Varying Displays of Affection

I have come to the understanding that, in their most intimate relationships, everybody seeks to feel valued and appreciated. Some of the greatest falling-outs result from feeling undermined, even though the other person might express it in ways alien to your own understanding.


My parents gave me fist bumps. And a LOT of space.

Having started on my 20s, it was probably about time that I understood what made me feel valued. I began to notice patterns in the way I helped friends when they needed me. Realizing this helped me communicate my affections better as well. For instance, being someone who leaves their phone behind a lot, I make sure I take the calls of friends who might be going through an especially trying episode in their lives. If I don’t, then I am prompt in calling them back or letting them know of the circumstance that’s keeping me away from them. Usually, it has worked out for me. The friends that I have, the people that I hold closest to my heart, have always seemed to value this aspect of my ways. In fact, that’s become one of my frequent sign-offs – “Don’t worry, I got your back.” I’m glad at my being able to successfully communicate my affection for them. It took me a while to figure it out, since everybody has their own way of expressing it, but I think I am getting there.

When the styles are mismatched, either or both parties might end up feeling rather disregarded or suffocated, given their own individual preferences. In my own life I have known myself to distance certain sorts of people, while wondering quizzically about others’ behaviors. I am going to use this post to talk about a few of those kinds.

The first kind is the people who having known me for just a few days, suddenly want to do everything together, and as much as I understand their needs, I cannot have that. I’d rather prefer to sow my probably-metaphorically-misplaced, friendly oats far and wide. There are plenty of people out there, and they all seem interesting. In fact, the people closest to me are the people who get to know my other best friends, who might be peeps I may have met in completely different contexts and circumstances. If I see them making an effort to get along with the others, I love them for it. Being something of a collector of seemingly disconnected experiences (how they are all connected is for another post), interacting with a different group of my friends is sure to draw any of them out of their comfort zone- probably not the easiest social setting. My mantra is, if you love me, you’ll love the people who love me too. And of course, I absolutely adore them all.

The second are people who will land up on my door step. I don’t dislike this kind, as much as I am inconvenienced by them. I have really tried to take my time less seriously, but I can’t help but hate distractions. I mean, I lead a life that I have consciously structured, in the absence of which I become highly malfunctional. I indulge in this dysfunctionality from time to time: for example, I took a year off, from a rather ambitious, carefully-crafted career in finance starting the latter part of 2013 to travel, volunteer, meet new kinds of people, study philosophy, and work in an entirely different sort of organizational setup- I really plucked myself out of the known zone, and reinvented my perspective for myself! But can I be doing that for the rest of my life? Probably not without hurting and baffling the people whom I care about, which brings me back to my way of expressing affection- by being there when they need me.

The third kind of people are those who want to be centre stage. All the time, that is. It’s GREAT in the beginning. They tell me ALL I want to know about them, making my people-watching considerably easier at their individual level. But after a point in time, I find myself rolling my eyes, gasping for air made up of the molecules that is the participation of other people! I am sorry, but I am interested in you, but just about as much as I am interested in Elon Musk’s ideas on space colonization! If you are going to take it personally, then I’m going to end up hurting you quite a lot without meaning to.

Conversely, some of these very people, end up showing their affection for me by putting ME in the spotlight- the conversations are dominated by how awesome they think I am, how my intelligence is absolutely dazzling them, and how they wish they could worship and make a Walk-of-Fame boulevard out of the ground that I walk on. Seriously, if I needed a sidekick to hype me up, I’d have become a rapper. Just talking about it, make my breaths feel short. Now I will admit that I have not always been the more graceful person with accepting compliments, but I learn to relate with other people by knowing THEM better. Besides, I am quite inhibited by my past experiences of people finding themselves inhibited and intimidated by me. It’s disappointing and makes my friendly soul quite sad. Stop putting me up on that pedestal of perfection. It is boring, lonely, and quite far from truth, because I’m a fan of Brene Brown here.

How has identifying this helped me in my professional life? Well, to be honest, it hasn’t had the chance to help me out YET, but I see how it could if I communicated it over a period of time. Having people telling me that they have my back if I mess up a situation, or letting me know that making that one tiny mistake is not going to jeopardize all the other details that I worked on to put together, what I hope would be, a masterpiece, is really what I need to stay motivated to deliver on a job or in a relationship of any sort. I’m not usually the screw-up in professional scenarios, but that makes this all the more important. Given my powerful, stoic, cold inner-critic, makes me put my guards up if I have bricks flying my way on the outside too. Although, I am sure I will evolve to find a less egotistic way to deal with such situations in the future.

Still don’t understand how this theory could be true? Well, try and think back to that boy you knew in middle school (or whichever stage of your life you met him in). He would pull your hair, call you names, and poke the most fun at you in public, but it probably was so because he felt the most comfortable with you (Awww…). You know that because it turned out that he liked you after all.


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