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Debby Osa: Any Relationship that Limits You Is Bad For You



While waiting to gain admission into the university, I decided to go job hunting with a family friend who had also graduated. She lived nearby, so we decided to go around cold-calling on companies in our locality, and dropping our pitifully blank CVs.

On this particular day, we stopped by a well-known machine company. We were asked our mission, and we replied that we were looking for jobs. By a twist of good fortune, the Managing Director of the company just happened to be around and asked to see us. We walked into his office where he sat with his PA and, after the usual greetings and introductions, began to engage us in conversation.

We both responded, but I sensed, even as young as I was, that I was preferred. I used to be quite vivacious then, and my reading habit and fluent English greatly helped during the conversation.

Coincidentally, at that time, the company was making plans to produce television commercials for some of their new machines. I remember the MD turning to his staff and saying in Yoruba, ‘I think we should hire the dark one and also use her in the commercials. She looks like she would be suitable. What do you think?’

He probably thought we didn’t understand because we are both from the South-South part of the country. His PA nodded vigorously, obviously concurring.

After the meeting, we left with him promising to get back to us. I remember as we walked back, my friend was a bit quiet. I knew she naturally felt a bit let down, so I didn’t talk about it.

When I got home, I went to my room and knelt down and, in all earnestness and sincerity, prayed. “God, please, don’t let them call me for that job. Sisi* will feel so bad – and I don’t want her to feel bad. Please, God, let me not be called.”

I stayed there – and prayed and prayed and prayed – until I felt better.
I wasn’t called.

And we were both ‘happy’.
Awww…sweet, right?
Not at all.

On the contrary, that sort of relationship can be deadly and harmful to all parties involved.

Sisi wasn’t a bad person, but I found that around her, I couldn’t be all I wanted to be.

As I grew older, I sometimes found myself in these sorts of relationships. I have also repeatedly noticed others in such relationships – where they limit themselves, ‘dumb’ themselves down, take decisions they know are wrong, pass over opportunities (or relationships) – to make other people ‘happy.’ Relationships where people are unconsciously and non-verbally apologetic for being their ‘successful’ or ‘better’ or ‘ambitious’ or ‘intelligent’ or ‘more spiritual’ or ‘in-a-relationship’ or ‘attractive’ self. It is so subtle – they don’t even know what is happening.

Sadly, many of these relationships are very close ones: An academically gifted child is resented by his siblings, so he tries to cover up his intelligence around them – especially if they have unwise parents; a lady remains single – despite her desire and numerous proposals – because her closest friends make fun of ‘all these men’; a guy laughs with his ‘boys’ at a mutual friend’s ‘over-spirituality’ – even though he secretly desires and respects it; an employee joins the office faction to run down the boss and do shoddy work – so she don’t come across as sycophantic …ad infinitum.

All these examples are unconsciously apologetic for their desire for ‘success’ in its ramifications – endowments, growth, progress, advancement, excellence, good news etc.

And this feeling is as a result of their association.
I will be as simplistic as possible without sugar-coating it: Any relationship that limits your growth or progress in any form is bad for you – no matter how close.

Beneficial relationships allow and encourage growth. In a healthy relationship, when one person advances, it encourages the other person(s) to grow as well. They get challenged and try to do better; they learn and grow…and an ever-widening circle of growth and achievements is created.

But if the other party is uncomfortable, preferring the way ‘things were before’, that relationship is a disaster waiting to happen: you are not just destroying yourself by limiting yourself, you are destroying the other person. In the long term, it will breed resentment, anger, and guilt – and when one decides to pull out of such a relationship, it can cause untold pain and damage.

But, for me, the scariest thing about these relationships is what I call The Law of Transformation. You become (like) your relationships. You become (like) who you hang around (with). After some time, with these limiting associations, you remain at ground level; and when anyone close to you tries to ‘move up’, you resent it. You are not even aware of what is happening in you.

So how do you avoid these types of relationships?

It’s simple. Associate with people who allow you grow or become better, and stay away from those who don’t. If you cannot totally cut them off e.g. family, colleagues, put up mental walls and limit your interaction with them. If you have tried to, yet you cannot freely discuss your achievements, goals or successes with them – and trust that they would be encouraging – keep them to yourself. (And by the way, I am not talking about a condescending, hoity-toity, rub-it-in-your-face kind of discussion.) Be unapologetic about being successful, or as someone once said, “…make no excuses for the blessings of God on (your) life.”

Understand timing and strength zones.
Sisi has strengths that I do not have, and vice-versa. In that instance, my strengths were needed. If we had understood that, we would both have been happy for me, and continued to look for a job with her strengths. It might have taken a little longer, but at the right time, she would have found a job where she was needed. Then we would both have been happy for her.

Finally, look at yourself.
How do you feel or react when people close to you succeed – or want to succeed? You attract your type. Learn to genuinely encourage and validate people. Be thankful for other people’s blessings even if you have to grit your teeth to do so! Encourage the successes, achievements and celebrations of your friends and family. Don’t congratulate them upfront, and make envious, bitter statements behind. Be challenged, learn from them, and aspire to achieve as well – without competing.

Don’t become a limiting relationship yourself.

Photo Credit: Lisa F. Young |

Debby Osa is a God lover and Big Visionary. She is Principal Consultant at Sydelle Nigeria and co- partner at Elandi Group of Companies. She loves everything branding, writing, reading and travelling. When she can be found on social media, she is on Twitter: @debbynkemeti Facebook:!/debby.nkemeti?ref=bookmarks Email: [email protected] or [email protected]


  1. Nitomeya

    May 23, 2017 at 8:00 pm

    This is a breath of fresh air. I enjoyed every bit of this write-up as it has so much wisdom in it. Thanks Debby.

  2. Weezy

    May 23, 2017 at 8:36 pm

    woo boy. This is going to be long. Brace ya-self.

    Can I give you a different perspective on Sisi?

    First of all, it was a bad idea for two students to interview for the same job together. Second, the MD was incredibly rude and created a situation where your friend was bound to feel resentment. Which one is “we should hire the dark one”? Third, from your write up, the friend never said anything to you. She was quiet on the way home – but she didn’t start abusing you or say bad things about the company. She had a normal reaction of envy, maybe shame. But she did not tell you not to take the job (unless you just left that part out), In this example, Sisi is not responsible for whatever feelings you had that you needed to dumb yourself down.

    Part of life is dealing with uncomfortable situations with friends, family, etc. and being able to move on. Because this happens a lot – you can’t discard everybody. What happens when your best friend has a moment of jealousy because you had a baby while she has been waiting for 7 years, and she isn’t super ecstatic at the naming ceremony.. Will you cut her off for that? Or will you let her feel her pain and work through it, so long as she isn’t trying to sabotage or put you down. In a decade when her child gets a full ride to Oxford while yours barely got into LASU, should she stop talking to you because you were angry for a bit?

    Look, I get that friendships have seasons, so it is good to let them go if they are not working. But this whole idea that is popular nowadays about surrounding yourself only with winners is quite flawed. Because newsflash, no one is going to be a winner in every aspect of life. Look at someone like Sheryl Sandberg – millionaire Facebook executive, then her husband dies suddenly. You think the people she turned to are the ones who are constantly challenging her to grow and be the best? She’s probably talking to the middle class high school friend that never went anywhere and doesnt care about her facebook earnings, but knows what its like to lose a spouse.

    In my view, its best to have a mix of people in your circle. Some that challenge you to be more successful, some that challenge you to be more patient, and some that challenge you to be more modest or empathetic (people like Sisi might fit this category).

    • imose

      May 23, 2017 at 10:13 pm


    • mee

      May 23, 2017 at 10:46 pm

      Wow @ Weezy, I couldn’t agree more, you said it all. Thank you.

    • looters

      May 24, 2017 at 9:04 am

      Someone give this guy/girl a cold beer. The obsession of ‘ surrounding yourself only with winners’ is one of the most flawed movements championed on social media.

  3. john

    May 23, 2017 at 8:41 pm

    very nice article ..a breath of freash articulate… love it and ure way of writing..ure what the likes of mysandrist like nkem and cisi will never be ..u should write more often even though it may not receive the kind of comments that the men hating articles always does..bcos BN has been hijacked by delusional miserable radicals

  4. Sisi

    May 23, 2017 at 10:39 pm

    Whilst I get the article the first example of sisi isn’t great. You did that to yourself – you projected that situation. Sisi was quiet understandably – a young student not used to being rejected. Highly likely that she just needed a moment to digest the situation if she was a true friend. These types of things happen in the journey of life, but distinguishing between a genius desire to not see another person win, want to dim their light, pack mentality, crab in a bucket mentality and honest and sometimes natural feelings such as envy, resentment, sadness is necessary particularly with someone you know has your back and wants the best for you as proved by their actions in the past

    • slice

      May 24, 2017 at 7:38 am

      Sis became happy only after her friend didn’t get the job….Which was days after …

  5. Victor ogbobe

    May 24, 2017 at 7:57 am

    Hi Debby, I agree with on those points. Educative indeed.

  6. john

    May 24, 2017 at 8:19 am

    @weezy wow..that is deep..I 100 % agree with u too..u need to apply for that BN job..This is the kindvof intelligent comment I like

  7. Asa

    May 24, 2017 at 9:37 am

    Well,,, No be so the matter dey normally happen, it looked like I was going to marry my bf before my bestie got married but we remained friends. After many years, me and bf broke up and bestie is now married, we are still friends! Things will come when they come to whom they will come!

  8. up weezy

    May 24, 2017 at 9:42 am

    Omg! Weezy you are a god! So insightful…never read a comment on bellanaija with so much substance…you just got yourself a fan

  9. b

    May 24, 2017 at 10:18 am

    I am happy I read this and got the perspective shaed by Wizzy

  10. truth

    May 24, 2017 at 11:12 am

    @Weezy lots of kisses to you joor! peeps keep overdoing things or don’t really understand life @all,its really not like a straight line graph!

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