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You are who you attract, you get what you give, you receive what you put out (your input is your output) and teach people how to treat you (by showing – not just telling – them what you will and will not allow or tolerate).
By nature, most living things, including humans, are opportunists. That’s not inherently wrong or right, just something built in to ensure the highest chances of survival, which is the most fundamental goal of any living organism.
People, in general, aren’t against you; they’re simply for themselves. That, again, is not something that’s inherently wrong even though it’s been practically hammered into us that it is – to our detriment, individually and collectively. We think it’s noble and praiseworthy to always put others before ourselves, especially as women, and particularly, black women – far too often (almost always, honestly) to our detriment and demise. There is probably no bigger (or more harmful) fallacy.
To have happy, healthy relationships, you need to truly understand how to relate to other human beings and animals in a way that is generally healthy and happy for you.
No amount work/therapy/counseling, etc. will produce a happy and healthy, heartfelt relationship with someone who is toxic to you, intentionally or involuntarily (because of emotional/psychological baggage they’ve been unable to work through and heal from enough to truly move on and be happy).
Never fall into the bottomless rabbit hole of wanting or thinking you and “fix” someone. Lead by example and normalize prioritizing self. Say no to parasites. They will do nothing but suck away your life force and everything good and positive that it entails and leave you with illness and scarring at best.
A lot of forging amazing, happy relationships entails avoiding/cutting off people don’t fit the mold to have one with you.
Exercise caution in giving people (especially ones new to you or you just recently met) the benefit of the doubt.
Do not ignore red flags, even when they’re only a pastel pink. Chances are, they’ll steadily but surely progress to a full-blown indigo.
Once you make a habit of steering clear of individuals and groups who you don’t genuinely align with emotionally and mentally, it’s much easier to spot those who do.
Only you can allow who shares your space and life, so always choose to your advantage and well-being. Your network is your net worth. Choose winners and you win. Choose losers and, well…you get the drift.
Qualities to develop and demand in both others and from yourself:
1. Willingness and ability to learn now (not “later”).
3. Willingness to be open-minded “a learned behavior”.
5. Grounded and emotionally stable and aware (mature).
7. Being simultaneously firm and flexible.
8. Not taking yourself too seriously.
9. Laugh and smile (genuinely and not because people keep telling you to).
10. Utilize therapy (they’ll value active healing and self-development and better open communication as a result).
11. Know how to listen, empathize, sympathize and have compassion. People who make the effort consistently to be kind.
12. Optimism and choosing a positive outlook and mindset.
We all want to be happy and, humans being the inherently social/communal creatures we are, the pinnacle of that happiness is having happy relationships with other individuals (both human and non-human). Harboring and developing positive, mutually beneficial and symbiotic relationships in various capacities (romantic, platonic, friendship, sexual, work/career-based, family, etc.) is one of the two pillars of skyrocketing your net worth and a precursor to winning at life. The ability to forge and maintain happy, healthy and heartfelt relationships is one of the fundamental skills sets of wildly successful people. You cannot be successful on your own and you certainly cannot be successful with and around toxic, negative people. Quite the opposite, in fact. In order to win, you have to pursue winning relationships.
The phrases, “Birds of a feather stick together” and “Show me your friends and I’ll tell you who you are” never rang truer. You are the common denominator of everyone choose to have in your life. So, those around you are a reflection of you. You get what you give, you receive what you put out (your input is your output) and you ultimately teach people how to treat you, i.e., relate to you (by showing—not just telling—them what you will and will not allow or tolerate).
So, basically, whether or not you have happy, healthy, heartfelt relationships is entirely up to you and whether or not you choose each of those positive qualities for yourself. If you don’t know who you currently are and, more importantly, who you want to become, then you are likely to attract just about any and everybody into your life as you lack a necessary relationship filter. So, know (or learn/explore) who you are and who you want to become at any given time so you attract the types of people who align with that person, will be wholistically beneficial to that person, and ensure the ongoing success of that person. Be mindful, also, that you cannot expect to get more out of somebody or a relationship with somebody than you are willing to put in/give. There needs to be symbiosis. Say no to parasitic relationships (even mild ones) and do not become a parasite yourself. Happy, sustainable and healthy relationships are fundamentally mutually beneficial, honest, and based on growth, progress and prosperity for everyone involved as both the means to the end and the end itself.
Understand that, by nature, most living things, including humans, are opportunists.
That’s not inherently wrong or right, just something wired into organic life to ensure the highest chances of survival, which is the most fundamental goal of any living organism. Being an opportunist does not equal being a parasite. All parasites are opportunists, but not all opportunists are parasites. We all seek opportunity to better ourselves, improve our lives and thrive, and, if not for ourselves, then for those we care about and love like our significant others, children, parents, etc.
People, in general, aren’t against you; they’re simply for themselves. There is a huge and fundamental difference. That, again, is not something that’s inherently wrong even though the concept and accompanying sentiment have been practically hammered into us that it is—naturally, to our detriment, individually and collectively. We have internalized the individual search for opportunity and betterment as something wrong or evil. We think it’s noble and praiseworthy to always put others before ourselves, especially as women, and particularly, Black/African women—far too often (almost always, honestly) to our detriment and demise. There is probably no bigger (or more harmful) fallacy. This is why so many of us tolerate toxic and negative relationships (familial, intimate/sexual, and platonic). We are seemingly conditioned from birth to accept dysfunction (in its many shapes and forms) as normal and simply a part of life and to somehow be okay with it even when it crushes us. It is crucial to make the distinction between those who are seeking a symbiotic and mutually-beneficial relationship and those who seek to do nothing but take from you and have nothing to offer in return except pain, heartbreak and disappointment. Do not try to make excuses for or justify a bad, negative or otherwise toxic and unhappy relationship. Making the best out of a bad relationship will never be even remotely anywhere near basking in the glow of a happy and healthy relationship. There is simply no comparison.
All this to say, to have happy, healthy and heartfelt relationships, you need to truly understand how to relate to other human beings and non-human animals in a way that is genuinely healthy and happy for you both.
The relationship should be just as much about you as the other person. Do not put the other person’s interests above your own. Putting yourself first and caring about/loving someone else are not mutually exclusive. This is not an “either/or” situation. It’s “both”. Do not go with the dichotomous or binary mindset and way of thinking that so many engage in on some level. You do not have to put your interests below those of the other person to show or prove that you care about them or because you love them. Relationships built on love, happiness and positivity do not require or encourage one person or party be stifled in order for the other to thrive. One person cannot sink while the other swims. You are either both Michael Phelps-ing it or you are both busy drowning.
This is why no amount of work/therapy/counseling, etc. will produce a happy, healthy, and heartfelt relationship with someone who is toxic to you, be it intentionally or involuntarily. Do not fall into the trap of trying to excuse, justify or otherwise accept and tolerate indirect or unintended toxicity in a relationship. Impact >>> Intent. A person does not have to be abusive or blatantly poisonous to be toxic to you. It’s important to spot and recognize incompatibilities based not just on fundamental personality, but created as a result of emotional/psychological baggage they’ve not/been unable to work through and heal from enough to truly move on and be happy. In the same vein and by the same token, if you have undealt with/snowballing emotional or psychological baggage (unfortunately, a lot of us do), it places a cap on the extent of the happiness and health of your relationships. You have to be willing to do the work to unpack and process emotional and psychological trauma and struggles not just for your relationships with others, but ultimately for your relationship with yourself and the person you want to become. If you’re willing to take the time and put in the energy to do the work required to better yourself, then the same should ring true for whoever you are choosing to have a relationship with. There is nothing worse than a person who has no self-awareness or willingness to grow and evolve through their life. You will only be stifled by a relationship with such an individual and your own self-improvement and progress will be stunted as a result. Do not allow the baggage and unwillingness of someone to learn, reflect and grow to deter or rob you of doing just that and reaping the lifelong benefits of doing so. Prevention will always be better than cure, so it is in your interest and absolutely worth your while to avoid toxic people from the very beginning rather than trying to make it work with them or having to pick up the pieces after it inevitably does not work out. The bad taste they leave in your mouth may negatively impact how you relate to others moving forward. Do not allow the negativity and toxicity of others to get you jaded, distrustful and pessimistic about relationships of any kind with other people. There are great, wonderful, positive, happy people all around us. We just have to have our eyes open and want to see and be receptive to them. Ultimately, we ourselves have to be happy, optimistic and discerning to attract those people.
Following from the previous point, never fall into the bottomless time-sink/rabbit hole of wanting to or thinking you can “fix” someone. This is something a lot of women have been socialized and conditioned to want to do. As women generally tend to be nurturing, we have the tendency to want to make things better and habitually coddle bad behavior and sometimes deeply struggle with “cutting the cord”, so to speak. A lot of us exhibit this behavior in romantic and sexual relationships, in particular. You must come to terms with the fact that there is no fixing a doomed situation. There is no repairing a broken relationship. Again, this is why it is so vital to explore who you are and who you want to become so that you have a good grip on your reality (and the one you desire for yourself) by having a healthy dose of self-awareness so that you know what you will and will not tolerate in your life. Seriously, do not allow someone else’s fuckery to fuck you over. Any addition to your life should do just that—add. Not take away. You should never have to feel like you need to fix someone, in the first place. You are not their mother/parent/guardian. It is not your job/duty/responsibility to be someone else’s protector/savior/shield/life mechanic. You are only responsible for “fixing” yourself. No one else. Not even your children (biological, adopted, etc.) Even minors must also eventually grow up and learn to do the work of self-improvement and protect themselves in order to survive, thrive and successfully navigate life. The thing that will influence them the most is watching how you to do all three. So, lead them by example and normalize prioritizing self and rejecting the normalization of dysfunction and excusing toxicity, emotional immaturity and parasitic behavior.
There is nothing “noble” about being a “tree” so that everyone else can be “flowers”. It is exhausting to have to be strong all the time, whether for yourself or others. A relationship in which you always have to be strong for the other person and essentially have to do the emotional and mental weightlifting all the time will steadily erode your sense of self-worth and end up putting your own emotional needs and mental well-being on the back burner indefinitely. A happy, healthy relationship requires that both people are grounded and can both rely and depend on each other in a compatible fashion without burdening themselves or the other person with baggage they need to individually work through. If a person always expects you to be there for them without reciprocating, they are a parasite. It is not your responsibility to shoulder the full weight of any relationship and other people’s emotions. Be strong for yourself and others, with the expectation and condition that they are also strong for themselves and for you, in return. As a matter of fact, this quote best sums it up: “Take care of you for me and I’ll take care of me for you.” The best thing you can truly do for another person you want to share a happy and healthy relationship with is taking care of yourself because it will be to their benefit as them taking care of themselves will be to yours. Again, you are not a tree. You are a sunflower. The biggest and brightest kind. So, reject the idea, internalization or tendency to want or have to be strong all the time. You are allowed to cry. You are allowed to be “weak”. You are allowed to be emotional. You are allowed to be soft. You are allowed to be dainty. And you are allowed to be everything in between. You can take on the role of a tree when absolutely necessary—and only for those who are absolutely worth it—but that is not your default position. That is not your identity. That is not your title. That is not your duty and not your inherentresponsibility. Again, this rings truest for Black/African women the world over, on the continent and across the diaspora. Don’t get it twisted: you are stronger than you think, absolutely. But you’re also more fragile than you (and others) have been falsely led to believe. Protect yourself, your emotions, and your interests first and foremost and align yourself with those who also possess a healthy and positive sense of self-worth and who equally appreciate and actively practice symbiosis. Say no to being a “mammy”. Say no to parasites. Say no to emotional, mental and financial sponges. Say no to those who are not for you in addition to themselves. They will do nothing but suck away your life force and everything good and positive that it entails and leave you with emotional illness and scarring of varying kinds at best.
As you can see, a lot of forging and maintaining amazing, happy and healthy relationships entails avoiding or cutting off people who don’t fit the mold to have one with. Again, prevention is better than cure, but better late than never to put an end to a toxic, unhappy and unfulfilling relationship of any kind. Remember, there are relationships and people worth fighting for, and there are obviously those that just aren’t. Do not deceive yourself or be in denial about what is worth fighting for. You know deep down when a relationship is not worth pursuing, staying in, or fighting for—likely because you are the only one really fighting for it. If you’re the only one invested in making a relationship work or survive, then not only is it an unhappy relationship, it’s not a relationship at all. Again, our relationship is based on how you relate to the person you have it with. When you clear your life and mind of negative relationships and their associated emotions, you create room for happy, positive ones. By that simple elimination, you allow yourself ample opportunity to actively choose and create the happy relationships you want. Again, this is where being an opportunist comes in. Always choose to your mutual benefit and learn from past negative relationships so that you do not repeat the same actions and decisions that led to down that wonky path in the first place. This will also allow you to become a better judge of character over time and more easily recognize—and dodge—negative people from miles away.
In your pursuit of forging and developing healthy, happy and heartfelt relationships, be cautious of giving people (especially ones you just recently met or still getting to know well) the benefit of the doubt. It sounds like a gracious thing to extend and a positive gesture of understanding, but it’s actually not to your benefit. Again, it’s something a lot of us tend to do, especially since we know first impressions don’t tell the whole story and we, therefore, feel inclined to give the other person ample opportunity to get to know us without judging them too early. Understand, however, that you don’t just give people a chance: they have to show you that they have earned that chance. Yes. They have to earn it. This does not mean you should be distrustful of people. It simply means it’s both smart and reasonable to give people the opportunity to earn your trust. It should not be freely given. Trust and understanding that’s granted and not earned is not valued. For example, a man or woman you just started seeing and getting to know better may have not given you any reason to doubt, be wary or suspicious of them, but if they haven’t given you any reason not to be either, then that doesn’t mean anything. It’s important to make that distinction and remember it. When you make people earn you (your emotions, trust, help, blessings, approval, validation, love, etc.) they will value it and never take it for granted because it was never simply granted to them. If you want to be valuable (which is an ongoing requirement for a healthy, happy, valuable relationship) then you have to put a “price” on yourself—and slap some tax on it—and know both who you are and who you want to become. You cannot value a person you do not know, and this applies most of all to yourself. So, know yourself. If you still feel inclined to give people the benefit of the doubt or passes that they have not learned and are not yet convinced that shouldn’t, understand that it’s quite hard not to be who you are on a fundamental level (for better or worse) whether or not you have awareness of who that is. So, when someone shows you who they are—and they will, often sooner than later—you best believe them and act accordingly. Do not ignore red flags, even when they’re only a pastel pink. This is something else we tend to do. This is part of how a lot of us have internalized justifying or excusing away bad behavior and toxicity in our relationships. Chances are, the red flag(s) will steadily and shortly progress to full-blown indigo. You definitely don’t want things to get to that stage before you take the appropriate action—cut them the fuck off. It will save you so much mental and emotional pain, not to mention your most valuable asset: your time, treasured things you can never get back.
Once you make a habit of steering clear of individuals and groups of individuals you don’t genuinely align with emotionally and mentally, it’s exponentially easier to spot those who do. Remember, only you can allow who shares your space and life so never get in your own way of happiness and happy relationships and always choose to your advantage and well-being. There is literally no reason to do otherwise. Like…none. Whatsoever. There’s just no upside to picking the wrong person/people to be in your life in the sort of intimate capacity a happy and healthy relationship requires and entails. As they say, “your network is your net worth”. Choose winners and you win. Choose losers and, well…you get the drift. It truly is a simple as that. Happy, healthy, heartfelt relationships only seem hard, complicated, out of reach and even something of an enigma to those who have internalized and therefore normalized unhappiness and toxicity in their relationship(s). Whether that be with friends, lovers, family, etc. But even when you know or have learned to steer clear of negative people and, therefore, avoid forging negative relationships with them, having a checklist of qualities to develop yourself and demand in others is fundamental to keep as a reminder:
Remember, if you are going to demand something from somebody else, you must demand it from yourself, as well. This is how symbiosis works and is the foundation of happy, healthy, heartfelt relationships:
The willingness and commitment to learnnow (not “later”).