Having healthy, solid relationships is an important part of living a happy and satisfied life. The relationships you have with others can range from those people who you are very close with, to those in your life who are just acquaintances. Being aware of different circles or levels of friendships can offer some insight to boundaries you might want to set. After all, not just anyone is that "best friend" with whom you should share your most personal thoughts and feelings.hh

If you are unsure of where your relationships stand, it may be helpful to take a look at the different levels of friendships that you might have throughout your life. Read the explanations of three different levels of friendships below. Then map out where the friendships in your life currently fall. You can draw the three circles yourself and fill in the names, or use the Circles of Friendship journal page:

  • Your Inner Circle
    • These are the people who are very close to you, who understand you, people who you trust to always be there for you when you need them. The number of friends in your inner circle should be small, typically less than 5 people. Maybe you only identify one person—that's ok. If you allow too many people into this inner circle, it can result in feeling used, confused, and sometimes heartbroken.
    • Fill your inner circle with the right people. These people will have a strong influence on you, and will ultimately impact on how you feel about yourself.

  • Your Middle Circle
    • The middle circle contains your good friends, people that you enjoy hanging out with. You share stories, interests, experiences, joys and frustrations with them. These are people you have lunch with, sit with in class, laugh and have fun with.
    • Your level of emotional investment with this group of friends is different than with those in your inner circle. You may share your opinions, but are probably careful about sharing your innermost thoughts and feelings with them. These friends are an important part of your life, but may move in and out of this circle depending on your common interests and activities, and time spent together.

  • Your Outer Circle
    • Your outer circle are people who you have a relationship with, but there's not necessarily a deep connection. These people you encounter on a fairly regular basis. You say hi when you see them, you share a laugh; you may talk about your day or about something new in your life. You wouldn't want to share your innermost feelings, troubles, or secrets with them however.
    • These could be people that you see at school, live in your community, or who you know through social media. This is a very fluid group of people who will likely move in and out of your life over time. Investing too much effort and emotion with someone in your outer circle can leave you feeling resentful, rejected, or embarrassed.

Now take a look at your list and ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What are two things that you should/would talk about only with your inner circle? Why?
  2. Have you ever regretted sharing thoughts and feelings with someone in the middle or outer circle? What problems did it cause?
  3. Has anyone who you are not especially close to ever shared too much personal info with you? How did it make you feel about that person?
  4. Does a person's age or gender impact where they are placed in your friendship circles?
  5. Is there a person in your outer circle that you would like to be closer to? What could do to get to know them better?