Being Kind to Yourself Means Admitting The Awful Truth: Sometimes Your Friends & Family Can’t & Won’t Support You

Post by Kelly Diels.

art by kidbrainer

Being Kind to Yourself Means Admitting The Awful Truth: Sometimes Your Friends and Family Can’t and Won’t Support You

Have you heard the story about the scorpion and the frog?

There’s a fire. All the animals and insects and creepy-crawlies rush away from the blaze to the river’s edge. They’ve got to cross the river to get away from the fire. To get to safety.

The scorpion asks the frog to carry him across the river.

The practical frog says no. He says “You’ll sting me.”

The even more practical scorpion says, “No, I won’t. If I sting you, you’ll die, and if you die, then we’ll both drown. So obviously, I’m not going to sting you.”

The frog sees the logic – of course the scorpion is self-interested, and because of his desire to survive, won’t sting the frog – and agrees. And of course our frog wants to save the day. He wants to save the world! He’s a reasonable, kind-hearted frog. Yes, he’ll swim across the river with the scorpion on his back.

Halfway across the river, however, the scorpion stings the frog. As the frog is dying and they’re both drowning, the frog cries, “But why? Now we’re both going to die…why did you sting me?”

The scorpion says, “I’m a scorpion. It’s my nature.”

In this world, there are scorpions and there are frogs. Like you, I’m a kind-hearted frog, so if you had a pet scorpion and were considering a cuddle-fest with it, I would caution you to be kind to yourself and admit The Awful Truth: no matter how much you love this scorpion and tend it carefully and consider it your companion, your pet scorpion is a scorpion and scorpions sting.

It’s a silly analogy, sure, but it’s revealing. Reasonable frogs – which is to say, kind-hearted creatives – often give scorpions the benefit of the doubt or just plain hope away the inevitable stings.

For example: blog posts. Let’s say you want to write a deeply personal post that you KNOW will help other women struggling with same issue you do. But it’s personal. It will distress and embarrass your mother and your sister and your great-uncle So-and-So. But you publish it anyway, hoping they won’t say anything…maybe you even half-convince yourself that they’ll take the high-road, see the worth of your mission, the price of your sacrifice, the value of your contribution. Maybe, this time, they won’t criticize or say anything distressing.

Ha! Of course they will. Of course they do. And not graciously, either.

The Awful Truth: sometimes the people around you won’t support you….especially if your mission or your very being confuses and confounds them. (I suspect this is the universal dilemma of artists and creatives.) The solution might not be to exile your un-supporters from your life – though that’s the usual prescription, right? – but to admit who they are and how they behave.

In this vein, about the predictable inability of your friends and family to support your creative life, Hugh McLeod writes:

It’s not that they deliberately want to be unhelpful. It’s just they don’t know your world one millionth as well as you know your world, no matter how hard they try, no matter how hard you try to explain.

Plus, a big idea will change you. Your friends may love you, but they don’t want you to change. If you change, then their dynamic with you also changes. They like things the way they are, that’s how they love you–the way you are, not the way you may become.

Ergo, they have no incentive to see you change. And they will be resistant to anything that catalyzes it. That’s human nature. And you would do the same, if the shoe were on the other foot.

Your audacious world, so homey and familiar to you, is often foreign to your friends and family. They can’t speak the language and so what they can’t understand, they can’t support – and their lack of support presents as anything from benign-yet-distressing silence and inattention to outright criticism and judgement.

It’s not that they want to hurt you. It’s not even that they intend to be unsupportive. They just don’t get it. Hence, blow-back.

That’s The Awful Truth. And if you predict and prepare for it, it might not send you reeling.

Or even sting you.

More metaphors, more scorpions, plus a few motorcycle-riding felons. Stay with me, ok?

In Sons of Anarchy, there are scorpions everywhere – I mean, it’s a TV show about a murderous motorcycle gang – but the most venomous of them all is on the right side of the law.

Agent Stahl is climbing the career ladder and she’ll do anything to get to the next rung. Anything. She frames the mother of one of the Sons and later, to cover up her frame-job, she kills her own lover – another agent and her partner in both life and work – and pins the whole evil affair on her.

Agent Stahl is a scorpion. She stings just because she can.

She makes Jax, the VP of the felonious motorcycle “club” and an expert schemer and murderer himself, look positively virtuous.

And Jax is wheeling and dealing with her, trying to get his mom – the same one Stahl framed – out of legal trouble. He’ll hand over an IRA leader, blah blah blah. The plot line isn’t important. What’s important is that there is only a very, very, VERY small chance that this shady deal could work because if anyone in the club finds out he made a deal, he’s dead. They’ll kill him, their brother, their friend, their leader, the rat.

So. The whole season, while Jax is machinating, plotting, providing info and working with Agent Stahl, you’re hoping against hope that it turns out okay. Because it’s probably not going to. But gawd, you hope it’s going to be ok.

Which is exactly what Jax is thinking, right? He’s taking a risk, knowing it could turn out badly, hoping that it won’t, acting like it won’t.

Acting like it won’t. Hoping it won’t.

How many times have I done this? How many times have you?

(Less the felons, rampant scheming and murders.)

How many times do we anticipate and KNOW the consequences of whatever we’re doing could go horribly awry…

…but we just keep going, HOPING that they won’t go badly. Hoping that the thing we hope won’t happen won’t actually happen.

You know where I’m going with this, right?

When, thanks to Jax’s info and deal, Agent Stahl arrives to arrest the IRA leader, one of the Sons of Anarchy asks her, But how did you know he was here?

And she looks at Jax long and hard.

Agent Stahl is a scorpion; Jax was hoping she wouldn’t sting him; of course she does.

And the club goes crazy. They try to jump him, threaten to kill him, and sure enough, they’re going to kill him. He’s going to die. He hoped all along that things would go right, even though the odds were that they weren’t, and here they are, all turned to hell.

This is what happens to all of us when we’re trying to make something risky happen.

We launch projects no one in our life understands; we start businesses so grand they’re practically unimaginable; we pioneer new creative terrain so they think we’re crazy; we write incendiary stuff that polarizes and divides; we make noise when we’re supposed to be quiet…

…all while hopin’ and a’wishin’ and praying that no one will be surprised or offended.

And that no one will say anything cruel.

Ha!

Sometimes the world is a scorpion. Sometimes your friends and family are scorpions even though they really, truly, deeply don’t intend to be.

The Awful Truth: if you’re a creative and you’re doing stuff no one else is doing, don’t look to your friends and family for support. They can’t give it. Not because they don’t love you, but because they can’t understand what the hell you’re up to.

And so, when you’re doing anything worth doing and something few people have done before, the criticism, the backlash, the lack of support, the uncomfortable questions: they’re always coming. They come harder and more frequently the more risks you take, the more conventions you break, and the more visible you are…and sometimes, the more kind-hearted you are.

Think of the frog.

Back to motorcycle mayhem: Jax knew that Agent Stahl was a scorpion. He saw her sting people over and over again. Of course she was going to sting him, too.

So he prepared. He told his club about their deal way before she could. So when Stahl outed Jax to the club – as he knew she would because that’s who she is, the scorpion – and they reacted with threats and violence?

It was all an act. They’d prepared.

And oh, how Jax and the club came out on top.

Agent Stahl, on the other hand, ended up six feet under. Presumably. The funeral didn’t get any airtime. Scorpions always die alone and unremarked.

So be kind to yourself and prepare.

Predict The Awful Truth. Admit The Awful Truth. Confront The Awful Truth.

This applies to the creative life and to love.

Have you ever had a feeling things were going wrong, but decided to give it a chance, give him or her another chance, talked relentlessly to yourself about how this time it would be different, hope for the best, think positive…

…and then he or she did exactly what you hoped and prayed they wouldn’t do? Again?!

Should have known, you tell yourself, berate yourself, castigate yourself.

It hurts so much more because you were lying to yourself and you knew you were lying to yourself and that is the worst betrayal of all.

It would have been – IS! – a kindness to yourself and an act of self-preservation to predict and admit The Awful Truth before you were stung with it.

Maybe it’s wrong to accuse your family and friends and former lovers of being scorpions. Maybe people – other than our fictional Agent Stahl – aren’t really scorpions at all. Maybe your scorpion is just The Awful Truth that sometimes the people in your life won’t support you as you sally forth into the world and change it. For the better.

I’m not saying you don’t deserve support. You do. I’m not saying you shouldn’t ask for support. You should. But sometimes those closest to us won’t give us the support we need because they can’t so we’ve got to be kind to ourselves and look elsewhere for it.

Staring The Awful Truth in the face – rather than taking it from the stinger – prepares you for what is coming, and that is a kindness to yourself.

And you deserve kindness.

Because it’s not always an easy swim across the river for reasonable frogs and and revolutionaries and kind-hearted creatives but it’s so much easier when you know that sometimes it will be hard.

And you can handle it. You really can and you will. With or without their support.

Kelly Diels is a feminist, sex-goddess, writer, mama of four, and the founder of Cleavage. As in, the lines that shape us. Connect: :: Website :: Facebook :: Twitter ::

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