I am going to admit it - happily and proudly - I am a HUGE fan of the show 'Friends'. It is a show I have watched several times and even now, I can watch any episode and be guaranteed of having a great laugh and be left feeling good at the end of it.
That's how friends should be. They are the people who make you laugh, share the tears, know your weaknesses but show you your strengths, and ultimately, leave you feeling better than before they arrived. I have a number of friends who do that for me and I love them for it.
A couple of weeks ago, I was having a discussion with my year 5 class when I asked them who they thought the most influential people might be once they are in high school and become teenagers. I loved the innocence of their response when they emphatically and wholeheartedly replied - our parents! Aaaaaah, yes.....parents would love that to be true but, I tell them, unfortunately, that is not the case! They think a little more before one of them replies with a question - our friends?
Bingo! Yes! As humans, often the biggest influence on what we do or don't do are our friends.
This conversation stemmed from one of the boys saying, "People who grow up to steal things from others grow up in bad areas, have bad things happen to them and don't get along with their mum and dad." It was an interesting perception that I felt definitely needed to be pursued a little deeper. This the conversation of influence.
It was interesting to see their reaction when I shared with them, that all of those things can happen to you and you can still grow up to not steal from others and make better life choices OR you can have everything you possibly need, grow up with a family that loves and supports you and you can still make choices in life that don't serve you and lead to a life that you don't necessarily want for yourself. So how does that happen?
Often the turning point is in the teenage years and a result of peer influence. Not always, but saying no to friends is harder than we realise when we are younger (and sometimes when we are older too!)
Show me your friends
Show me your friends and I will tell you what you are like. Show me your friends and I will predict your future. We are who we spend the most time with. Even as adult humans, we are influenced by who we spend most of our time with. Our lives are a direct reflection of the expectations of our peer group. If our friends are expecting you to always be striving for a better version of yourself, then that is who you ultimately become. If they raise the standard of what showing up and living your best life, then we rise to that. But not all friends are like that. Some friends are okay with you cruising through life, nurturing the seed of self-doubt and discouragement.
Choosing the right friends when you are younger is harder because, ultimately, we all want to be liked and feel like we belong. Often when adults are in toxic friendships, people stay because of that sense of belonging that we are all searching for. Choosing our friends takes courage, vulnerability and patience in finding those you truly connect with. It is always better to have quality friends, than lots of friends. We don't need as many as we think we do. We need a few who always have our back.
It's OK to say No
Peer pressure is a real thing. How many people around you find it hard to say no and then feel annoyed or frustrated because they find themselves in a situation they don't really want to be in? I do the same thing. As I get older and learn about myself a bit more, I am getting better at it but it is still challenging to do. Which is why people will often refer to themselves as 'people pleasers'. This is a challenging one for kids too especially as they are still trying to work out who they are. But my lesson to them and to adults alike is, it is perfectly okay to say yes to others as long as you aren't saying no to yourself. It is okay to say yes if you are being authentic and real. There is nothing wrong with saying yes or no to a friend, as long as you are staying true to the person you want to be.
Navigating friendships at any age requires a few understandings of expectations and rules around what a true friend actually looks like, sounds like and feels like. It is a learning process for our little humans that can be painful at times. Here are some things I am teaching my class in order to support their journey of navigating the roads of friendships!
Decide who you want to be. This is the bottom line of friendship. This was a big part of my conversation with my class of 10-year-olds. The first thing you need to know when it comes to friendship, is to decide what kind of person you want to be and what kind of friend you want to be and then go and be that! If you want to be a kind and trustworthy friend, be that. If you are looking for those kinds of friends, become that yourself first. Decide who you want to be because your actions and how you show up will determine the friends you attract and who you decide to bring into your circle.
Sometimes friends are for now and sometimes they are for life. Sometimes we are friends with people for a chapter of our life, we learn from them, we grow and then we move to the next chapter. Sometimes friends are in our lives for the span of our lifetime. Either way, it is okay. Some friends will come and go. Be okay with it. It is okay to grieve the loss of a friend. But the practice of gratitude of what that friend taught us and brought into our lives is the lesson we all need to remember in order to move forward.
Be kind and show compassion always. Like I said to my class last week, not everyone will like what you look like, sound like, say, do, the choices you make, the company you keep and lots of other things about you and that is perfectly okay! It doesn't sit well with us because we all want to be liked. But regardless of what we think of other people, we always show kindness and compassion. We don't have to connect with every single person in the world and be friends with every single person to be a good person and show kindness. Everyone has a different journey and everyone has different stories about themselves. Our job is just to show up as our most authentic and best selves. The friends we connect with are the ones we are meant to connect with.
Surround yourself with those who reflect your own beauty and brilliance back into your heart. They are the friends who make you feel better simply by being around them. They are the friends who bring out the best version of yourself. They are the friends who give you the total freedom to be yourself. They are the ones who see greatness even if you don't see it in yourself.
Surround yourself with people who push you to do better and be better. They don't bring drama or negativity. They just bring higher goals and motivation, good times and positive energy. They are not jealous about your successes, they celebrate your wins and support your ideas while questioning and critiquing in a way that helps you to see other possible ideas, outcomes or solutions.
Friends mess up. Welcome to the world of humanity and imperfection! I say this line to my class all the time! Oh, if only we were perfect specimens of the human race! If only we showed perfection in every action, word and thought! But then....what would we learn and how could become better people! We are not perfect. Friends are not perfect. We make mistakes and mess up. We say the wrong things at times. We hurt feelings when we don't mean to. But friendships don't always have to end when feelings get hurt - especially when you're ten! The lesson is, be okay with friends messing up from time to time. If it happening consistently and often, well that is a different conversation about what you want in a friendship. But generally, the occasional mess up can be mended by a conversation and finding out the root of the emotion.
Navigating friendships is something we all need skills in but in today's world, our little humans need it more than ever.
Friends are the people we choose to have in our life, on purpose. So choose wisely. You are the sum of the 5 people you spend the most time with.
Until next week....enjoy the company of those you choose to call friends!
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