A simple question

My youngest daughter is in her pre-teens, and often talks with me when there are conflicts between her and her friends. She has also had a boyfriend or two and although I wish she could wait longer, she has to make her own choices.

What is cute to observe is that the behaviour of pre-teens is not that different to the behaviour of adults. Some of our emotions are difficult to accept or even recognise and make us behave in strange ways. Sometimes in hurtful ways.

I keep repeating to her that the way people act has very little to do with her and a lot to do with their own feelings and perceptions. This applies to all kinds of human interactions really. When we feel vulnerable or insecure, we can act in ways that send very confusing messages. We can act in hurtful ways. I know it because I have experienced it and maybe more importantly, because I have behaved like that too. Knowing this, we can avoid or at least reduce the emotional distress we can experience when someone behaves like that towards us, and rather try to show some compassion and understanding. At least mentally.

This said, I encourage my daughter to think about what kind of people she wants to have around her and what kind of people she’d better keep a distance from. Not because they are ‘mean’ but because of the energy she spends in the relationship.

Reflecting further about a conversation I had with her the other day, I came up with a formula, next time someone treats you in a way that makes you feel bad, ask yourself, would you ever consciously treat someone like that and feel good about yourself ? If the answer is no, then why do you keep hanging out with people that do so towards you? Some people aren’t aware of how their behavior affects others, and it is a good idea to try to talk about it in a constructive way, but if the behavior continues, I believe it is better to take a distance. No need to be nasty, no need for a big drama. I think we need to consciously decide who we spend mental and emotional energy on, and who we can keep at a healthy mental and emotional distance from.

Lastly, it is good to observe this kind of patterns in others to recognise it in ourselves and work with it. We can sometimes hurt others unintentionally, and it is okay as long as we recognise it and learn from it so we do not repeat it.

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