What Your Choice of Friends Says About You

A person's choice of friends gives us clues about how they feel and how they treat themselves. Find out what your friends say about you.
What Your Choice of Friends Says About You
Elena Sanz

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz.

Last update: 03 April, 2023

No doubt you’ve heard the saying, “Show me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are”. Indeed, your choice of friends speaks volumes about you. Not only does it provide information about your style, tastes, and values, it also talks about your emotional world and the relationship you have with yourself. That’s because, at the end of the day, the friends you choose are largely a reflection of what you think you deserve.

This doesn’t mean that if a friend manipulates you or disrespects you, it’s your fault or that you’re the same as them. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. However, staying with certain types of people or continuing to nurture certain ties gives clues about your levels of self-esteem and security and certain fears and beliefs that you may be carrying along with you without even knowing it.

The importance of choosing friends

As a child, when you started school, you were probably told you should be friends with everyone. This premise was understood as the need to respect and be kind to those around you. However, it’s neither possible nor positive to try to please and create deep bonds with everyone around you.

Without a doubt, friendships are extremely beneficial. They help you develop a sense of belonging, cultivating values such as loyalty, mutual support, and emotional intimacy. In addition, they protect your physical and emotional health and help you face adversity. So who you choose to be in your circle of friends will be of the utmost importance.

If you want to get to know yourself better and discover certain aspects of yourself that you may have overlooked, we suggest you closely examine your circle of friends. To do this, ask yourself the following questions.

friends hugging

Is your friendship reciprocal?

This is one of the most important questions you must ask yourself. Do you feel that your friendships are equitable and fair? We’re talking about an exchange, a link in which both of you must invest so that the friendship is enriching and positive.

If you often feel that your friends take advantage of you, that you give them more than you receive, or that you’re always available but they’re not, perhaps you should stop and reflect.

Sometimes, you might have unrealistic expectations toward others. Nevertheless, you have to understand that everyone has their own lives and not everything revolves around you. That said, it’s important to feel valued and prioritized by those you prioritize yourself.

If you give too much to others, you might be unconsciously doing it to ensure the love of others. You may consider them as being in debt to you, thus you expect them to do the same for you as you did for them. This isn’t a healthy way to relate. Feelings should always be mutual.

Do your friends respect your boundaries?

Maybe you have friends who don’t respect your boundaries. They call you when they know you’re busy, they demand your presence and ask you for favors even when you can’t or don’t want to comply. Or, perhaps they continue to carry out acts and make comments that you’ve already told them are hurtful.

In this case, your choice of friends highlights your difficulty in setting boundaries and enforcing them. This is common in people with a great desire to please and who fear abandonment. Although they manage to expose their desires and preferences, they allow others to continue walking over them.

Remember that your greatest commitment is to you and it’s your job to take care of yourself and make yourself respected. Setting boundaries also implies sticking to them and establishing consequences when others don’t respect them, even if it means ending a relationship.

Do they treat you with love and consideration?

This is one of the best ways to discover how your level of self-esteem is, by looking at how those you’ve chosen as friends treat you. Since these are affectionate, elective, and mutually beneficial ties, it’s expected that these people treat you with love and consideration. So what does it mean if they don’t?

It doesn’t suggest that you’re any better or worse, or any more or less valuable. Indeed, the fact that someone harms you doesn’t imply that you deserve it. However, if you allow it to continue in your relationship, it’s clear that you don’t love yourself.

Developing a healthy and solid self-esteem is complicated, especially if you didn’t have the most positive of upbringings. It’s not about feeling guilty, but about becoming aware of what’s happening and holding yourself accountable.

You deserve to be treated with love and consideration. If you’re accepting less, it would be really beneficial to seek professional help in order to start working on yourself.

How long have you been friends?

Do you have lifelong friends? Or, does your social circle change from time to time? The types of friends you have suggest several interesting facts. On the one hand, if you continue with your childhood friends, it may indicate that:

  • You made a good choice from the beginning, that’s if they’re healthy friendships, of course. Possibly, your personality and the upbringing you received helped you make this choice. On the other hand, if they’re harmful and toxic friendships, and you still maintain them, this indicates that there are internal aspects of yourself that you must work on.
  • You have good values that encourage the continuity of friendship. For example, loyalty, honesty, and assertiveness. You’re tolerant, flexible, and respectful, and know how to give in, negotiate, and seek joint solutions to disagreements.

On the contrary, if you tend to change friends frequently, it can indicate several things:

  • You have difficulties reaching agreements or resolving conflicts when they arise. Perhaps you’re too demanding or have a hard time committing emotionally to others.
  • You’ve made great changes on a personal level. You’ve also grown and matured and this has led you to look for people according to the new you. It’s possible that, at some point in the past, you discovered that your friendships weren’t the most positive or suitable for you and you had the courage to leave them behind.
friends talking

How many friends do you have?

The number of friends you have also says a lot about you. For example, if your circle is wide and you find it easy to relate to others and create friendships, this may indicate that you’re an outgoing and open person. On the other hand, a small circle may mean you’re introverted and prefer to connect on a deep level and create meaningful connections.

There are also other variables to consider, for example, gender and age. Research has found that the number of friendships decreases considerably from the age of 25-30 and that men tend to have more contacts than women.

In addition, we shouldn’t forget that sustaining a friendship requires an investment in both time and emotions. Since your cognitive resources are limited, you can’t be intimate with too many people. In fact, research published in the PNAS claims that close friendships are limited to between three and five people. Aside from them are the larger groups (friends and acquaintances) with less emotional involvement.

To sustain true friendships, you must make sure you have the time to pay attention to them and cultivate them. This is extremely important with your closest friends.

In short, you’re the sum of the people with whom you spend the most time, and the quality of those relationships can give you important clues about your relationship with yourself. You can use these mirrors to direct your personal growth.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Bhattacharya, K., Ghosh, A., Monsivais, D., Dunbar, R. I., & Kaski, K. (2016). Sex differences in social focus across the life cycle in humans. Royal Society open science3(4), 160097.
  • Tamarit, I., Cuesta, J. A., Dunbar, R. I., & Sánchez, A. (2018). Cognitive resource allocation determines the organization of personal networks. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences115(33), 8316-8321.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.