Humans are social animals.
Our peers influence us a lot – good and bad.
My best relationships and friendships fueled my growth and happiness like a bottle of Helium fuels floating balloons and Mickey Mouse voices. But I’ve also wasted tons of time, money, and energy with the wrong people. They betrayed and disrespected me, smashing my self-worth to pieces. The friend who tries to snatch your partner. The ex who breaks your heart without batting an eye. Humans can inflict a lot of pain once you make yourself vulnerable and let them in.
When you’ve had that happen to you, you get cautious. You wonder whether you’re safe opening up to someone and whether they’re worth your resources.
After a few bad experiences, I learned to spot the tell-tale signs of someone worth getting close with.
They Aren’t Afraid To Hold Up The Mirror
I was nervous.
I knew what was coming would benefit me, but I was still nervous. I’m not talking about getting laser hair removal on my private parts. It was a phone call with my friend.
Except that it wasn’t just a call.
It was an exercise in openness, honesty, and humility.
Because I knew he would tell me the cold, harsh truths no matter what. He would listen to my problems but wouldn’t accept my excuses. He’d call me out on my bluffs and all the stories my ego cooked up.
His words had the power to slap me awake like an air horn going off on my nightstand.
He was one of the real ones – and we all need a real one.
It doesn’t feel pleasant when someone holds up the mirror to your face instead of telling you what you want to hear. But it’s what moves your life forward.
Unfortunately, these people are rare. Most don’t want to risk offending you. They’re too caught up in their insecurities to share what they really think.
Encourage people to be real with you.
Work on your capacity to receive the feedback without taking it personally and others will feel comfortable giving it.
Removing your blind spots will power your growth like sugary cupcakes at a child's birthday party.
They Support You When You’re Down And Celebrate When You’re Up
There are many types of hugs.
The “nice to meet you.” The “don’t worry, it will get better.” The “you’re a champ.” The “I love you, brother.”
What amazed me most about my friend Alex is that he could do them all. He had seen many ups and downs in my life and stuck around for both. When someone doesn’t support you through your lows, it’s obvious they need to go.
But some also can’t stand your highs.
It sounds weird, right? Why would someone not ride the wave with you? It took me a while to figure out.
Some people are so stuck in their patterns and self-worth issues they can’t stand to see someone doing better than them.
I’ve had many a “friend” try to discourage me from doing what made me happy – coaching, traveling, dancing in public. Why? Seeing me happy reminded them of their unhappiness.
This is a clear sign someone isn’t worth connecting with because they’ll always pull you down.
They don’t even mean harm – they’re trying to avoid their pain by projecting it on you.
Look for the people who support your lows and celebrate your highs.
Everything else isn’t worth it.
They Give You What You Can’t Breathe Without
Respect is like air.
When you take it away, people suffocate.
But with enough supply, they flourish.
Disrespect can take many forms. I’ve had a “friend” flirt specifically with the girls I was getting with. Another one kept calling despite me telling her I needed time for myself. One girlfriend kept me waiting for hours only to cancel our plans. Then, I met someone who was the opposite of that.
She understands I need my space. She doesn’t interrupt me when I speak. She respects my decisions without nagging and emotional blackmail.
Being with her feels like inhaling loads of fresh mountain air – energizing and freeing at the same time.
But this didn’t happen by accident.
There’s an old saying that goes “Self-care takes care of inner demons, self-respect deals with the enemies outside.”
To filter for the people who respect you, you first have to respect yourself – and be willing to walk away if others don’t match your energy.
So pay close attention to how someone treats your boundaries and whether they respect you as a human being.
Never settle for anything less.
Watch Out For These Alluring False Flags
“Bad” people don’t mean you harm.
Usually, they’re too caught in their patterns to notice what they’re doing to you. To avoid the connections that pull you down, you’ll have to learn to spot them.
Just like there are signs someone is worth building with, there are many that show you should avoid them like a snowman the desert.
Have you ever met someone you click with right off the bat?
Sometimes, you’re lucky. Other times, it signals emotional dependency or a lack of boundaries. Some people latch onto you because they feel like you’re the solution to their pain.
Give things time and see if you can do without each other – then, the times together will become even more valuable.
Always agreeing and being on the same page
Conflict forges the strongest relationships.
It’s necessary. You both establish boundaries and communicate your needs. You overcome a problem together and the bond grows stronger.
Yes, it feels great when everything is smooth sailing. But if someone can’t deal with conflict and nods to everything you say, they’ll build resentment.
And one day, the bomb is gonna blow, making a huge mess.
Grand promises without follow-through
We all have met someone who seems to be the person we’ve always wanted.
No matter what our fantasies and wishes are, they say what we want to hear. But do they also follow up on their promises?
Some people have learned to find your needs with the precision of a heart surgeon. They lull you in, making you think they’re the one you’ve always asked for.
But pay attention to if they keep their word. Often, they’re like going to the toilet with a bloated belly. Lots of hot air but little substance.
Compliments are great.
But if someone praises you like a cult zealot, an imagined demigod, it’s often a sign of manipulation or low self-worth. Again, people don’t do this to cause you harm, but because they are caught in their patterns.
The ones who overly-complimented me the most in the beginning were also the ones who became most vicious when they didn’t get what they wanted.
Nothing Matters More Than Your Relationships
Our lives are threads woven together by the connections we make with each other.
Some are strong bonds matching our colors and fabrics. Others create lumpy knots that are hard to untangle.
The more time I spend alive on this planet, the more I realize the true value of healthy human connections.
However, finding them isn’t easy because the real ones are rare.
- Cherish the heroes who are brave enough to hold up the mirror for you.
- Look for the rare ones who celebrate your wins and offset your losses.
- Appreciate the people who respect you so you can breathe and flourish.
These are the humans worth building with.