I Love You Just the Way You Are
“I love you just the way you are.”
If you were a caged bird, you would hear this song of resignation from the bird in the crate next to you. Not to be mistaken by the patient tolerance that nurturing friendships have while you test your wings, more often than not, the person who “loves you just the way you are” has no emotional skin in the game of your greatness. That is a horrifyingly comforting trap.
It’s comforting because doing nothing is easy. It’s horrifying because, should we surround ourselves with companions willing to co-sign our mortgages on sloth island, that is where we can remain for years. Front and back lawns will become overgrown with the weeds of lethargy fertilized by our apathetic comrades who desire our company more than our success. Whether it’s your jealous lover who does not want you to branch out and meet new friends or your threadbare bestie that dismisses your latest hobby, neither of them qualifies as your best brand of a friend.
You and I have an inalienable birthright, if not a moral obligation, to take the gifts, talents, flaws, and imperfections and strive to make the best possible selves that we can. This mandate insists that we encircle ourselves with people who wholly refuse to settle for good enough. These are the people that still love you with your consolation prize, but you get the sense that they might love you more if you were to take first place.
If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours — Henry David Thoreau
“That’s terrible, but listen to what happened to me.”
Find someone you can share bad news with, and you have located a fellow member of your species. Most people can suffer the random misfortunes of another for just long enough to change the subject. It is perfectly natural and definitively human. Find someone who genuinely and visibly feels bad when you feel bad and you have a friend. This ally is vested in your well-being. Twenty loquacious advice-givers are a fool’s trade for one single person who can hold the space between you long enough to let you see a solution to your own problem.
“That’s great, but listen to what happened to me.”
Sharing your successes amongst those that genuinely love you does not include the following:
- Any hint of jealousy. Sneers, smirks, and comments like it’s “not going to last” are the rattling sounds made by the chains of those who are anchoring you down.
- Dismissing your victory. Anyone that can’t sacrifice a moment of their time to give you yours in the sunlight is only acting as your unhealthy shadow.
- Quickly changing the subject. The faces of people who honestly love you shine those Duchenne smiles when fortune favors the ones they do. We all deserve friends who gleefully crinkle their eyes at our success.
“Care for a drink?”
If you’ve ever quit smoking, tried to curb your drinking, or get physically fit, you’ve met those people who are more than willing to let you fall off the wagon or perhaps even give you a push. It is easy to assemble a team that will put their arms around you and watch your house burn down. Pocketing someone who will actively encourage you to divorce your vices, even at the peril of being annoying, is a precious gift.
“I’ll let you have your space.”
It’s surprisingly hard to push the ejection seat on those that authentically love us. Your ride-or-die allies feel the valley of your sorrow as much as the elevation of your ecstasies. They keep checking in. These all-weather companions are in love with your potential, not whatever plateau upon which you are resting.
Where are these magical souls?
Where do you find these supportive spirits that see the spendor in your successes, feel despair with you in your disappointments, snatch that scotch from your hand, and refuse to let you book a pity party for one? We’ve probably chased dozens away already.
I think the puzzle starts to unravel with a moratorium on the cynical and sarcastic. Positivity is not a plague whose sores are blemishes of delusion and whose fever sweats the unrealistic. Looking around the tribes we have constructed, we see the reflection of our past and futures with different faces. That notion that opposites attract is really absurd. Our similarly feathered birds find their way almost unconsciously into our flock.
If we change our luminance, we stumble upon better fellows.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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