It’s the LITTLE things

I’ve always considered myself to be a fairly easy-going guy. I thought it was because I didn’t really let myself get concerned with trivial matters and had better things to focus on but something happened recently that actually shed more light on the subject for me.

I live with a housemate and as much as we are both easy going there started to be a few things that began to annoy me. Not just leaving the toilet seat down kind of thing but little broken promises and her ‘space’ becoming ever increasingly larger and messier within the house.

In the beginning, when she first moved in there were a couple of bigger things like her taking advantage of my good nature and expecting me to look after her cat etc. which I addressed immediately and she rectified.

These little things however seemed so trivial that how could I address them without seeming pedantic. So I let them be and then noticed another thing and another until I thought bugger this I don’t care what she thinks of me I am going to say something.

Then it hit me. I wasn’t not-addressing the problems because they were so trivial; the real reason was because I was worried about what she would think of me … and then her friends when she told them and so on.

I reflected on how this has been a big factor in my life. Always making sure everyone else was ok and not really worrying about ‘little old me’ so that people would like me.

The real reason stems back to growing up with an angry controlling and sometimes-abusive father and I was scared of him and any confrontation … but that was when I was a kid. I am the one who’s doing that to me now and I am a grown man!

So when I came home last night I asked my flat mate if we could chat. I spoke to her about the things that were annoying me. She said that she has been going through a rough time lately and one thing led to another and began to snowball for her and oh they are just little things and she hoped I would just understand.

I said, “listen; With all due respect and not meaning to sound cold or uncaring, what we are talking about here are broken agreements and like any relationship, we need to have boundaries. Your stuff isn’t my problem and when it starts to affect me it becomes my problem. Have you heard the saying ‘give someone an inch and they take a mile’? That’s what I feel you are doing. It started with …” and so on.

As I spoke it got easier and easier just to let it out. I said “look I know they seem like little things but a lot of little things add up to be big things and I’d rather address them as little things than big things. I am sorry you are going through a rough time at the moment and if you need help then maybe we can have that conversation but this is different. We need to communicate the little things as soon as they show up.”

She apologized and I then asked her if she had anything about me that was annoying her (of course she didn’t – cause I’m so awesome :-0)

After that conversation I realised I really didn’t care what she thought of me for it. It was important to me and that is what matters.

I also realised it is actually easier for me in a way to not have her ‘like’ me so much (which has been my mission in life – to get everyone to like me) as it is easier to speak my mind.

I also reflected on how I have done this in relationships in the past and always tried to be the ‘nice guy’ instead of just the real guy. If I am simply me and people don’t like that then that’s their prerogative. It reminds me of a saying I love yet still struggle to realise the depth of:

‘What you think of me is none of my business!’

I would rather have me like me than anyone else like me – it’s much easier that way. I also know the people I love and have close in my life are the ones who are honest and can say it how it is. I admire that and like to be called on my bullshit so I can grow … so why would I hold that back from others?

Dean Powell