“Tell Me Who Your Friends Are…”
There is an age-old proverb that goes: “Tell me who your friends are, and I’ll tell you who you are.” Sound familiar? Near identical versions appear in English, Spanish, Korean, Russian, and Bulgarian (to name a few), so it may be safe to say there’s some truth behind it. Who we surround ourselves with defines who we are. Our interpersonal connections are typically a reflection of what we hold dear. When you look at your friends, what do you see?
As I approach 40 (gasp!), I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about friendships, relationships, personal growth–you name it. Who am I spending time and emotional energy with? Why? Am I spending time with people that “fill my bucket”? Am I being a good friend? Am I putting too much into this friendship and not enough into that one?
Have you ever found yourself doing the same?
“… And I’ll Tell You Who You Are”
Friendships and diamonds. Diamonds and friendships. Seems like an unlikely pairing, right? Lately, it’s been swirling around my mind and not in the “Hey, I wonder who is gonna buy me some diamonds for my 40th birthday” kind of way. I think the two have a lot in common. Seriously.
Consider how multi-dimensional we each are (like diamonds). Now draw a mental parallel between the friendships you’ve chosen and how each bounces light off different aspects of your personality (just like facets). In other words, the friendships we make take turns at highlighting, challenging, complementing, and/or reflecting back at us different parts of our own personalities. Do you have a friend you call when you just need someone to listen? Another friend you text when you can’t figure out what to do at work? What about that friend you reach out to for relationship advice? Or the one you call, text or tweet just to vent about the idiosyncrasies of every day life? Do you find yourself reaching out to certain friends because you can almost predict what they are going to say to you? I know, me too.
And it’s just as likely that you have served or are serving in some of these same roles for the friends in your life.
The Many Faces of Me
Delving into this deeper, I decided to look at who I have been in touch with over the past 14 days. The snapshot: my monthly 1-hour call to a dear friend of 21+ years; a series of Messenger chats with another pal going through a hard time; countless WhatsApp messages with my bestie from the last place I lived; a handful of texts with my college roommate; and a few faux-snarky texts with an old colleague whose friendship I treasure far more than the time we spent working together.
With each, I can honestly say that I am “me.” And to be quite honest, the “me” that I am is slightly different for one than the other. The facets of my personality sparkle in the light differently with each of them. With some, I am the rock: the one leaned on, a steady voice during unsteady times; for others, I might be the voice of reason… or the devil’s advocate… or the one with the snarky retort or Joe Biden meme at just the right time to keep the serious from getting too heavy over text.
On the flip side: I reach out to certain friends confident that the safety net of love and understanding they give me will weather any storm that my insecurity, fear, or irrationality may bring. Others, I reach out to for their quick wit and like-minded world views. Still others, for how they make me laugh, or because they remind me of what I value.
There are the friends who know when to call me out on my bullshit; and others who let me sit with my suffering and sadness a bit (knowing they can’t change my mind about a, b, or c), but who are always ready to listen when I am ready to talk. Some friends that always have the scoop on our pals of yesteryear; and still others that go out of their way to introduce me to friends of theirs (because we’re so similar… or so different).
Reasons, Seasons, and Lifetimes
People say that friends come into our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. And I think it’s true, but also more complicated than that. Some friendships are easier than others, some flourish at a slow burn, and others just click. I encourage each one of us to take a look at the friendships in
our lives. Do you they lift you up? Support you when you’re down? Listen? Advise? Make you laugh? Are you doing the same for them? Friendship is, of course, a give-and-take and will not always sit at 50-50. That said, if your friendships are struggling, you may want to evaluate what’s behind your connection, as well as take some time honestly reflect on how you’ve treated your half of the friendship.
I have friends that wear some of the hats mentioned above, others that wear just one. Some with whom I’ll be in contact feverishly for a bit and then not at all for months, years. I’ve been the “reason” friend during a time of crisis, the “season” friend for chapters in which one or both of us needed to grow, and the “lifetime” friend to a smaller, treasured handful, where just hearing each other’s familiar voices makes the trials and tribulations of our individual lives seem a tad more bearable than they appeared before.
Friendships are the antidote to feeling all alone. Within each other, we can find our own reflections, our own invitations to grow, and our challenges to the status quo. We need to be there for each other, ready to don a hat or two.
Like they say, “Tell me who your friends are, and I’ll tell you who you are.”