See Me: The Good, the Bad, and the Crazy

Keeping it real about my complexities

Believe it or not, I used to be pretty uptight when I was younger. To be completely honest, I probably still am when it comes to certain things. That’s neither here nor there. I wrote once that I’m a complex creature because there are so many layers to me that it would take a man a lifetime to uncover them all. There’s the version of me he sees when in a professional setting, another when we’re in private, and yet a different one when we’re among friends. It’s not that I’m two-faced or put on a show based on who is around. No, it’s because I’ve learned not to allow everyone to have complete access to my true self.

Business associates and colleagues have no right to know what I do in the comfort and privacy of my home. Workplace etiquette demands that I maintain a certain level of professionalism to ensure that I’m taken seriously and critiqued based on my performance. Similarly, friends (even close ones) don’t need to know the intimate details of my love life. This is not to say that those my future partner and I choose to take on accountability roles in our relationship won’t get this access. Instead, I’m suggesting that I won’t be running around in the streets telling people about every tiff my future partner and I have.

When it comes to everything that is me, there is the good, the bad, and the crazy. I’ve learned that just because someone plays some sort of role in my life does not give them the right to see me in every light. By setting boundaries, I guard my heart and keep people who may not be able to handle it all at bay. Past experiences have taught that I place myself at a greater risk of getting hurt and doing unnecessary emotional and psychological damage when I fail to establish boundaries.

Setting boundaries looks differently for everyone. For me, I’ve broken my world into the three categories previously mentioned: the good, the bad, and the crazy. This is my way of determining how close to allow someone to get to me. Everyone starts in the good and, depending how things go, make their way to the bad. If they are able to hang on, they ultimately cross the finish line to the crazy. While these are terms I use in jest, they actually accurately sum up what transpires in the three major categories.

Let’s start with the good. This is reserved for those who get to experience the joys of life with me. We cheer each other on, check in to hear about life updates, and encourage one another to achieve our goals. In a romantic relationship, this is the “getting to know each other” stage. We discuss our passions, hobbies, and things that generally make us happy. The relationships aren’t superficial, but they lack the depth of the other two.

Next, the bad is saved for those who are emotionally and spiritually stronger than I am. We go through the harder times of life together. We walk through moments of questioning it all and wanting to give up. When I feel like I’m on my last leg and hopeless, they’re the ones I turn to for prayer and support. When my fire looks like it’s about to go out, they add fuel to keep it running. In a romantic relationship, we discuss deal breakers, faith, politics, and just about every other taboo topic. This group of people are few, but they are dear. Made up of prayer warriors, positive personalities, and individuals who will keep it real, they speak the words I need when life just seems like it’s spiraling out of control.

Finally, the crazy is exclusively for those who see my heart in full transparency. There are no secrets between us because we’ve been through it all. They hear the unfiltered stories about my insecurities, see the heightened emotions, and experience the moments that leave me feeling debilitated. There is no judgment among us because everything is exposed. Some say you can never be 100% your true self with anyone, but I disagree. The very few people in my life who are able to witness the ugliness of my heart that manifests through words and actions are the ones who see my true self. In a romantic relationship, this is where we decide that only death will do us part. (I’m still single, so no man’s made it this far yet.) This type of relationship takes an enormous amount of trust, patience, and discipline because of the level of vulnerability involved. But if we make it to those point, where all the crazy hangs out, we will be together forever.

They hear the unfiltered stories about my insecurities, see the heightened emotions, and experience the moments that leave me feeling debilitated.

— Ethleen Sawyerr

Now, there are sub-categories, but we won’t get into them. Some in my life might experience the first two categories, not the last. Others may only be granted access to one. The point is that, much like in a relationship, we’re not supposed to rush to give ourselves away to just anyone. Instead, we take our time to learn each other until we’re comfortable letting the other into our complex world.

Fellow navigator, have you ever stopped to consider who you allow to celebrate your victories, walk with you through the valleys, and see your true self? What is it about those people that makes them worthy of your trust to journey with you in those moments? If you don’t place yourself into such broad categories, how do you define relationship boundaries? Tell me about it!

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