I am thinking today about “friends.” Friends can bolster you up, or they can drain you. It takes a certain amount of wisdom and maturity to finally see what a true friend is. I spent many years with so-called “friends” always disappointing me until I finally realized that I’d developed a pattern of being everyone’s therapist. I was always the friend that people told their problems to. I developed that behavior in high school and, because of it, ran with a popular group of girls. They were not bad friends, but they were not good friends either. I carried that pattern into my late thirties. It wasn’t until after my bout with thyroid cancer when I was 38 that I began to change.
I began to change because life showed me that many of those people that had always counted on me, that I’d been a good friend to, were not around or available during my time of need. This was disappointing to me in so many ways, but the pain of that disappointment prompted me to change my behavior patterns. Soon, I became the friend that was unavailable. People leaned heavily on me, but disappeared when I needed them to return the favor. As a result, I was often emotionally drained and resentful.
I recall that one friend was calling me often to tell me about an affair she was having with her high school boyfriend. I’d listened attentively for months, but then, suddenly, one day realized how selfish her behavior was. She didn’t really ever ask me how I was doing, other than in the obligatory way, but then she’d quickly find a way to turn the conversation back to her. She needed a sounding board and I was always there to listen. So, finally, I made it clear that I wasn’t going to listen to her nonsense anymore. You know what? I haven’t heard from that friend in over two years. Why? She wasn’t getting her needs met anymore. So, I’m sure she found another sounding board and, because she’d never had any real concern for me to begin with, there was no reason for her to call me anymore.
Growing and changing hurts, but it’s necessary because obesity is part of patterns of behavior that find us filling the empty hole in our hearts when we don’t surround ourselves with people who know how to love, who know how to open their hearts and who know how to give. One thing I’ve learned from some of my “friends” is how to be more selfish. I grew up hearing the word “selfish” as a bad thing. Be anything, but don’t be selfish. Now, finally, in my forties, I realize that selfish is a good word, as long as it’s not taken to the point where you no longer care about anything or anyone. Selfish can mean that you know how to take care of yourself and how to get your needs met.
When you finally learn how to take care of yourself and get your own needs met, you can release the desire to overeat to fill up all those empty holes in your heart. Evaluate your friendships and determine if you have the friends you need to take you the place where you want to be. When you’ve pinpointed the friends that are truly selfish – those that you only hear from when they need something – gently pull away. You can still be their friend because now you’ve got their number. The difference is that, after this realization, you will also ration out how much of your time and energy you devote to them, and that means that they can no longer drain the important emotional resources you need for self love.
One other important thing I’ve learned is that you have to be responsible for getting your needs met and this means being more assertive. Generally, I have a problem with assertive behavior. It’s not easy for me to be assertive because of many things from my childhood. But assertiveness is a good thing. Assertive people do better overall in life and when you become more assertive it’s another one of the things that lessens the desire to overeat because it makes you feel less helpless and like a victim.
So, for today: selfishness and assertiveness will combat some of the underlying emotional reasons for overeating.