Surrounding yourself with the right kind of people: Life Lessons 11-15

Throughout our lives, most of us have the opportunity to meet and potentially become friends with thousands of people. Unless we’ve chosen a job that isolates us from others or choose to live a solitary life for whatever reasons, we are generally surrounded by people. All kinds of people. Happy people, sad people. People who make us angry. People who are so complicated that we can never understand them. All. Kinds. Of. People.

At the ripe old age of 24…not to be confused with 25 just yet ;)…I’ve realized that at some point in time, we get to make a choice. We have the ability to choose the people who surround us. Granted, there are circumstances when you won’t be able to escape that awful sneer from someone you can’t avoid. Nevertheless, at least in our personal lives (and even if our work life, at times), we get to choose. As I’ve experienced a multitude of events in my life, I’ve come to realize that there are 5 types of people I want surrounding me:

1. Those who will go to bat for you: It’s always good to have someone in your corner; someone who will be by your side (no matter what), who will stick up for you, and who will fight for you. I’m lucky. I have a lot of these people in my life. I’d definitely say that my family falls into this category. No matter the issue, I always know that if I’m ever in a bind that I can count on them to help me through it. Even if I’m wrong. I’m also lucky enough to have mentors in my life who will fight for me and who will pull their neck on the line for me. We need these people in our lives. We need to know that we have someone in our corner who is always willing to help us out regardless of the time, place, or situation. (Life Lesson #11).

2. Those who challenge you:

When I was thinking about this, I was thinking about how many different ways you can interpret the word “challenge.” What does it mean to be challenged? In what ways do we want others to challenge us? I recently started spinning again and my spin instructor is absolutely incredible. He’s constantly challenging me – to ride faster, to work on my endurance, to work harder. Sure it’s tough, but would I really want to be in a class with an instructor who was very lax in their teaching and who was OK with me only giving a half-hearted effort? It’s unlikely. What would I be gaining? I know that when I go to class, I’m always going to be challenged to do more and I think that makes me a stronger person (both physically and mentally). I think it’s important to be surrounded by people who challenge us because it pushes us rise to a whole new level.

We can also be challenged in other ways. When I presented a paper to a research committee, one of my committee members remarked that she was going to ask me harder questions at my next presentation. She wasn’t challenging the way I wrote or what I had to say, but she was really challenging me to rise to a whole new level. By her raising the bar, she was helping me set a new standard for myself that I didn’t know was possible.

At times, I also think we should surround ourselves with people who challenge the way we think about things. It’s easy to fall into patterns of thinking and believe that our ideas are correct . However, we need to have people in our lives who can bring up different sides to arguments that we didn’t see before and who can challenge us to think in a new way. Although we may not always agree, I think that surrounding ourselves with people who challenge our thinking can lead to growth…and can help us rise to a whole new level (are you sensing a trend?).  (Life Lesson #12)

3. Those who make you want to be a better person: During my senior year of high school, one of my role models in speech and debate was inducted into the OHSSL Hall of Fame. During his acceptance speech, he talked about how being involved in speech and debate and being surrounded by that world made him want to be a better person. It’s been over 5 years since I’ve graduated from high school, but those words have stuck with me. I want to be surrounded by the kind of people who make me want to be a better person – who make me want to be kinder, to try harder, to have more passion, to help others, and so on. I have a friend who is easily one of the nicest, most kindhearted people that I’ve ever met. Seeing the way this person interacts with others, provides support to friends, and dedicates everything (s)he has to the task at hand, I constantly finding myself wanting to be a better person. Hands down, I think that we need to have people like this in our life because they’re constantly helping us to rise to a whole new level.  (Life Lesson #13)

4. Those who add positivity to your life and bring you joy:

It’s easy to get discouraged. Something may happen in the morning that turns your day around and puts you in a bad mood. At the end of day, you need to have people in your life who bring you joy. You need friends who can make you happy after a bad day and who can help you see the positive after a bad day. We deserve goodness in our life. We deserve to be surrounded by people who can make us happy. We don’t need to surround ourselves with people who bring us down or who bring out a side in us that is better off left hidden. I know it’s hard, but if you find yourself surrounded by people who are bringing out your ugly side (and let’s face it, we all have one), let them go. You don’t need that sort of negativity in your life. Don’t surround yourself with people who make you feel bad about yourself or who force you to become someone you’re not. You don’t deserve that. You deserve happiness and you deserve to be surrounded by people who make you feel good.  (Life Lesson #14)

5. Those who make you laugh: 


Laughter is good for us. Some would say it’s the best medicine. So, surround yourself with people who make you laugh so hard that you cry or until milk comes out of your nose. Surround yourself with people who you can’t look it in certain situations because you know if you do, you’ll burst into laughter. Laughter is good for the soul and it’s such an easy way to turn around a bad day. (Life Lesson #15)


I’m sure that you can think of other types of people that you need in your life, but this is what I’ve got. These are the type of people who feed my soul and who make life worth living. These people inspire me and I’m thankful to have them in my life. Without a doubt, these people have impacted the way I lead my life whether I know it or not.

Because here’s the thing – the people who surround us will inevitability impact us, whether we know it or not, whether these changes occur intentionally or at a subconscious level. People can challenge us to rise to a higher level, or they can force us to abandon everything that we know and stoop to low levels. So, who do you choose? Who do want surrounding you and influencing your life?

Sometimes I talk to walls…don’t you?

Sometimes I talk to walls. Well, I guess to be exact, I used to talk to walls (and I’m not just talking about when I was a little kid or when I was going through an awkward stage). For four years straight during high school, I talked to walls every week especially bright and early on Saturday mornings. For four years, I even made money encouraging others to talk to walls…

Okay, so you’re probably thinking, “This girl is crazy. Who talks to walls?” That’s fine if you think that, but before making any hasty judgments, please let me explain.

In high school, I was a proud member of the speech and debate team. I loved it so much that I chose to coach for four years during undergrad. While I can’t say that I loved every minute of it, the blessings and good fortune that were bestowed on me from this event far outweighed any negative aspects.

If you’re unfamiliar with speech-let me give you a breakdown:

Students spend countless hours during the week learning and mastering a speech in categories such as Prose/Poetry, Duo Interpretation, Humorous Interpretation, Dramatic Interpretation. Speeches can range from something as exciting as Alice in Wonderland, to more thrilling pieces such as The Shining. Others spend countless hours researching a particular topic that they will debate, while still others research current events or quotes and give a speech about a topic that they only just chose minutes earlier. My personal favorite categories are Original (where an individual writes their own speech and presents it to the judges) and Oratorical (where an individual presents a previously written speech).

On Saturday mornings, speech and debate team members wake up bright and early for a day of intense competition. Now, I know there are skeptics out there who might doubt that this sort of event could be considered intense. To them, all I have to say is-come to a district competition where individuals are earning spots for State competition and you will feel the tension before you even walk in the doors. Believe me, the tension and competitive nature of the event is palpable. Nevertheless, students wake up early, dress in suits and business attire and spend their entire Saturday (and sometimes, Fridays) being judged on their speech and competing for a spot in the top six (or seven) of their category. Your reward-a beautiful trophy and the respect (sometimes) of your fellow competitors.

Sometimes when I think about how serious people take speech, it really makes me laugh. Why on earth would something like this attract so many people and what on earth could be fun about it? Why would anyone want to wake up early on a Saturday morning when they could be sleeping? What’s the point in memorizing a speech that you might do poorly on because a judge didn’t understand your interpretation? I get it. Trust me-in eight years, all of these thoughts have definitely crossed my mind. But like I said, the pros far outweigh the cons here.

This post is supposed to be about a goal we have. Well, my goal is to one day have a speech team of my own. For four years, I was an assistant coach for my high school and I loved that job more than any other job I’ve had. I can’t say that there weren’t moments where I wanted to quit, but they were never because of my kids or speech itself. Being in graduate school, this is the first time I haven’t been involved in speech in eight years and I miss it EVERY DAY. I think I learned a lot during that time and this is something I definitely want to do.

Both as a competitor and as a coach, I made friends who I will cherish throughout my life. I learned about what it means to be a humble winner and what it means to lose gracefully. I learned how to talk with my face so that I never had to say a word to my kids about what they were doing wrong. They just knew by looking what I meant. I learned what it means to be compassionate, but I also learned what it means to stand up for what you believe in. As a competitor, I learned how to stand still when I talked, and I taught others how to walk properly. I gossiped, ate my fair share of doughnuts, and pulled pranks. I laughed until I cried (because we got yelled at by the hotel) and cried until I laughed (NFL’s is always an emotional rollercoaster). I talked to walls when I practiced on Saturday mornings and I encouraged others to talk to walls. I learned more than I ever wanted to know about certain political issues and saw some hilarious speeches that I still laugh about today. I learned and I grew as an individual because of this experience. Although this was a competition, these people became like family members. Going into the tab room, you can definitely see a family dynamic at play between many of the individuals. When a coach was experiencing something great or something not so great, I believe that most of us experienced this joy or pain with them. Speech isn’t just about the competition. It’s about something far greater.

As a psychology student, I realize that we should set goals that we have some control over. With this goal, I’m not entirely certain that I have control over this. At least where I’m from, most head coaches are high school teachers. Since I’m clearly not going to be a high school teacher, I’m not sure how this goal really fits into my life plan. I (think) want to get my PhD in psychology and I’m not sure how I will be able to balance everything, but I’m sure I’ll figure it out. All I know is-I’m not involved in speech now, but I really want to be. Hopefully down the road this goal will fit into my life path 🙂

Yay speech!