I started by explaining a fact; a fact that I’ve grown up with; a fact that did not affect anyone else but me. And it was dismissed immediately, without a second thought. The person listening to the words leave my mouth insisted on believing the story that they had already told themselves because mine didn’t fit their purpose. I kept quiet, silenced by their inability to hear. And I walked away irritable and irked.
I thought long and hard about that moment. That moment created space between the two of us and left a specific type of impression of who I thought the person was. Would I share anything further? No.
Two things happened in that moment that jolted me from wanting to build a friendship to most likely keeping things as they were. The first was the realization that I did not fit into this image that they had slowly been creating of me, an image that was made to fit into their world and fulfill their needs of some kind of insecurity or self-doubts. The second was my own need of wanting to be heard.
Incredibly, it’s these instances that define boundaries in friendships or relationships. If the friendship was that important, the impression of that exchange would be talked over and a deeper level of language created. If it was not that important, then the dividing line would stay in the same position and the space left in between.
In the past, these moments would stress me out because my needing to be heard was so strong, it didn’t matter who was on the receiving end. If I felt that the person was important enough in my small world and I shared something and did not receive the response desired, it would bring out a resentment that would need to be dealt with. The other person’s story did not matter in that moment of sharing because if I was sharing a personal story, then it was not about them. However, as these experiences happened often, I started learning that when people were in certain spaces and periods of their lives, they weren’t ready to hear whatever I was sharing. They were looking to fill a gap and for some reason, some image of me was being used to make their world feel or appear a little better.
Once I grasped this need of mine and became more defined about what I wanted to be heard and whom I wanted to hear it, it became easier to let go of the resentment and to create a layer of information that I detached myself from. In doing this, it helped also welcome the reprieve given in not needing to change the other’s story. If that’s the image they needed at that time, then so be it.
We can only show people who we are, and whether or not they choose to believe it is their responsibility. No one can change the facts about you or me as they remain exceptionally personal and define the own story we have of ourselves. If we attempt to take on someone else’s made-up story of ourselves, we get lost in trying to keep up to that image. An image that will inevitably change as they may work with their insecurities and trying to keep up with this automatically creates our own insecurities and self-doubts.
The simplest solution to all this is to stick to who you know you are and not hear the story people tell you of who they think you are. The importance of your self-belief should not be outweighed by the need to be heard, especially by someone who isn’t willing to adapt their image of who they think you are to who you in effect really are.