Recently, I lost a friend. She told me maintaining our friendship was not something that interested her any more for reasons all her own. I was devastated. This was someone I considered near and dear, someone I had shared many triumphs and tragedies with, and someone I dearly loved. When she delivered this news, I was heartbroken.
Yet, now, some weeks later, I have realized something. I was giving my power away to this creature. I was pumping my own life force into her, hoping to please her and make her happy. In the breakup, she claimed that I was too exhausting to be friends with. Although I'm well aware that I am far from perfect, and I know I have much to learn, I'm beginning to think that perhaps I wasn't the only one who required a large amount of investment of time, energy and love.
I grew up with a mentally ill, although often deeply kind, sibling. She was often scrutinized unfairly. At an early age, hoping to ease her suffering, I began giving my power away to make her feel better. If we were in a horse competition together and she didn’t win a ribbon, I would offer her mine saying the judge obviously didn’t care for her breed of horse. Because of this practice, giving my power away to others — especially women I perceive as injured — is a blind spot for me. It’s a weakness, albeit one born of good intentions.
In the wake of my evolving thoughts on my friend, I've been able to see that this relationship in its convoluted state wasn’t serving me. Or her. Since I believe that the only way to learn something is to teach it, and since I am hopeful of healing this wound, I wanted to share some of what I learned.
Here area couple of signs that you might be giving your power away:
You dread seeing your friend.
Friendships are supposed to be meaningful in some way for both parties. While there will be times that might be challenging to navigate, true friendships are strengthened by friction and will survive. This doesn't mean you should tolerate or accept abuse as friendship, but it's good to practice listening to and seeing another soul in their raw moments, as it's helpful to have another soul witness and reflect your own vulnerability.
We aren't supposed to dread spending time with our beloved friends. If you hesitate when you have time scheduled, you might want to stop and look into that feeling.
You're hiding your accomplishments from your friend.
Marianne Williamson put it best in one of her most widely acclaimed quotes, which I will paraphrase: There's no wisdom in dimming your light to make another feel better. Shine. We are meant to shine — without apology and with gusto. It's incumbent upon us to seek our internal light, nurture it and beam it for the world to see. There should be no better place to do this than in the company of true friends.
If you're worried to tell a friend about a new accomplishment, triumph or life event, you might want to look harder at that relationship. True friends will celebrate with you, hold your tissues while you cry, and listen to your needs. They won't do this out of obligation or pity. They will do this gladly because they love you as you love them.
If you recognize these themes in your friendships, you might decide it’s time to take some time off from that friendship. And you might decide that you want to address those issues. This can be terrifying if you haven’t cultivated the practice of maintaining healthy boundaries. I’ve developed a few tips to help.
Here are two ways to help heal your unbalanced relationships:
Explore your boundaries.
This is a practice I invented that is best explored during asana. Here is how it works: while practicing, conjure up the relationship you most want to focus on. And then feel what sensations arise in your body. Sometimes you will feel something in your core; other times, you will feel sensation in your hips or perhaps your heart. This is a clue that this is where the boundary you are working to establish resides.
Then, I encourage my students to explore the corresponding chakra to that area of the body.
Have a dialogue.
It’s not easy, but it helps to address what feels uncomfortable with your friend. I find this to be most effective in person. People hide on phones and in emails. Sit down across the table from your loved one and tell them your intentions in addressing the issues.
“My intention in meeting today is to heal our relationship so that we can continue in friendship….”
Next, address where your needs aren’t being met, or perhaps how your feelings have been hurt. You might be surprised what your friend has to say. Often times, we are misinterpreting something. It is not until we sit down together and open up the dialogue that we are able to begin the healing process.
Maintaining healthy boundaries and intimacy requires vigilant awareness, especially if you're prone to being a door mat. And, as always, one of the most powerful gifts you can give this world is ultimate compassion and kindness toward yourself and others. All the best on your journey.