Remember that time, in Rule #2, when I said Molly-Ten-Years-Ago could be a bit impetuous?
So, do I.
And that side of Young Molly is showing itself–yet again–in the way Rule #11 is written. The tone is very Rub-Some-Dirt-In-ItTM. And it lacks compassion.
So, Molly-Today is commandeering the ship (again) and slightly changing the rule. Moving forward, Rule #11 shall read as such:
Humility can be your greatest strength. Stop comparing yourself to someone else. Learn your full capacity.
Now, we can continue.
Let’s think back to Rule #8, which was all about learning our true selves, and then learning how to embrace that.
Some magic that we touched upon within that rule, is that when we start to embrace ourselves and showcase that to the world, we teach others how to do the same thing. And perhaps we aren’t professionals at the outset, but each day we work on ourselves or our goals, is one unit of effort closer to achieving these pieces of ourselves.
Remember how I spoke of Kristen and Jenna, the two ladies who taught me how to learn my own face back in Rule #8? I remember comparing myself to them for quite some time, instead of asking them for guidance.
This tendency is called “Horizontal Comparison.” And it is truly tempting.
While I’m glad I finally leaned away from that temptation and just asked for their help, I understand why we frequently do succumb: comparing the rudimentary areas of ourselves and our lives, to the polished and practiced areas of those who have taken the time and care to learn the same skill.
And I certainly understand how easy it is just to wallow in the delta.
The pain that comes from sitting in self-pity comes from the fact that we compare ourselves to others. I’ve always known that it’s wrong to think you are better than someone else. But, until recently, I had never considered that it is equally incorrect to believe you are beneath someone else.
So, Rule #11 is all about excising our tendencies toward horizontal comparison. Because what tends to happen within horizontal comparison, is a false version of humility.
Care to guess what many of us confuse humility with?
So, let’s start this discussion by defining humility: freedom from pride or arrogance.
Where humility is a modest view of your own level of importance, self-deprecation is criticism of yourself. (Never forget that the way we treat ourselves, and speak about ourselves, teaches others how they may treat us, as well…a la Rules #5 & #6.)
Humility allows you to see yourself as a work in progress, a whole being to be known and discovered with time and effort. Whereas, self-deprecation is an unspoken expectation to be superior, without actual effort towards mastery. Lest we become the butt of the joke. Often, our own jokes.
But what I have noticed with my own career in self-criticism, is that more often than not, I was using it as a defense mechanism. One of those “Well, I didn’t want to play anyway” kind of reactions to things not going perfectly the first time around.
I’m someone who doesn’t appreciate her limitations, which is easy enough to admit, I guess. What I will not easily admit, though, is the underlying mentality of This: I purposely don’t try at things I’m not confident at, because I don’t want to solidify the fact that I might not be good at something.
The inner workings of my self-deprecating thought process has always been: you can’t lose at something you weren’t trying to win.
By telling myself my efforts are not going to go well, I won’t be disappointed when they don’t go well…so I don’t even try. And when it’s too late for me to try, the reason I won’t have succeeded is because I didn’t have enough time (not because I couldn’t do it…right?).
A self-fulfilling prophecy, in which perfectionism breeds procrastination.
When we undercut or overestimate ourselves, we fail to achieve what we are actually capable of. Because in either situation, we don’t trust our potential, so we end up not trying to our fullest capacities.
Self-deprecation is a very toxic habit in which to engage. Because this world is actually not calling for us to put ourselves in the red, which is what happens here. Self-deprecation is not an acceptance of who you are as a person, but a diminution.
And if you speak to yourself in diminishing words and tones, day in and day out, for years, you have only and effectively managed to stand in your own way.
But Molly, I just don’t want other people to think I’m full of myself, or conceited!
A fair point, indeed, dear reader. But there are critical AND loving ways we can speak to/about ourselves, without sounding egotistical. Even if you say loving things to yourself in a satirical manner, at least you’re getting into the habit of positivity, and gradually breaking the habit of stark negativity.
And this is important because when you hear something enough times, you tend to believe it. Constant derision is a powerful form of self-sabotage that subtly leads us to believe we are not worthy of positive things.
To believe that you don’t deserve the goodness you want. To believe that if you can’t do it well immediately you won’t even try. Or to believe that you don’t deserve to feel a full range of emotions.
Because instead of looking at others for inspiration, we most often say “I’ll never be able to do that” and we walk away.
The most dangerous part of self-deprecation is that we compare our struggles to those of others, and sometimes end up writing off our detriments as not good enough, or not hard enough, to warrant seeking help.
Think back to Rule #4. And how long I allowed myself to go untreated. The majority of the time, I kept myself contained because “I don’t have a reason to feel this way.” “I’ve never had to struggle a day in my life, I haven’t earned the right to feel this way.” “Other people have it worse than you, Molly.”
Not only did I feel that I was beyond help, I was convinced I wasn’t worth helping.
And I turned to dark humor to revel in how low I felt. The lower I felt, the darker the humor. And the more my brain fixated on dark solutions.
This is my cautionary tale: the first thing this faux humility does, is it takes away your power by turning it into a punchline.
Where humility tells us to work with what we have, one step at a time; self-deprecation tells us we are not enough, unless we are Textbook Perfect.
So, the most powerful aspect of Rule #11 is that, at its core, humility is the rejection of perfectionism.
Because when we endeavor to improve and learn new things, we are, in essence, rewiring our brains! We get to give ourselves a period of grace. What perfectionism fails to acknowledge is that starting off should be rudimentary. We should enjoy each stumble along the way towards improvement.
Humility asks us to stop looking at life as a test. As some penultimate exam we must pass each day. And instead, look at each day as a chance to accumulate new data about ourselves.
The greatest discoveries of all time were born of the Scientific Method. Why not each of us, too? Each attempt teaches us something new, or something that didn’t work.
As with everything, the road to get where we want to be involves a lot of introspection, and a lot of grit. Develop your strength in humility, to take stock of your own inventory of resources, and guide yourself to ask for what you are lacking.
Before anything else, this rule asks us to assess where we are, where we want to be, and what we need in order to get there. (While it would be nice, we don’t magically transform our lives overnight just from reading Rule #1 alone.). And then it commands us to take the first baby step. And then another.
This rule is about looking to others as inspiration, instead of discouragement.
This rule is about not waiting to start.
This rule is about trusting in your own power, and never detracting from it.
Don’t simply accept your limits. Understand them.
And don’t accept defeat when you attempt to overcome those limits.
To do so would be the exact opposite of everything Miley Cyrus taught us!
So, let’s wrap this up:
What are the areas in your life that you see room for improvement?
How do you speak to yourself, when planning steps forward in these areas? How do you speak to yourself, throughout your steps forward?
Who are the people that inspire you the most?
How often have you turned to these individuals to help you achieve your goals?
At long last, we have made it to Rule #10!
Now, the very cynical part of my brain is basically shouting: Molly, no one wants to read a post about the power of friendship! Go sing Kumbaya elsewhere.
And I can’t say I blame anyone who feels that way. Because you’d think that after the better part of 30 years, I would have figured out how friendship works…rendering the topic of this post largely unnecessary.
But this blog isn’t about catering to the whims of my cynicism. So, I’m ignoring that part of me, in an effort to stop prolonging this exposition.
What Molly-Today feels like discussing isn’t just the idea of having friends. Rather, I want to discuss how lovely it is that friendship is a powerful ally in our journeys.
And I want to go into this conversation being perfectly honest with myself, and with anyone out there reading this blog: I am not good at being a friend.
Or at least, Molly-Over-The-Past-Ten-Years has not been good at being a friend.
Historically, these are the tendencies I’ve had in maintaining my relationships:
- I hide my feelings. Or convince myself that I’m wrong for feeling a certain way.
- I fall out of touch. For seemingly no reason at all.
- I cover up my needs. Or figure out a way to work around a need I may have.
- I make myself as small as possible, so that I’m not inconvenient or a nuisance.
- I seek out someone else to give me identity. After all, why would someone want to know Me?
This list could go on forever. (Seriously.) For the sake of time, I will leave it at that.
Does this sound familiar to a previous post? Because it should: these are excellent examples of Codependency!
I talked about codependency being a large issue in relationships back in Rule #3. And just like our behaviors in any romantic relationship, the same behaviors can be tracked into our platonic ones, too.
So, let’s revisit the central theme of Rule #3:
Two individuals honoring each other through their independence, and trusting one another in time spent apart.
Okay, well, that’s great, Molly. But it sounds like this rule is just telling me to ditch my best friend for other friends?
To which I will say: Sort of, yes. Though, in my personal quest to become a better friend, I have come to realize that I technically don’t subscribe to the term “best friend.”
In my humble opinion, we go through too many phases and growth spurts in our lives to assign such a title to any one person. Our lives bring us to so many new people who become influential and meaningful to us, and none of them should be ranked higher or lower than others.
In theory, the people we trust with our thoughts and feelings are those we hold dear. No matter how frequently we interact or talk.
And each person in our sentinel brings their own perspective to our world, and ours to theirs.
There are friends I have known since childhood, and friends I have known for a few months that have impacted me profoundly, in similar yet different ways.
Alternatively, there are people I have known for years who I don’t share that connection with.
So, where does that leave this discussion?
Well, recently, a friend of mine and I were discussing our pasts, and we both realized that throughout our lives we had prioritized what we called “friendships” with others, that were actually pretty shallow and baseless.
And when we needed to lean on these friends, we discovered, to our individual dismays, that they fell through.
How could this be? I had devoted so much time with this person, or these people!
Well, my friends, here’s a little math fact for you (as a treat):
Distance = Rate x Time
How does this apply here?
The distance that our relationships will grow does not solely depend on the amount of time you spend doing things with the people around you.
It also depends on your rate of travel.
And with many of Past-Molly’s relationships, I was spending the time, but I was particularly guarded, and actively avoided letting anyone get to know Me.
And guess what! That level of vulnerability was reciprocated.
The rate of travel was basically zero. And when you multiply by nothing, you get Nothing.
I’m sure we’ve all heard the term “fake friend” at some point or another, but I suppose a better term for this concept would be “performative friendship.”
And let me tell you: Molly-Over-The-Past-Ten-Years was doing a great song and dance.
This manifested itself almost cyclically.
In each chapter of my life, there was always one person that I spent heavy amounts of time with, above the rest. Perhaps I treated this “friend” as a security blanket of sorts: they would be the person I did everything with.
I wouldn’t make plans without consulting this person first, and probably wouldn’t attend social outings if that person wasn’t in attendance as well.
To the outside world, I could be labeled this person’s “Best Friend.”
Each iteration of this cycle ultimately involved me allowing someone into my gravitational field for show. I would engage in fun activities or meals or work with them, and have dialogues that went back and forth, but were never substantial enough to really tie me to said person.
A thrilling concept I like to call “Toxicity in Friendship!”
Certainly, Molly-Over-The-Past-Ten-Years didn’t set out to have empty connections. And I have built beautiful friendships with many people over my lifetime (mostly because those people are incredible, and innately knew how to navigate the obstacles my anxiety built).
But Past-Molly very simply believed that the people who spent time with her didn’t actually want to be doing that, and were just bored. I saw myself as a last resort for others.
I allowed my social anxiety to override the confidence I should have had in myself. I know that I am capable of great friendships, but I believed, to my core, that no one could actually want me around.
So the idea that another person (not to mention several people) would want to participate in my life was fantastical to me. And when one person showed that they were willing to keep me around, I latched on and held tight, ignoring all others.
I wasn’t willing to risk losing a “best friend,” in favor of developing “true friends.”
Because here’s the real kicker: I was using my “best friend” as someone who could be my identity. And if I wasn’t spending every last one of my waking moments with this person, then who was I???
Further, if I wasn’t spending time with them, then what if they forgot about me? What if they replaced me? And then I really was up a creek without a paddle? Without a singular clue as to who I was?
The ultimate Red Flag of these friendships sprouted from the fact that I did not know myself at all.
By implementing Rule #10, we remove our ability to hide behind someone else. Instead, we learn how to connect and thrive, by growing with many. And like we learned in Rules #5 & #6, your sentinel becomes a powerful boundary in cultivating You.
This rule is so important because it actually trains us either to correct or eradicate performative friendships that do not help us to grow.
Because when we limit our sphere of influence to one individual, we actually cut ourselves off at the knees.
We don’t get to learn about the world or about ourselves. And by doing so, we end up drawing our fulfillment from someone else. A danger we talked about in Rule #1.
So, this rule is about how we should surround ourselves with the emotional safety true friendships naturally bring, while we chase our dreams and build lives we don’t have to escape from.
Surround yourself with people who love and support You, even while you are still figuring out who that is. Surround yourself with people you trust. Tell them about your life, and your heart, and your goals, and let them tell you about theirs!
Surround yourself with people who will help you face your fears. Surround yourself with people who challenge you in a loving way. Surround yourself with people who hold you accountable to yourself.
Rule #10 is about how healthy our lives become when our sentinel is filled with quality and sincerity.
This rule is about painting the beautiful and diverse story of your life, by looking to the people you cherish and love.
So, let’s wrap this up:
How do you honor each of your friendships?
How have you seen codependency manifest itself in your relationships?
What are the toxic tendencies you have, which may be undermining your friendships?
Do these tendencies reveal an opportunity for personal reflection and growth?
What I’m learning and loving about each rule we discuss here is that every new rule becomes intertwined with the ones before them.
The conversations we have from implementing Rule #2, help us to dive into our own growth in Rule #1. And vice versa. You’ll see that each successive rule allows our weekly posts to become knitted even more intricately together!
As I think about each week’s exposition, I get excited at how the underlying meaning of each rule is not always what it might seem at the surface. You might be saying to yourself:
So what, Molly? What does that have to do with Rule #3? Why can’t my significant and I hang out in public?
Or you might be saying…
Big deal, I’m single. How does this rule apply to me?
To which I will say, I’m glad you asked!
Admittedly, on the surface, Rule #3 sounds like it has to do with social etiquette and how we engage with our partners. But what Molly-Ten-Years-Ago didn’t realize she was speaking to, was this:
Two individuals honoring each other through their independence, and trusting one another in time spent apart.
Still not seeing how this rule relates? Let’s rephrase: Rule #3 is about having so much confidence in yourself, that nothing can shake the confidence you have in your partner.
This rule was inspired by watching a dear friend of mine meet (and fall in love with) a wonderful man (who she proceeded to marry and has 3 beautiful children with), and observing how they socialized.
I remember feeling so impressed at how calm she was in their relationship, and how they both could disengage from each other at social events, without a care in the world.
Most relationships I had observed until that point were heavy on the codependency. Defined by excessive emotional or psychological reliance on a partner, codependency is a difficult trait to hide…and an awkward one to endure as an outsider.
This particular brand of addiction looks like two people who can’t be apart for more than a few minutes, before needing to reunite. From here, this couple proceeds to hang all over each other for the rest of the event. If they do manage to drum up the energy to separate for any stretch of time, their audience endures endless conversations about the missing significant.
So, imagine how refreshing it was for me to see that my friend and her then-suitor could stand to be apart for these large group events. And not only physically apart, but that she spoke of him only briefly and only if asked.
So, we’re going to focus now on those couples that exhibit high levels of codependency. Because nothing oxidizes faster than a toxic relationship in the harsh light of day, let’s discuss why failure to accommodate for Rule #3 might be an indicator of red flags in a relationship.
As usual, we’ll call my favorite witness to the stand: Me-Over-The-Past-Ten-Years.
In my past relationships, there were plenty of reasons I felt compelled to babysit my exes in social gatherings, but I’ve narrowed our list down to the three main insecurities I had:
1. I was worried they would feel uncomfortable talking with my friends or family without me there.
2. I was worried they might act rudely towards someone, and I wanted to run interference to prevent that from happening (or to be able to rationalize it away later).
3. I was worried they would flirt with other women behind my back.
There are so many other reasons I’ve felt the need to hover around my exes. And all of these reasons existed because I
probably knew that the guys I chose to date were guys I should never have chosen to date.
Because in a healthy Green-Flag kind of relationship, your partner should enjoy spending time with the people who make you happy. Your partner should not be prone to making rude comments towards others. And your partner should not be developing an attraction with someone who isn’t you.
These are just basic ground-level standards, Mol.
But here’s the jagged little pill Molly-Over-The-Past-Ten-Years never wanted to take: if you feel like you need to babysit your partner, you should pay attention to that instinct. And honor it.
Dig in and understand the root cause of those instincts. Don’t ignore them or hope them away. Your instincts are important to have, because your heart is a precious thing and should be protected. And you should be The General leading that vanguard, joined only by the partner who is worthy of you. Not the partner who tricks you into letting your guard down.
But even more so, your instincts tell you where you have some reflection to do, and maybe even some growth.
For each of the aforementioned reasons, my instincts set off every alarm system my brain had in place. These instincts were pulling me toward reflection I desperately needed and lovingly avoided.
That reflection should have looked like this:
1. Why is my partner uncomfortable around the people I care about? Why do I feel I insecure about it?
2. Why does my partner make rude comments when interacting with someone? Why do I entertain this behavior in this person?
3. Is my partner as invested in this relationship as I am? Why do I allow myself to feel devalued?
Having made all of these observations, what do I want to do about it?
These are scary questions I didn’t have the guts to face over the past decade. And each of these questions showcased areas where I needed to develop and strengthen myself.
In the first instance, I was afraid that my friends or family would not like my partner. I was distrustful of my own judgment of character. In the second, I was worried my partner would give them concrete reasons to dislike him. Most of the time, my partners had already given me various reasons not to like them, which I justified and ignored. And finally, I was scared that my partner didn’t even like me, and was always looking for someone better. (It goes without saying that I was acutely aware there were reasons to be suspicious of this.)
I think there’s something to be said about hindsight here, but c’est la vie!
I may have a hard time accepting that a man who I feel calm with is someone I am worthy of. I may also have a hard time accepting that the Brooding-Batman types I dated in the past couldn’t be the one for me (read: couldn’t be fixed).
Clearly, I’m still working on Rule #1 for myself, and that’s okay! What’s most important is that, at long last, I chose to stop running. I chose to defend my boundaries, my standards, and myself. (And now, here we are.)
Developing the strength to ask the hard questions early-on, of yourself and then of your partner, facilitates the on-going conversation you should be having with them. Additionally, it commands respect.
With each question you answer together, you build momentum for growth. This rule either cultivates a healthy relationship, or it allows you to make an informed decision on the fate of said relationship.
Beyond the red flags we address in ourselves and our relationships, we should pay attention to the green flags. We should celebrate those positive traits in our relationships!
Considering that I am single myself, I love seeing my friends enter into healthy relationships. And I love taking notes on how they do it, in their own unique ways.
It allows me to identify the various green flags that can (and should) present themselves in healthy relationships: in the way each person honors the other.
Where each partner can reach out to the other’s friends and family at anytime, for casual conversation or to make special plans. For instance, my friend’s fiancé contacted his AND her entire family and her friends to set up an expansive, surprise birthday Zoom call, so she could celebrate in quarantine!
Or where each partner is respectful in how they treat others. My sister’s partner can make anyone smile and feel included by how at ease he is in conversation with them.
But especially where each partner is so enamored with the other, that they could never be distracted by someone else. My new brother-in-law knew the second he saw my sister that she was The One. And his devotion to her is unwavering, and apparent to everyone.
What beautiful couples I get to surround myself with and learn from!
This rule is about cultivating such a strong and healthy relationship with yourself, and then your partner, that you both can withstand a moment (or two) of separation.
And this rule is about facing the underlying fears you may have, which contribute to codependency issues in a relationship.
So, let’s wrap this up:
What are fears you have held in past relationships, or even a current relationship?
How do these fears translate to insecurities you have about yourself?
What Green Flags have been exemplified in the healthy relationships around you?
How can you implement these Green Flags in the way you see and treat yourself?
Young Molly and I are still in agreement on this one. I really love this rule, because it’s about acceptance of yourself. And not just of who you are, but where you are and how you are. Acceptance and admiration of your complete picture.
This is hard, and it takes time. And it’s scary to face who we really are. So, it becomes easy to pick ourselves apart, piece-by-piece, and avoid our own acceptance. Ultimately, we outsource what we should find through introspection. We rely on others to give us the love we want for ourselves. Which is dangerous.
And because it is so easy to dwell on the parts of ourselves we don’t like, we allow what we view as negative to overshadow what is really amazing and unique and positive about each of us. We’re too busy letting someone else validate our positives, while we hone in on our negatives with laser-focus, that we neglect to see our own value!
And when our external source of validation is no longer there to affirm that we have positive and redeeming qualities, we’re left without any reflection on what’s truly great about us.
Of course, I’m speaking from a place of experience on this (read: multiple places of experience). So, what do we do? How do we strengthen our own resolve? Molly, how do we even begin such a perilous journey?
I’m so glad you asked.
I often have to remind myself of one of my favorite quotes (technically, it’s a quote from Aristotle, but I learned it from one of my favorite childhood books, Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen):
“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
There are so many little pieces of myself that I love, and some that I don’t love as much. And they all add up to Me.
I love that I smile and make direct eye contact with just about everyone.
I love that when I pick up the phone to call anyone, whether it’s a friend or a customer service representative, I can usually hang up the phone with 95% confidence that I just made someone’s day.
I love that I make friends with the characters of the books I read.
I love that I write with the G2 Pilot Pen (.38, Ultra Fine), and ONLY the G2 Pilot Pen.
I love that I will tell anyone I ever meet about this pen, and usually run out of my own personal supply because I give them away as proof of how great they are…even though I’m not paid by G2 as an ambassador and end up having to purchase more to replenish the cycle.
On the other hand, I don’t really love that I chose the path of least resistance when it came to my career.
I don’t love that most of my knowledge is vast, but shallow.
I also don’t love how little I understand about most aspects of adult life. (I might never fully grasp the Stock Market, or car care, and have only recently taken up cooking.)
I don’t love that I get nervous in large groups of people. I still haven’t figured out if it’s because I have mild claustrophobia, or social anxiety, or an amalgamation of the two.
I don’t love that I’m scared to see a doctor, in case they tell me something dreadful about my health that’s been flying under the radar.
I don’t love that I date men I subconsciously know are emotionally unavailable, so that I never have to threaten my status quo, of living a life free of commitment. I have my suspicions that I’ve allowed this to cause a lot of the pain I’ve endured.
Regardless, the fact of the matter is that all of these things I do or don’t love about myself are what make me MeTM. Each facet of myself has taken me on the path I’ve travelled, and they all have brought me to and through each of my experiences.
What is important to note here is that as an organic being, I am absolutely allowed to change and grow as I need or want. I am allowed to assess how I feel about myself and my life, and decide to invest time and effort into changing what I’m not 100% happy with. I am allowed to come up with unique and clever ways to upend the negative emotions that hold me back from feeling good about myself.
For instance, I can learn how to change a tire! Legitimately any time I want! I can make friends with an auto mechanic and ask them to teach me!
And I can develop the parts of myself that I have let fall to the wayside. I can start any day. And while I may not see success instantly, I can be satisfied in knowing that I started. (The perfectionism can come later.)
And I will still be Me. And I will still be the same whole that I was before.
I could stop making shameless plugs about the G2 Pilot Pen, and start writing instead with only Papermate Sharpwriter #2 Pencils, which are in fact spring-loaded and the best pencils on the face of the earth.
I would still be Me. (But let’s be honest, I will never back down on my feelings about those pens.)
And if the changes I make require that I let go of things I love or don’t love about myself, in order to become who I am meant to be…then I guess that will just have to be how it goes.
And I would still not need anyone else to complete my story. Because that’s what this is: My Story.
Or in your case: Your Story.
This rule is about giving yourself permission to just be how you are, as long as you are how you actually want to be. As long as you are in fact honoring yourself, and being truthful to yourself.
And if you aren’t how you want to be, then this rule is about giving yourself permission to take the steps you need to take to get there. No matter how many baby steps you have to take to accomplish those goals. No matter how many times you have to forgive yourself for your past.
So, let’s wrap this up:
What are the facets you love about yourself?
What are some areas you hope to grow out of?
How do you feel you honor yourself?
How do you feel you aren’t being truthful to who you are?