I often wonder how many people go through life without acknowledging that they’re a person in need of work. How many of us simply exist, without taking the time to deeply reflect on our own character flaws or aspects of our behaviour that may make our relationships difficult.
I've learned that embracing true awareness and accountability is the only way to have healthy relationships, whether that be romantically or with friends. But a fundamental part of that is learning to look beyond our own ego, to see ourselves as we are seen by those on the receiving end of our behaviour, not as the paradigm of perfection that we envision ourselves to be.
Many relationships suffer because we all think we're great. We think we know it all, that our perspective is always right and that we are great partners and friends. But how honest is the picture of ourselves that we have in our own minds? Often our preoccupation with our own ego prevents us from having honest reflections and realising that there's work that we need to do to be better as individuals, and by extension be better to the ones we love.
The end result is that when those we love point out things we could do to improve, we resort to defence mode. We try to shift the blame and dodge accountability because being confronted by our own shortcomings is uncomfortable. This is also a question of ego. An unhealthy ego doesn’t allow us to accept that we (like everyone else around us) are indeed flawed. It doesn’t allow us to truly hear what our loved ones are expressing. The problem is that if we continuously avoid awareness and accountability, it's likely that our relationships will keep falling apart. I know because I was there and it was painful.
In the last few months, I’ve had to teach myself to pursue a deeper level of self-awareness. Not the comfortable type where we pick and choose what we want to be honest with ourselves about. I’ve been deliberately learning how to become aware of the parts of myself that are not very pleasant and accepting that this journey isn’t meant to be comfortable. I’ve also been learning to hold myself accountable and to put in the hard work to improve the parts of myself that I am not proud of.
It hasn’t been easy. Getting to that place wasn’t easy either. It took a strained relationship with one of my most cherished friends to make me take an honest look at our friendship and at both of us as individuals. Our friendship was not in a healthy place and it forced me to deeply consider what we were both doing to contribute to that. It would have been easy enough to recognize where she may have wronged me, but I was determined not to play the blame game. I recognized that in the same way I often felt hurt and confused by her actions, she must have also experienced similar feelings as a result of my behaviour. And so, I took stock of myself as a friend and as a person. I acknowledged that there were things about me that were probably difficult to accept and tolerate. I began to take decisive steps to improve these things because I was committed to being a better friend. There were times when I discovered very ugly truths that made me want to quickly turn back and abandon this journey of accountability. There were moments where it all felt very lonely and heavy. But I kept reminding myself to put my ego aside and keep doing the hard work.
My friend must have been on a similar journey because she eventually initiated a very difficult conversation about why our friendship just didn’t feel right. It was the type of conversation that required us to both be very honest with ourselves and with each other. It was the type of conversation that could either strengthen our relationship and our understanding of each other... or cause it to come to an unpleasant end. It took both of us communicating from a place of grace and truth so that we could really see where the other person was coming from and still hold each other in a space of love while we heard the uncomfortable truths about ourselves.
I was able to be honest with her about some of the ways in which she hurt me. I made a conscious effort to do it in a way that did not come across as combative or from a place of bitterness or resentment. I understood the importance of letting her know that my intention was not to make her feel that she was a bad person or a bad friend. I was careful to express my hurt in a way that made her understand that ultimately, none of it made me love her any less. I wanted her to know that I was sharing that hurt because I hoped it would make her realise the work she needed to do on herself. And I made a point of highlighting that I had seen enough growth in her to know that she was ready to hear what I had to say without the message being lost through the filter of ego. She also pointed out patterns in my own behaviour that contributed to our relationship being strained. I accepted it and reminded myself that if we wanted to save our friendship, I would need to practice the same accountability that I was encouraging her to embrace. Because I had already begun to recognize the importance of putting my own ego aside, I was able to listen to her. I was also able to understand just how important it was to express my concerns in the right way so that they would not be met with defensiveness, anger or stubbornness.
I’m glad we were able to save our friendship from falling apart. I’m glad we put our love for each other before our own egos. It would have been impossible to express and receive the uncomfortable truths otherwise. If our egos remained in the way we would each be fighting a losing battle to be heard. In the end, it was a teachable moment for both of us and I’ve realised that we’ve both been able to apply it to our other friendships. It also made us realise that we truly value each other more than we valued holding onto whatever perceptions we had of ourselves as individuals and friends.
Written by Amanie Mathurin