“Evolving Involves Eliminating”
– Erykah Badu
In the past few years, I have eliminated a lot of relationships in my life. I am proud of myself for doing so. I once feared I could not survive without certain people, but now find myself thriving after letting them go. I used to be a much simpler person desperate for attention. Though fairly easy to come by and sometimes plentiful, attention is fleeting and shallow.
Attention alone cannot sustain the deeper connection that healthy relationships require. Everyone deserves respect, love, care, consideration, and appreciation as well. In the past, I allowed people into my life who did not belong there because of my insecurities. I have evolved into someone who requires more than just attention. When you start to value yourself, it will begin to seem impossible to be around others who value you less or not at all.
At the time, romance was my top priority so I started with boys. Fortunately, I had platonic male friends who treated me well. Looking to those friendships showed me how a man behaves towards a woman they truly care about. Unfortunately, I had more men in my life who still hadn’t made it clear whether or not they were interested in a romantic partnership with me after keeping in touch with me for years. Of course, I also had exes that my heart was still seriously considering (but exes are exes for a reason). Then there were present suitors who weren’t suitably courting.
I took inventory of the guys in my space-physical, technological and even just mental. ‘Blocking’, ‘unfriending’, ‘unfollowing’ and ‘hiding’ became some of my favorite pastimes. A tactic I initially wrote off as petty had become necessary to finally establish emotional distance. It honestly wasn’t about what they might do, it was more about what I knew I couldn’t do any longer. Once I felt strong enough to stay away, I was able to unblock everyone and remain unbothered.
While your flaws may show, your qualities shine! You brighten a room just by walking into it. I recognized that a man taking more than a couple of months to decide how they felt about me (while taking up days of my time) was unnecessary and unacceptable. If they hadn’t pursued me properly by now, they were never going to. Even if they did, it probably wouldn’t be genuine and it would be too late anyway. As soon as I decided I liked myself, I realized it won’t take that long for others to decide they like me.
I started to pay more attention to my intuition. I learned to trust how I felt deep down inside when I’m with a person. Do I feel comfortable around them? Does it feel easy to be myself when I’m with them? When those answers were hazy, it became clear that if I couldn’t effortlessly feel their appreciation of me in the moment-it wasn’t a match.
After I cleaned out the mismatches and made decisions about what I really wanted in a man, I moved on to the ladies in my life. Who are my true friends? My supporters? Who uplifts me? Who consistently reaches out to and shows up for me? Who am I spending my time with and why? Who should I be spending more time with? I came away feeling like not only did I need to at least distance myself from some but cut others off completely.
Distance proved to be useful with family because we don’t choose to be born or who we’re born to. Your family members are human, too so they may not always be good for you. Although friends are the family you choose, blood is thicker than water so it’s almost impossible to cut family off clean the way you might be able to end a friendship. What you can do is set boundaries.
If every time you talk to someone the conversation seems to take a negative turn, limit discussion. Try speaking less frequently, for a shorter amount of time or in a different way such as texting instead of calling. Is it important that you keep in touch with family? Absolutely. Is it just as important that you protect yourself from negativity? Definitely.
There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens.
–Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NIV)
As a Christian, I’m a firm believer in the seasons of life. Ecclesiastes 3 reminds us that to everything there is a season, a time. Like leaves changing, or rather flowers blooming-relationships change over time. For example, historically Black Greek-letter organizations are one of the best parts of the college experience for students of color. We differentiate ourselves by the promise of lifelong friendships and service opportunities that extend beyond graduation.
This is true, but it goes without saying that this kind of connection is usually at its peak when you’re still in college. I was really close with a group of my sorority sisters in undergrad and I cherish the memories, but things have naturally changed as we’ve grown up. Some of us moved away, preventing us from spending as much time together. Others started families so now we hang out with them in a different (but equally fun!) way. We’re all on our own journeys that may or may not coincide at any given time.
It was very hard for me to accept this at first. It can come as a shocking blow that you’re no longer as close as you were, but it will be okay. You will be okay. It’s okay for relationships to change. It’s okay for new relationships to form. It’s okay to grow and even to outgrow.
Finally, I had to entirely eliminate some friendships. I had to clear out those who weren’t treating me well or seemed to be on an opposite wavelength from mine. When you make the decision to improve you’ll realize how people without similar morals or goals become a distraction. It wasn’t easy to end “best” friendships with someone I’d known since I was 10 or someone I’d spent every weekend with for the past 2 years. I often hear people say things like “we’ve just been friends for so long” and even though time creates familiarity, things change (…and not always for the best). It’s common to accept time elapsed alone as justification to settle for inappropriate behavior, but it is not. Nothing justifies mistreatment. If anything, time should create more loyalty, not less accountability.
Elimination doesn’t have to be dramatic. Simply set boundaries, communicate plainly and practice acceptance. Evolving doesn’t give us the right to suddenly declare we’re somehow better than the people in our lives. It’s important to remember that each and every person is on their own path chartered by God. Sometimes our paths cross and align, but other times they can collide. Stay focused on your destination while appreciating your past.