“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” -Jim Rohn
“Show me who your friends are, and I will tell you who you are.” -My dear friend Lorraine Castle.
As we blog about self care, self esteem, and personal development, I thought this was worth a visit. I’ve always loved Winnie the Pooh. As a child, the cute little bear with his gang of buddies fascinated me. The antics of Pooh and Tigger really made me laugh, and I deeply related to Pooh’s struggles to get his hands on enough sugar.
As an adult, I still like Pooh. He’s a cool dude who is loyal to his friends and goes after what he wants, event if he gets stuck in a door after filling his belly. I wish that I had his determination to go after what I want just as fearlessly, but I have a problem. I am not as much of an empath as AK is, and I’m honestly glad about that. I’m naturally too selfish to get TOO bogged down in other people’s emotions. I mean, I’m not a sociopath. I feel things deeply and can empathize with people, but I try not to let other people’s shit bring me down.
Unfortunately, I have a few Eeoyres in my life. You know who they are. They’re the friends or family members sucking the enthusiasm out of everything you want to do. Have a great idea for a new business? Want to start getting in shape? Want to take up a new hobby that could be expensive or time consuming or both? That person is the first one to point out everything that could go wrong, and try to hold you back from trying. They may be naturally cynical; they could be depressed; or they could be just plain jealous. They dampen our spirits at every turn if we let them, even though, in my experience, they don’t even realize they’re doing it. The Eeyores in your life don’t take chances because they think that everything they try to do is just doomed anyway. They live under a dark cloud, and dark clouds are terrible places to be alone. Have you ever heard the expression “Misery loves company?” Don’t be the miserable company for that human.
Unfortunately, as much as I’d like to tell you to cut that person out of your life, it’s usually not possible. We live in the real world, where this person could be a beloved family member who has depression and/anxiety disorders. This person may not even admit their problem, and therefore do nothing to treat it, nor attempt to lift himself out of it. After all, it’s not like depression comes on overnight in most cases. It slowly becomes the new normal, and while it might be pretty easy to suspect from the outside looking in, that’s not always the case when it’s happening within your own mind. I WAS that person a few years ago when a Rheumatologist prescribed an antidepressant for pain when I wasn’t depressed, but failed to do any psychiatric testing to see if I had any underlying disorders that could make antidepressants dangerous for me. Spoiler alert: I did. I didn’t go from jogging 3-5 miles a day and working on writing a book to laying around like a slug, day drinking, and not giving a single flying fuck about my life overnight. It was a gradual process, and as I was being diagnosed with chronic illnesses and my discs were hearniating, I guess it felt right for me to be down and give up. It took a near breakdown for me to hit rock bottom and realize that isn’t who I am and that I needed to get on my feet and fight like the badass I am. I’m grateful that the people who love me loved me through that, and I’m committed to loving the people in my life through dark times as well. Still, only you can determine if your black cloud dweller is worth standing by. If she’s your boss or your spouse and her actions are directly affecting your day to day ability to care for yourself or others, it may be time to consider quitting that job, getting marriage counseling, or ultimately separating from the spouse. Those are big decisions and I can’t make them for you, but changes MUST BE MADE.
SO, you ask, how does this work? How do I stay focused and motivated when I feel like I have a 100 lb boulder attached to my leg, but it’s a relationship I can’t or won’t end?
Here are some tips. Look at the first quote. You’re the average of the five people with whom you spend the most time. Find yourself a couple of Tiggers. You know who they are. They’re the people who are bursting with natural joy and energy. These people are their own best cheerleaders, and they generally are the kind of people who want to cheer for you too. LET THEM. Invite them to lunch. Try to spend time with them. I know I have some Tiggers at my office that are incredible people, and Tiggers usually have lots of time for more friends, but you’ll have to curb your own Eeyore impulses, because Tiggers don’t like to be brought down. They’re happy to spend time with you if you’re a Pooh who has her own goals, or an Owl who is distracted with learning a great deal of the time, or a Kanga who is a bit of a helicopter mom. We all have our things, but I also believe that there is room for personal development as long as we’re alive and kicking.
I also believe you need to be open and honest with your Eeyore. Let them know that you’re concerned about them, but be prepared for them to deny there’s an issue. Remember, Eeyore might not be suffering from depression or anxiety. She might just be a nasty bitch, a terrible human, or some kind of sociopath or narcissist. If it’s the former, let that person know how much you love them, but let them know you need a little distance from their constant shitting on everything you do or want to do. Let them know you love them (if you do) but that you need breaks sometimes because their negativity gets you down and you have goals. It might hurt them, but as long as you’re coming from a place of love and choose your words carefully, then I say “too damn bad.” Hasn’t this person been hurting you, by transferring their feelings onto many aspects of your life? Has he told you not to go back to school to pursue a career that you think you’ll love because it’s “never going to work out?” Has he told you not to start another diet because “You never stick to it very long and you just spend all that money on vegetables that go bad?” Yeah. That’s hurtful as hell, and you don’t deserve that, even if you have failed at things before. If we try new things, we either succeed or we learn. There’s no real failure with that perspective.
I do want to caution you that everyone who wants to sit you down and go over pros and cons is an Eeyore. For example, if you tell me that you have no savings but want to quit your $150,000 a year job that you like pretty well to go into real estate because you think it’s easy and a lot less work, I’m going to let you know you’re wrong. I will, however, help you work out the details of what my job is really like, and help you set realistic expectations and goals. If you tell me you’re going to go from the couch and P90X workouts twice a day, I am going to suggest you go to your doctor first to determine if your body can actually handle that, and tell you to ask him what level of activity you SHOULD start with, and then find you a program that will fit your needs.
Lastly, Eeyore in the children’s books is a melancholy, but loving and loyal, donkey. You need to figure out if your Eeyore is more like the donkey in the books, or a toxic jackass who will always try to keep you from your honey pot.
With Love and Positive (Bouncy Bouncy Bouncy) Tigger Energy,