Wanted: friendship. Ideally, you are kind, intelligent, exciting and adventurous. I would even settle for breathing. We’ll enjoy coffee together (teetotalers need not apply), plot hilarious antics, and then get together for more coffee. In exchange, I offer selfless service, an attentive ear, I often pick up the tab for aforementioned coffee, and will promise not to inconvenience you too much.
If I had made up a friendship-wanted ad even a short while ago, this might have been exactly what it looked like. I realized recently that I don’t feel comfortable around many of my friends unless I’m bringing something valuable to the table.
As a result, I rarely just ‘hang out’ with people. Watching TV with a friend isn’t something I do. I always plan my outings around an activity, like jogging, or chatting about a particular topic, or planning some event. Never would I just ‘pop by’ to see someone. They’d wonder why I was there. I’d be in their way. I’d be interrupting something more important, surely.
The funny thing is that some of you reading this totally agree with me, while others must be thinking how completely strange I am. You, the latter group, probably never had trouble making friends when you were younger.
Well, let me tell you, the offer of sharing homework answers with my less-intelligent classmates in elementary school went a long way toward boosting my social status. But it also infused in me a sense that my value as a friend rested precariously upon my usefulness.
That’s not just my story. I’d hazard a guess that it’s your story too. Only, you may not have learned that your value lies tangled in the complex interplay of your friendships. Instead, you may have attached your value to the amount of money you make, the accomplishments you achieve, the invitations you receive, the strength and depth and quantity of relationships you have. There are so many ways we assess success in life.
Let me rephrase that: there are so many ways we subconsciously and wrongly assess success in life.
One of my favourite sayings, which I hated at first, is, “If at first you don’t succeed, redefine success.” I thought it was cheeky, stupid and useless.
Until I realized that too often I had been striving for the wrong successes.
I wanted attention, but that was purely selfish. The ‘high’ from attention didn’t last. Then I went after power, importance. No matter how important I tried to make myself, it was never enough. (I’ve since learned that being important doesn’t come from trying to demand it from others, but from serving others. You’ll never know how important you are to someone until the need you’re filling for them goes unmet.)
I’ve also seen people gain their sense of self in their relationships. Moms find painful chasms in their lives after all of the kids have moved out. Some spouses find themselves on the verge of ending it all when the relationship goes south.
There are so many ways we tie our value as a human being to completely unrelated things.
“Ooh, the ketchup bottle in my fridge is three-quarters full. I must be a good person!”
“That cloud in the sky looks like dog poo. I must be important!”
Many of our actual measurements for success sound equally as ridiculous, believe it or not.
The truth is that there is a measurement that can tell you exactly how valuable you are. It’s foolproof. It’s always accurate. It will determine the course of your entire life.
So what is that measurement? It’s whatever you decide it is. Choose consciously, and choose wisely.
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