I always thought that sayings like “birds of a feather flock together” and “you are who you hang out with,” were so lame. I had all different kinds of friends that I wasn’t anything like. I also dated guys who were nothing like the overgrown frat bros they hung out with. It didn’t make any sense to me.
Fast forward a few years and what I thought were really meaningful, forever friendships turned out to be fake friendships. I was also not a very good friend to some people who were genuinely great friends to me. I had to learn how to be a better friend to the people who were better friends to me.
Until you feel good about who you are and have boundaries that reflect that feeling, you will never be attracted to what’s good for you, no matter how much you claim to want and deserve it. You will only be attracted to what activates you – your triggers.
And your triggers are not your truth.
As I got older, I’d like to say that my friendships did as well because they eventually did… but not at first. For a long time, I didn’t have anyone which was hard. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again – as you evolve, everyone will have an allergic reaction – good or bad – to that evolution. Even your own family. The more you evolve, the lonelier it gets in many ways. We grow up basing our worth on not only how liked we are, but on how often we are chosen, and how many people we can extract the attention, validation, interest, and affection of.
It’s really hard to redirect those neural pathways through having the back of the one person you have ignored and allowed toxic friendships to doormat over and over again – yourself.
Jim Rohn, famously said “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” I don’t know if Jim meant it in this way, but the real turning point for me was realizing that the group of five included myself. YOU are who you hang out with the most.
It doesn’t matter how amazing of an organic green smoothie you have with the best and most fresh ingredients – if there is the tiniest piece of bird sh*t in it, it’s going to ruin the whole smoothie.
What if I gave you the world’s healthiest smoothie with ingredients guaranteed to make your skin glow but it had the tiniest piece of poop in it – no bigger than the smallest crumb. Would you still want to drink it? I know I wouldn’t. SAME with you and your friends.
It really is true – You are who you hang out with.
Through the years, I have become much more private, gotten an emotional life of my own, and have realized that I don’t really have “friendships” anymore. I have a lot of what I call acquaintance-ships plus a few very close people who are the family that I have chosen for myself.
My close friends are all different ages and stages. My closest girlfriend is in her 50’s. I have friends who are younger than me, my own age, a close guy friend in his 40’s and another girlfriend in her 20’s. My best friend died last year at 92.
The more I let go of the Sex and The City, made-for-Pinterest, enviable-on-social-media image of what my group of friends should look like, the more I have been able to manifest healthy relationships that have enriched my life to such an extent, I truly don’t know where I would be without them.
Bottom Line: You are who you hang out with.
Before I get into why the friends of whoever you are in a relationship with MATTER, here are a few things that I have observed about myself and the friendships in my life…
- You are who you hang out with. All of the people who I am extremely close to, have experienced pain on a life-changing level. A level that their motivation, success, attitude, and lives affirm every day. This isn’t about only being friends with people who own private jets. It’s about embodying Earl Nightingale’s definition of success: “Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal.” My close friends have all experienced loss, deprivation, and rejection that they have learned from, grown from, and are a success because of. They don’t lead with these narratives when they so.easily.could. They very simply, not in a grandiose/#bosslife/theatrical way, quietly ACT in spite of them. And are able to empathize with others are a result.
- We all stay in our own lane while respecting and supporting the lane of the other.
- My friendships are f-r-e-e and e-a-s-y. There’s no cost in my friendships; no counting cards or getting obnoxiously offended. It’s effortless. Being close with these people does not cost either one of us our peace, sanity, dignity, or self-esteem. There’s no tug of war.
- Although our beliefs and opinions may be different, we share the same core values. Especially when it comes to respect. You are who you hang out with.
- There is no judgment. We understand and would help each other however we could in situations we may not agree with.
- I am not close with anyone who is an anchor or who drains me of my energy.
- I am only close with people who inspire, motivate, and uplift me. I learn from them. We are each other’s cheerleaders, never “yes!” people. And just because they inspire me, that doesn’t mean that they don’t have problems/issues and that I don’t have my own. We are there for one another when we need to be – no judgy/passive jabs, no interrogatory bullsh*t or storing of ammunition for down the road.
- We are all busy and have our own lives. If we don’t talk for months, we can always pick right back up.
- We mind our own business.
- We are protective of one another but never parental. Few things are more annoying in life than a parental friend.
- We don’t all need to get together – photograph, filter, tag, and post. We don’t feel the need to constantly document our friendship. A lot of my friends don’t know each other and a lot do. There are no cliquey vibes.
For a long time, I felt very alone in my experiences, feelings, fears, pain, and insecurities. Part of the reason that I created this blog was to build family and friendships, all around the world, that connected with me in the most meaningful and intimate way possible – by you seeing your own pain in mine.
You are who you hang out with.
I have formed so many incredible friendships through this blog and I try to interact with as many readers as I can. I still, however, apply the same checklist and ask myself the SAME questions as I do with my close friends:
I only respond and give my energy to people who uplift me and like who I am.
I used to feel like I had to get everyone to like me. It never worked and just set me up to be a self-sabotaging doormat. You are never going to be able to convince a cynic, so why tie your value to it? Pointless.
I also used to feel selfish and immature for applying this mentality when people would tell me “oh Natasha, you just can’t take the heat!” This isn’t about not being able to take the heat. I can take heat. It’s about prioritizing the quality of your life and realizing what isn’t worth your energy.
You’d never look at your toilet full of sh*t and think “Oh GOSH. If I flush, then everyone will think I can’t take the smell.” Who the hell WANTS to take the smell?
I only respond to people who are constructive in their criticism, disposition, and communication.
I don’t respond or give any energy to agenda-driven, selfish people.
I don’t waste my energy on people who are emotional vampires.
I’m not fan of drill sergeant “tough love,” brutality in honesty, people who get their kicks from seeing the extent to which they can control your emotional weather or the height in which they can get you to jump.
I don’t respond to people who are out of touch with reality.
I don’t respond to people who are empathetically bankrupt.
I only respond to people who are respectful in their honesty, not disrespectfully brutal.
I recently told a very successful colleague about something that I am personally dealing with. He was extremely brutal in his response on text. I didn’t respond and deleted the text. I got a very genuine apology text a few days later. You really do teach people how to treat you and you are who you hang out with.
I don’t give energy to anyone who gossips, creates drama or is a nosy parker.
This is not High School Musical. This is my life and I value it.
It has to be a good deal on BOTH ends – Am I teaching something? Am I learning something?
All of this can sound really douchey, cliche, and annoying but I’m telling you, it has simplified, enriched, and transformed my life. It’s not like I’m going through my days with a checklist before I interact with anyone. I’m actually MORE easy going and LESS uptight because I know my limits. My boundaries are no longer up for negotiation. It’s no different than going to a buffet and wanting to eat only the foods that appeal to you – that’s the whole POINT of going to a buffet. Your life is your buffet.
I only engage with people who are just as open to listening as they are sharing.
I only engage with people who get it, respect it, and UNDERSTAND – if I can’t write a long response, if I can’t respond, if I have to go completely MIA for a few months to work on my book, whatever it may be.
And I understand and respect it on their end too. Always. It actually motivates me to keep going – in my own lane.
I don’t engage with anyone who I have to lead to water.
Who the hell wants to have to drag decency, kindness, empathy, humanity, and an apology out of a grown adult? If you see a grown adult wearing diapers, that’s not your signal to change them. It’s your signal to avoid adults who are not emotionally potty trained.
+ If you’ve gone through these lists and feel like you don’t have anyone, think again. Comment on this post and just see the love, understanding, respect, and empathy that boomerangs right back to you. You are who you hang out with and you are a part of this tribe.
So, getting back to “you are who you hang out with”… As far as dating and being in a relationship goes, here’s why who he/she is friends with MATTERS.
Birds of a feather do indeed flock together and you are who you hang out with. No matter how different they may be or seem, if he/she is close friends with someone, there IS some kind of common denominator shared. It may not be obvious at first but it’s there.
This isn’t about being a bad person – I’ve dated some great guys who had close friends that acted and spoke in ways my boyfriend never did around me.
I could tell that my boyfriend was the leader of the pack. I kind of liked how he would advise, loan them money, and “keep them in line.” His reason for being friends with them was that they were childhood friends, which I totally respected and understood.
The only problem was, none of them had ever branched out and diversified with other relationships or evolved. They all gave each other advice that an 8th grader could eclipse. Everything was humor that “I didn’t understand.” It slowly got less and less appealing.
Not only did this guy have no one motivating him, he had no reason to branch out. I mean, why would he? He has his own built-in group of exonerators, ego strokers, and mediocrity securers.
They were all very nice guys that to this day I am sure, are very nice guys. They just have no wind beneath their wings because their Members Only friendship has proven to be the ultimate wing clipper.
And that’s OKAY. Really, it is. I never want to come down on anyone and I have definitely been there.
It’s just not for me. And that’s okay too.
Because of this and other red/pink flags, the relationship didn’t work. I ended up being the hype beast for him that his friends never could be.
He was happy to secure my cheerleader position and I was all too happy to (finally!) be picked to be on the squad. Eventually, I got burned out and expectations formed that could not be met on both ends.
Whether you are dating or in a relationship with someone, be less of a reactor and more of a quiet observer to:
- Who their friends present themselves to be (in person and on social media) vs. who they really are.
- If your partner takes on a different persona with them.
- How your partner talks about/prioritizes/excuses/exonerates/gossips about his/her friends.
- What your partner reveals about his/her friends.
- How your partner treats his/her friends.
- How your partner’s friends treat their significant others.
- What similarities, possible enabling, and shared values there are.
- How your partner AND his/her friends talk about/treat: the opposite sex, animals, their parents, siblings, the elderly, and anyone helping them.
If you are in a relationship with someone who is unavailable, winning their friends over will feel just as monumental as the dirty drop of water you get every now and then from the empty well that they are.
Pay attention to your surroundings – not just when you’re walking in a dark alley, but when you’re walking through your own relational one.
And appreciate your partner’s friends for what they are first and foremost: a clearer view into what your partner may try to fog up.
+ If you need further and more personalized help with your relationship, please look into working with me here.