PQ 24.7 — Does this person help me be the best version of myself?

a tree on a hill in front of a body of water at sunset
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PQ 24.7 — Does this person help me be the best version of myself?

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As I look around at the people who are in my life now, I can answer unequivocally yes every time. I’m surrounded by folks (a mixture of lovers and friends and some arguably in between) who bring out the best in me. And who I hope I do the same for. People who typically support my autonomy and are fairly non-judgmental… but also unafraid to clue me in when they feel like I’ve strayed off track. The best friends I’ve ever had haven’t always told me I was right. But on the occasions when they said no to me, it was always coming from a good place. One of genuine care or concern for me. Or as a boundary check when I’d lost track of where I was relative to them and inadvertently strayed into places where I shouldn’t.

My social circle is pretty great. I’m a fortunate person. I’ve found my people.

But this wasn’t always the case. It took a while to get here. To be surrounded by people who bring out the best version of me.

And I can look back on more than a few friendships and romantic relationships and see associations that went in quite another direction altogether. Where I was with someone who brought out my worst sides, who made it easy for me to be the person I’d rather not be.

Sometimes this happened via exploitation. I’d be close to a person who would take liberally of any resources I provided (financial, temporal, emotional, etc.) without providing much in return. Leaving me drained, poor, and resentful.

Other times this happened through validation and acceptance of my worst qualities. These days I’m an extremely hard worker and spend most of my time pushing myself but have also learned to relax pretty much on command when I get the opportunity. This allows me to balance work and play pretty well.

In the past I was often more conflicted. I would push myself with work well past the point where I was even being effective, but when I’d go to relax, I’d fail at that, too, feeling guilty the entire time for being “unproductive.” So I wouldn’t really recharge appropriately. I was never fully immersed in work OR play and instead was stuck somewhere in between. In a limbo where I was basically failing at both.

And unfortunately, in those days, I was spending a lot of time around people who could only do one of those modes effectively or the other. But never both. One partner I lived with mocked me and called me a baby when I came down with tonsillitis (that resulted a few days later in necessitating a hospital stay), vomited at work, spiked a high fever, and insisted I needed to be taken to a doctor. Because “grownups didn’t call off work because they get a tummy ache.” They were good at pushing themselves and others around them but didn’t recognize or accept that sometimes people needed to rest. To them, that was laziness.

Another partner I had following that swung violently in the other direction. They didn’t see the point of ever working hard. They felt like the purpose of life was to relax and have fun. And while this sounded good on the surface, their inability to apply themselves to… much of anything, really… caused a lot of secondary survival problems. Money was always short. I had to learn to find ways to hide mine so they wouldn’t do something like spend our entire rent money on video games (literally happened one time).

They were great at relaxing. But they did so much of it that it caused problems. And when I’d try to join them, I found that it brought out my lazy side, too. Which could have been good. But their balance was off, overindulgent in a way that created short-term pleasure, sure, but also undeniable long-term problems.

And I never quite felt that the pleasure was worth the problems. Nor did I feel like it was bringing out the best side in me. Laziness could be fun in small doses, but in large doses, it robbed me of a sense of accomplishment. I wanted to be a person who did things. And not just fun or self-indulgent ones.

Both of those relationships ultimately ended… for a variety of reasons, but definitely a large part was that I didn’t like the person I became when I was in them.

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I’m happy now. About who I am. Who I’m surrounded by. Did it take some trial and error to get here? Sure. But in the end, it was worth it.

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This post is part of a series in which I answer each of the chapter-end questions in More than Two with an essay. For the entire list of questions and answers, please see this indexed list.

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