To What Are You *Really* Reliable?
Reliability, self sabotage, and taking ownership of our patterns.
“How are you most reliable in your life? To what? To whom? When? List the top four.” **
Before you read my responses, answer for yourself. Do the answers come easily? Quickly? Did your heart race, afraid that the truth might not be entirely self respecting?
Normally I chomp at the bit for questions like this, or any opportunity for self assessment that brings me greater clarity, or closer to the self esteem I’ve been clawing to regain since I forfeited it in adolescence. Meyers Briggs, star charts, Attachment styles - you name it, I’ve quizzed it. But this question was different, for its use of the words ‘to what’. To what have I been reliable?
My own undoing.
The definition of reliable is: consistently good in quality or performance; able to be trusted. In grander schemes, I am definitively reliable: I finish what I start, I pay bills on time. But to what am I reliable - I don’t do these things for the tasks themselves, I do them out of fear for what will happen if I don’t. That fear was sacrificing people I love, including myself. Last week I canceled a work-date with a friend last-minute because my job overwhelmed me, choosing to be more reliable to my stress and fear of failing in my job than to her. My people know not to plan too early for brunch on weekends, because they know I’ll need to get my workout in first (commendable until you consider the sickness that spurs such dedication). And every time I look down at my phone, I’m hoping for a text from one single person. The one person I can rely on to take one step closer to me and two steps back. I know both that it is doomed and also that he will reliably call me up, and I will reliably answer despite my longing for something more concrete and...well….reliable. And not just to my negative coping behaviors; reliably, I will snatch any opportunity to uncover what’s wrong with me before praising myself in any direction.
And yet, ‘reliable’ is far more empowering language than saying I am ‘addicted’ to exercise or ‘trauma-bonded’ to a toxic relationship. I am not tethered, I am not bound. I am simply giving something beautiful of myself - my trustworthiness - to the wrong things. It is done with will. Reliability and consistency, these are tenets of strong relationships, but they themselves are not the arbiter of a relationship’s health or worthiness. We are. Our reliability is and always will be a love offering.
Herein lies one of the most fascinating element of self improvement: no one issue of self exists in a vacuum. We are interconnected beings, even within ourselves. Our deepest truths and beliefs are inextricably linked like that of a long chain, and one realization can be the first rung laddering to grander motifs. Not only that, these truths exist inter-dimensionally, with multiple meanings and values, like that of a yin yang. So when I admit: I am reliable to behaviors that promise salvation yet ultimately offer destruction, greater truths arise. In this very same truth I must also acknowledge how able I am to be honest with myself. The resilience and fortitude it takes to own up to such behaviors, and be willing to course correct.
Yes, you can count on me to stress out and over-perform in order to ensure my security at work. Yes, I will at times stay in toxic relationships in order to avoid aloneness. And yes, it’s incredibly likely I will overeat to numb my feelings after a bad day.
But I will also take a hard look at these things when I get the opportunity, and will do my best to improve them. Reliably, I will show up, and do the work.