The Company You Keep

This one is going to be … personal. Honestly, it might read more like a journal entry than a blog post. But in case there is anyone out there who could benefit from what I have to say, I’m going to share it.

A year ago, I welcomed someone into my life who didn’t belong in it. I was going through a really rough time in my business, my marriage, and my life in general. I met a friend who understood, who seemed to care so much about me, who was always there to listen. I needed a friend like that, so I welcomed the friendship.

As time went on, things started to change. She became constantly critical of me, always acting like the choices I made for myself were stupid or wrong. She started patronizing me, putting me down in passive aggressive ways that I didn’t understand. Conversations stopped being fun, and instead began to feel like something I had to prepare for. I had a sense of dread every time her name popped up on my phone. Wasn’t talking to someone I cared about supposed to feel … not like that?

At that time in my life, I was working in therapy on trying to be more vocal about my needs and setting boundaries for myself. So, I decided to give it a try. But whenever I expressed my feelings, or communicated how something she said or did hurt me, I was met with a fight. She would yell, gaslight me, call me names. She called me stupid, weak, a bad communicator. I was called pretentious, and yet, also dumb. My words were twisted, and I was left trying to defend something I hadn’t even said.

A very hard time in my life became so much harder because of someone who pretended to care about me, while doing everything in her power to hurt me instead.

I spent a lot of time and money in therapy trying to unpack what was wrong with me — why was I so unlikeable, so hard to do life with? I brought a lot of the criticisms that she had made about me to therapy, and together with my therapist, we began working through them all. There were things there that, despite the nasty way they were delivered, were true. They were areas of opportunity for growth, ways in which I could make lemonade out of lemons. I began working on my inability to stand up for myself, my low self-esteem which allowed me to think I deserved to be treated badly, and the tendency toward people pleasing. These were all things about me that this person had used to tear me down, but we were picking up the pieces and building something stronger, more resilient.

In the middle of that, we were also unpacking the stuff that she said about me that wasn’t true. And to be honest, that work was so much harder than the other work. I cling so tightly to the words people use about me, and I cling much tighter to the negative words than the positive ones. I had absorbed so much of the garbage she had said about me that it was almost impossible to get it out of my system. Looking back, it’s almost like I preferred to think of myself as the problem instead of accepting that someone I trusted had chosen to treat me so badly.

Thankfully, with a lot of therapy, I began to undo all of that damage. I discovered a new sense of self-worth, one that was rooted in the truthabout who I am, as well as the truth about who she is. And then, to my surprise, a few years later I met someone else who my former friend had treated that way. As we began sharing our stories, we discovered that there were many other people who had the same story as us. For the first time ever, we finally had the proof of what all of us had been working on in therapy all along: we were never the problem.

Why am I writing about this now?

I guess the main reason is that I want you to know that you aren’t alone. I think everyone has, at some point in their lives, had a terrible friend or lover like this. One who completely destroyed your self-esteem and left you to pick up the pieces. It’s a very human thing, it seems. And it’s something we almost never talk about.

Second, I want you to know with your whole entire soul that you didn’t deserve it. It was never about you. Period. It was always about them, their fragile ego, and their need to keep excellent people close so that they can tear them down.

Third, I need you to trust that eventually everything will be made clear. I know that you may feel very in the dark about why someone treated you the way they did, and wondering if you will ever get closure. I can’t promise you closure because that is a personal journey. What I can promise you is that, one day, things will at least make more sense. Time has a way of revealing things. Unfortunately, time is a stubborn thing. It won’t reveal things until it is good and ready. So, although it’s hard, try to be patient. The truth will come.

I am a much better person than I was when this friend hurt me the way she did. I know how strange that sounds, but it’s true. I used that pain to work on myself, to choose to become a better version of myself. Sadly, it seems like she decided to stay the same as she always was. You can either be the person who evolves, or the person who stagnates.

Please, dear one. Evolve.


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