Substance over Appearance


The first time it occurred to me that it “really sucks to be her,” there was a definite catty edge to it. I was licking my own wounds, elevating my own hurts, and the sense of superiority numbed the pain a bit. Later, it really hit me how much it might “really suck to be her,” and my heart broke with compassion. I wish I could say that I have always felt compassion for her since that moment, but I’m all too human.

You see, I know her secrets. I know that there is not a lot behind the front she puts out — that her existence is based mostly on appearances. It really looks like she fears me (and others like me) who could actually topple the house of cards that she’s built. If so, she’s living a life looking over her shoulder and waiting for everything to go wrong.

So, I really think she creates a social wall around herself and polarizes people by creating a sense that if they are her friends, they can’t be mine. It’s not something she would do overtly. She would question my character and my reputation with little pinprick comments that flow by unperceived by her social group.

My point in posting  this skeleton of a story (that really only exists in my mindfor certain) is not to put the other person down, but to give context. Whether this story I have conjured up in my mind about her is true or not, it has become a growth experience. That is the power of choosing to live by doing right to others and to hold to honor and integrity.

I have struggled through anger, resentment, and outrage. In a resurgance of codependent reactions, I wanted to force her to talk to me until she could see what was really going on. I wanted to confront those I believed were swallowing her version of me and show them who I really am. I wanted someone to “make it right for me.” It hasn’t happened. She still hates me, she still believes that I hate her, and her “inner circle” will have nothing to do with me unless there is absolutely no socially acceptable way to get out of it.

Thankfully, I am learning to overcome those feelings. I have learned that feelings are simply signals. Negative feelings are signals that something somewhere is out of line. I had to identify what was out of line and fix what I could.

It’s been an interesting process, because the things that it seems would be a no-brainer to fix are completely out of my control. I can only fix me and change my perspective. That’s when I began applying the principle of “stop resisting” to this circumstance.

That’s when I really started learning:

  • Although I had not always been in the right in every circumstance, I had apologized for everything I should. I had also done everything I reasonably could to set things right. Because of my codependent history, this was an important step. I can’t expect myself to be perfect, so I have to accept honorable. It’s also reasonable to expect others to accept me as honorable and not try to hold me to the standard of perfection.
  • Reputation is appearance. It is fluff. While a good reputation can draw people to me initially, it is the substance of who I am that is going to keep them there. While there are those who will be kept away by negative stories and rumors, there are many who will want to see who I am. I can look forward to many rewarding friendships and such in my future. I can feel sad over the missed opportunities of those who stay away, but I don’t have to resist their choice or label them as evil.
  • I can continue to be a friend to someone who is definitely not my friend. While this isn’t always advisable (such as in a bullying or abuse situation), in my case it can work. I don’t have to expect anything friendly from this particular woman or her inner circle to still be a friend. I can still smile and be courteous, and I can still be willing to engage with them socially as far as they are comfortable. I can also be a friend by leaving them alone and allowing them to attend the same social event without creating awkward scenes. (Again, a realization that is essential to a recovering codependent.)

Yes, this course has definitely been the harder path. Many, many times it would have felt much more gratifying in the moment to cause a scene or launch a counter-attack by slowly and strategically leaking her secrets. In the end, I would have lost my substance, and I would have hated waking up and looking at the woman staring at me in the mirror each morning.

Choosing to be a person of substance will probably always be the harder path, and I think I sometimes am falling off the path more than I am actually walking it. I may always have to beat back the anger and frustration over the situation to refocus myself on what is really important in my life. But, just knowing that there is the possibility of living beyond all the negativity of this and other things in life makes trying to be a person of substance worth it to me.


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