What if your Relationships are Hurting You?

You've heard the phrase, “you’re a product of your environment” or "tell me who your friends are and I'll tell you who you are" ? Think about all the things that make up your environment: smells, sounds, textures, tastes. To us, no element of your environment is more important than others – the people with whom you surround yourself. Family, friends, coworkers, acquaintances, mentors, idols, enemies – all of these people have a positive or negative influence on you in subtle and overt ways. In turn, you have an influence on these people. With time we develop others' habits, mannerisms, moral views, and often we aren't conscious of it. How many people find themselves acting like their mother or father and not knowing how it even happened?!

Humans are social creatures, fact. If we were perfectly operating organisms we would deviate from those who make us feel bad, and gravitate towards those who make us feel good. Maybe even cherry pick the traits that we'd like and block out any possibility of others seeping in through the cracks. It all seems too logical, doesn't it? Humans are far from perfect, though; our flaws our complex, and we often find ourselves hanging around the exact people we should be avoiding.  

At Life Degree we have identified and teach on the four relationships that inform your college life (and truthfully life in general can be divided the same way). These relationships, which we fondly call the 4 P’s, have their own subcultures. Each has established norms, rules, roles, and languages that shape behavior.

  1. Personal relationships involve your friends and family.
  2. Peer relationships involve your classmates.
  3. Professorial relationships involve your past, current, and future professors.
  4. Professional relationships involve the coworkers and supervisors at your current or future job.

Can you, or do you even take the time to, identify relationships that should be formed, protected, or left behind, and how communication can make or break them.

For most people relationships form in structured environments, whether it's family, school, or work. A lot of times due to the longevity of a relationship we consider a person inextricably tied to us even if they are toxic for us. The forming, reforming, protecting, and leaving of relationships in a healthy manner is something most people don't evaluate. Well, just like you would Marie Kondo tidy up/clear something in your physical space that doesn't create value or serve you, the same is true of people. Not to say that if something someone does bothers you that you should automatically put a line through their name and off the list they go. Just like a relationship takes time to build we should make conscious decisions to distance ourselves or put in the effort you believe that relationship deserves based on the values that you hold dear.

That brings us to the values we have for the relationships in our lives. Do you know what those values are for you? If you do, do the people you dedicate time and energy to embody those values? If not, then there's some self-searching to do.

"That's great Borana," you say but it's not that easy. Some people you just can't move out of your life. You see, I've had the strong belief, for most of my upbringing, that no matter the situation you can't choose your family and you are forever bound to be loyal to them and their needs. Well, that was before I came to realize that many people don't have the fortune of coming from progressive, cultured, unconditionally self-sacrificing parents, and that I am the exception and not the rule. Your values, evan as an adult, and your reality aren't always in sync. When they're not then you have to wonder why and how because, especially when it comes to relationships, if they're not helping then they're probably hurting you.

Only in the past decade have I begun to see the strength it takes to distance yourself from even those you love because that proximity enables a person to keep committing mistaken acts towards you or not growing you in the ways you desire and need. No matter how hard the situation, whether you share a child, a work area, a lifetime of friendly memories, or even a bloodline with that a person… the feeling of obligation along with the "shoulds" and "moral right" do not make a relationship. A relationship in adulthood means exercising conscious choice.

If someone hurts you, or disrespects you, and you let them because you love them, you're in for a lifetime of hurt. That is when I came to realize that you can love a person from afar.

Regardless of the “P”, these 10 Relation Rules are crucial:

  1. Respect: If you do not respect yourself, you cannot respect others. How you treat others is your view of self reflected and vice-versa.
  2. Compassion:  We are humans for a reason, we can and should empathize with others.
  3. Truthfulness: You are nothing more than your word, break it and you are nothing.
  4. Don’t Steal: Theft (physical/intellectual) is disrespect of self, first and foremost, and the other. "When you lie, you steal a person's right to the truth. When you cheat, you steal the right to fairness"- Khaled Hosseini "Kite Runner"
  5. Accountability for Self: No matter the scenario you do have choice and you decide…. even if the decision at times is between a rock and a hard place.
  6. Abstain from Greed: Absolute power (or greed) corrupts absolutely. Don't ask, or take, from others more than what they have to offer. You can't go into a cake shop looking for shoes. What they offer is what they offer.
  7. Openness/Nonjudgemental: Maintain a pure (meaning non judgmental) idea of what each is offering in the relationship. Once a value judgment is placed on a person the relationship is no longer "unconditional."
  8. Contentment/Gratitude: Be happy with what you have by being grateful for it. It is easy to want the perfect partner, to want a relationship with an estranged sibling, or to even crave a better friendship with someone you've hurt. Start with being happy for those you do have in life and more will come.
  9. Self-Study: Dedicate time and effort into learning on your own, about and for yourself. The more you know yourself the clearer you will understand what and who you need in life, and what and who needs you.
  10. Surrender of Self: Be willing to be vulnerable. No risk no reward.

Here's hoping this leaves you with some clarity in your relations and even more questions than realizations. Until you realize what your values are then you will identify and attract the current values within, whether passively or actively. Questions are always a good place to start. Eventually when you're in harmony, aligned with your values, your environment and surrounding relationships will mirror not only the truth within but the truth desired.

Cecilia Paredes: Human Chameleon

Apply it to your life:

If you want a practical exercise then write down on a piece of paper the values about people and self that you believe to be your most important. Then take a look at the 4 Ps and mark your top 3 VIPs( very important people) in each category. Check and see if those people fit your values in life, if not then the hard work begins in asking why, then asking how/what you alter to ensure that the people in your life are ones that do.

With Appreciation,


You Live. You Learn.

Life Degree Society

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