I was listening to an amazing podcast, Dear Sugar Radio. One of the episodes was all about sibling relationships. The expert shared her own experience with sibling relationships as well as some of her research. Dr. Jeanne Safer said something that was incredibly profound, that our relationships with our siblings form our patterns for peer relationships in the future.
This brought tears to my eyes.
I know I spend a lot of time talking about Body Positivity. It’s my favorite cause to champion. It would be naive of me to assume that the only work I have ahead of me is on my body image. As much as I want to believe that becoming body positive will change every negative thing in my life, it is not the magic wand.
I don’t have many aspects of my life that still vex and sadden me, but I’ve never really understand why I am so horrible at reaching out to friends. On the one hand I absolutely crave having friends that I see all the time, and talk to you every day. On the other hand I fail to follow through.
The list of excuses for my, admittedly shitty, friend behavior is long. I have a child with special needs. We only have one car, and I’m not incredibly comfortable driving it. The amount of time I have to give to my friendships are limited.
As I was sitting on my couch, crying to the sound of Dr. Safer’s voice, I suddenly found the missing piece of my puzzle. I was never close with my siblings. They were them. And I was “the other.” Maybe it was because of age (my biological siblings are 8 and 12 years older) or circumstance, but there never seemed to be desire on anyone’s part to make a connection.
My purpose in their lives was either to be a bother or a point of ridicule. At least that how it seemed. Now that I’m an adult, I fully admit that when we see situations as children we don’t always see everything. Even now, my siblings and I barely say one word to each other, and it feels natural. We don’t call. We don’t text. We reach out when we need something. Beyond that, we operate purely on the idea that “no news is good news.”
It makes sense that I’m always so paranoid about bothering people. I’m afraid to text, to call, to make plans because I feel like they have something more important to do, and I will just be an unwanted distraction.
I really have a hard time opening up to people. I know that sounds silly, with all the vulnerable moments I’ve had with you. But, when it comes to my friendships, I keep them very one sided. (I just realized this today.) I am quick and open to listening to other people’s problems, being there for venting and sharing and support. But, when it comes to my turn to do the same, to allow someone else to be there for me, I really struggle. I end up asking 5,000 questions of my friends (when I talk to them) about every aspect of their lives, because I feel so incredibly uncomfortable talking about any aspect of mine. And, when I do talk about it, I’m realizing now that I minimize it, make fun of it, or immediate provide a reason why whatever I am going through is not that big of a deal. Any story about my life I share is covered in layers of humor.
Maybe now that I have started this journey of body positivity, and freed myself from the weight of the guilt and shame, I have created the space to work on some of the other parts of my life. I no longer feel unworthy because of my appearance. In the last year I have learned that I have value as a human being. Now, perhaps it’s time to learn my value as a friend.
Maybe the word I should use is release. Much like learning to release the shame and guilt I’ve carried because of my body, I need to release the same feelings about how I am as a friend. Then, can I really find the space to let people in.