There’s a saying that goes something like this: Good relationships bring out your best side, while bad ones bring out your worst side. That’s true of relationships both platonic and romantic. Friends who are a good influence will want to see you do well because they want what’s best for you. Friends who are a bad influence will try to cut you down and dissuade you from improving yourself, because they’re not happy unless other people are rolling around in the muck with them. Bad friends will be threatened by your success. Good friends will cheer you on and be delighted when nice things happen to you. So how do you make sure you have a supportive social circle rather than a toxic one?
How They Make You Feel
Think of friendship like a buffet at lunch. A buffet full of healthy foods will energize you. It will make you feel productive and ready to tackle whatever life has to offer. A buffet full of junk food might taste good when you’re shoveling it in your mouth, but in the long run, you’re not going to feel so hot. You’ll feel tired and cranky, and your body may crash because you didn’t get the proper nutrients.
In a lot of ways, friendship is like that buffet. Are your friends feeding you a healthy emotional diet, or are they stuffing junk food down your throat and trying to tell you it’s actually good for you? As the late poet Maya Angelou said, “The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them.” That means that someone’s character is often more apparent than we realize. For instance, let’s say you have a crush on someone that moves in your social circle. If you confess this crush to your friend, a good friend won’t say, “But he’s way too handsome for you,” or, “You better not try to date anyone until you lose 20 pounds.” That’s a negative, hostile response. A good friend will listen and offer encouragement. If they have concerns, they’ll express them in a way that’s respectful. They won’t try to tear you down just to build up their own sense of self-worth. People who do that are often engaging in something known as projection. In other words, they’re taking a quality they don’t like about themselves and assigning it to you.
How They Respond In a Crisis
When we’re going through a tough time in our life, we need to make sure our social circle can pick us up rather than leave us on the ground, or worse, kick us when we’re down. If you’re struggling with addiction and float the idea of going to inpatient drug rehab, a good friend will respond with concern. They’ll ask what they can do to help. A bad friend will make your problem all about them by saying something like, “That sucks! Who am I supposed to go party with now?”
Let’s say you get arrested for drunk driving. A reliable friend will do things like bail you out and send you links to websites like ArborYpsiLaw so you can hire a criminal defense attorney. They’ll also be gentle but firm when they ask if you have any alcohol issues that need to be addressed. An unreliable friend will make mean jokes at your expense or just stop talking to you entirely. When you’re fighting something like addiction, you want people in your life who will make your journey to sobriety easier rather than harder. As we age out of our twenties and enter middle adulthood, we often realize that some of our friendships are based around harmful activities like binge drinking. Beating addiction often means finding a new social circle, or at least meeting with your old social circle in places that aren’t bars. It’s possible to support people who are struggling without enabling their worst habits. If you don’t have friends who realize that, then it’s time to go meet some people who do.