“If I live in the middle, then I don’t have to worry about falling off the edge.”
As a natural born extremist, I often find myself reminded of my aptitude for “all or none.” To a great extent, life is about finding balance and I know that aiming for fifty will serve me far greater than living half the time at one hundred and half the time at zero. So why is it so challenging? Through my own self-examination and struggles, I have learned that relationships are all about negotiating need. To happily coexist, we must find a way to satisfy those around us while satisfying ourselves. Too much of either of these will naturally lead to a deficiency of the other, resulting in an imbalance and dissatisfaction.
Historically I have been able to subjugate myself and put “the other one” first, of course at my own expense. In addition, I have observed occasions when I was quite selfish, unfairly prioritizing my needs over those around me. In the end, neither is a comfortable place to live in for the long term. But at least they are clear in their extreme nature. There is no confusion. Both selfish and selfless behavior are obvious to view and understand. When we get toward the middle, the lines blur and this isn’t exactly the case. When we try to find that in-between zone where everyone can be happy, or at least close, it’s easy to make comparisons and get caught up in the minutiae.
If there are two people and only one slice of cake, if the whole slice goes to one or the other, perhaps the one to go without thinks that they’ll get theirs next time. It’s not great to have none but it’s easy to recognize. If the slice is divided, instead of looking at the smaller piece and being grateful to have any, it’s easy to look at it in relation to the larger and somehow feel shortchanged.
In addition, it’s easier to write off selfish behavior. If you are the person who gets no cake, you can brush off the person who took the whole slice as someone with whom you wouldn’t want to associate. However, in the example of the person who shares but takes the bigger slice, the unconscious trap is that they are more like you, so they should treat you more fairly.
The most important element of negotiating need in relationships is that it all begins with you. If you are unwilling to share your cake, you probably won’t end up with many friends. But, if you don’t make sure to get the bigger slice at least once in a while, you may be left with a feeling of dissatisfaction. Either way, you have no right to be angry at the world. The responsibility is yours. Be good to yourself. Do esteem-able acts that build up your self worth and develop your relationship with you. Then and only then will you always win – you will possess the confidence to speak up on occasion for the bigger slice, and the comfort and generosity to give it away to those around you.
And really, we should probably be eating more vegetables anyway.