There’s a line in a song that resonates with me: “Stop having people at your shows that wasn’t at rehearsal.” But that’s a sentiment that’s been told to me a thousand times in a thousand ways, mostly by my father. Those of you who follow me on Instagram or Facebook have seen me talk about this before.
“Stop having people at your shows that wasn’t at rehearsal.” (Big Sean)
There are always going to be people in our lives who aren’t interested in the journey we’re taking to our defined successes, but are ready for the celebration once we’ve arrived at the destination. The problem isn’t that they want to celebrate with us; it’s that while we’re putting in the work and making the sacrifices to get there, these people are also often the ones who shift our focus and our energy away from the end goal. They don’t know how to be supportive, or they choose not to be, and that influence has a detrimental impact on not only how quickly we achieve our goals, but how we feel about ourselves, our lives and our relationships in the process.
Constantly evaluating our relationships and tightening our circles is necessary to properly cultivate who we are and who we’re becoming. This doesn’t mean making a self-indulgent friend purge Facebook post with a #nonewfriends hashtag. It just means putting yourself at arm’s length with the people in your life who serve more harm than they do good.
I follow a few guidelines myself that I’ll share with you here:
1. You CAN choose your family.
There’s this unspoken rule that you should put up with more from your family than you would from friends or strangers for the simple reason that they are family. When I realized how absurd that unspoken rule was, my life became a lot better for it. Quite frankly, I’ve been blessed. My family is incredible. My parents are amazing, my sisters are two of my best friends, and I’ve got a tight group of cousins that operate like siblings. I could not be more grateful. But I have a pretty large extended family (33 first cousins on just my mother’s side!), so there’s no way I was going to get away with having a fantastic relationship with everyone. That being said, my family gets less of a pass than friends or strangers would, because they owe me more. There are certain things I just won’t say and just won’t do to family, because they’re family. There are lines I’ll never cross, there’s a standard of respect and love that should never be broken and that friends and acquaintances just don’t owe me. If I’m your “family” and those boundaries are breached, then you’re not family. It’s as simple as that.
2. Negativity breeds negativity.
This is a difficult one to navigate, because I do believe that being a good friend is to understand that you have a responsibility to cultivate and nurture that relationship through the good times and the tough times. Fair weather friends are for the birds. I’ve gone through things, I continue to go through things, and I don’t know how I would manage without my tribe. It’s necessary. That being said, there are people who have no interest in working through anything, and who don’t need your help working towards any solutions. They are comfortable to wallow in their negative circumstance and complain rather than put forth any real effort to effect change. It’s easy to see how negatively that would impact their lives, but not so easy to see how it can impact ours. It’s heavy, it’s gross, and if you leave every conversation feeling lethargic and unhappy, the toxicity of that friendship will begin to permeate other aspects of your life. Keep your distance.
3. You’ve got to buy in to be at my table.
My friends and I are big on the constructive criticism front. Unsolicited advice runs rampant in my circle, but how else would we grow? Tell me what’s flawed with what I’m doing, show me how you’re doing it better. I want to learn from what you’re doing, or learn from your mistakes. Let’s have real discussions about how to accomplish what we’re trying to accomplish! But CONSTRUCTIVE criticism is what it needs to be. I have big goals, big dreams, big plans, bigger than sometimes makes sense, and I get that my vision isn’t everyone’s vision, but if you can’t help yourself from constantly pointing out why it won’t work and your mom’s friend’s sister who tried it and failed, you can’t sit with me. Surround yourself with people who are pushing you and motivating you, and who understand the difference between helping you tweak your approach versus downplaying or disqualifying the entirety of your dream.
These were all hard learned lessons for me, but the older I get, the easier it becomes to almost organically purge the unnecessary baggage from my life. I genuinely don’t have the time or the energy to engage with people who don’t want a relationship based on mutual love, respect, and support. So if you don’t clap when I win, you’re not my friend, because when you win, I’ll be in the stands with your name on a t-shirt and an embarrassing sign screaming “That’s my friend! That’s my friend!”
Isn’t that how it should be?