Social Circle Vulnerability

These circles govern every interaction I have.  I use them with every client and use the numbers to help my clients and my children navigate social situations.  Let me show you how it works. 

First, draw the circles on a piece of paper, and let’s add small quarter-sized ones on the 4 corners outside in the stranger zone.  Then take a moment and think about the important people in your life.  If they are your first priority and you would drop everything to be with them if needed…they will be in the center circle.  They are your number one priority. But this circle is not very big, chose carefully who gets your attention and focus. 

Then imagine if you were a King or Queen, who would be on your court? Who are your besties and most trusted family members? They would be your number 2, where it says FAMILY.  The next zone, where it says FRIENDS aka 3A circle, would be your good friends, maybe you don’t see them often, but you wouldn’t miss a birthday.  Go ahead, fill them in.  

The line between 3A and 3B is where your vulnerability shifts.  

Then where it says AUTHORITY FIGURE aka 3B circle, I think of this zone a little different.  I see this group as people that you think highly of and would consider a friend, but you are not “all in” when it comes to being vulnerable or sharing too much.  The 4th circle are all of your acquaintances or people at work or school that you just say “HI” to.  We added small circles on the outside, number 5 circles. Let’s call them Alcatraz.  These are people who have hurt you in some way, and you know that you can not be vulnerable with them.  Do you have someone you want to put out there? If so, I consider that very healthy.  It shows me that you have boundaries and self-respect. 

Now, here is the reality check test. Where do you place yourself on these priority circles?  Sometimes we put others before ourselves…and that may leave us feeling drained, resentful, frustrated, and lonely. Where are you? If you are not in that number 1 circle, this is the first thing I want you to work on.  Now, I know what you’re thinking…doesn’t that make me selfish?

No, and let me explain why.  If I had myself in a number 3 zone and my kids in the 1-2 spot, here is what may happen.  Let’s say my adult daughter needs me to help her move.  She needs to move boxes on Saturday and asked to borrow money for the moving truck.  And I agree, but I would have to put off my work, put off my electric bill, and do strenuous lifting (which is not good since I recently hurt my back).  If I think of her before myself, it would leave me way out of balance financially because I didn’t make money and I dipped into my own bills to help her. I may even become injured because I should not be lifting heavy items yet.  But I love her! And I want to help her! 

Ultimately, do I feel good about it?  Well, I don’t have the time, because I have to work that day. “So, can I come over on Friday instead and help with the kids so you can pack? “  Do have the energy and strength to help her? “Honey, I’m not able to lift boxes, but I could clean while you move boxes.” Do I have the money to help her? Well, I have to pay my electric bill, but I could make you dinner Saturday, because you will be too tired to cook.”  Do I have the sanity to help her? Yes!  

You can see that I was able to be there for her, but considered what was best for myself before I committed to her needs.  When we do this, it shifts the “WHY” of our social interactions.  If you are buying a Mother’s Day card because you are supposed to and you don’t feel close to your mother… it may lead to resentment, frustration, passive aggressive anger.  But if you chose to do that because it makes you feel like a good son or daughter…no matter what she thinks… then you are in number 1!

The biggest problem I see is placing people in the circle that Hallmark has told you to put them in.  What I mean is, if you father was an alcoholic and worked all of the time, he didn’t earn the number 2 circle, just because he is your father.  Or the best friend you had in high school doesn’t even call you on your birthday now that you are 32, but you are expected to take her out on her birthday or watch her kids on the weekends while she goes out.  She is not your number 2 anymore, but you still expect them to treat you the way a number 1 or 2 “SHOULD” treat you.  There is a loss when we move people in the circles to where they really are…but then we leave space to develop those who are willing to put energy into us and who are really there when we need them. 

I hope you try this exercise and see where you put your priorities and vulnerability. Next time we will use them to talk about social trust and commitment. 

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