In our earliest school days, everyone was our best friend. We had a new one every week and the bar was set low. There was no reason to keep your circle small when your circle was your entire class. In later school years, having a huge circle of friends was the epitome of “cool” and generally meant popularity and seniority.
As we progress through the years, we lose friends and gain them in every new chapter we open – From school, to college, to work. Only as adults can we look back and see that only some of them stuck, while others were just enjoyable but passing phases.
It’s healthy to lose friends as we age. It shows that we’ve grown as a person and some people no longer fit on your path. With a smaller circle, you can see clearly that quality outweighs quantity when it comes to friendships.
Sobering Reasons to Keep Your Circle Small
1. It’s Science
Over the years, several studies have shown that there are benefits of keeping your circle small that greatly outweigh having lots of friends.
A study carried out at the University of Oxford, inspired by watching the friendships between primates, suggested that our brains are able to hold up to 150 friendships. These friendships are divided into layers, and as the layers increase, the closeness of the bond decreases.
This research suggested that we can hold about 5 people in our closest layer, and these become our best friends. Robert Dunbar, the lead researcher, explains that this number, and the overall total, could vary depending on the introverted or extroverted personality of a person.
In 2012, The University of Iowa conducted a research study into just how deep the bonds run in larger groups of friends. This study proved that in groups of more than 6 people, the levels of trust and commitment reported by the participants were much lower than those in smaller groups.
When you keep your circle of friends small, you’ll see that your bonds are authentic. With only a handful of best friends, it’s clear that your friendship isn’t based on convenience or mutual friends.
A small circle of friends actively chooses each other, be it to hang out with on a Friday night or confide in when times get tough. When we’re in need of a shoulder to cry on, we don’t often have or want a huge group of supporters. We typically turn to just a few people who will help us carry the weight.
A larger group of friends typically means the bonds between each person aren’t as authentic. It is unlikely that each person will have a deep bond with all of the others, as personalities naturally vary and clash. With a smaller circle, you’ll know that the people around you are there because they genuinely want to be with you.
3. You Can Always Be Yourself
We all contain multiple versions of ourselves that emerge depending on who we’re around. A more professional version might appear if you’re talking to your boss, and a sillier version if you’re taking care of children. When you’re with true, authentic friends, you won’t need to be anyone else but yourself.
In a big group of people, some might be friends and others might be barely acquaintances. Due to the less than intimate bonds you have with some of them, you might try to blend in with the group to be better accepted. This means hiding parts of yourself and agreeing to things you might not typically choose.
When you keep your circle small, you’re going to be much more tightly bonded to the people around you. This means feeling more comfortable being yourself and being honest about what you want.
Even better is that in a small friendship group, you probably chose each other because of your common interests. This means you won’t need to worry about peer pressure or being outnumbered, you’ll simply want the same things.
Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.
4. They Know You
Within a big group of friends, you’re likely to be surrounded by mostly loose acquaintances who don’t really know you. Not only does this lead to rarely being yourself around them, but it also means explaining yourself and your needs.
These people won’t know what to do when you need comforting because they never got the chance or took the time to get to know you. A large group of people tends to drown each other out, preventing truly deep bonds.
Real authentic friendships are based on a deep understanding of each other. They know what you need when you’re struggling, the perfect birthday gifts, and where you’d like to go for lunch – all without you having to explain.
5. Deeper Bonds
Having a larger circle of friends means you’re likely to have more superficial connections. The conversations we have with people that we aren’t particularly close to don’t tend to get very deep. These aren’t people we share our secrets or innermost thoughts with.
Keeping your circle small means always being surrounded by friends that you have deep bonds with. These kinds of friendships are built on depth. Genuine feelings, thoughts, and secrets you would never tell anyone else flow easily between you.
Deep, intimate bonds also come with the added assurance of judgment-free friendship. Instead of fearing the reactions of your large group of friends, you can feel safe opening up to a small circle because you know they won’t judge you, just as you wouldn’t judge them.
6. It’s Easier
Perhaps the most superficial reason to keep your circle small is that it’s simply easier to manage, especially for an Introvert. Having a large group of only close-ish friends means having to show up and be present for all sorts of birthdays, events, and parties where you may not even really know the host.
Our lives are often too busy to juggle so many expectations, especially when these people aren’t your number one, and you aren’t theirs. Having a small circle of friends that you would do anything for means never spreading yourself too thin.
It also means never having to explain yourself if you do find yourself struggling to keep up. True friends don’t make huge demands of you. They want to see you happy and will accept whatever you can offer them.
As I get older, I am becoming more selective of who I consider a friend. I find that I would rather have 4 quarters than 100 pennies.
Having lots of friends around you can be great and may even make some events feel more fun, but nothing can replace the benefits of keeping your circle small. A close-knit group of friends provides us with unwavering support, love, and a sense of deep connection that a big group just couldn’t provide.
Do you keep your circle small and why? Share your opinion with us.
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