I haven’t always been a pleasant person. In fact, I used to struggle with how I treated others. It was the strangest thing. There were some people I hated instantly. And I wasn’t content to ignore them. If they spoke to me, I went out of my way to be rude to them.
It wasn’t something I was proud of doing. But I didn’t know how to stop.
Finally, when I was nineteen, I made a concentrated effort to figure out why I felt so strongly and acted so badly. If someone said something that upset me, I restrained the urge to respond and examined my feelings until I understood why I felt that way. I dug into any aversions I felt toward people and tried extra hard to be pleasant and get to know them better.
Relationships are mirrors of your internal struggles
After a few months of examining how I related to other people, I discovered some shocking things about myself.
- My ego wouldn’t let me be wrong. If someone said something that contradicted my worldview, I chose to argue with them. This prevented me from hearing what they were saying.
- My self-loathing made it hard for me to see good qualities in myself or others. I classified people as being either ‘strong’ or ‘weak.’ It was shocking to discover that the ‘weak’ people were ones who happened to display traits I disliked in myself.
- I wasn’t as smart or cool as I thought. I was acting like a petulant child, punishing people for telling me the truth or having the gall to be a flawed human being.
Relationships are mirrors that point out opportunities for personal growth
Realizing all those things about myself was humbling. It hurt. But it was an invitation to grow.
I didn’t change overnight. But understanding how much my interior thoughts and feelings mirrored my exterior actions helped. It allowed me to pause and course-correct. Eventually, it led to increased compassion for others. And myself.
Relationships are mirrors of how you treat yourself
How you treat others is a reflection of how you feel about yourself. What I learned during my teenage experiment is that I was attracted to people who mirrored back what I felt were my best qualities. Anyone who dared display qualities I’d decided to devalue was shunned.
And all of this drama was a convenient way to make my problems someone else’s. Something was wrong with them, not me. And that made it easy for me to ignore the shadow work I needed to do.
Similarly, because I hadn’t learned how to accept the parts of me I wasn’t thrilled with, my appreciation for my strengths was tainted by the shame I felt for not being perfect. I could appreciate others for what they did, but when I did so, it evoked feelings of jealousy. I wanted what they had. Paradoxically, I couldn’t improve because I was spending all my time looking at others instead of examining myself.
Until I learned how to love all of me, I was incapable of loving all of anyone else. Unsurprisingly, my early relationships were as turbulent as my love-hate relationship with myself.
Creative challenge: Break the shame(ing) cycle and polish your mirror
- Be honest: how do you feel about yourself?
- Is there anything you feel shame around?
- Think about difficult relationships you have. Can you pinpoint what it is you don’t like about them?
- What do you notice? Are there parallels between how they act and what you dislike about yourself?
- How can you be more compassionate to yourself and others?
That’s your challenge. Let me know how it goes! Share your thoughts and experiences with me below or @trulykristi on other social channels. 🙂
Don’t miss a challenge! Become a creative alchemist and start getting unstuck.