If there is one thing that my mother taught me, I mean really ingrained within me, it was to follow my gut...and to root for the underdog, because who else will? Oops, I guess that's two things.
You might think that sounds great and it may be for some people, but for me, someone suffering as an adult with high anxiety, low self-esteem and PTSD from past abuses, those two things meld together into a weird grey glob instead of two separate life lessons.
I am always trying to find the best in people or situations even when my gut is screaming at me: "RUN! LEAVE EVERYTHING BEHIND! DON'T LOOK BACK!!!!! GO! GO! GO!" You get the point, right?
I became the perfect cocktail for excuses like, "I'll never do that again," "Everyone deserves a second (third, fourth, fifth) chance," "I am nothing without you. You make me a better person, and I can be better!" I mean, my gut would say "Girl, don't believe him. He's lying. Give him two weeks and it will be the same 'ol same 'ol." ...But then I'd convince myself that if I'm not going to root for him to get better, who will?
So I found myself again and again in situations where my gut opposed my guilt. Go, stay. Help, can't be helped. How do I decipher who gets that second chance? Who do I help and who do I walk away from?
I am not just talking about romantic/abusive relationships (which I have my share of). I am talking about the boss who came to me for help and my opinions then took all of the credit for my ideas to further his career...and came back for more.
I am talking about the friend who lies over and over again but I just keep making excuses for her, continually giving the benefit of the doubt when she says something that doesn't sound quite right.
Or the friend that continues to steal from me so when I can't find something around the house, our other friends make jokes, asking if that person had been around recently.
What about when an elderly man, standing in front of the local market's sweets counter, offers your daughter a cookie, and you assume he runs the table behind him. She looks up at you with those begging eyes (you know the ones), so you agree. The man then pulls out a dollar and begins looking for a place to buy her that treat. When you realize what is happening you change your mind but he insists. You say "no thank you," but he keeps talking. You turn and try to talk your way out of the situation kindly as you back away but he begins shuffling you into new isles while talking about how your daughter is such a good girl and deserves a special treat.
Do I help my boss, who obviously is in over his head and taking advantage of me?
Do I help my dishonest friend because maybe there is a good reason why she lies so much?
Do I continue to allow myself to be stolen because I know he has a substance abuse problem but when he is sober he is wonderful?
Do I let a man direct which way my family is moving through an establishment to buy my daughter a cookie because MAYBE he is a confused old man who misses his grand kids or has Alzheimer's and I don't want to hurt his feelings?
But what if he is a predator and that was an act, like my gut was telling me.
I'm getting older, and as I look back on how many times I've been taken for a fool, how many times I have given out fifth chances.... As the stakes get higher, knowing I have two little girls watching what mommy will do, two little people who need my protection and need to know that it is okay to set boundaries...
My boundaries say: If you call youreself my friend, you need to be honest, to respect what is mine, to know that I deserve credit for my ideas. And if you don't respect me when I am giving it then we will need to part ways. My girls need to see me putting their safety above my desire to appease an elder and the fleeting joy of a cookie.
I need them to know that I am following the voice with in me, I am trusting myself and they should too. I am not going to live my life allowing others to play on my kind heart and my giving soul.
I will follow my gut not my guilt anymore.
B. is a survivor making her way in this world trying to heal from her past and help others along the way.
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