About two years ago, I spent several months working my way through several of Brene Brown’s books and watching her YouTube videos. In one interview, she pulled out her wallet and retrieved a tiny piece of paper. She explained that it was her list of people whose opinion mattered to her. Those few people, she continued, held her best interests in their heart so she trusted them with her vulnerabilities.
Immediately I began to consider who would be on my tiny slip of paper. I narrowed the list to seven. I wrote their names on a notecard, which is posted on my wall just inside my garage door. I see it every time I leave, and every time I return.
I see it but I don’t see it. As with any sign you have in your home, it quickly fades to the background. I walk past that littlenote card and never look at it anymore. Until yesterday.
As I sit at my table and write this post, I’m staring at my list and consider who to delete and who to add. Which leads me think about all the people in my life who’ve come and gone.
Not too long ago, I spoke to my therapist about “friends” who “dropped me”. It was a curious discussion because I was emotional that none of these so-called friends kept in touch. Yet, I was rational in admitting that the phone works both ways and I hadn’t called them either. My therapist leaned back in her chair, pushed her hair behind her ears – both sure signs that she’s about to say something I truly need to hear. I shifted to the edge of my seat and waited.
Basically she said, “Friends come and go. Our paths intersect and then our paths diverge. It’s as simple as that. You went one way. They went another. Both right for right now.”
I literally hit my forehead like Homer Simpson. “Duh.”
I moved. I changed careers. My kids grew up. My belief system changed. I moved to a whole new path. And now our paths don’t intersect. It sounds simple, I know. But sometimes the simple is the profound. I can now let it go – I no longer have to wonder why those friends don’t like me anymore. They like me just fine. Our lives just don’t intersect.
Yet, there are some friends who stand the test of time no matter what paths we take. Why is that exactly? Why am I still great friends with SP and not VB? Why did I ensure my path continued to intersect with one and not the other? The Super Seven answers that.
Every human desires connection. That explains marriage and small groups and wine with friends on Friday. But, all humans need to feel safe. As a matter of fact, safety is the most crucial need we have. We learn growing up (especially during those awful middle school years) that it is not safe to share our innermost secrets with just anyone. Secrets are powerful and we learn the hard way to hold secrets tight against our chests. But secrets are burdensome if we don’t find some way to share them. So, we test the waters. I’ll give you one or two “easy” secrets and see how you react and if you hold them close or share them with others. I’ll listen carefully and see if you share someone else’s secrets with me.
My list of seven sits on the table right now. Sadly, I will remove two names not because I no longer trust these people but because our paths no longer intersect. I will remove a third name because I realized this person only has her interests at heart. That’s okay. It’s where she is right now and we’ve all been there.
But, the good news, I have two people to add. I’ve ‘tested’ these new friends. They’ve tested me. I know I can safely hand over any secret I need to share and get feedback I can trust. My seven has become six and that’s more than enough for me.
Do you have a list of people you can truly trust to handle you with care and selflessness? Take a minute to write those names on a list. Carry that list with you. When you find yourself worried what someone thinks, look at your list. Those are the people whose opinions matter.
Recently, I had a lady tell me all the things she thought I was doing wrong. I listened and started to get anxious. Then I remembered my list and said, “Thank you for your opinion but you’re not on my list.” Well, she now thinks I’m crazy but that’s okay because she’s not on my list.
One more thing – let these people know how much you value their place in your life. Gratitude is the best gift.
PS – be honest about your list. You don’t have to put your twin sister on the list if she hasn’t earned the spot.
Check out Brene Brown's materials: https://brenebrown.com
Also, check out Brene Brown's TEDTalks: https://www.ted.com/speakers/brene_brown
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