Some time ago, I met a guy while out with friends and celebrating someone’s birthday. The birthday gal in question was a stranger to me, as was the upbeat guy who chewed gum, laughed loudly and smiled like a toothpaste billboard on George. Yes, he was one of those super-extroverted types with loads of swag, a catchy personality and a generous side of confidence. From the moment he introduced himself, his sights were firmly set on yours truly.
God, help me — Quit munching spearmint gum in my face.
This guy had ‘player’ written all over him and I wasn’t down for the game. So, I told him the truth upfront, which happened to be that I was divorced with three kids. I figured that piece of intel would send him running because hey, it was a great ploy to drive away the fly-bys looking for nothing more than casual sex. And besides, you can tell a lot about a man who sticks around when he is aware of your situation.
My situation didn’t faze him one bit.
“I love kids!”
Cool. Want three for free?
Just kidding. I love my babies.
Anyway, sensing my hesitation and distrust, swag-guy eventually solicited backup from one of his friends.
“She knows me.” He gestured at a petite, Greek-flavored woman sitting nearby. “Christa, tell her who I am.”
“He’s cool,” Christa said. “What you see is what you get.”
Interesting. Unhelpful, but still interesting.
What you see isn’t always what you get.
I don’t know if you have ever thought about it, but I think that expression is kind of weird. Think about it now. People put it out there all the time as if it means something, but more often than not what lies beneath is a far cry from what they’ve got on show.
I’m not the type to believe in misguided fabrications.
At least, not these days.
I’m not being pessimistic; I have just lived long enough to know that very few people have what it takes to offer up the ‘what you see is what you get’ line and actually deliver on trustworthiness.
FYI: Authenticity doesn’t actually equate to ‘transparency’ just because someone says so.
Moving on and I’m looking at a man who I didn’t know from Jack, and I am to believe that what I see is what I get?
What? A toothy billboard on George?
Okay, so he was a charming billboard, but charm is as useful as influencing Lady Luck with a rabbit’s foot when it comes to figuring out whether or not someone is worth investing time into.
See where I’m going here?
Your time is your most precious resource in all of the universe, but you already knew that, didn’t you? Too right you did. How often do you find yourself uttering about your time, or lack thereof?
All the time, I bet.
Yup, time is a currency worth much more than money or any object — it waits for no one, is your wisest teacher, and once lost, it can never be recovered.
Something that has so much value shouldn’t be thrown around frivolously.
“Time is precious because eternity hinges on how we spend it.”
— Jonathan Edwards
Each time you are introduced to someone as a potential new friend or significant other, you come to a point where you have to determine whether or not they are worth your time.
You have your work and your family. You have your personal life …. You have your love life (successful or not). The point is that you have enough going on in your life that when you make the decision to spend time with someone, they should at least be worthy of it.
Right? Err …. Duh.
The thing about it is that you might not always get it right and that’s okay. You’ve got to remember that you are here fumbling through life like the rest of us, which means you are going to screw up from time to time. None so much as when it comes to romantic connections.
They don’t say that love is blind for nothing. They say it because when you truly fall in love with someone, it is natural to ignore the red flags and focus only on the good because real love can only ever know that which is like it — Even when given to someone who isn’t capable of cherishing your heart.
If time is our wisest teacher, then the degree to which we love in this life is our greatest gift to ourselves and all of eternity. No shit. It’s because love is the groundwork for everything — all of creation, your lifeforce energy …. the moon and the stars…
Each sincere heart that loves purely is expanding and layering the world and the universe with the essence of source energy — love — this is true even when you seemingly love in vain.
Love is never wasted. Don’t forget that, my friend.
Time, however, is a different story in that you get to decide, be it personal or professional, whether or not someone is worth your time (and heart), and if you should keep up a relationship.
If you’re pondering this issue about someone in your life, perhaps it’s time to consider these 3 questions:
1) How Do They Make You Feel?
Some people have a knack for making you feel good when around them. Others seem to weigh you down.
It’s in their energy.
All living things are able to sense the vibrations of other living things, and each of us emits our own vibrational frequency. Energy transmits and transfers through our moods, mindsets and personalities, and just as animals can sense danger and fear in people, so too can we sense the energy-space of someone else through our intuition.
Business professor, Hillary Anger Elfenbein who coined the ‘affective presence’ concept says that “our own way of being has an emotional signature”.
More from Elfenbein:
“It’s been known for some time that emotions are contagious: If one person feels angry, she may well infect her neighbor with that anger. But affective presence is an effect one has regardless of one’s own feelings — those with positive affective presence make other people feel good, even if they personally are anxious or sad, and the opposite is true for those with negative affective presence.”
Pay attention to how you feel when around them.
Do you walk away from them with a happy and fulfilled sensation? Or do you feel broken and empty inside? Do you feel judged? Undervalued? Do you feel less than?
Is it feelings of jealousy on your part?
In which case, you need to change your attitude.
Or are they making you feel badly about yourself or your work?
Degrading you, being condescending, overwhelmingly critical, etc.
In which case, they’re the problem.
If you feel like the glass is half empty after interacting with this person, then it might be time to assess the situation. You may need to do some introspection to figure out why they make you feel this way.
2) Are You Learning from Them?
Unless this person is of the extreme toxic variety — a sociopathic narcissist, or an abusive, unsupportive and emotionally unhealthy individual (in which case, avoid where possible), I believe that can we learn some of our most valuable life lessons through the people we interact with and keep in our lives.
These lessons can arrive into your experience as silent teachings — meaning that you learn from their actions, ways-of-being and thinking, and their life experiences, which in turn, opens new thoughts and influences you in a deep and meaningful way.
Or perhaps the teachings are more overt?
In which case, they teach you a specific skillset or strategy, foster your learning through repetitive demonstration, or become an important mentor in your career-journey.
The point is that you feel that there are lessons to be learned when conversing or interacting with this person, and vice-versa.
Sometimes the most powerful teachings come to us via the quietest, most unsuspecting ways, so it is important to show up at each social interaction with an open mind and wide heart, and lose the Judge Judy pants.
Honestly, it’s on you to find the teachable moment.
3) Do They Add Value to Your Life?
Obviously, I am not talking about material possessions here. So, if you’re willing to look beyond the Gucci handbags and Rolex watches and get to what really gives your life value, then read on….
There’s a reason why we don’t bring every stranger into our closer inner-circles, and it all comes down to whether or not this person delivers positive value and how you relate with each other.
Do they make you laugh?
People add value to your life when you can laugh together and at each other, get on the same wacky-wavelength and choose to not always take life so seriously.
Do you get inspired by being around them?
The best kinds of relationships add value when they ignite your creative flare, stoke your imagination and hold your dreams with esteem along with their own. It’s the shared muse for kindred souls; a harmonious balance of Zen-like energy overflowing with creativity, respect, appreciation and love.
Are they a good friend? Do they hold space for you and want to know who you are?
We add value by listening to and being present for each other, as well as demonstrating heart-kindness for the people we care about — empathizing and offering our honest opinions without being overly harsh. They forgive easily, understand how and when to give constructive feedback, and they deliver these with compassion.
Do you enjoy their company?
Someone adds value to your time when you can be at ease with them. When you can be yourself without second-guessing every comment or action… or in-action.
No mind games. No score-keeping. No bullshit.
The moments when you can just ‘be’ together in total acceptance, honor and love for each other, are what make for time-worthy experiences with the people in your life.
It’s the secret sauce in any type of relationship — be it romantic or otherwise. Just look into their eyes and you’ll find what you need to know.
If you read these questions and answered with a resounding ‘yes’, then I’m betting that the person in your life is a positive presence and you’ve got yourself a time-worthy keeper.
And as for the ‘what you see is what you get’ guy I mentioned earlier, to his credit, there was a lot more to him than first met the eye; it turned out that he had heart and soul, and knew how to love a woman and respect her time as if a sacred gift.
If only more of us could see time that way….
Originally published by Living Out Loud on Medium