A few weeks back I had a phone conversation with a friend who expressed to me that he was a bit frustrated because his wife was having an extended “tough time.” When I asked for more detail he went on to tell me that recently he had expressed to her (in the most loving way he could – he assured me) that all her screaming and yelling and crying and complaining was over the top and unhelpful and that she may need to think about… somehow… toning it down a bit.
When I asked him how THAT went for him… he said, that SHE said, “I shouldn’t have to watch what I say or do around you. I should be safe to be ‘MYSELF’ and not be judged by you.”
It got me to thinking about a pop song I recently heard on the radio called, “Secrets” where the lyrics say: I’ve got bi-polar disorder; my shits not in order; I’ve overweight, I’m always late; I’ve got too many things to say.” Some of the other lyrics include… “My family is dysfunctional but we have a good time killing each other.”
And the chorus: I don’t care if the world know what my secrets are. So what! So what! So what!
Listen. I’m all for expressing yourself and being who you are, but I’m not sure if people understand the possible damage they can be doing to themselves and others by labeling themselves and defiantly defending it, by saying, “THIS IS WHO I AM. TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT.”
In my humble opinion, it’s becoming more and more common for people to use different words to say basically the same thing:
“This is the way I am. I must be true to who I am. If you don’t love me for “who I am” then you don’t love me.”
While I agree we should all love unconditionally, I mostly think people use these types of words and ideas to excuse their bad, mostly selfish, behavior. And while you may disagree that it’s simply an excuse for bad behavior (probably because it hurts your feelings to admit it) I think we can all agree that people say this generally when they are upset or frustrated or in a heightened emotional state.
But when people say things like this, they are only referring to themselves “right now.” And when you focus too much attention on your “right now” it tends to decay who you may need to or want to become. Your “future self” starts to deteriorate when you focus too much on your “right now” self.
Think about that for a minute. We ALL know of someone who has made “short-term, to-make-me-happy-now” decisions that have taken them down a path that lead to very unhappy, long-term results. If everything we do – under the guise of, “that’s who I am and you can take it or leave it” – is to satisfy our short-term desire to experience pleasure or avoid pain – or explain bad or selfish behavior – we can easily imagine a sad ending in our futures. Again, we all know someone.
I’d like to suggest a simple alternative: “Save your best you for those that you love.”
I know, I know, we all have a tendency to get comfortable around those closest to us. It’s natural that the longer you know someone the more you tend to take them for granted. It’s like getting a new car. When you first get it, it’s exciting and new and cool, and you keep it clean and waxed and maintained… but after a while… well, it’s just another car.
But, if there’s anyone you should be working to give your best to, you’d hope it would be your spouse and family. The problem seems to come when we forget how important our families are to our happiness and we “get too comfortable.” Homes become like “caves” where we don’t have to behave ourselves and we can just let go completely. This may be okay for someone living alone, but it never works for all involved when you have more than one person in the family.
When we exclaim, “I shouldn’t have to watch what I say or do around you. I should be safe to be ‘MYSELF’ and not be judged by you” – especially after acting like a screaming, crying, fool – to those we love the most, we devalue them and we devalue ourselves and limit our potential. And why would we EVER want to make THEM feel that way by our word or actions? And why would we EVER want to admit that “an excuse for bad behavior in a heightened emotional state” is WHO WE ARE?
For an intelligent, kind person, the home should be where we give our best. If we can be kind and reasonable out in the marketplace when we’re at work or dealing with other people trying to be cheerful and courteous why would we EVER feel like those in our homes matter less.
But when we deal with our families and spouses are we offering to them the same intelligence, kindness, cheerfulness and courteousness? Are they the most important people in our lives? Are they?
We’ve all seen it. We’re in a bad mood and there’s tension in our home and arguing and meanness and then… the doorbell… or the phone rings… and the person who is the MOST out-of-control, and emotionally heightened, immediately turns in to their “best selves” as quickly as the door opens or the phone is picked up. What in the…
Here’s what I am recommending.
Let’s all put our BEST foot forward to those we love the most. Let’s all treat those we love the most… THE BEST. They deserve our best. We deserve to give them our best.
Then… after you’ve treated them with love and kindness and compassion and patience, I’d LOVE to hear you say… ““THIS IS WHO I AM. TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT.”
I’ll bet… they’ll TAKE IT! Happily!