If your friends bring out the best in you, what can you learn about yourself during that reveal?
Unlike family, foisted upon us, friendships are built via a more deliberate process. Over the years, our chosen family starts to represent a rich tapestry—one piece might represent a buddy you’ve known since elementary school; another, a college roommate. “We’ve all done this, created our mix-and-match families, our homemade safety nets,” muses author David Levithan in Two Boys Kissing. Since we choose the members of our homemade family, examining this circle of friends can provide interesting fodder for self-discovery. Let’s look at some areas for insight.
Your Stress Reactions
How does your group of friends respond when, as that old TV theme song goes, “it hasn’t been your day, your week or even your year?” Do they take you out drinking, or out for a hike? Think about how you deal with stress and change, overall. Do you tend to go into problem-solving mode, or withdraw and throw up your hands? Do you take extra loving care of yourself or hit the ice cream? Where are the opportunities for change?
We tend to make friends with people who share our core values, but even within these relationships, the amount we place on a certain value will differ. Discretion, for example, might be very important to one person, while to another, it’s hard to stay tight-lipped about anything. Some people are more comfortable bending the rules, while others are more rigid about them. Observe how you react to your friends’ behavior toward issues such as parenting, finance, or privacy. What feels most admirable to you? What feels less comfortable?
Sources of Energy
Some people are “inner” battery rechargers, and need to retreat from other humans in order to feel rested. Others derive energy from the external world—they need to be plugged in, as it were, whether that means a party, a roomful of people to meet at a work mixer, or even a random lady to talk to in the produce aisle. You probably have friends who fall along the spectrum. One might spend a month alone in Vancouver to write each summer, while another is in real estate sales and is a natural schmoozer. Where do you fall, within your social circle? And where might you need to adjust in order to feel rejuvenated?
The more comfortable you are in a friendship, the more your sense of security grows. With this comes an opportunity to reveal insecurities, fears or vulnerabilities in a safe space. With a trusted friend, we can even examine scars from the past and work to heal them. But, there’s a rub: You need to be brave to let these feelings out. What topics are you most and least trusting about sharing? What do you hold back from your friends, and why?
As Zig Ziglar says, “You cannot hit a target you cannot see, and you cannot see a target you do not have.” Friends help us create targets because they are like mirrors we see ourselves in. A vegan friend might inspire you to order a new cookbook, while a newly tidy friend who has been decluttering might galvanize your own closet clear-out. As you spend time with friends, what is energizing you to take action in your life? What is most exciting for potential growth?