Rings of Friendship
The woman at my work had asked me how to know who to trust and said it's hard for her to open up to people she doesn't trust. I told her that was okay, because not everyone you know is someone you spill your life story to.
As my mom explained it to me, there are rings of friendship. They nest within each other, so they get bigger as you go out. Here's a visual, then we'll get into the layers.
The inner ring is your best friends. The people you tell everything to. The people you trust with your life. The friends who are basically family.
But that ring is really small. You can only fit a few people in there. If you try to cram everyone in that circle, it's going to get crowded and uncomfortable and hard to keep track of. So keep the maximum capacity to around 5.
The second ring is close friends. These are the friends you love and care for and tell most things, but their main job in your life is to have fun. If your inner ring friends are all unavailable, one of these people can probably step in. But only if you really need them too, because that's not their role. This circle is a little bigger, so you can fit more people in here. Maybe 10 or so.
Then you have generic friends in the third ring. This is a loose category of all the people you're too close with to call an acquaintance, but not close enough to want to hang out with on a regular basis. They're your co-workers, the kid who sits next to you in class, or the person who you carpool with to soccer.
They exist and they bring you joy and are good friends to have. But they're not friends you pour your soul into. They're not even friends you spend a lot of time with. You don't even need to have their phone numbers. They're mostly there so you have fun in the environments they exist in and so you can see pictures of their cats on Instagram. You can fit lots of people in this ring.
Ring four is acquaintances. These are the people from the above category who you don't have any kind of real relationship with. People you know from work or school or people you feel obligated to wave and ask how they're doing when you pass them on the sidewalk. Also great for cat pictures. This ring is also very large. Many, many people fit here.
The last ring is strangers. This ring is ginormous. These are the people in the grocery store, people you see at school, customers at work, neighbors you've never talked to. You've interacted with all these people or know of them, but they are basically meaningless in your life. That's okay. There's lots of room for them and this ring can grow, unlike the others. There's practically infinite room here.
Now, it's important to remember that the rings aren't fixed. They're dotted lines, not solid ones. People can change circles anytime. If one ring gets too full, you can bump a few people out layer. If a ring is a little empty, consider promoting someone.
Your best friends don't have to stay in the middle ring if they no longer fit there. People grow and change and sometimes, they'll drift out a few layers. That's okay. Plus, you never know, the stranger from the grocery store might end up in a deeper layer than you initially thought.
But it's good to be aware of what kind of friend someone is. Are they a friend you tell everything to? A friend you have in case you forget a pencil in class? A friend who has a cute cat you like to see pictures of?
It's good and healthy to have all these kinds of friends. It's unhealthy to try to cram all of them in the middle ring. Or to try to keep them all on the outer ring. You do have to have people you open up to, but you also need people you don't tell things to.
I also want to add that your spot in someone else's rings might not line up with where they are in yours. You may consider someone a second ring friend, a close friend. But maybe they have you as a third or forth ring friend. That's okay!
Your inner ring, your best friends, should line up. Because that's only fair. But other than that, it's okay if they don't. Maybe someone else's close friend ring is full, so you have to hang back a ring. That's cool.
Just remember: don't cram people in a ring they don't belong in. Let them move if they need to.