When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time. People know themselves much better than you do. That’s why it’s important to stop expecting them to be something other than who they are. – Maya Angelou.
This short little quote helped me understand the ‘how’ of relationships. I kept expecting people to be true to their words, because I was true to mine. That’s just not how it goes with everyone. Many people mean what they say, when they say it, but give not much thought after that. So I was torn between believing what people said (because as an empath I didn’t feel they were lying) but then disheartened when they would yet again disappoint me.
I expected them to be who they wanted to be, rather than who they were.
When people show you who they are, believe them.
I have a rule of three and it applies in many areas of my life. But one I am most adamant about is giving people three chances. Sometimes mistakes are made. Anyone can have a misstep or poor judgment once. So long as it isn’t a deal breaker that gets foofed off as a “one off-er”. A freebie, so to speak. A brief conversation might be had, or it might just be dismissed.
The second time that thing shows up, it’s a deeper conversation and it’s noted, in a file, in a drawer, in a cabinet, in my brain. The third time that thing happens, I’m done. Like D O N E done. Three times? That’s a pattern my friend. You have just showed me who you are. Now, granted there are certain things that if done once they never get the chance to do a second time, but those things are big deal breakers and go without saying.
I think largely this quote is good guidance for people caught up in co-dependent relationships, with the repeating loop of “I’ll do better”, doesn’t do better, “sorry I didn’t do better.” However, sometimes this lesson isn’t about ending a relationship. It might be about ending your expectations.
People show us all the time who they are and we immediately discern whether or not they are someone we want to get to know better. Sometimes it is easy to decide, ‘no, I don’t feel compatible with that person’ and you move on. Other times though the relationship has no red flags or warning signs. It’s a perfectly good relationship. You might laugh together. Do activities or projects together, but maybe at some point you feel like you aren’t getting out of the relationship what you put into it.
Or maybe you just feel like you aren’t getting what you need from it…
That’s what I want to talk about today.
It is perfectly OK for you to know that you ‘deserve’ what you want from a relationship, be it romantic or friendship. The thing is just because YOU deserve it, doesn’t mean the person you want it from OWES it to you.
Even if you extend to them the same respect, effort or affection. Just because you give it doesn’t mean the other person is obligated to return it. That’s when you need to adjust your expectations to fit the relationship you are actually in, rather than the one you imagined yourself to be in.
People can only offer you what they have to give. No more. And if they offer you less, well then they are telling you something aren’t they? Either they are not capable or they are not willing. Either way, they are not optimal as partners in the relationship you thought you were creating. If you were intending to create a romantic or business relationship, it is probably advisable to end that versus just changing your expectations. However, if your intention was to create a friendship then you don’t have to end it, just change your expectations.
Friendships come in many shades. There are best friends who are confidantes where the bond runs deep. There are social friends who like to go out and do things socially without much deep conversation. There are work friends you never see outside of the workplace. And a hundred other kinds of friends in between. If you were going for ‘best friend’ and you aren’t getting back what you put in, don’t scrap the friendship, just adjust your expectations. Recognize what the other person is offering you and manage your expectations to that degree.
Now let’s end on a more positive note.
When people show you who they are, believe them.
I can’t count how many times I’ve heard people say, in one way or another, “I have trust issues”, or “People have to earn my trust.” I’m here to tell you that last one is backwards and the first one says more about you than anyone else.
We don’t ‘trust’ others, we trust ourselves to put our energies into the right places. Listening for who people show themselves to be is key in that. How many times did you ‘trust’ someone, get disappointed and then look back and see the warning signs you overlooked/didn’t listen to? They were there. You know they were. You just wanted what you imagined the relationship could be so much that you chose to be deaf and blind. If you think you have trust issues, it’s because you really have imagination issues.
You imagined a future relationship and confused that with present time. You overlooked and excused behavior because you didn’t want to give up the ‘potential’ the relationship has for the future. This is imagination at its finest. You IMAGINE that the relationship will become something else in the future and therefore trade your present for it and are surprised when the results are not what you imagined. It’s kind of like wanting to bake a cake, but don’t find all the ingredients for it in your pantry, so you put together what you have, stick it in the oven and expect it to still come out like cake.
People do not earn our trust. To really be authentic in relationships you need to have the approach of trusting someone until/unless they give you a reason not to – in other words, ‘until they show you who they are’ (or who they are not.)
When people show you themselves as honest, trustworthy, attentive and understanding, believe them. Don’t make them jump through hoops to prove themselves. Enjoy the even exchange relationship and don’t overthink it. However, do pay attention when if they begin showing you themselves to NOT be those things!
Too often we get hooked into someone because they intoxicate us. Maybe they are exciting. We feel a little small sometimes but they make us feel bigger. Maybe they give us really high-highs through their antics or their humor. But with those highs or feeling big we can feel the opposite sometimes. A relationship with those kind of ‘mood swings’ is not healthy.
Oh yes, every relationship has highs and lows over time, but the highs should outweigh the lows. No one should ever try to make you feel small – ever. This is not someone to be in partnership with at all. In a healthy relationship there should be more stability than highs. You can’t be high all the time. If you are seeking highs because you feel ‘bored’ in stability then it says quite a bit about you and your interpersonal dynamics, and some internal work is in order.
Remember, you are also showing people who you – and they will believe you, too.
Peace Be With You,