It seems that nearly anything I read about motivating yourself to work out suggests working out with a friend. This makes perfect sense: working out with a friend makes exercise more enjoyable and keeps you accountable. However, healthy relationships, whether romantic or platonic, are important to your health for much bigger reasons. One of the biggest ways you can improve both your physical and mental health is managing your stress effectively. Many people, especially women, turn to their social network when they’re stressed. Of course, with the wrong people in your social network, you could easily become even more stressed. While you can’t pick all the people in your social network (family members, colleagues etc.), you have complete control over who you call your closest friends and spend the bulk of your free time with.
Last month, I got the chance to see Alexis Jones from Survivor speak at my university. While everything she said was fantastic, one part in particular really stuck out to me. She said, “You are the sum of your five closest friends” and went on to explain the kind of people you should surround yourself with. This quote from her book, I Am That Girl, sums up what she said perfectly, “We need a shoulder to cry on when we are sad, encouragement when we are down, accountability when we stray, strength when we are weak, a calming voice when we are angry, and grounding when we’re too proud…Begin bringing into your life a group of like-minded women [and men] who support you and your dreams no matter how different they are.”
There are certain things you should never have to put up with in any relationship, romantic or platonic, and certain things you are entitled to (assuming you are willing to do the same for them.) I racked my brain and while this certainly isn’t an exclusive list, I think it’s a good start to analyzing the relationships in your life.
- You should never have to put up with someone who consistently puts their needs before yours and expects you to do the same.
- You are entitled to honesty and trust in all of your relationships.
- You should never have to put up with someone who is petty and vindictive. If you find yourself uncomfortable or tired of constant gossip, you can speak up or remove yourself from the situation.
- You are entitled to respect and support. While a true friend will watch out for you and gently advise you if they believe you’re making an unsafe or hasty choice, they will ultimately support you in your decisions.
- You should never have to put up with someone who makes you feel judged or like you have to put up a façade. You should feel free to be yourself around your friends and they should never criticize any part of you, including your appearance.
- You are entitled to friends who are capable of empathy and can be there for you in tough times. While not everyone expresses sympathy well and you certainly shouldn’t expect your friends to be your therapist, a good friend will always acknowledge that other people have problems too and lend a listening ear from time to time.
I hope you take the time to analyze your friendships and make sure you’re spending time with people who build you up. While some people are simply toxic and should be removed from your life as much as possible, you don’t have to cut everyone out that doesn’t live up to these standards. I’ve found most people are pretty reasonable and will listen if you tactfully approach them about the problem. It’s also important to realize not everybody’s perfect: sometimes the friends who are good to go shopping or running with aren’t the best to spend time with in other situations, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop shopping or running with them. Finally, it’s also good to analyze your personal behavior in relationships. There’s always room to improve and become the kind of friend you want to have.