "expand your horizons" and lend you advice you did not ask for. They pretty much think they are smarter than you and have all the answers. In reality, their own lives are a mess and it makes them feel better to fix yours, because you are much worse off than they are. (sarcasm) In this "friendship" you always feel like you aren't good enough, that you can never live up to that person's expectations.

What will ultimately kill any friendship? Jealousy! No one can be a true friend if they are not happy for you and your accomplishments. Feeling superior to you, keeps everything just perfect from their point of view. They are often the type that confide their problems to you in hopes that you will spill the beans to them.This personal information becomes juicy gossip that they can pass on to their other friends. They feel important that they have the latest info to thoroughly make you look bad. Of course,they are free to embellish or even invent a story, just to be the center of attention.Trust is big component to a friendship and once breached, can not be easily regained.

With that said, the chances of finding true friends appears bleak. But once found, friends are precious gems to be nurtured and cherished. The people in my life I consider good friends become lifelong relationships and are not superficial. Age, distance, cultural background, race, gender, occupation, education and economic status, do not present a barrier. Even after a long period of no contact, that person still has a place in my heart.

So many people are satisfied with their own little cliques and do not allow new people in. They are afraid to lose their position of influence and do not like change. Being open to new relationships keeps life exciting. Everyone has some knowledge, insight to offer. A friend is not a clone, mini-me. It is an individual that has their own opinions. Friends respect differences and accept you the way you are. I like to say I am a work in progress and I try not to judge others where they are at in their journey. However, feelings need to be mutual. You can't make someone like you and not everyone will want to be your friend. Move on, there is a whole world of people out there!

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Don't Take Critcism Too Personally Part 2

In my first blog, I wrote about how criticism effected me growing up and as an adult. I must have inadvertently given my son the same treatment, the critical, negative comments, because now he is doing it back to me! It has made me more aware of my own habit of criticizing without much thought about how it effects the other person.

In the latest chapter of my life, I am looking after my elderly parents. When I lived in Germany, I got to know my maternal grandmother better. That relationship made me realize where my mother got the critical personality from. Just recently, I asked my mother about it when she delivered another one of her zingers to me. I forget what it was about because it is an ongoing thing. My mother is 90, I love her, and I never would want to disrespect her. She answered that she meant no harm by the comment, that it was just an observation and that in her home growing up, everyone did it. I mentioned to her that she had complained to me about some of the hurtful things that her mother had said to her as a child. Because my mother has dementia, she remembers some things better than ever, others not at all. Now she speaks of her mother as if she had been a saint.

The main point I was trying to make is that you can't change other people. They sometimes even get worse with age. You have no control what comes out of their mouths. I am speaking about adults here. It is our responsibility as parents to teach our children to treat others with respect. What we can do is to consider the source, recognize that people are just having a bad day and that they are going to be negative with everyone. Don't let someone that is not happy with their life bring you down. When students attempted to do that to me as a teacher, once I got to the point of not taking it personally, I would smile and ask them if they were having a bad day. 99% of the time that was the case.

There are people out there that purposely try to hurt you. That was the evident in my first marriage. My advice, get out! Don't put up with abuse from anyone.

Ultimately, you are only responsible for your own actions and behavior. You can't rescue someone who has had an abusive childhood. You can't make someone else happy and you shouldn't stay in a relationship because you feel sorry for that person. The choice of taking criticism personally, is yours!

Monday, 27 January 2014

Don't Take Critcism too Personally Part 1

Growing up with criticism can damage your self-confidence, make you self-conscious and lead to becoming overly sensitive to how others react to you. That has been my experience. When the criticism alternates with extreme praise, the mixed messages that you are left with are even more damaging. I felt like the rug was constantly being pulled out from under me. I was afraid to be happy, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

In order to protect myself emotionally, I unconsciously became a keen observer, a people watcher, an avid reader about human nature. Outwardly passive, inwardly I harbored deep resentment and anger. Because I was not permitted to vent these strong emotions as a child, they manifested themselves into self destructive behaviors and eventuality led to mental illness. I was extremely shy, stoic and an introvert. Because of trust issues, I rarely let anyone get close to me.

Adding to my feelings of inadequacy, I developed several phobias including fear of heights, open paces, crowds, eating in public and speaking in front of my peers. After a summer vacation to Germany, without parental supervision, I became obese at the age of ten. Always being the shortest in the class, near sighted (without glasses) and having untreated asthma, didn't help matters. Obesity was not common in children during the 60's. Immigrants from Germany were also not popular due to postwar attitudes of adults, which filtered down to their children. As a result of all these factors, I was a target of ridicule from my peers.

I entered puberty earlier than most and developed cystic, scarring acne that did not completely clear up until I was in my 40's  Depression and suicidal tendencies plagued my adolescence and adulthood. Fortunately, I never completely self-destructed due to an inner strength that no amount of mental and physical abuse could destroy. 

It has taken a long time to finally recognize that God was protecting me during those dark years and that he never gave up on me. I am still a work in progress. Never give up on yourself and try not to take criticism too personally. The one trying to put you down is the one that has the problem!

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

My thoughts on Anger.

Some say that it is never appropriate to get angry. I think that in some cases it is necessary. When vulnerable members of our society are abused, such as children, the disabled and the elderly, I believe that the anger you feel as a result, motivates you to do something about it. It is how you go about channeling that anger that will determine whether you have a positive outcome or not. When you lose self-control, people lose respect for you and may even ridicule you. I taught children for many years and can attest to that. When you get angry in front of  individuals that purposely try to press your buttons, it gives them the power.

I grew up in a family where several of us had a bad temper. I had the type where I would keep hurts and resentments in, nurse them, and obsess about them until I could no longer take it. Typically, I would blow up about something relatively minor,where I ended up looking like a crazy person. Unresolved anger can eventually turn into rage.

Although I was a very petite and female, I have had people actually complain that they were afraid of me. I didn't even have to say anything, "the look" said it all. One example occurred when I was in my early 20's while I worked at a fast food outlet. I was feeling stressed because we were often busy and short-staffed. It was my job to tell the younger staff what the customer orders were while I manned the till. This was usually an evening shift (6 pm- 2 am.) and I worked up to 5 times a week. I was also attending university full time. Due to time pressures and the lack of experience, my teenage co-workers constantly made mistakes. Eventually, I would lose my patience and my response was not very nice, to say the least. I should not have been surprised when one of them bolted, crying, to seek safety with the management.

Obviously I had anger issues, but I didn't acknowledge it at the time. My childhood experiences had much to do with the underlying source of my inability to manage my anger. That is another story. Unfortunately, my problems with getting along with certain people continued into adulthood, to the point where I was happiest being self-employed. I had limited exposure to customers, as I worked under contract for a business that took care of that. At some point I got tired of hiding out in my basement and took another crack at outside employment. I had trouble keeping jobs because I spoke my mind to co-workers and bosses. I thought I should be treated with more respect because I was older and a former teacher. I discovered that that didn't count for much anymore.

To heal myself from excessive anger, that I mostly stuffed deep inside and the destructive behaviors that resulted, I had to let go of the past, forgive those that wronged me and also forgive myself for my actions. It finally dawned on me that the people that annoyed me the most were not going to change. What I could do was to change my attitude. I had read self-help books by
the dozen which gave me some pointers, but I found it difficult to apply these to my day to day life. In desperation, I turned to God in prayer so that I would not get fired from yet another job. I sought out a church that could offer me support. Studying the teachings of Jesus Christ helped bring me a sense of peace and the realization that we are all a work in progress. Anger is a natural response, but it is best to find ways to get it out of your system without hurting others, damaging relationships or turning yourself into a bitter, volatile person that no one wants to be around. Anger is manageable!

Some of you may be of a different faiths, do meditation and yoga, workout to get rid of stress and anger in other positive ways. In this blog I share what solutions have worked for me. If you have any comments or suggestions about how to deal with anger, I welcome your input!

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Sharing your Writing takes Guts

Writing can be very emotionally rewarding, but also devastating, depending how it is received. When you put your heart into your writing, you leave yourself vulnerable by revealing your feelings, beliefs, and writing skills to others. The meaning of your writing may be misinterpreted and you can receive unexpected negative feedback.

While I was taking a college Creative Writing class, post degree, I got what I originally thought was a positive comment on a paper. It was a very detailed analysis of "The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood. The paper was 21 pages long and I felt a bit sorry for my English instructor that had to read and grade it. To my surprise, she wrote that I should write for "intelligent" women magazines. In hindsight, it was only a partial compliment as it specified "women's magazines" and I am not sure many "intelligent" ones existed back in the 1990's.

I also wrote a short story in that class based on a real life experience of mine. To my horror, my instructor read it out in front of the class. I was in my early thirties, with the rest of the students eighteen or a bit older. The young men in the room started to heckle the story by making statements such as "that would never happen" or "she must have been a real bitch!" They were very angry and I kept shrinking down into my desk, hoping no one would notice my red face. It was as if I were reliving the terror of that day all over again.

I have had many people suggest that I write a book (I must really go on and on) due to the struggles in my life that I have had to overcome.. However, I am too busy at the moment for that and prefer sharing insights that I have gained overcoming some of these very difficult challenges.

My goal is that if I help just one person with my story, that they may come to realize they are not alone, it will make any effort on my part in writing this blog worthwhile.

Trudy Grossman