This one is for the people who care the maximum amount. Those of us who care about others, what others are thinking, if we offended others, suffer from social anxiety, perfectionists in our relationships, etc. If the aforementioned describes you, lend me your ears.
Many years ago, an incident happened with a friend, that I felt was a betrayal. Others perceived it as a miscommunication. I wanted to give the person the benefit of the doubt, so I communicated to her that a boundary had been crossed in our relationship, and I then restated my boundary (which happened to involve my child).
My friend said, “No problem, I understand. This will not happen again.” So, I carried on in the friendship until, one day, she became very angry with me about the boundary I had expressed and it was stated to me by both her and members of her family, that my boundary was unrealistic.
I spent a night agonizing over this. Was it unrealistic? Was I wrong? Was I… being stubborn 😳?
You see, I had spent most of my life, believing that people who could not come to an agreement on things were exhibiting pride and/or were operating purely from their egos. I didn’t want to be a person who was so caught up in “my beliefs” that I couldn’t compromise.
Until one night I was talking to my friend Melanie about this incident, and she said something profound:
“This is one situation where you can’t budge. It’s beneath your dignity to do so.”
“Dignity?? Like, what does that even mean??” I asked her. (I mean, I knew the word “dignity,” but its meaning felt so foreign to me in this context that I needed to hear an explanation.)
“You know… dignity. Like, you’re worthy of respect.”
“Dignity. Okay. My dignity,” I slowly said, taking it all in.
Within that particular moment, what I was beginning to realize was this: my boundary that had been violated was an extension of my values. So I just couldn’t bend–or I would break and be compromising WHO I was. I would be compromising my self worth–what I value, who I am, and my dignity.
And here’s the thing–for some people, this wouldn’t have been a big deal. But for me, it was. Because I’m wired to care THE MAXIMUM AMOUNT about my relationships. Like, on a continuum of caring about other people, where zero is literally “IDGAF” (don’t google that, Mom) and ten is “I really want people to be happy with me and not hurt their feelings,” I’m pretty much a 12. While saying no to others may come easily to some, it does NOT come easily to me.
And this situation was a hard one. I ended up disappointing a lot of people: people who I loved and people who my child loved. I had to take time to grieve the loss and work through this betrayal.
But the one person I didn’t end up disappointing was myself. I had not betrayed my values. I had spoken from my heart, and from a place of truth. This was not pride–it was dignity. And dignity is the very ONE THING we cannot compromise. Our lives will never be easy, but we can at least know we are living in integrity when we speak and respect our values through our decision making.
I’m talking to YOU–the one who cares the maximum amount. Don’t forget to care about yourself.
Photo: My friend, Melanie, who has been teaching me about dignity since the third grade.