A few years ago I began to notice a trend in some of my relationships with friends and loved ones.

I have big aspirations and with these aspirations come doubts, because I am not always sure how I will accomplish them or even if I am capable. Naturally, I would go to friends or relatives just to bounce ideas off them and I noticed something….

Many of them reacted negatively. Not in the sense of “this is a bad idea because of this and that….” but more of a “you cant do that…” Or “you are going to get screwed” but they couldn’t tell me why. (A confession: I silently label these individuals as “poo-poo-ers” and no, secretly, I don’t like them at all.) If someone can give me good evidence for doubt is one thing, if they give doubt/negativity for the sake of doubt/negativity, thats another.

In some ways it reminded me of Russia, as, at least when I was there, some Russians would take great offense if you told them you were having a good day, as it had a supposed underhanded meaning of “I am doing much better than you”. You would often hear Russians say “Awful” when asked how their day was going.

The surprising thing to me about this, is there isnt a cut and dry reason why friends may be negative towards big dreams. Its amazing to me how much positive feedback I get from complete strangers and at times some of my closest friends are indifferent or actively negative towards me. Don’t get me wrong, some of my biggest support has come from close friends, and unfortunately, some of the greatest negativity has come from those closest to me. Is there a relationship of resentment to another’s prospect of success, simply because they are familiar? Im not sure, but it makes me wonder…..

Not long ago I was eating dinner with some friends. One of them mentioned she would like to buy a camera and become a children’s photographer. I could tell she was a little anxious about announcing this in front of her family, as if it was the first time she was letting this idea out. I was surprised to see how many of them, in unison no less, immediately began to shoot her down. This was a little sad because I could see that sparkle of excitement in her eye quickly disappear.

In the forums, as well as in my emails, I see a lot of beginning photographers who show their first few pictures and all they are looking for is just a little bit of encouragement and once they get it, they explode in creativity and confidence. Words are so powerful.

This led me to a very conscious life strategy which I recommend to everyone, and have mentioned before:

1. Surround yourself with positive people.
2. Avoid negative people as much as possible. This includes my own thoughts towards myself and others. Do not allow yourself to marinate in negativity. In my opinion, yes, it is completely worth throwing away a relationship if that relationship constantly brings you down or makes you depressed. (To me, “Turn the other cheek” doesn’t mean to stick around to let it continue.)
3. Be on the constant look out to support others in their aspirations and reflect their enthusiasm.

Looking back, I can say this is probably one of the wisest things I did to get going with photography, and much of my best support came from near strangers who shared the same interest.

This scenario forced me to carefully consider why I am “friends” with someone, and I realized something….we all have different reasons for being friends with whom we are friends.

Why are you friends with your friends?

Do you just like them?
Do you like the same things?
Do you just “click”?

I hate to say this, but answers like these are vague.

Answers such as:

– I like the way they look
– They are popular
– They are fun to go drinking with

Are so shallow, but dang…. they are honest.

Answers like:

– They are nice (which I dont always believe is the case- many friends are a source of great heartache)
– I enjoy being with them
– I feel comfortable around them
– I love them

Are also a little too vague for me. WHY- Are these the case?

In any event, this has caused me to reflect on who I label a friend.

I am learning that true friends are willing to sacrifice for each other’s benefit, without expectation of return, but it still doesnt answer the question of WHY?

Why are you friends with your friends?