“Later that day I got to thinking about relationships. There are those that open you up to something new and exotic, those that are old and familiar, those that bring up lots of questions, those that bring you somewhere unexpected, those that bring you far from where you started, and those that bring you back. But the most exciting, challenging and significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself. And if you can find someone to love the you you love, well, that's just fabulous” – Sex and The City.
I, too, got to thinking about relationships today. A close girlfriend of mine has been going through a tough, on again/off again relationship/break up mess for quite some time, and she turned to me for advice. Through our conversation, I think I made some sense of loyalty and relationships, both for her and myself.
Last week I purchased (for my mother, but kind of for myself, as well) “Loyalty: The Vexing Virtue,” by Wall Street Journal columnist Eric Felten. I haven’t started reading yet, but I heard an interview with Felten on the Diane Rehm Show last week where he discussed his book and the role of loyalties in our lives. He pointed out that loyalty is necessary to a life of meaning, yet our loyalties inevitably collide, and we are force to chose what is most important.
I tend to be loyal to a fault, partly due to my stubbornness. I hate giving up on someone or something I believe can be salvaged or fixed. I’ve always been the type to keep only a few people close to me, but if you’re one of those few, I almost certainly will never give up on you.
As I got to thinking about my loyalties, I almost forgot to consider loyalty to myself. But what exactly is being loyal to ones self? Selfishness? It’s so complicated. We often form our perceptions of ourselves based on our relationships and our loyalties to others, like family, friends, work, and religion. So how, then, can we act loyally to ourselves in a way that’s separate from these other loyalties? And should we even strive to? If so much of life’s meaning is based on our relationships with others, then what are the perks of self-loyalty?
There are few loyalties in life that we can count indefinitely without any possible fear of betrayal. For me, those are my parents. I trust my parents in a way that makes being loyal to them the same as being loyal to myself. Still, as an adult, I think I need to determine the difference.
The definition of self-loyalty I settled on is doing what’s best for yourself, and following your own instincts. Maybe this is part of being 24-years-old, but I often find that my instincts change on a daily basis, and my head and heart say two very different things. So then what are you supposed to be loyal to? Your emotions or your reason?
Who really knows, but I think that’s what determines how loyal we are to our relationships. Whether or not the people in our lives enable us to be loyal to ourselves ultimately decides if we can be loyal to them.
I don’t know if any of this makes sense. But, I tried.