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How to know when you’ve outgrown “The Box”, and what to do about it… Part I of III

October 3, 2010

Years ago, I ended a friendship….

The idea occurred to me as we sat over dinner and she related to me yet another intense fight she was having with her boyfriend, initiated by her irrational jealousy of any contact he had with other women.

As she related the fight to me blow-by-blow I realized three things:

One ~ Since sitting down for dinner, she had yet to ask me how I was doing.

Two ~ I had heard some version of this exact drama at least a quadrillion times over the five years of our friendship.

Three ~ I didn’t like the person sitting before me very much at all.

Two weeks later I called off the friendship, much to her shock and chagrin. In spite of her vivid anger, I felt colossal relief about ending the toxic relationship, and haven’t looked back since.

I realized that in the five years of our acquaintance, I had grown. She hadn’t. And I no longer wanted to be her pseudo-counselor for all her personal problems. I wanted equity in our friendship, and she was unable and unwilling to give it.

My responsibility lay in the fact that I agreed to her standards for far too long. I allowed her to put me into a tiny, uncomfortable box. I squinched myself up in that box until I couldn’t stand it anymore. At which point I stood up, said goodbye, and walked away.

Since then, I’ve become more adept at identifying boxes others would like to put me into… taking on too many tasks at work, changing my values to fit the preference of a man I’m dating, or giving an “A” to a student when a “B” is more appropriate. I know better now. And even when it feels risky, I’m willing to step up and out of whatever box is placed before me and be more my authentic self.

Here’s the Truth for today: You are too big, grand, and wonderful to be put into a box. And as you grow older, wiser, and more authentic, you will find you’ve outgrown the boxes that, in your younger years, felt plenty roomy for you.

So the question is this: What have you outgrown? In what areas of your life do you feel cramped, shut down, cut off, uncomfortable, or edgy? And what purpose does it serve to keep yourself in that too-small space?

I encourage you today to engage in some serious self-examination, so you can identify these areas starving for change, for room, for space and light and air.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. thelmaz permalink
    October 4, 2010 1:47 pm

    This post spoke directly to me. I have recently ended a friendship I’ve had all my life for much the same reasons you did. Too much listening to “me, me, me” and no interest in my life; exaggerations and outright lies; recently speaking to me as if she was the queen and I was the kitchen maid. She called recently and left a message and I did not call back. Nor will I ever. My life is so much calmer without our weekly conversations when she caught me up on her life, her illnesses, her opinions, her daily life… Hooray, I’m done.

  2. Teresa permalink
    October 4, 2010 6:41 pm

    I had a similar situation in my past where I had to end a friendship with someone because she was “sucking the life out of me” by talking about the issues with her “current significant other” and NEVER bothered to ask me how I was doing. This break was rather easy for me as I had simply “outgrown” the drama. I am currently trying (and have been trying for several years) to break free from my high school girlfriends, which I am finding to be much harder. This year I’ve done a much better job than in the past, and it is getting easier, but I still struggle due to the fact that I live in a small town (my hometown) and so do they. This is problematic because I still “see” them on a regular basis and I am constantly reminded that I am “the only one” who is trying to break free from their “high school behavior.” This summer I started a “journal of toxic friends,” but had to quit because I was getting so angry every time I wrote in it. I constantly question why I am doing what I am doing because at times it seems very lonely, but I know that my persistence will pay off and I will break free from the “small box” they have placed me into.
    Thanks for sharing Cyndi! It’s comforting knowing that others have gone through the same thing that I have experienced and continue to struggle with!

  3. October 6, 2010 6:17 pm

    That’s a great post! I know what it’s like to have people dump all their problems on you. It used to make me very nervous, and at the same time, I felt obligated to give advice. I think you’re very brave to have walked away from that friendship. How did you do it? Did you just tell her that you didn’t want to be friends anymore?

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