The Company you Keep

A client recently, complained about wanting to be herself; she was tired of a lifetime of playing different roles, as she saw it. “I still don’t know who I really am,” she bemoaned. “It makes me feel so disingenuous too.”

In extreme cases such a dilemma might require more serious help but often, as here, a different light shed on the matter is all that is needed for someone to see herself as a ‘relational’ being – constantly shaping and being shaped by those around her.

Perhaps those different roles, as my client saw it, are merely different parts or layers drawn out of us, by the company we keep or the activities we pursue. Looking from a mountain from high up, the angle of the sun will determine whether we see rivers and lush valleys or find ourselves peering at the dark tops of impenetrable woods or urban jungles. Seeing people in different lights shows us different characteristics.

Try casting a glance back at last week and examine how exactly you spent your time; what you were doing and whom you were with. Toni Morrison once said that her father made her feel funny. I think he called it ‘sassy’. With his death, that part of her went with him. No one else allowed her to feel quite that way again.


If we aim often enough to show those parts of us that make us feel alive and engaged, we might be moving somewhere in the direction of the life we were intended to lead. If on the other hand large swathes of the best of us lie dormant, we might indeed feel empty, unfulfilled or like actors performing second rate shows.  Examine whether the company you keep draws out the parts you genuinely like to play. Hopefully, you have a balanced opportunity to share your kindness, humour, sense of adventure, intelligence and all the sports, hobbies and skills you enjoy practicing. With luck you’ll find that in time your friends teach you, challenge you and take you out of your comfort zone; that some can even be relied upon in the darker hours or that certain activities make you realise how good it is to share of your good fortunes. How much richer your life then if the company you keep reflects a variety of ages and backgrounds, income brackets and preoccupations.

So here’s my invitation to you:  may your encounters this week remind you of how multifaceted a person you are, as well as how much we need one another in the process of becoming who we are born to be