By Froswa’ Booker-Drew
We always hear that relationships are critical. I think we all believe that statement to be true but the challenge for many of us is finding the time to connect with those who enrich our journey. So often, our experiences limit us from making time to seek out those individuals who could inspire, motivate and even stretch our thinking. When I was a kid, I was bullied. There was a group of girls who every day made me their target. I wasn’t much of a fighter and so I ran away. I remember staying home for a week from school because their torment made me physically ill. This experience created a serious distrust in me for girls, then as an adult, for women. This experience became a filter, a lens of some sort, of how I processed relationships, especially with women.
I realized that I was attracting people into my life who were not trustworthy as an adult. I had female friends but only a few (less than 3) were allowed to be a part of my world on many levels. I was afraid that if I was transparent, they would not only reject me but hurt me again. So the same way I ran away from the bullies, I also ran away from confronting these relationships in my life. This was reenacted in a variety of situations: I had bosses that were extremely insecure–they were mean to me in order to feel better about themselves. I found myself preferring to work with men because I did not want to deal with those issues of my past that caused me pain. It wasn’t only women who were not trustworthy but I also attracted men who took advantage of my ideas and desire to help. In the end, I recognized that I was involved in my own sabotage. I recognized that in addition to the trust issue, I wasn’t dealing with it either.
My problem wasn’t that women were not trustworthy or that men were any better in embodying trust as a character trait…It was that I did not trust myself and my decisions and this manifested in my relationships. I could not make decisions and I always needed someone to give feedback or affirm what I thought. As I began to trust myself, my relationships also changed. I began to attract into my world more women that I could trust and experience authenticity in our relationship. I did not see the correlation for years but as I’ve gotten older, I am a firm believer that self-reflection is important in the process of growth. It is easy to stay in a place of being stuck, blaming others for our inability to reach our goals, not realizing that at times, we have a hand in our own defeat. As I realized my contribution, I could no longer make others responsible for the lack of depth in my relationships.
In order to build relationships with individuals that bring fulfillment, growth, and opportunities into our lives, we must be open to understanding who we are and how that impacts those we connect with. It isn’t always true that opposites attract. Sometimes we attract people in our lives that are a reflection of our unresolved issues or what we believe about ourselves at the core of our being. If you want amazing relationships, you have to examine and reflect on who you are as a person. Becoming aware of your triggers, strengths, aspirations and even those areas that are hard to look at are critical in the self-reflection journey.
Telling your story is an important part of the journey. Our stories reveal what we think about ourselves and share our identity. The story is always evolving. It is problematic when the story revolves around our roles and relationships to others solely. I remember conducting a research group comprised of diverse women in race, ethnicity and socio-economic status. Most of the women shared their titles and what they did for others when they introduced themselves. When they were told to try it again and share who they really are—the stories unfolded. Women were more than their jobs—they were friends, lovers, seekers and change agents. When we strip away those layers and begin to understand who we really are (not as others define us but how we see ourselves) that is when we can begin to examine and explore the vastness of who we are. I challenge you to think about what you want in your relationships and if that does not exist, focus on how you can build that in yourself first. Take time to write your story. What does your story say about how you see yourself? What does it say about your relationships? Writing a relational essay is a great opportunity to view how relationships have impacted you and your perspective about yourself, your leadership and abilities. To make an authentic change, you have to be willing to not rewrite your story but change the way you see yourself and what you say about yourself. Watch how your relationships also change in the process of your transformation!
Froswa’ Booker-Drew is National Director of Community Engagement for World Vision, US Programs. Froswa’ graduated in August 2014 with a PhD in Leadership and Change from Antioch University with a focus on social capital (relationship building), diverse women, and the Immunity to Change process. She is the author of the book, Rules of Engagement: Making Connections Last, a workbook for women to build their network by understanding their net worth beyond the financial. To learn more about the book, visit www.austinbrotherspublishing.com.