I do this and I don’t know if you do it too—I identify a little too much with my friends.
We find our friends through commonalities. People that are close to us often have traits and hobbies shared with us, which leads to understanding, trust, and a feeling of belonging. This is all good stuff. If you have enough of these people, community gets built, and communities create feelings of goodwill, joy, and affinity.
Your friends and communities are a reflection of you. But what happens when you start to blur the boundaries between where you begin and friends end?
In my case, I realize that I've felt a big sense of disconnection and groundlessness when a friend's goals are dramatically different than my own. This typically comes up around weight loss (a big trigger for me), but it can also arise with academia, career growth, etc.
I didn't like how I was reacting to it - defensive and skeptical, instead of positive and encouraging, which is my default. I'm not above examination when I'm reacting like a dick, so I dedicated my meditation practice yesterday to examining this reaction. What I found is that I am not setting proper emotional boundaries between myself and my friends. I'm not giving myself the time to consider whether or not their goals are appropriate for me before assuming that I should be doing everything they're doing, and that I am a bad person for not doing it that way.
My anxious brain just wants to jump to that conclusion because "I like that person soooo much, and of course what works for them will work for me because duh we both CrossFit and think about health a lot, and let's just ignore that I have a full-time job and am trying to get pregnant again and maybe jumping into a whole new regime is just going to cause me more stress after months and months of stress and grief. Yes, let's just GO FOR IT! YEAH!"
I am not my friends. I'm me. I didn't get to where I am by being someone else. My friend may have a totally different body type, a different set of nutrition principles, have a very different schedule, and be a different genotype even. Structuring my life around the *exact same thing* he or she is doing is ridiculous.
And hello, there's no competition. There's not even really any comparison. My job is to be the best version of me I can be. And best sometimes looks like crushing my own PR, or going rollerskating, or remembering to meditate every day, or taking a nap, or eating whatever my body wants in that moment mindfully and with attention.
Because I'm me. And part of that means setting better boundaries between where I begin and someone else ends, and then figuring out exactly what my goals are independent of whatever else the world is doing. It's asking myself, "What do you really want?" and next, "And how might you get there, while nurturing yourself and making sure it doesn't suck?"
No more self-punishment for not being someone else. No more defensiveness or skepticism of other peoples' goals. Their bodies are their own. It's not my fault that I get triggered by diet talk or weight loss. I grew up in a household where weight loss and not getting fat were talked about often, and love and acceptance seemed dependent on it.
But, if I can just keep my center when I get triggered by reminding myself who I am and what I want, and how many steps I'm taking to achieve that on my own, I think my identification with others will be remedied. Or at least I won't freak out when they tell me their plans. I can be the kind of friend I want to be - a radical body positive punk cheerleading girl scout, who gives everyone a badge.