We’re not entitled to people. Their time, attention, company, money. But so often we feel entitled to those things. If a friend or family member makes more money than we do, we feel entitled to being treated by them or loans from them. If it looks like someone has free time, we feel entitled to some of that time.
We’re all inherently selfish to some degree, and it’s because we are almost always only looking at life through the lens of our own experience. We keep score of what others have and do, then compare that to what we have and do, and secretly incur debts against them. Think about how many people “owe you” without their knowledge—how many debts your friends and family members are collecting over silent agreements you assumed others would (or should) adhere to.
I learned this lesson the hard way on my 34th birthday. That night I experienced a rift with a family member. I reached out to my friends in a group chat because I was sad about it. One of them expressed that they were sorry I was sad, but that was that. Not one of them called me, or tried to comfort me, and it was my birthday of all days. I cried myself to sleep that night. I felt so alone. But I learned something very valuable about myself that night and where I place my power. Whew child, I was surrendering my power to people who didn’t even agree to having it and didn’t want it! Think about it—do you want to be in charge of someone else’s happiness? I mean, if you do, you’re co-dependent, and that’s another blog piece for another day. But honestly, many of us are barely managing our own happiness, how are we supposed to manage the joy and well-being of our friends, too?
The night of my 34th Birthday was a pivotal moment in my life. It’s when I decided to stop placing my happiness and well-being on how people show up. I decided to take full ownership of my feelings no matter what. Because it was only ever my responsibility to begin with.
Let’s talk about disappointment for a second (and only a second). I have a collection of them filed away in my mind and sometimes I open up that file cabinet when I need an excuse to feel sorry for myself (hey, I’m human and I’m on my journey). Like, I can’t recall the last time, if ever, my father called to wish me a happy birthday. I’m still ticked off about the people who’ve flaked on me. One of my exes stuck me with a fairly large phone bill. I can keep going, because it’s a long list, but I won’t. The truth is people let me down in some way every single day. BUT, in actuality, they’re NOT letting ME down. *I’m* letting my expectations of others let me down. People are just living their lives, and it just so happens that their lives have nothing to do with me (and that’s OK).
I get reminders of this every day, and it has really given me the freedom to actually step AWAY from unfulfilling relationships. Isn’t that funny?
You see, while I righteously held on to my expectations of others and allowed that to dictate my happiness, I allowed people to DO THAT TO ME TOO! Every other week someone was “disappointed” in me and it made me feel like a shitty human being despite knowing that I’m not. But I was hard on myself, so I let others be hard on me, too. And to avoid unwittingly collecting debts from people I did what was expected of me even if it didn’t honor my truth. I’d preemptively show up with my arms and heart open wide as a preventative measure, only to feel resentful of the fact that my own expectations of others weren’t being met.
*Cue depression, anxiety, resentment, and exhaustion.*
When I stopped holding people to my standards, I stopped living by their standards too, and it made room for me to nourish the relationships which were ACTUALLY enriching and fluid—relationships where there was no pulling, clawing, grasping. Relationships where there is only ever appreciation for one another. Relationships in which we aren’t keeping score against one another, but operating from a space of absolute abundance and grace.
People will punish you only for as long as you allow them to. And that’s what’s normalized. We train each other and ourselves to “meet people where they are” because we’re taught it’s only right. If someone is suffering, you should suffer alongside them. If they’re upset with you, you should be upset with you, too. And if they’re disappointed in you, you should be disappointed in you, too. So we walk around doling out silent punishments and collecting silent debts. We passive-aggressively alter our behavior towards people, and feel very righteous about it. In fact, we let that righteousness RUIN beautiful connections. And oh, how quickly we forget the good one has done. How quickly we retract inwardly, withholding love, care and affection from people because we are only willing to see through the lens of our expectations and experience while simultaneously writing off THEIRS. We’re so freaking selfish and SCARCE in our thinking and the only people we hurt in the process is ourselves really. People might feel hurt by you for a little while but folks move on.
Mindfulness practice changed my life. Learning to sit in stillness and observe myself having an experience without becoming consumed by it or judging it taught me to do the same with others. The same openness and curiosity I learned to use with myself I use with others. It has been the healthiest thing I could have done for myself. It has taught me healthy boundaries with people. It has taught me to be present and mindfully witness someone else’s experience without getting caught up in their experience. No more emotional roller coasters. No more depression. No more panic attacks. Just a growing sense of peace that comes from acknowledging my freedom, and yours, every day. Even when it means you exercise your freedom to stop being my friend because I won’t jump through hoops to appease you.
We are not entitled to people but we’re entitled to our desires. I desire the freedom to just BE and to be with those who truly understand and appreciate that. To be with those who make space for me, make space to listen, to ask questions, and to look at the bigger picture before making it about them. That’s the grace I have always given people. And it’s the grace I continue to give myself, with or without approval or permission.
Read that last line again.