After my post last week, Grace Under Fire, a friend reached out to me. This friend has had a rough go of it lately; she has felt overwhelmed, on more than one occasion, she is and has been extremely stressed, she has been coming close to “losing her s@#t” (in her exact words), and she is getting to the point where she feels that she is reaching her ‘final straw’. In other words, she is almost at the point where the next issue she faces, however big or small, will become “the straw that broke the camel’s back”.
(image courtesy of Google images)
With her full permission she has allowed me to share her story because I know, and I have reassured her, she is not the only one to have gone through these things and to have felt this way.
So, let me tell you about Joy*.
Joy is a generous and giving person who is often taken advantage of because of her kind nature. She likes to see others happy and so will give of herself completely in order to please everyone else. She is a thoughtful individual, something which is sometimes noticed by others but seldom appreciated. She uses her time, energy, and even her money to help others, at times barely even getting a thank you for her efforts.
Joy is also a great listener. She not only listens but listens with the intention to help others. Unfortunately, when Joy has a problem she often feels her concerns and issues are pushed aside or ignored by the very people who she has worked so hard to help. Perhaps the thought is that because Joy is so wonderful and skilled at helping others, it is not realized that she may also require help sometimes herself. When Joy needs someone to listen to her she often feels alone. There seems to be no one around to help her pick up the pieces when she begins to fall apart.
Another issue which Joy finds frustrating is that she stands up for others and defends them, but has found herself “thrown under the bus” when a scapegoat or someone to blame is needed. She admits knowing that there are times when she has ended up “under the bus” completely intentionally, but other times it may have happened simply out of the negligence of others. Either way, trust has become a major issue in her life. She limits her trust to only a select few because she has been burned too many times in the past.
Unfortunately, Joy has found herself criticized, judged, and even looked down upon most recently because she and her family have experienced some successes. Instead of finding that people in her life, family, friends, acquaintances, are happy for her and her loved ones and want to cheer them on, she feels she is often spoken about behind her back, shut out of social circles, or worse “pretended” to be liked. Envy does terrible things to the character of others and when you are the victim of envy it can leave you feeling very hurt and as if you yourself have done something wrong. She has also found herself to be criticized and judged in regards to her parenting skills, her qualities as a friend, and even her professional abilities. Sometimes you don’t even have to succeed at anything in particular in order to be raked over the coals in jealousy.
Perhaps the most compelling part about Joy’s story, and maybe even the one that I found most intriguing, is that most people believe that Joy is this outgoing, confident individual who always takes on the world with class, style, and grace. Even though she feels she truly isn’t that person, she has asked me if I think that this ‘confidence’ which she portrays actually pushes people away. Her thoughts are that if people don’t think she ‘needs’ anyone because of how confident she is, then maybe that is why she is held at arm’s length. My response to her has never changed: even the most confident people still need someone in their corner rooting for them.
Joy’s story is not a rare one. We may have felt some of or all of these same ways, or have had friends who have shared these matters with us. We may have all had moments where we feel we have reached a breaking point, where if one more thing happens we may totally flip out, especially when everything comes down on us at once like the saying, “When it rains, it pours.”
While I don’t claim to have any superb advice or stellar words of wisdom, Joy did ask for my thoughts and perspective, so here are my words for her, and for all of us who can relate to Joy’s story:
You are NOT a camel. One more straw loaded down on your back will not break you because you are much stronger than that. People do not always treat you with respect or with kindness even, but you can rise above those times and be a better, stronger person because of them.
When you find that you are at your lowest, look to the highest. Use your faith, your values, and your beliefs to steer you in the direction of how to handle things in the best way you know how. There’s nothing wrong with taking a step back from people or situations where you continue to find yourself uncomfortable or unhappy. There’s nothing wrong with demanding respect and space.
Practice saying no, especially to those people who do not appreciate you. If they do not respect your ‘no’, then perhaps stronger language is needed. Turn the other cheek when necessary, but don’t allow yourself to be anyone’s emotional punching bag.
When you think that you are going to break, make a conscious, determined decision that you will not. You are the author of your story – you decide how each chapter will end. Make the decision that you will NOT go down like that.
Remember that YOU are a good person; a sincere, true, and honest individual. Find people who see that and love you for who you are, not what you can do for them. Choose people who will help you carry your load, not add to the burden of it. Select your allies to be those who build you up, and not those who work to tear you down.
Most importantly, decide today and every day that you WILL NOT become broken by the final straw.
Believe this: You are UNBREAKABLE.
*name has been changed
I’ve shared this post on the Fire Fly Dance blog site as part of a writing community. Check out the site: http://fireflydance.net/2014/03/07/weekly-writing-challenge-unbroken/#comment-3061