Recently, I gave up on a few friends. Then, I realized I deluded myself.
The story of being human: Telling yourself a story and then realizing it was a false reality. This was my recent experience leaving an accountability group I had started 8 months prior.
This article will offer you dozens of perspectives on maintaining transparent, nourishing relationships. I will share a personal account of the greatest ostracization I have experienced in my life — worse than the time some influencers didn’t like me at a music festival in the Alpes.
Ready to learn about healthy, reciprocal friendships?
I was meditating in a float tank. Some uncomfortable thoughts kept coming into my head. “Do my friends actually care about my mission? Would they reach out if I did not reach out to them?” This last question stung. I didn’t feel like they would. I knew they were busy. I knew they had lives. But I also knew that my relationships with them would die if I did not put the fuel on the fire.
The next thought: “What relationships should I be focusing on?” The answer immediately came to mind. Deep, reciprocal ones, where I feel empowered. And the ones that directly support my life mission.
In that float tank, I realized how often I felt ignored by my friends. I decided to leave the weekly accountability group I had started 8 months earlier. The accountability group was comprised of my “best friends.” But after all of them left my movement (or so I thought), called VYVE, I realized, that my definition of best friend differed from theirs.
I sent them a letter a day after one of the best meetings of my life. Hosted at the beach, in the sun. We danced, laughed, and meditated.
Yesterday, in my float tank, I was reflecting on my relationships and all the groups I am a part of. During periods of my float, I was not comfortable.
Recently, I have learnt how to dissolve my expectations on my relationships — To completely release the pressure I put on them to be a certain way. I have realized that I applied pressure on a lot of relationships, on all of you, and certainly on this group.
This learning process was difficult. But my hero dose did it for me. It taught me how to surrender to the evolution of my relationships and peer groups.
This process has led me to a difficult realization: I am way too overloaded with personal growth groups. I need to take a step back and chill, take off the throttle on my relationships.
With the prelaunch of VYVE attracting more people than I anticipated, I have made the hard decision to leave this group, to prioritize the three new groups I have with the new VYVE cohort.
I will always be including you in the experiences I create. I love all of you. I know you will understand my decision. I also know that this group will get stronger and stronger, regardless of who’s in it.”
I soon learnt that I had divorced my wife over text. Not a good move. It was shocking to all of them. Uncalled for. This was my first mistake. I did not honour the group. Nor did I explain fully why I left.
In the wake of this message, two of them reached out to better understand why I left. The largest factor was that I had started three other accountability groups related to my community, VYVE. I needed to spend more time nourishing them. The other factor was more complicated.
Do you pay attention to actions or words?
Throughout 2021, I observed a pattern in my relationships with the men in the accountability group. They’d often not return my calls. They would ignore my texts. They would never reach out. I wondered if it was me.
I took the actions to mean more than the words. Even though I had reached out to them earlier to check in with our relationship, I knew the actions spoke louder. They would forget to invest in me if I took the gas off. That was an accurate conclusion, but it didn’t mean anything about the depth or longevity of the friendship.
The story I was telling myself was that they didn’t care about their relationship with me. I was wrong. They did. They were just stressed and dealing with their own stuff. After a long call with one of my earliest friends, I got the message.
Friendships transcend regularity of contact.
My friend Brad explained it well. He showed me that the depth of a friendship does not depend on the frequency of contact. Friendships evolve in form, but not in-depth. I was feeling excluded because I felt that my friends didn’t want to see me. I realized that the lack of reaching out or reciprocal contact had nothing to say about the depth or caring of the relationship.
They were still there for me.
Brad told me that there were many alternative explanations for why my friends were neglecting me. Here are some he mentioned.
They want to hang out with me casually, but I always invite them to events and parties that they’re not really into.
I always reach out to them about my project, instead of our friendship.
They are not in any position to host events and invite me to them.
They often get swamped by their communication channels, because they are busy people.
My biggest takeaway from the phone call — sometimes, people really do care. They just don’t show it. They will only show it when you really need them. They are there for you, but the relationships themselves are low-touch. Whether a relationship is high-touch or low-touch is the form. The depth is experienced in the moment.
When I am in the moment with my friends like Brad, I feel like I am their best friend. That’s what matters more than whether or not they reach out.
The quality of the shared moment defines a friendship. Not what happens outside of that, such as text communication or invitations.
I was placing too much of an emphasis on the technical details of the friendships. I was keeping score in other words. Keeping score is when you pay attention to whether your actions are reciprocated. It goes hand in hand with giving with an expectation of return. Keeping score is not fun. Often, the availability bias results in skewed judgements about the score. We miss what really matters in a ‘friendship score’: the quality of company.
Keeping score goes against one of my core beliefs. Company is valuable. I would pay for the company of my best friends. And so anytime they show up for me is an added bonus. I do not need them to reach out to me or invite me to something.
Keeping score is a cognitive process. It occurs in the head. Thinking about relationships and how imperfect they are will lead to disaster. Instead, I opt to think as little as possible about my friendships. I would rather evaluate the quality of the shared company, in the moment. Again, here it is again.
It’s not what you think about them. It’s how you feel in the moment with them.
What I aspire to do, is evaluate all my relationships based on the quality and depth of the company the last time I was present with them. I do not want to make global assumptions about a relationship because they didn’t return a call or text. Or they decided to leave my community.
I have learnt to measure the friendship score based on how often my friends call me out on my biases and tunnel vision, and how I feel when I am in their presence.
Was my story wrong? Yes. Was I defining friendship in a flawed way? Yes. Was my feeling of exclusion based on reality? Probably not.
Unfortunately, the story is more complicated. In the week after my departure from the group, the above answers were questioned. I found out my sense of exclusion was based in reality and it did objectively redefine my friendships.
A week after leaving the accountability, I had my best friend reach out to me to borrow my speaker. He was hosting a retreat. My thought: “Hmmmmm. A retreat. Where? With who? Am I invited?” I intentionally held off. There must be a good reason why I was not invited. Maybe it was with a new group. Maybe it was not my vibe.
Then. I learnt that all my best friends had been invited. Every. Single. One. Ouch. You think a best friend would communicate why you were left out, hey? No. Instead, he asked me to use my sound system. And so I did.
Because I love empowering people to host dance parties. Anytime. Anywhere.
The action of leaving me out spoke louder than any word. My vibe was not welcome at this event. Message received. Friendship redefined. But being excluded was not what redefined the relationship. It was the excuses.
After speaking with my best friend on the phone, he made a dozen excuses. It wasn’t my event. It was only for these people. It was not for your vibe. I am so thankful he showed me what he meant to say through his word — your vibe, Jacques, is just not appreciated here.
Go where you are celebrated. Not tolerated.
I have completely let go of this relationship. I have taken the throttle off entirely. Of course, it is still a very deep relationship. This friend and I have shared some of the best moments of my life. We had gone on the craziest adventures together.
It was not being excluded which hurt. It was what this friend’s actions said about our relationship.
CHECKPOINT. Is this story I am telling myself correct?
After speaking to my other best friends and stress-testing my story, they all told me that the situation was fucked up. So, sometimes, friendships may be deep in the moment. But, this does not mean you should not pay attention to the actions, which often speak louder than words.
My friend’s actions told me an important message — Jacques’ vibe is not welcome here.
I do not want to be a friend whose actions don’t align with their words. I want to tell my friends exactly why I am leaving them out. I want to tell them exactly why I haven’t been able to respond to them. I want to give my friends a story to tell themselves which is accurate. I want to tell my friends that they are celebrated. That I do care for them.
Leaving the accountability group and then getting excluded from a retreat hosted by my ‘best friends’ showed me how I want to show up in my relationships. I want to be the greatest source of empowerment. I want to be there, reminding them of their power. I want to be their unbiased guide. I want to love them with critique and communication.
This has been a blessing. I have been blessed with great realizations.
I want to show up differently in my relationships.
Low-touch relationships can still be deep and nourishing.
Don’t think about friendships. Feel them.
Moving forward, I am going to keep less score for one thing. I am going to catch myself when I am thinking of relationships.
Lastly, I am going to continue to live and breathe the 10:1 Lifestyle — if you are not reaching out to your friends ten times more than they are reaching out to you, then you can be a more empowering friend.
I am personally addicted to empowering my friends.