I invited a friend of mine, who was my acting scene partner in a theater workshop in NYC, to go to a Broadway musical reading with me one night. She’s 29 years old and was asking me, “the older person” advice about a guy she was seeing.
She was upset, because right before she met up with me at the Union Square train station, she had stopped in to see a guy she was dating at a bar where he was bartending and he had given her the cold shoulder. She fought back tears as she told me she loved this guy.
Oh my, I remember that happening to me in my 20s.
“You need to know your values,” I told her—thanks to years of hard-won experience.
“What does that mean?” She asked.
I explained that we all have an opportunity to come to know our non-negotiables: What we’ll handle, and what we won’t. Where we’ll draw the line. Because when we’re clear, if anyone crosses that boundary we won’t give them a second of our attention. They aren’t allowed into our “field of influence” anymore.
“When did you realize this for yourself?” She asked.
I told her it took years to get clear about what my values were. Then, every relationship I formed was based on those values and I only nurtured the relationships that were in alignment with what was most important to me.
If you engage with a person and, at some point, it doesn’t feel in alignment with your values, or supportive, or respectful, you switch course. You keep learning about what honors you and what doesn’t.
“But I keep dating guys who treat me poorly. How do I get out of the pattern?” She asked.
I explained that, at some point—after practicing this in my own life—I learned that you no longer accept it. And you stop taking what anyone else does personally. Another person’s actions reflect on them, not you. What’s most important is that you uphold your values for yourself.
“What are some of your values?” She asked me.
On the Q train to 34th Street, holding onto the pole with people packed in around us, I told her that the Buddha taught there were three things that led to enlightenment:
- Studying the teachings of the Buddha
- The practice of meditation
- Having noble friends and community
Interestingly, the Buddha said that the only one you really needed to reach enlightenment was #3.
When we surround ourselves with people who are conscious, who are devoted to care and kindness; when we have mutual respect for one another, we are raised to another frequency. We support each other to lift the other up. We share in appreciative joy and are an example for one another.
“How do you find more people like that?” She asked.
The more you draw clear boundaries, the clearer you are about what you’re willing to tolerate and what you’re not willing to tolerate. If you tolerate poor behavior or a lack of respect then your self-esteem lowers. The more you uphold your values, the more you find other people who match yours.
“But how do you find out what your values are?”
I asked her to list off to me what she wanted in a man.
“I want a man who pays his own bills. Who works hard at his career. Who is honest and adores me,” she said.
“OK, so right now, those are your values: self-sufficiency, motivation, hard work, honesty, and loving-kindness. Those are the same values you need to uphold in yourself for yourself. Make that your priority. Once you do, you won’t give two shits about that bartender.”
As we grow older, our values often change. As we get clearer about who we are and what’s important to us, the more we create the kind of relationships we want.
The energy of our clear intentions follows suit when we meet others. Now we’re empowered.
To noble friends and family!