The 5th Dimension

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The Antidote to Work-Life Balance Part 3: Your Circle of Friends and Toxic Friendships

Friendships can be some of the most rewarding and fulfilling connections we make in our lifetimes. True friendships (the Circle facet of Stop Settling life gem) are intimate, close, and tightknit, like a vault. Blood is not always thicker than water and in my circle, I count some of my closest friends as my family.

Toxic Friendships are Hurting You

Toxic friendships must go. One of the hardest decisions of my life was letting go of a decade-long friendship that was toxic. My friend and I were so co-dependent on one another, it was unhealthy. Despite the most redeeming qualities of your “friend,” that all goes out the window as soon as your friendship involves deal-breakers such as co-dependency, abuse, or anything that fosters negative and/or detrimental effects towards one or both of you. In my particular case, my friend had two sons: one who got in all kinds of serious trouble and the other who was an angel of a kid. My friend fostered a victim-rescuer relationship with her troubled son to the point that she neglected her other son. For years, I helped her out with both her children (as she did with mine in a healthy and loving way) and her tough times because I wanted to feel needed. I liked being the rescuer, the helper, the one to make it all better. Then when she finally crossed a line that even in my co-dependent state, I was no longer willing to abide; I chose to make a very tough decision. I had to end the friendship.

I want to emphasize here that this was not an easy task. Positive elements and complementary characteristics draw you to the person. But after a while, you have to realize that you are stomaching a lot of bad for small amounts of good. If one of your core values is out of alignment, it is a toxic relationship. It has to go or you’re settling.

Co-Centric Circle of Friends

Ask yourself, how many BFFs do you have? Are all of your “close friendships” beneficial and healthy for both parties? How many people do you really need in your intimate circle?

After my revelation with my decade-long friend, I stopped settling and took a long hard look at the friendships I cultivated over the years. I began to look at my friendships as concentric circles. In my innermost circle is my BFF circle. In it are my two BFFs that have the DNA of true best friends (For those of you wondering, yes one of them is my husband and the other, you know who you are girl!). These are the people with whom I am ALWAYS my authentic self no matter what. It is a two-way, equal ground, collaborative, and direct street. The next layer out is my inner circle, one degree of separation from the BFF circle. In this circle, I have a handful of people who really know me and vice versa. We spend quality time doing things we love such as: work-related projects, exercising, coaching and counseling one another, asking and offering authentic questions and possible solutions, and having some plain old fun!  From that circle out are acquaintances. The number in here is limitless. The only element is time and depth – how much time do I want to spend with them and how much depth is there?

With my circles defined, I don’t find people moving around too often. In the past, I was the type of person that would spend more time with acquaintances trying to raise them to inner circle or BFF level. But the reality is that there is only so much of me to go around and I want to spend my time where it is most valuable for myself and the person involved.   What are your ways to assess your time value equation when it comes to your Circle?