Yeah, I’m going to sound like a cranky old bat. I’m honestly not that concerned. I have a message for you. It’s a message you’ve almost certainly heard before, but you probably never really gave it any thought.
Nobody wants to hear that their friends suck. The fact is, we’re pretty protective of our friends. Still, I can give you a few good reasons to look critically at the people who surround you… and perhaps make some changes!
Show me your friends and I’ll show you who you are
As a teenager, I was a ‘fringe friend’. I went to all-girls schools, where ‘cliques’ were inevitable… but, instead of being 100% devoted to any one of them, I was vaguely associated with several different friend groups.
At that young age, I could already tell that depending on who I was hanging out with, I tended to become a slightly different version of myself.
With group A, I was studious and spoke about intellectual pursuits. With group B, I was a complete goofball who would do or say pretty much anything to make people laugh. With group C, I was a cynic; critical of everything and everyone and very disillusioned about life. I even spoke different LANGUAGES based on who I was hanging out with at the time. I had multiple social personalities.
I’ve never regretted the fact that I had few deep friendships and many superficial ones. The experience made me realise that the old saying is really true; birds of a feather and all that…
Without consciously doing so, you tend to align yourself with whatever your friends are doing. Here’s the problem though; if your friend group has different priorities or different potential from yours, you may end up forgetting what you really want and what you’re really capable of.
Here are some ways that your friends may unwittingly have changed you… and not necessarily for the better;
Friends can make you unhappy in love
Do you have a friend who is always breaking up with someone, dating someone new or complaining about their no-good spouse? Negativity is contagious! That kind of environment can make you compare and judge your own relationship.
Do you have a friend who is quick to criticise your significant other? I have actually had this experience; I thought he was great; smart, talented, attentive, faithful, attractive… My friends couldn’t understand what I saw in him. Even in retrospect, years after the relationship ended, I still think I was right about him. If your friends clearly dislike your S.O., you won’t be very motivated to save a relationship even if deep down, you know it’s worth saving.
One the other hand, let’s say your friend just got a massive bouquet of flowers for no good reason from her boyfriend. You can’t remember the last time your boyfriend bought you a present ‘just because’… Does that mean you’re dating an insensitive loser? Maybe… but maybe your boyfriend just figured out how to do the laundry without ruining your clothes, maybe he doesn’t complain when you monopolise the TV with your chick flicks… Maybe he can’t afford those flowers since he’s saving up to buy you an engagement ring!
Comparison is the thief of joy
Competition is a perfectly natural thing; it can even be healthy. Just be careful what energy you absorb from your friends.
Friends can make you unambitious
We all have a natural desire to fit in. Maybe not with everyone but, at the very least, we want to fit in with our friends. If your friends all have university diplomas, you’ll feel like an odd-ball if you don’t. If your friends run successful businesses, you’ll feel driven to up your own professional game. If your friends are super active, you’ll feel guilty about being a couch-potato.
On the flip-side, if your friends are unemployed, living with their parents and playing video games all day, you won’t feel any urgency about getting that promotion at work. You wont be thinking about investing for the future or developing yourself as a professional. Although you aren’t reaching your full potential, compared to your friends, you’re doing well!
Good enough will start to feel… well… good enough.
Take my advice; make friends who inspire you to always strive for excellence!
Friends can make you fat
Yup, I went there. I’m not talking big-boned, of course. I’m talking about unhealthy eating habits that you might adopt from your friends based on how they socialise. This means that if you have the wrong friends, you may also develop poor eating habits that make you unhealthily skinny…
It’s not just about Saturday night Netflix and Pizza parties… Think about how you feel about yourself when compared to your friends.
I’ve always been slim, but never fit. My biggest efforts at actual fitness were made at a time when one of my best friends became a fitness junkie. I never got into it as much as she was, but it was the only time in my life when I felt inclined to go for an occasional run, eat complex carbs, high-protein meals without too much saturated fat… and otherwise clean up my lifestyle. I even bought workout clothes (Seriously, what was I thinking??).
That friend is no longer in my life, and I’ve reverted to relying on genes to create an illusion of being in shape…
Friends can make you broke
I wrote a whole article on this, which you can read here, but I’ll summarise it for you; friends cost money. Even if you’re inviting your friend over for a girls’ night in, someone’s got to buy the wine, someone has to spring for snacks, someone’s supply of over-priced face masks just dwindled…
There’s no way around it – and when it comes down to it, a good friend is more than worth the expense. Just be mindful of friends with deeper pockets than yours, or friends who are financially irresponsible. When it’s your turn to treat everyone to drinks but everyone has champagne tastes, your ice-water budget will take a very hard hit.
I once heard some good advice; buy a house that’s cheaper than what you can afford, in a neighbourhood where everyone’s car is a bit more modest than the one you’re thinking of getting. That way, you don’t develop feelings of jealousy or inadequacy… or go into debt trying to keep up with an unrealistic ideal.
Of course, I do have a few treasured friends. I’m not saying you shouldn’t socialise and I’m definitely not saying you shouldn’t have any friends at all… just that it pays to choose your friends wisely. You might be surprised at how much that simple choice can change your life!