I am someone that considers themselves a good friend. I would even go as far to say that I’m a great friend. I’m loyal, supportive, reliable and humorous. I recognize that friendships-like all relationships-take time, effort, and nurturing just to be sustained. If you want them to grow in strength, they require even more.
Because I consider myself such a good friend, and because I might even describe myself as someone with a high emotional intelligence, I can sometimes find myself in a bit of a mess.
This is because I can be loyal to a fault.
I find myself being a backup friend. A last resort. A doormat.
This flaw is not something that I am unfamiliar with. I’ve been self-aware and known this for quite some time. That’s not to say I’ve always consciously recognized it. Yet still, there have been hints here and there throughout my life. A whisper of how I would cut ties, but I hate confrontation. A sprinkle of, I don’t want to hurt their feelings. A dusting of, they need you. If you walk away now, you’re a bad friend.
At the lowest points, raging like a bull, I’ve considered: if you walk away from them, there won’t be anyone else.
It’s something that’s always been there, very sporadically, throughout my existence as a human that makes relationships with others. I’ve never taken the time to consider just why I put up with the things I do. Why I continue to be slapped, feel wounded, and return for another.
Just last weekend, I was out to dinner with a friend I haven’t seen in some time. We spent a few hours planned last-minute in a run-down booth, at a table with crumbs from the last guests still lingering across the surface. The conversation had started easily enough. We shared stories of our current work weeks, catching up on each other’s lives for the past few months, and then the focal point turned to confidence, self-worth, and friendships. Frustrated with some of my current friendships, I began to let off steam. “This is how I’ve been treated. It’s how it has always been. It’s been worse in recent times, but it has always been this way,” I said.
Known for being blunt and succinct, my dinner partner replied, “Why do you continue friendships where you’re shit on?”
I started to argue. “I’m not… well… I….” disagreeing didn’t last long. I quickly realized I had no argument. She was right. “…I don’t know.” I continued explaining, a piece of pancake sitting on the end of my fork, held in hand and hovering above my plate. “I feel indebted.”
The woman across from me responded after she finished chewing her current bite of sandwich. “You don’t owe someone for the rest of your life because they’ve done one thing for you,” her tone was firm. “Your future successes are yours. They don’t belong to anyone else.”
“I’m so loyal. I’m the friend that’s always loyal.” I argued.
“I get it. So am I. Being loyal doesn’t mean you have to be…a…” She searched for the right term.
“Backup friend?” I offered.
“Yeah! A backup friend. You aren’t required to answer the phone every time someone calls.” I said nothing to her in response. “I feel like you need permission not to answer the phone. Here, I’ll give it to you: Mollie, don’t answer.”
I nodded in understanding, and elaborated on my struggle. I told her how I don’t often consider myself to be someone that’s likable. I feel like I’m an acquired taste. I’ve spent years of my mere 23 years of life hearing from acquaintances, close friends, and even family, “You’re just too much.”
“You have to care less about what people think,” my dinner partner responded. “I know that isn’t easy, but this is clearly bothering you. You don’t need all that drama in your life. You don’t have to be the loyal backup friend that always answers the phone. You have your own life.” I shrugged, and she repeated again, “This is clearly bothering you.”
It was throughout the rest of our conversation that the true cause of my willingness to deal with garbage friendships was discovered.
I lack the self-worth.
I continue to surround myself with people that do not see my value. I am the backup friend. I am the doormat. Because I don’t see my own worth, I continue to surround myself with those that fit that opinion, too.
While there was a hint of this struggle always, the conversation I had that night has completely rocked multiple aspects of my life. It has affected how I see all sides of myself. Mollie as a friend, Mollie as a partner, Mollie as a professional. Each of them have worth that I’ve yet to discover.
It is only now, days later, that I can even process enough of my realization in that run-down restaurant booth to explain it to another.
Being confident and proud of my successes is not a jerk move. I am still reluctant to give myself credit for much of anything, and I know it will be a work in progress for quite some time, but the view I have of myself has taken a turn.
In a booth in a little locally owned restaurant, eating pancakes and eggs at 6:30 on a Friday night, I decided.
I will no longer deny myself my own success. I will no longer stand in my own way.
I will continue to be what I consider a great friend. I will give myself credit for my successes, and will stop accepting the crap that others dump on me with open arms and a smile.
I am worth more than that.
I deserve more than that.
I will only accept more than that.
At the end of the day, I suppose Stephen Chbosky was right in The Perks of Being a Wallflower:
“We accept the love we think we deserve.”
A note to the friend in the booth with me: You were right. Thank you.