Friday, May 4, 2012

Caring Too Much

I have this crazy problem sometimes when I let other people tell me who I am.

When I forget my name.
When I allow my self-worth to be held in the hands of others.
Others who probably shouldn't be trusted. Yet, I want their approval so badly, I continue to want to know what they think about me. And continue to be let down.

This isn't a passive-agressive rant about "someone" that is doing something "to" me.
This is simply a personal declaration of boundaries, of self-respect, and of worthiness.
Because self-love and self-respect are all about knowing oneself and setting boundaries that protect who you are, what you need, and what you will and will not do.

It was pointed out to me today by a dear friend that I may care a little too much about what people think of me. Not that I necessarily care more than the next person, but my dear friend cares...well, he says...not at all.

At all?

I don't even know if that's possible.
I don't even know where to begin.

But he believes that two of the most important aspects of who he is are this:
#1. That all people deserve his unconditional love.
#2. That he doesn't care what people think about him.

And while my upbringing holds those two factors in conflict, he says that they fit together nicely. That by loving people unconditionally, he won't force them to care about him. Love doesn't force. Love doesn't guilt. So he will not bend over backwards or be something he's not just so they'll like him. To him, unconditional love and a thick skin go hand-in-hand. And I think I agree with him.

I'm often too soft.
Too delicate to what someone says to me.
How they look at me.
What that comment meant or what they really think.

And by being this way, I think I'm loving them. I'm caring. I'm concerned. Really, I'm just exhausted. I cannot continue to "care" this much.
I cannot continue to look to others for validation.
I cannot continue to be so concerned and fearful of making the wrong move.
I cannot and I will not.

I am who I am.
Not perfect, but a pretty good person still.
And I can best take care of other people and myself by loving them unconditionally AND recognizing that they may choose not to like me. And that's okay. Because I need not care so much.

Dear friend also pointed out what Ashley Judd wrote recently in her essay to The Daily Beast in response to critics ranting about her appearance:

"I do not want to give my power, my self-esteem, or my autonomy, to any person, place, or thing outside myself. I thus abstain from all media about myself. The only thing that matters is how I feel about myself, my personal integrity, and my relationship with my Creator. Of course, it’s wonderful to be held in esteem and fond regard by family, friends, and community, but a central part of my spiritual practice is letting go of otheration. And casting one’s lot with the public is dangerous and self-destructive, and I value myself too much to do that."

Knowing myself.
Setting boundaries.
Knowing my limits.
Making decisions that are best for me even when others disagree.
Not giving my power, self-esteem, or autonomy to anyone outside myself.
"I value myself too much..."

Oy, that's another lesson I'll spend a lifetime learning.


emily said...

When you spend time with people like your dear friend, it becomes a little easier to accept those truths. Likewise, I think that's a big reason why we truly need to spend QT with our Creator each and every day. "Rooted and grounded in Love"...

Starfish said...

Thanks for this post, Heather. It came at a perfect time. You should check out the book "Boundaries: When to say yes, how to say no." It's by two Christian authors and is so far exceptionally good. I think as Christians, especially, we have a hard time with exactly what you are talking about in this post, loving and having a thick skin, or in other words, boundaries which define us from other people. Well written, well thought through, and well appreciated blog post!