You know me. We’ve met many times before.
I’ve just spent another night stressing out and questioning myself because of a situation that I now know was just a replay of a common theme in my life. It always starts the same:
I meet you. You’re charming and full of compliments. You’re not loud or over the top. I feel good when I’m around you because it’s nice to be appreciated for who I am.
You’re a very nice person, aren’t you? Never saying anything outright cruel or undermining. I always brush off my feelings of discomfort by telling myself that you have the occasional unfortunate way with words—that I obviously need to grow a thicker skin.
Slowly however, I start to see the subtle signs—a comment here, a put down there. They are so small, I tell myself I’m imagining them.
A new haircut, and a “Why did you do that?”
“That’s just how he is. He really is nice.”
I find people usually say what they mean.
I start noticing that each time I interact with you, I feel uncomfortable. I come to feel bad about myself for being selfish, or just too much, or whatever your subtle implication is. I tell myself I must take full responsibility because, after all, you never did anything wrong. I must be overreacting. I do that after all—always such a drama queen.
I wonder what’s wrong with me that I keep getting involved with people like you who say not-very-nice things to me. I tell myself that on one level, you are attracted to me because of my strengths—that because of your insecurities you feel the subconscious need to bring me down so that you can bring yourself up.
I now know it’s not subconscious. You know exactly what you are doing. You don’t care how it makes me feel. You are an energetic leech and care only for maintaining control.
This understanding should make me feel better but in reality, it makes me ask myself why I fall for it every single time. I must be weak or stupid to get myself involved in this type of relationship over and over again.
But I know you by now. I can see you coming from a million miles away, and I will not feel sorry any longer. If I find my inner voice saying, I must be overreacting, I’m out. I will not engage with you.
If I don’t like you, but feel like I must be the bigger person and try to understand you, I will no longer play the game. The battle will be quick and painless—all communication completely cut off. I’ll refuse to read or hear your condemnatory words.
I will not become hard.
I now realise that I am extremely strong and that it is my strengths that attract you. It is those strengths that you are sorely lacking and feel the need to steal from me. You are attracted to me not because I’m weak but for my two greatest assets—my capacity for empathy, and honest self-reflection.
And so, I will take care of myself. From now on, you take care of you. And if ever our paths do cross, I’m sure you’ll understand that I’m going to keep walking away. You can no longer brighten your light by dimming mine.