Many of you know I have a daughter, Charlie (her real name), who is 9 years old. Well, Charlie is in 4th grade this year and every year since Kindergarten she has been complaining about another little girl, Jenny (not her real name). Jenny is reportedly not very nice. She supposedly says mean things about my daughter is does not want her friends to be friends with Charlie. She has been a frequent topic of conversation between me and Charlie. Initially the focus of these conversations was on why Jenny might be acting this way. I tried to build empathy in my daughter about Jenny’s lack of friends, her poor grades, and how sad she must be to be too tall, short, thin or fat (whatever her problem may be). We talked about low self esteem and how children will often engage in bullying behavior because they do not feel very good about themselves. I even made Charlie attend this little girl’s birthday party last year when she was invited because I felt badly that so few kids were going to attend. Charlie wondered why she had to go when this child is so mean to her and even asked if she wasn’t rewarding Jenny’s bad behavior by going to the party. (She is a psychologist’s kid, right?) But, I made her go anyway. I think I was doing my daughter a disservice.
What I should have been talking to her about what keeping her power and not giving it away to others. What does this mean? It means spending your time focusing on, talking about and wasting energy on people who only bring negativity into your life gives away your power. I should have been telling her to walk away from this child and focus on people who bring positivity and light to her life. I should not have forced her to try (over and over again) to be the bigger person. Self-preservation has its place. We’ve now had this conversation, but have also been able to discuss protecting her power in other ways as well. If there is a soccer coach that seems impossible to please or a teacher who cannot be satisfied or a sibling who never seems happy, sometimes you need to take the loss and move onto people who are able to accept your efforts and appreciate them. There is a saying, “Throwing good money after bad” – this applies to effort and energy as well. If you have tried, and are satisfied you have done your best, and they are still not content – maybe it is them, not you. Let go and move on.
This does not just apply to 9-year-old girls. It applies to all of us. If your boss is never satisfied, eventually you need to quit banging your head against that wall trying to satisfy them. Learn to live with their dissatisfaction or find a new job. If your partner (boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife) never seems to feel you or what you do is good enough, stop killing yourself. Either accept their disappointment and figure out how to live with it or it is time to end the relationship and move on. To keep trying is to give them the power you should have in your own life. You are allowing them to dictate whether you are good enough, smart enough, nice enough, anything enough. You get to decide this. Reclaim your power and make these determinations on your own behalf.
You don’t have to try to be friends with a really mean little girl. You don’t have to allow her to treat you badly while you empathize with whatever it is that makes her treat you so badly. Sometimes you need to take care of yourself. It isn’t selfish to keep your own power.