The older you get, the more control of your life you have, a few things start to happen:
1. You get to set the terms of what your life looks like in terms of interpersonal connections (if nothing else). People can no longer say “it’s just a joke, god” because you get to leave their lives and they will miss you. Or they won’t miss you but you still get to not be around people who fundamentally disrespect you. This is really hard to internalise as a fact for people who experienced bullying growing up. All the times that you said “what the fuck? stop.” and no one stopped? that changes as an adult. people will stop *immediately* if they respect you. In fact, the question of will they stop or won’t they is a question of respect. If they do not stop, you get to leave that relationship. Even if they do stop, you can still leave, because some issues of disrespect are egregious enough that you don’t need them in your life no matter how many apologies are made.
More often than not, your terms matter because you are no longer forced to interact “nicely” with people who fundamentally disrespect you. Take their disrespect as a sign of their role in the relationship with you: they are showing you they don’t value you and so you also do not need to value them. You don’t need their approval because your relationships are no longer “approval” based – they should be respect-based.
You are allowed to dislike people who dislike you and you are allowed to have your barriers up to prevent further unnecessary interactions.
The faster you learn this, the faster you realise that that you never actually have to internalise mean comments, mean gestures, cruel actions – you can immediately say “stop” and people will stop if they respect you, and they won’t stop if they don’t. Either way, you are always allowed to leave. That mean and cruel interaction will end one way or another. Don’t be scared to stand up for yourself because it will have an impact as you age. It might mean that you have to reject a lot of people, and get rid of a lot of what you thought were solid or good friendships/connections, but you also have yourself in your corner and that is what you need in the end: you don’t need people in your life who are not actually there for you. Clear away the clutter and make room for people in your life who actually are there for you.
Never internalise someone else’s cruel projections of who you are, and never see yourself through the gaze of someone who projects ugliness onto you.
Simply reject the people doing this as they are showing you who they are.
2. The cons of most relationships outweigh the pros because you simply need people less. you only need a very few number of people because you can rely on yourself for most of your needs because you become responsible for your own emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual health. Obviously this is also modulated by illness, disability, and other considerations. But ultimately, you need people way less than you do as a child. Like significantly less. You are the adult in your life. The adult you rely on to take care of you? Is you.
So ultimately, I need like some good friends. a family. good connections. But really, do I need more than like 5 capital P People? no. like i really don’t. The vast number of people in my life who are not these 5 people are there because
a) a mutually reciprocal need-based relationship exists. money for goods. some conversation/insight for some other conversation/insight.
b) networking/working relationships that are leveraged in ways that are mutually beneficial with a specific task at hand
c) they are interesting people, and you can have interesting conversations from them, learn from them, teach them,
d) I can help them a lot. (this is important – you should be using your position of privilege to help those less fortunate, even if they can’t help you in return – and you might be surprised at the things they show you/reveal to you about your own life)
but at any given point there can only be about 5 that I really would fight to keep in my life should conflict arise
3. You get to be absolutely crystal clear about your terms without fear of repercussion.
Think about it. What would repercussion even look like?
Them: “Oh come on it’s just a joke”
You: “I don’t care and I don’t need it and I don’t need you”
Them: “Ok ok I’m really sorry (eyeroll)”
You: “You’re not sorry, and I don’t care about your apology, and I don’t want you in my life”
Them: “So you’re really going to throw away our friendship/connection/whatever imagined good interaction?”
You: “Exactly what are you contributing to my life? Are you
a) someone who is a good friend? no you are not
b) someone who I need due to some kind of leverage (like a landlord reference)? no you are not
c) someone who is interesting? haha I don’t think so – at least, not interesting enough to be worth the unnecessary interactions
So what exactly are you bringing to the table for this interaction?”
Them: “Ok, you’re being really silly and upset for no reason”
You: “Sure, but also gtfo and don’t let the door hit you on the way out”
Like. Literally. They can do nothing once you set the terms of your boundaries and how you want to be treated.
Kick every unworthy person out of your life with 0 apologies.