When to fight

Some things in life are worth fighting for – your freedom, good relationships, your happiness – and some things just aren’t. Let go of worthless people and pointless pursuits. Our time on this earth is precious, so follow your instincts and be the kind of person you are proud of.

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Surrounding ourselves with the right people

Surrounding ourselves with the right people is one half of the recipe for leading a happy, balanced and successful life. The right people are those who have our best interests at heart. These people value us for who we are as human beings, not because of what we do for a living or what favours or status we can bestow upon them. They will always be prepared to tell us what we need to hear, and not just what we want to hear. They will not attempt to undermine our achievements, nor to belittle us in order to make themselves feel better. Surrounding ourselves with these people will enable us to grow in confidence, to learn from our mistakes and to share our best moments with those who really appreciate them.

The world is full of people who make empty promises to satisfy their own agendas. Whilst it is “as well to know what tunes the devil is playing” (Jeeves and Wooster, Comrade Bingo, 1992), it is vitally important not to get carried away with them. Be mindful that work and wellbeing do not always go hand in hand. What appears good for us professionally may not be good for us personally. This is where surrounding ourselves with the right people becomes crucial.

 

“Truly great friends are hard to find, difficult to leave, and impossible to forget.”

 

A friend may be a colleague, but not all colleagues are friends. Even those who we are friendly with and with whom we have established good working relationships do not necessarily want what is best for us or wish us well. In fact, if we are in any way competition for them, it will typically be quite the opposite, despite appearances. This is why, as we progress through life, it is essential to maintain a solid network of friends and family who do have our best interests at heart and who will give us good advice when our own judgement is clouded by a difficult situation.

Maintaining healthy relationships that benefit our wellbeing requires mutual effort. Nowadays, friendships are more fragile than ever, as people move around for jobs and work much longer hours, including evenings and weekends – prime social times. Before we know it, weeks have passed by and we still haven’t got round to having that Skype chat, coffee date or park walk – and nobody is happier or better off because of it. We can believe that we are in touch with people through social media, which serves its own purpose but is no replacement for regular real life contact with the people who are good for our souls. Without these connections, we can begin to feel isolated, lonely, emotionally less resilient and consequently downright unhappy. Human beings are social creatures. We have developed unrivalled communication skills for a good reason and we must remember to use them to benefit our wellbeing as well as our careers.

 

“Friendship isn’t about who you’ve known the longest. It’s about who walked into your life, said I’m here for you, and proved it.”

 

With the pressures of the working world seeming to increase year by year, friendships can suffer from financial and temporal restraints. “I haven’t got time” is an all too familiar excuse for many of us. However, if we stop to reflect on how we choose to spend each moment of our 168 hour week, we may find that we do actually have time for a coffee or a phone call, if we learn to prioritise. We must ensure that those people who are essential to our wellbeing always remain a priority. Yes, this might mean pulling out of work drinks, or switching off our favourite television series, but these are small sacrifices for maintaining special relationships. Spending quality time with someone who values us is priceless. As such, we should be very careful not to marginalise these opportunities as life becomes too busy. Instead of neglecting friendships in the assumed certainty that they will still be there when we really need them, we should try to focus on investing in them regularly, so that we can draw upon the positive energy that they generate, which can help carry us through the challenges of the week and ensure that we come out smiling at the end of it.

The essence of this article is perspective. The pace and fashion of modern living has allowed us more easily to adopt insular lifestyles, losing sight of the importance of real life contact with those individuals who enrich our existence and who encourage our personal growth. If we stop to think about the last time we actually saw the face of, or even heard the voice of,  someone we consider a good friend, we might be surprised. Whilst it has become normal to maintain relationships through social media, there is a visceral nourishment to be found in the tones of a friendly voice or the warmth of a loving hug that cannot be communicated via a tweet or a post. As sentient, social beings, we crave this human contact, and the longer we deprive ourselves of it, the more likely we are to feel lonely and isolated.

So what are we waiting for? Pick up the phone, make that call, schedule that coffee, turn the television off, go for that park walk and show the important people in our lives how much we truly value those relationships. Good, positive relationships can act as a buffer between ourselves and the pressures of the world. Putting effort into securing them is essential if we are to maintain healthy, balanced and happy lives.

Taking back control

Controlling people pervade all walks of life. We may know them through business, social or even family connections. It is often difficult to recognise when someone is trying to exercise control over us and our choices, as their words and actions can be cleverly disguised as thoughtful advice or mutually beneficially recommendations. However, exposing our unprotected selves to the control of others can have an extremely damaging effect on our self-esteem, confidence and sense of identity. Over time, controlling people can erode our self-worth to the point that we begin to question our instincts and no longer trust or value our own judgement. This results in a very unhealthy state of being that can impact upon all corners of our existence.

 

Never compromise yourself

 

Spotting when someone in our lives is being controlling can be very difficult. We may have known the person our whole lives and have firmly established relationship dynamics with them. Contrastingly, they may be a work colleague, whose own lack of self-respect and dissatisfaction drives him/her to exercise a petty reign of control over others. This latter situation can be tricky to deal with, especially if we are new to a job and are trying to get along and impress. However, it is always worth remembering that nothing and no-one deserves compromising our self-worth for. 

It is a fact that there will always be people willing to take their insecurities out on others, who try to stop others from reaching their full potential and who enjoy minimising others’ achievements in order to boost their own ego. It is therefore essential to recognise when people are behaving as such, so that we can flourish and succeed in our own right despite their resistance. By asserting ourselves against such people, we are reestablishing our independence as a free-thinker and autonomous individual, thereby defining boundaries which serve to protect our wellbeing.

 

Reestablish the dynamics

 

Controlling people are often jealous people. One way to spot them is by their unwillingness to “let” us organise and keep our own social engagements, to develop and maintain our own social networks, or to take responsibility for things that do actually concern us. For example, a senior work colleague not allowing us access rights to information or equipment that would actually help us to do our job better. Instead, they insist that we go through them every time we need something. This is a clear display of someone attempting to control the power dynamics in a relationship. A completely different scenario might be that of a close friend, relative or partner who chooses when to invite/exclude us to/from their social engagements, but insists on accompanying us to all of ours without first asking. These types of situation can lead us to feel alternately dangled on a thread and smothered, without us necessarily recognising that we are party to a controlling relationship.

When the controlling person is someone we are emotionally connected to, for example, a friend, relative or partner, it can be much harder to assert ourselves. Particularly when the dynamics of the relationship are already established, it can seem awkward or unnatural to start to voice our thoughts or objections. However, if we don’t stand our ground in the face of controlling people, we risk being taken advantage of, agreeing to things we don’t really want to do, that aren’t in our best interests, in order to maintain the status quo. It is our reluctance to change the flow and pace of the relationship, combined with their unwavering belief in their ability to always get their own way, that controlling people rely upon. Breaking any cycle of control, no matter how established the relationship dynamics, is therefore essential if we are to operate freely on our terms.

 

Protecting our reserves

 

In real life, controlling people cannot be avoided. However, we can be ever mindful that they exist, taking heed of the signs and developing strategies to prevent their intrusion upon our personal rights and sense of value and identity. Remember that the people who really care about us will respect our wishes and needs, and will be able to take “no” for an answer. Petty work colleagues who rely upon futile regimes of control in order to divert from their own lack of achievement should always be recognised as such, and exiled from our emotional reserves. Being confident in prioritising our own needs above the demands of others is one way of protecting ourselves from the claws of controlling people. Sometimes, simply saying “no, that doesn’t work for me” can be a powerful defence mechanism. Knowing that we have the right to our thoughts, opinions, decisions and actions, and having the confidence to assert that right in any given situation, is key to preserving our wellbeing, dignity and happiness.