What’s my biggest fear in life, you ask? Fantastic question. No, it’s not the clown from IT or those monstrous, too large to even be in my nightmares, spiders that they have in Australia (although those are very high on the list as well). My biggest fear is, and forever will be, settling. Just thinking about it makes me cringe. The thought of describing my life as “average” gives me absolute chills. I just picture myself on one of those suburban streets, where every house looks exactly the same, all of my walls the same shade of eggshell white, describing my work as “fine” and my husband as “he’s always just there”. I’m literally cringing while writing this and may or may not be a little nauseous.
Let me define “settling”
Settling (v.) : forcing oneself to be content in a situation; ignoring literally every thought in your head telling you that you can do, and deserve, better; fear of the unknown, forcing one into a perpetual state of mediocracy
For a quick example, I once had the following conversation with a friend of mine.
“Okay, honestly, why are you with him?” I asked, referring to her current boyfriend. “Well, he doesn’t make me worry,” she said. That’s all she said.
If ever asked why you are committing your time and effort into anything, whether it be a job, relationship, even a hobby, the response as to why you are committing your time to this should never begin with an explanatory phrase (such as “well…”). “Well, it pays the bills” or “well, she doesn’t ignore me all the time”. Not only does this indicate that you don’t already know the answer, it indicates that you are trying to convince yourself that your statement is true, as well as whoever is asking you the question.
When I ask why you do something, the answer should be declaratory. The response that should happen when I ask why you are with someone is “they make me the best version of myself” or “I love the way this person takes care of me”. Referring to jobs or hobbies, the response should be “because this is my passion” or “I truly enjoy what I learn from doing this”. If those aren’t the answers, or if an explanatory response is the first to pop into your head before a declaratory one, something is in need of change.
I realize that the definition I gave for settling is not in a dictionary anywhere (and may be a bit intense) but tell me that it isn’t true. This isn’t my biggest fear because it looks terrifying aesthetically or haunts me in my sleep. It’s my biggest fear because I’ve seen the way it creeps up on people, pulling on their insecurities and tricking them, brainwashing them, without them ever realizing it.
I want to take a turn and look closer at the effects of settling into an unhappy situation for a second.
We’ve all been there to see this happen. I’ve seen the change. It starts off small. They start to take on the likes and dislikes of the person they’re with. They work their significant others’ name into conversation as much as possible, even when unnecessary. Plans start being canceled with friends, white lies start being told.
It creeps up.
You finally get ahold of your friend, finally make a date to hang out. You realize every sentence begins and ends with this person, the conversation drifting when any other topic is brought up. You laugh, forcefully, wanting to be happy for them. But how can you be happy, when it’s not really them anymore? Where had your friend gone and who the hell is this person now sitting in front of you?
They look exhausted. The zip in their step is long gone. You’ve gotten at least one call a day, your friend miserable. Guess whose fault? “It’s my fault, I shouldn’t even be upset over this. I’m overreacting”. They aren’t overreacting.
Inevitably, it destroys.
You can’t listen to the pain in their voice anymore when they talk. You can’t hear the same story of them being torn to pieces. You tell them again and again how much more they deserve, remind them how things were before, point out all the faults they already see but refuse to acknowledge. “But we’re in love”. No, you aren’t.
Here’s a reminder: someone who loves you is not capable of causing you this type of pain. Someone who loves you is not capable of seeing you at your worst, in no rush to make things better. Someone who loves you is not capable of ignoring you, hurting you just to get a reaction, keeping you hidden from the world. Someone who loves you would not change the person you are for their own benefit.
Here’s an even more important reminder: Someone who loves you will make you laugh, even when you never thought you’d smile again. Someone who loves you will light you up in every single way possible. Someone who loves you will support you, even when you’re on some crazy ass kick of only drinking ginger shots and eating kale. Not only will they be the first to support you (and your ridiculous ideas), but they will be the one by your side, doing it with you the entire time.
Settling is my biggest fear because I’ve seen what it turns into, a toxicity that people cannot escape. It doesn’t have to be a relationship. This toxicity can occur in any form of settling. It could be settling at a job you absolutely loathe. Hey, gotta pay the bills somehow and how tiring does it sound to spend hours applying for another dead-end job? Settling on friends who couldn’t even answer what your favorite color was, let alone be there for you when you really need them to be. But hey, they have the coolest Instagram, so many followers and so many connections. So, it’s worth it, right? Settling comes in all forms, shapes, sizes… freaking terrifying right????
“Do not let the fear of striking out, keep you from playing the game”. Yes, I did just directly quote Hilary Duff in A Cinderella Story. Do not let the fear of being along keep you in a relationship that you describe as “eh” to your friends. Do not let the fear of stepping out of your professional comfort zone keep you at a dead-end job. Do not let the fear of being “less cool” keep you from avoiding the people who could turn out to understand and care for you better than your current “friends” ever could. To sum this up…
Do. Not. Even.
Do. Not. Even.
Write it down, stick it on your bathroom mirror, think it, say it. Most importantly, believe it. Believe you deserve better and you will. If you’re having trouble reminding yourself, or find yourself slipping into old habits, reach out to friends. If your friends are the problem at the moment and you’re on the hunt for real ones, reach out to me in the meantime.