It was my best friend’s birthday today and her husband had organized a surprise party, with lots of old friends, some who I hadn’t seen in a long time. And while the surprise for her worked perfectly, I got a few of my own too.

I was talking to one of said friends, that I used to know way back when too and kept in Facebook contact with, and she told me how she had always admired my independence, living on my own, seemingly careless of what the world thought and doing my own thing. It’s true, I have always been pretty independent and have always enjoyed doing my own thing. My mom used to joke, that my first words were “I can do it myself”. But I never realized that might be something people could admire in me. Doing my own thing made me feel different from the rest, and being different was frowned upon, mocked and excluded.

I don’t know why I always think or assume I’m unlikable, or that people like me in the beginning, but sooner or later I’ll do something to mess that up and people stop liking me (as has happened a lot in my childhood and formative years). My first so-called friends would literally use their friendship to manipulate me, if I didn’t do what they wanted, they’d revoke their friendship and I’d have no one to play with, until I caved and did what they asked. It made friendship conditional. Later I’d make friends, but then would somehow lose them after a while. The worst thing was that I never knew or realized what I had done to provoke that, so I felt I was losing friends but could never figure out why. I’d stumble in the dark, trying to figure out what it was they wanted in return for their friendship and trying to feel my way back into their graces again. If that didn’t work, I just hoped I wouldn’t repeat the same mistake with someone else. It has left me with a very strong sense that being me was somehow bad or wrong and that I should be grateful and make no demands if someone deigned themselves my friend.

To hear someone say that they admired me for being me goes against what I learned to believe. And it’s that belief that I’m trying to “unlearn”. I don’t have to change or grovel to be “granted” friendship. I don’t have to squeeze myself into the mold to be accepted. Being me does have value, I have value. I am likable, maybe even lovable. And with old friends like that and new friends who see me as I am reminding me, I will eventually learn to believe that instead.

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