Emotions are a part of life, but they can't overtake you...

I have a friend, we will call refer to her as L. in this post. L. is a nice girl, friendly, wants to be liked and be likable. She’s your typical ‘people pleaser.’ In her perfect world, everyone gets along, there’s no disagreements or tension, and it’s all gravy. She’s not like me, as I’m more of a realist. I realize that some people will mesh well, others not so much. People will compliment you, and also tell you when you’re acting like a fool. Some people will like you, and others will not. It’s okay if you agree not to agree. You don’t have to be friends with everybody. You don’t have to follow the crowd, you can embark on your own path. So, in this regard, L. and I were different.

Of course, I would like everyone in the world to get along too, but it’s not the way of life. Growing is about forming your own opinions, relating to people and colliding with people, disagreeing and agreeing. Hearing what others have to say, even, if it’s not what you want to hear. This is where L. falters, pathetically.

The girl can’t take criticism or any negative comment. I’ve never seen someone so sensitive in my adult life. She’s 23 years old, but has the temperament of a 6 year old. L. was the kind of girl who, you almost had to be careful with your words, because she was tears-prone, meaning, emotionally fragile. This was hard for me because, I’m blunt and honest, something I get from my Italian family. My family would tell you when you were doing good, and when you were screwing up. Direct, to the point. Growing up, there were times where it did hurt me on occasion, but now, looking back, so thankful they did that, because they fortified me with a tough skin, and a determination to push myself  to always do better. Not to settle.

With L., there were times she’d call me, on her way home from work, crying on the phone…

L.- “My boss made me cry today…”

Me- “Why, what happened?”

L.- “She said I wasn’t performing up to speed, for how long I’ve been at the bank, I should be more efficient…and I try so hard…”

I sat on the other end of the phone for a minute, reflecting on what she had just said. The boss made you cry? No, you made yourself cry. You let yourself get consumed by a critique from your boss, which brought on a slew of tears. Really? Grow some tough skin, girl. Now I’m not suggesting that I’ve never broke down into tears, of course I have. Sometimes, due to the pressures of life, work, school, financial obligations, taking care of a home, children, and everything else in between…it’s enough to make someone run around like a chicken with its head cut off. But that’s more stress related. My friend L. here, had such a thin, fragile emotional shell that she rendered herself practically incapable of being able to handle the not-so-peachy side of life.

Me- “Well, take it with a grain of salt. Nothing to get all upset about; it’s constructive criticism. You’re not always going to get praise. A boss, like a parent, should tell you when something isn’t up to par, or if there’s room for improvement. That’s life.”

L.- “I know, I know, it’s just I try so hard at my job to do well I guess it just upsets me when I hear I’m not doing as well as I should.”

Me- “Yes, but if we were told all the time how good we were doing, even if something wasn’t up to par, then how would we ever know that it could be better, that it could be improved? That’s why it’s necessary to hear the negative from time to time, so we can grow from that and learn.”

After this small friend to friend counseling session, I hung up the phone. Geez, I thought. Some people…just live in their own little fabricated world where they think everything should be peaches. Well, newsflash! It’s not! That’s life people! If you can’t take the heat, get out, so to speak. If life was full of people praising us and telling us that yes, you do look great in those pants (even when you really looked fat) it would be a horrible world. We as a species, would be walking around naively assuming that everything is dipped in sugar and people are generally nice. No, not so. Life is full of setbacks, tough decisions, trying moments in which our strength is measured, and uncomfortable situations in which our composure is tested. This is how we grow as a person. If life were easy and candy-coated, it wouldn’t be as interesting. We would get bored with the familiarity of pleasantness.

Looking at my friend L., I just want to shake her and say, toughen up! It’s life, it happens. There’s times where my advice gets through to her but then other times, where it goes through one ear and out the other. When it comes down to it, a friend, coworker nor a family member can change you. They can guide, but you have to change you. Be the change you want to see.