I’ve always been a people person. Even though I certainly have my introverted side too. I just love human beings in all their glory, hilarity, and messiness. I find people absolutely fascinating, which is important since boring is my kryptonite, and I can generally find something to like about everyone. If I don’t like you, then you started it. And you know who you are!
Now this all might sound awesome. Liking people and developing healthy reciprocal relationships is beneficial. From having safety in numbers during the hunting-gathering days to living healthier, happier, and longer lives now. But this is a story about minimalism and the funny thing about minimalism is to even have it cross your mind, you have to have an excess.
Taking the minimalism of stuff into consideration, if you don’t have your basic needs met or just have them met, you certainly aren’t thinking about letting go of the stuff you do have. Because you need it! You can only let go of that which serves no purpose for you.
This is the same with people as it is with stuff. If you feel lonely because you don’t have many-or any-family and friends, you’re usually more concerned with, how do I get more of that, rather than how do I make some cuts.
So in some ways even considering minimalism in your life is a luxury. So in order not to be a complete a-hole feel the gratitude for all of the abundance you have because you are lucky in that sense.
But you also have to recognize that excess causes problems too. I just linked an extremely long research article to this because I think this is such an important idea to explore in more depth and I’m not about to get into it right now. But for those who don’t read it, I’ll just say excess contributes to stress, anxiety, depression, obesity, and pollution to name a few problems. Extremes of any kind are problematic because life naturally strives for balance and it will certainly let us know when something is out of whack.
This brings me back to people. In my own life (And I’m sure other people persons can relate.), I want to be friends with EVERYONE! And generally that’s reciprocated. I mean, who doesn’t like being around people who like them? It feels really freaking good. But there are still only so many hours in a day and unfortunately, I’m not yet at the point in my life where I’m a socialite.
So this has led me to the point where, awhile ago, I told one of my close friends as we were chatting about something of this vein, “I don’t feel the need to make anymore friends.” And to take that even a step further, I’ve had to reevaluate my relationships overall. As I’ve had less and less time to just hang, I’ve had to say no more often. Which is sometimes difficult to do. And it’s been difficult for me to do because I have to challenge certain myths I’ve come to believe throughout my life. So I’m going to share these myths with you and my attempts to combat them. Although, I’ll note this is probably the aspect of minimalism I struggle most with.
Myth #1: I have to please others.
Somewhere in my childhood I was trained that I needed to meet other people’s wants and needs in order to have them love me. We won’t get into the details, but this is fairly common in most people’s lives. Think of standard parenting and educational behavior management: Do what I want you to do and you’ll get rewarded. Don’t do what I want you to do and you’ll get punished.
I highly admire the rebels who said eff that and didn’t succumb to the social conditioning (In a positive way; we’re not talking socio and psychopaths here.). And I’ve used them as role models in my people pleasing recovery.
Just because someone wants to hang with me doesn’t mean I have to hang with them. I don’t feel comfortable with rejecting others because I’ve felt the pain of rejection and it sucks. I don’t want others to experience that pain. But I’m also not responsible for anyone else’s feelings. And saying yes to things/people in life means saying no to other things/people. I don’t have any qualms about getting into a monogamous, romantic relationship even though that means saying no to other partners so why should it be different in other social relationships.
I try to be as mindful as possible when making decisions about what to do or who to spend time with. Is it because I truly want to or is it because I feel the need to please? If it’s the latter, I try to take a closer look at why I feel the urge to please. If it’s the latter, I do my best to decline. Obligation in relationships can be a killer. You usually end up feeling some resentment toward the person and people know when you don’t actually want to be there. Quality over quantity is always more rewarding.
Myth #2: I have to be open to meeting new people and building new relationships.
Networking, am I right? I don’t know the stats on this, but I’d venture to say most people aren’t huge fans. There’s also this thing that cliques are bad. Even though since the dawn of civilization we’ve congregated into smaller communities of like-minded individuals.
Ultimately, this myth holds some personal truth for me. Being open to new and different opportunities and people contributes to a richer life. But I also think there’s something to be said for when your life is too full to have room for anything new.
There are a couple ways to deal with that. One, don’t add anything new for a bit. If you’re happy and satisfied with your life, it’s completely okay to enjoy that. Still, to continue to grow and evolve, change has to occur and change is easier to deal with when there’s some space for that. So two, we have to frequently evaluate who and what is in our life and the effect they’re having on our life so we can let go of that which no longer serves us and make room for the new.
In some ways, it feels callous to make cuts in your life when it comes to people. At the same time not everyone is healthy to have in your life and people come and go, just like anything else, and being too attached creates issues. Letting go of people can be especially difficult if they aren’t causing any major problems. Sometimes perfectly nice people just aren’t for you.
The way I evaluate the relationships in my life now are based on how I feel when spending time with them. Do they add something greater to my life? That doesn’t mean, how can I benefit from their presence (aka business connections, etc.), but rather do I feel like I’m a better person when I’m with them? Sometimes people are a lot of fun, but aren’t actually adding any substance. I’ve reached the point where substance is a major priority for me.
This isn’t the only consideration I make, though, because sometimes the people we should have in our lives make things uncomfortable and challenge us to be better even if it doesn’t always feel like it. There are those who won’t let us get away with our shit and if we aren’t mindful, we could dismiss them as being toxic when really it’s us that are being toxic. They’re simply a reflection of that and if you give them the axe, you’ll continue to encounter their clones until you do the work on yourself.
There is no hard, fast, and easy way to evaluate who and what to keep and let go of in life, but being in the present moment as much as possible goes a long way to inform those decisions.
Myth #3: I always have to be friendly and approachable.
People are lonely. More lonely than they’ve ever been. You hear story after story about how someone was always ignored or bullied and how one smile saved someone’s life. For a long time I’ve made it my personal mission to smile and say hello to everyone I come across just in case they don’t get that anywhere else.
Most of the time I want to do it. I enjoy smiling and chatting. But sometimes I’m just freaking tired. There are days where the last thing I want is to see another person, much less listen to them, and attempting to do this feels like a burden.
On top of that, because people are so hungry for legit human connection, I frequently experience what I call “the glom effect.” This is where lonely people mistake casual friendliness for best-friendness. The oversharing and desperation for immediate closeness feels overwhelming and to be frank, is a turnoff.
So, while it doesn’t always feel comfortable, there are times when I avoid populated areas and/or keep my head down to avoid any eye contact. I tell myself it’s okay to have my “me time,” I don’t owe anyone anything, and I’m not the social savior of the world. Ultimately it’s everyone’s responsibility to connect with others and often those who struggle to connect, do so because of their own personal issues, not because all of society is this terrible, awful place we’d sometimes like to believe.
As with all of life, minimalism and the evaluation of the relationships in your life requires presence and mindfulness. And courage. To do something different and make tough choices, but life is always better for it.