Healthy Relationships are part of a Sustainably Productive life. Isolation can interrupt sleep, increase blood pressure and cortisol (the stress hormone), and suppress the immune system. Cultivating these relationships can sometimes be tricky as there are several categories these relationships could fall into. The three I want to dive into more are Influencers, Fake Friends, and Mentors. The initial discussion on these three relationships was on Episode 16 of the Conscious Contact podcast. I had a lot of thoughts swirling around since then. I want to go into more detail here with you today.
Think of these categories (Influencers, Fake Friends, and Mentors) as existing in concentric circles – like a bulls eye. The outer most ring is what the world pelts at us – social media, our local community, our workplace, TV, etc. It is appropriate to have differing levels of intimacy – different relationships on each ring of the bulls eye. But the inside of that bulls eye is closest to the core of you, the true version of yourself that even you might not have fully become aware of yet.
Who gets access to that inner circle these days? Is that working for you? Is this something you can sustain lifelong if you choose to? The idea is not to make all of your relationships the deepest, it is to know what that relationship is for you and if it needs to slide back a ring. Be true to yourself and your need for connection.
Let’s take a closer look at each ring.
This is the outermost category of your bulls eye. These are the most impersonal relationships. Don’t get me wrong – I love the entertainment industry. I think we all need entertainment in our lives. But have a clear understanding of what those relationships are and be conscious of what you are allowing to seep in.
Online Influencers are the people who are given money or material items to get your eyeballs on a product in hopes you will shell out the cash. We don’t actually have the truth about whether they know, like or trust the product – just that they got something to tell you about it. You don’t know their true intention.
In the real world, influencers exist as well. I remember the first several visits I made to the kids’ elementary school after I first became step-mother. When I got dressed, walked in, and interacted with everyone I had a certain type of woman in mind. I was influenced by “good mothers” that I had seen dropping off their cherubs and volunteering.
The truth is that I had zero connection with those mothers. Honestly – I don’t even know if they WERE mothers. They could have been teachers, staff, nannies or aunts. I was telling myself a story about what I saw, not necessarily about what I experienced.
When you take a step closer to your core, you encounter the category I call Fake Friends. Stay with me on this and focus on the Friend part, rather than the Fake part. I define a Fake Friend as someone I consider my friend, but they don’t actually know 1) I exist and/or 2) that they are my friend.
The examples I used on the podcast are Jessica Turner (you can read more about her here), Laura Tremaine (linked here), and Kendra Adachi (her podcast is linked here). I dedicate time each week to bond with my online Fake Friends as they release content for me to read and listen to.
But let me give you a few examples a little closer to my own life. The librarian I talk to on the regular when I pick up my books is doing her job. I assure you that she does not think about me for one more second once I print my book receipt and get out of her hair. But you cannot recommend such good books to me and not be my friend. I have that connection with a few farmers at the market and Amanda at the yarn store. Here is the difference: My online Fake Friends and my real life Fake Friends have shared enough with me to know we have some kind of connection.
Yarn store Amanda knows basics about my dad’s health stuff because she helped me pick out a knitting project and yarn to keep me going while I was in Indiana for an extended time. Then she shared some of her stuff to let me know she related to my situation.
I was honest with a couple farmers about not liking vegetables, knowing zilch about prepping them, but showed interest in learning both. They shared about people in their family who did not eat what they grew either and suggested ways to get around that.
Online is no different – Jessica, Laura and Kendra (we are on first name basis, naturally) have all shared some hard stuff and associated lessons in their writing and on podcasts. And Jessica even on the Today Show! I am sure there is more to each of their stories. I am sure there is stuff they do not share publicly. This is where the Fake part comes in. I am not deranged, I know these are not real friendships. But they are a part of the concentric circles of relationships.
There is one more section to cover today – the people I call Mentors.
This is the inner most circle to your bulls eye. Your most trusted group of relationships – the ones that perhaps have seen you cry and / or vice versa. Sometimes my brain gets a little sideways and knowing I can run my reactions and responses by someone else who knows the body count is helpful. I call this my personal Board of Directors.
These are relationships that I have in real life. Trusted women (plus Bixby) that I can bounce ideas off of. Bonus – I know the response coming back is filled with love, respect, and truth in a way that I can hear it. Couple things about this.
1) Yes, all women except my husband. For a long time I did not trust, truly know or like many women. This has shifted as I got older, and I cherish the women in my life now.
2) My Board of Directors tells me the truth in a way I can hear it. This means they know me well enough to know what that means. Not the kiss and kick method of delivering feedback at work. Not a dump and run when and how it works for the message deliverer. Together we work through some hard shit. Emphasis on together.
In summary, I want to suggest that you be aware of the relationships in your life and if they are helping you create a Sustainably Productive life. Stay connected to yourself in all of your relationships so that you can stay true to yourself.
Sustainable Productivity Questions
1 – As with all things Sustainably Productive, I encourage you to start where you are. Think of dividing life into a pie chart. At the very minimum, a Sustainably Productive life would have equal division of Influencers, Fake Friends, and Mentors. Literally get a scrap piece of paper, draw a circle. Think about who you spent time with in the last 7 days. Which categories do these people fall into?
2 – How do you feel about this division? If the division is not working for you, what relationships fall into the category you want to impact first? Just identify what is not working. Small steps lead to bigger change.