I’ve told the story many times about how my increasing self compassion and flourishing self worth caused me to let go of many relationships.
Some of these were very old friendships which had lasted for between 10 and 30 years. All hard to give up, but necessary as peace and stability rose in importance to me.
They were friends who brought their repeated dramas and chaotic lives into my life, those who were stuck in substance abuse, whose mental health issues caused difficulty in maintaining a friendship with them. Sometimes their behaviour towards me wasn’t respectful. I always made excuses for them, after all they all had had a more difficult start in life than me. I felt I owed it to them to stick by them through thick and thin. I willingly tried to support and help and encourage. All angelic like, huh. Not really.
Actually I was up to my eyes in ‘downward social comparison’ as a way to elevate what I felt about myself. In comparison to them, I was doing great.
All of them had troubled backgrounds, an attachment disorder from adoption, a personality disorder from trauma, a mother who committed suicide, and deprivation, neglect and abuse.
Intelligent, unique and talented yes often but troubled. And any sort of position in society, such as a well paid job they love, not one of them.
None of them came from educated middle class backgrounds like me. Of course my own childhood wasn’t without its troubles, but nothing compared to these friends.
I hung out with people often poorer than me, less ‘well adjusted’ (whatever the fuck that means) and less educated. I somehow always managed to make money, stay away from addiction, though danced close at times.
I always managed to keep a foot in normal society and could travel freely in all social classes. I was often the only one with a decent car or any car. I paid for most things with most of them.
With these friends and with all my boyfriends, I can’t think of one that had finished school. So much potential but too many hinderances from the damage done to them as children.
I was on a mission to be a good friend to those shunned and rejected by society. To uplift people and help them grow in confidence through encouragement.
However the payoff to me was that I got to feel that I was doing well. And I was doing well in comparison to them. I got an elevated sense of success in every department.
And now what. They are gone and I’m left with facing myself naked. and the false sense of confidence is gone.
I now question my motives. And I’m still exploring this. Maybe that was the whole motive, downwards social comparison. Perhaps even my own self worth was so low that I didn’t think happy well adjusted successful people could like me. Maybe I didn’t want to experience ‘upwards social comparison’ and reflect negatively on my position in society. Maybe I had to be ‘useful’ to people to even ‘earn’ having a friendship.
And partly too, it was because I shunned the pursuit of material success as a life goal. Those who did pursue wealth and security, I found boring, and those who didn’t were more interesting. They explored and read and made music, wrote poetry and were freer and always available to hang out with. They would say yes to my spontaneous suggestions as they had time. They helped me too many many times. So there were multiple reasons. I wanted to get this one out that had remained hidden though.
Now where do I stand? I have friendships with people who have their troubles like us all, yet who are not living on the breadline, or substance addicted, or have debilitating psychiatric issues. People who have careers and/or missions of their own. That means that they aren’t so available though. And nobody with money as a central pursuit, I still find those people uninteresting.
And the truth is there are very few friends in my life left. It is, I have discovered, harder to make friends in your 40s and 50s. Peoples lives and friendships are well established by now mostly and they don’t have so much space, for a single female in her mid 50s.
So the space those dear troubled old friends left is still here. A big gaping wide lonely space.
And now nobody to artificially boost my sense of wellbeing though downward social comparison.
Poor me 😂