Creating Space for Nourishing Relationships
If you and I are anything alike, you’ve spent the first days of 2017 enjoying the fresh, new energy a new year brings - and maybe even wondering what to do with it.
The beauty of a new year, after all, is in the whole ‘fresh start’ thing. Resolutions, mantras, big changes, renewed resolve to really stick with it this time, for real. It might be one of my favorite times of year.
(By the way... if you’re feeling the New Year Energy Burst but aren’t quite sure how to put it into action, there are some truly amazing free resources out there to help you start assessing what’s working and what isn’t, and craft a plan to move forward in a meaningful way. A few of my personal favorites include: Susannah Conway’s free Find Your Word email course and Unravel Your Year workbook, and Lisa Jacobs’ New Year for a New You series. Of course, if you’re willing to shell out a tiny bit of money, Danielle LaPorte’s trusty Desire Map process reigns supreme in my book. I’m not an affiliate for any of these, I just happen to think they’re all fantastic. In any case, even if you haven’t sat down and gotten intentional about what your 2017 will look like, it’s not too late!)
The point is, a big part of that precious reboot feeling that comes each January is taking stock. We assess what’s working and what isn’t (habits, possessions, etc.) so we can ditch the ones that don’t serve us and embrace the ones that make us do and be and feel more of what we want. More working out, less mindless scrolling. More veggies, less junk. More order, less stress. By doing so, we shed a layer of stuff that no longer aligns with who we are or how we want to feel, and instead we make space for more of the things that do. It’s such a refreshing process, isn’t it?
In that spirit, I wanted to drop in this week and offer a small, loosely related piece of encouragement. As you’re busy implementing new workout regimens and purging your junk drawer, I want to invite you to take stock and reassess not just your habits and your possessions and your behaviors – but also, the quality of your relationships.
This is a great season to look at what we have with fresh eyes, and ask ourselves whether the feelings they evoke align with how we want to feel - and the relationships we keep are no exception.
It has been said that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with – and while that idea gets casually tossed around a lot, it’s a pretty big and complex concept to let sink in. So much of how we feel and how we evolve as individuals is connected to the people we choose to surround ourselves with.
Who would your five people be right at this moment, if you had to name them? How would you describe them to a stranger?
In many ways, the idea that we take on the qualities of the people we choose to hold close is really beautiful. I can’t think of anything more nourishing than real, honest-to-god connection with people who see us, love us, value us, and challenge us. Sharing a closeness with those people can shape us into stronger, better versions of ourselves. But. I’ve absolutely also gone through stretches where in hindsight – and even somewhere in my deepest intuition at the time – it’s clear that some of the relationships in my life that I invested serious time and energy into stood in total opposition to things I valued, believed in, craved, or needed. There were obvious disconnects at the time between their values, wants, and behaviors, and my own. There was a reason I'd started to feel unsettled, and noticeably out of alignment.
I point out this contrast because relationships can be both amazingly powerful in shaping who we are, and incredibly difficult to untangle or disengage from if they start to go awry. They’re delicate, they ebb and flow over time, and the nuances of each are full of shades of grey. Plus, in my own experience, there can be a lot of pressure to hold onto relationships long after the point when we know on some level that they’re doing one or both parties more harm than good.
I think it’s an uncomfortable question to ask ourselves, which might be why the idea of disengaging from long-standing romantic relationships, friendships, or other relationships is so rarely talked about. But just like taking stock of our pantry or our closet, sometimes creating intentional distance between us and the relationships that no longer nourish us can carve out time, space, and energy for the ones that really, really do. It may feel like sort of a brutal proposition, but taking the time to make sure the relationships we’re investing in add to our lives more than they cross our boundaries or deplete our emotional reserves can be exactly what our soul needs.
So how do we know when it’s time to reassess or reevaluate a relationship, and the role it serves in our life?
As you start to consider the question of which relationships occupy the most space in your life and how aligned they are with the essence of you (and who you want to be), start with a gut check. Primitive, simple, and often very telling. This is exactly the kind of topic where it’s easy to overthink, or to bargain with yourself based on how you ‘should’ feel about certain people or relationships; fight the urge to talk yourself down, and start by giving your intuition some credit.
- Are there relationships that feel fundamentally out of sync with who you are?
- Are you holding onto a relationship that brings out qualities in you that feel forced, ingenuine, or otherwise unsettling?
- Are there relationships in your life that consume your time, energy, or emotional resources in ways that give you pause?
- Would letting go of a particular relationship feel freeing in some way?
The simple act of chewing on questions like these may stir up some answers or inklings from within yourself that may start to hint at a direction that’s right for you. Don’t feel like you have to rush the process - there is no hurry, or need to act in haste! But I do encourage you to listen inward and trust what you hear.