Let your friends group edit itself

Quirk Invasion Day 2: Stop caring about what you think people think of you

There are many different ways to approach living life after your peers mark you as ethnically different. I chose to be comfortable living on the outside, doing my own thing, embracing being different as opposed to learning how to conform to the herd. Shockingly, this led to a great deal of social success for me throughout my childhood, culminating in being considered an ambassador among the many cliques in my high school along with being voted most likely to succeed.

At some point, the logical extremes of childhood coping yield to the pursuit of balance in adulthood.

In looking back on that process of “growing up”, what poor soul doesn’t have at least one thing they’d want to say to their younger selves. Having those seemingly preventable episodes that just keep cropping up in daydreams and nightmares is part of the rite of entry into the club of the “olds”. With reflection and hindsight, would you be stern with yourself? Or in some way, would you be both inspired, repulsed and kind to that ball of passionate ideas you were in that hormonally chaotic time when you thought Foucauldian sentences were as amazing as they were impenetrable in the way you were amazed and mystified in thinking about whom among your friends would end up becoming your friends for life?

I can imagine reassuring my younger self that run-on sentences are a bad idea…and that everything would come out OK. I’d drop hints of the amazing adventures to come, of travels to many corners of our round world and that yes, our outcast peers would lead a world-changing movement or two. But aside perhaps from a brief warning about a really charismatic guy from Marin County who ended up charming and dating the brilliant Russian emigre you’ll always have a secret crush on, there’s one idea above them all that I’d like to say to my former self:

Stop caring about what other people think. Just stop. Be kind to everyone. Engage with people who engage with you, who show you respect through their actions. Don’t chase people and friends groups who don’t reciprocate your interest and don’t waste time on people you fall for who forget you exist. Eventually, your family of choice will form around you and it will continue to evolve with time.

Most people figure this out during adolescence or at some point in adulthood. There are a few who never wrestle with this, it just comes naturally. Then there are those who aren’t going to learn it at all, subjecting themselves to the whims of those they idolize or seek while shutting out many others.

We might mix patterns in our friendships, professional relationships and love lives. We may seek out the best and most caring mentors and compassionate friends while repeatedly ending up with the same kind of emotionally abusive romantic partners.

We may also find it harder to make friends as we grow older, therefore willing to tolerate more toxicity in our relationships as these fields appear to narrow for us.

Whatever happens throughout our lives, ask yourself these five questions about every person you consider yourself close to:

  1. Does this person enjoy my company?
  2. Does this person value my place in their life?
  3. Does this person seek me out and always find ways to include me?
  4. Does this person make me feel better about myself and life, regardless of what’s going on in it?
  5. Does this person keep up with what’s going on in my life?

You should be able to easily answer these questions for yourself based purely on your last few interactions. You don’t enjoy or value all your friends all the time, and neither will they, but on the whole the answers to these questions shouldn’t be hard to suss out. It’s not about what they think, it’s about what they do.

These are also questions you should ask yourself about your friends. Do you enjoy them, value them, seek them out? If not, why not?

If you can’t get an honest, sure yes out of at least three of these questions for each of your friends, ask yourself why. In posing that question, be sure to look at actions and not assumptions. It’s really easy for some people to let their insecurities get the better of them and this is not an exercise for that.

The question you never want to ask is: “What does this person think of me?” Our opinions about people frequently change with circumstances, time, age and many other factors. The same goes for others’ opinions of us. That’s the nature of opinions, they’re not facts. Actions and deeds are the facts of relationships and while it may seem that the proliferation of social technologies keep us at a mediated distance, even a quick and effortless emoji from a distant contact means more than people who never message at all.

Even being in the midst of a kind of depression and living in a country whose language I don’t speak fluently, I’m still meeting amazing friends who get or inch closer to solid 5 yeses for each of the questions above.

Those that don’t? It’s not like I’m shunning them from my life, I’m just waiting for them to reach out. In the mean time, there’s many people who do value me who I have to get back to, be it though a postcard, e-mail, IM, DM or (ugh) Facebook messenger. As I’ve been doing this, I’m amazed at the new friendships that have emerged, old friendships renewed and all the various things in between as my family of choice grows and adapts to my crazy circumstances.

So what would YOU tell your former self? Check out my friend Christina’s seven day Quirk Invasion to see if any of the challenges inspire you to write and respond like they’ve inspired me. It’s free as in beer and freeing as in letting your authentic self out on a sunny day.