The worst thing about bad experiences is that it teaches you to treat people who did nothing wrong to you the same way you would treat the ones who did. No matter how hard you try to shake it off, your mind wonders, ‘Will you do it too?’
It’s probably biological, your brain’s way of helping you stay away from people who might harm you. The bad thing about this is that your brain is sometimes wrong.
Some of the predictions it makes of people is based on fear, not reality.
Janet (not her real name) was my best buddy from college. We became quick friends one day when I came to class late and had to share an exercise sheet with her. We found the same interests in drawing, neat handwriting and deep thoughts on life.
She loved to sing. I went to every single one of her performance. When she was hungry, I brought food to her place. I brought her to see a doctor whenever she was ill. She gave me a hand made card for my birthday every year.
And yet, none of this mattered in the end. Things ended abruptly, soon after she graduated from college. ‘You give me a lot, and I feel like I can never match that.’
The thoughts of giving someone too much, so much that they suffocated, lingered in my head for many months. How did I not know that I should not have given so much? How did I not know that not everyone was a happy receiver?
For two years, I had this constant irrational fear that giving people anything would make them leave me. Since my habit was to give a lot to people close to me, I stopped being close to anyone. That was the way I kept myself safe.
New people in my life was kept a comfortable distance away, close enough to talk to once in a while, but far enough for them to never find out who I really was. I didn’t want to connect. Connecting meant that I would one day show my ugly self to them. And they would leave me. I didn’t want that. So I didn’t connect.
‘They will hurt me, so I will push them away before they do,’ is self-fulfilling. When you actively push people away, you will succeed.
I succeeded in not forming any healthy friendships for the last couple of years. I pushed people who were sincerely interested in getting to know me better away.
I told them, ‘I don’t believe you like me for me. When you see the ugly truth about me, you will hate me.’
I repeated this many times enough that the lack of confidence in our friendship or their sincerity (rather than my self-proclaimed ugliness) drove people away from me.
The truth is that when people walk into a friendship, they don’t expect perfection. My trying to control every part of the process drove people insane.
Conclusion: Let go
There is no correct or wrong answer to anything. No matter how hard you try sometimes, you will make mistakes.
I must learn to be comfortable with people without trying to hammer home the idea that I’m ugly and broken; to give people the benefit of doubt that they truly do not mind.
The worst thing about bad experiences is that it teaches you to treat people who did nothing wrong to you the same way you would treat the ones who did.
I think that’s pretty unfair. I want to stop doing that.