I’ve quietly severed ties with most of my family.
When I woke up to roughly 38 text messages and several missed calls from someone filled with criticisms and harsh words regarding my “chaotic life,” and second-hand reports of other family members talking smack, I experienced a storm of feelings.
For a good part of the day, I wanted to reach out, take the high road, be the bigger man (or some other such rot), call them up and tell them that I’m doing really well and that I “appreciate the concern.” I could have told the truth that I make good money, have some wonderful people in my life that love and care for me, and that I’m generally very content with myself and where I’m headed.
I almost started dialing when something crucial dawned on me: my family knows virtually nothing about me. Whatever negative opinions they had of me were apocryphal at best, and none of them has ever asked me how I’m doing, what I think or feel, nor shown support for me. It became all too clear that there was a good reason why they were not a part of my life: I abandoned them for my own health.
What kind of person would I be if I tried to appease these people? Not just my absentee family, but anyone who hopes for my failure, pushes me aside, or makes me feel diminished? I used to be someone like that, and I hate that past version of myself. I used to have a terrible habit of making room for negative people. I would form relationships with complainers, perpetual victims, and generally damaged individuals. I must have believed that I could make a difference, and perhaps gain some kind of heroic status by improving their lives. And really, that’s all I wanted to do: elevate others. But with so many people, there is no possible way to help them; they can only help themselves, and even that is a dubious prospect.
In my naivete, I convinced myself of falsehoods like “people are good at heart” or “eventually, this person will be reasonable.” I let this cycle go on for years before realizing the art of subtraction. I’ve ended many bad relationships with a simple goodbye and a polite “thank you,” even if I was consumed by rage or despair inside.
Finding truly supportive people who desire your success is rare and valuable. It’s so easy for unstable and volatile people to worm their way into your head, and even seem attractive by the danger and baggage with which they come. We take a risk when we trust someone, and that’s okay; we simply need to be ready to embrace the risk of losing someone for our own benefit. We can be of no great benefit to others if we are not in tune with ourselves, our ambitions, and needs. What’s worse is that, like it or not, we will become more like the people with whom we spend the most time. If those people suck, then you will also suck. Keep an eye on who takes up your time on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis, and ask yourself what benefits you’re truly getting out of the deal. Understand who is genuinely interested in your advancement and betterment as a person.
Ridding yourself someone doesn’t have to be a dramatic passion play or a violent altercation. Silently writing off detractors and dead-weight people is quite effective. Indifference can be your aegis, and matter-of-fact honesty can be your means of severance. Those you are removing might get irritated, but your coldness will wear down their energy, and such coldness is essential if someone is acting wrathful or trying to be a parasite for your attention. Luckily, most of the dead weight in our lives won’t even notice if you abandon them.
You and I, dear reader, have better things ahead in our lives. I urge you to focus on building the best life you can and surrounding yourself with the best friends and partners you can find. It may be lonely at first, maybe for a long time, but it will be worth it.