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the Gauntlet

the official student-produced news site for Saint Stephen's Episcopal School

the Gauntlet

the official student-produced news site for Saint Stephen's Episcopal School

the Gauntlet

Finding the right circle

Some people say you are the sum of your five closest friends; how surrounding myself with kinder people has changed me for the better.
Haley Munson
Who you surround yourself with can be the difference between happiness and heartbreak.

For most of my life, I had thought that my inner circle of friends would last forever. A little naive, yes, but we had been friends for years and continued to be that way with no obstacles.

Well, until freshman year. 

It was like I was in some parallel universe; all of my friends had changed. Instead of the warm, funny people I used to know, I was met with what seemed like strangers: cold ones, who didn’t care how their actions affected others.

You know the phrase, “You are who you surround yourself with?” While I might have laughed that off a few years ago, looking back at my old friendships, I realize that was absolutely true. People’s actions and words deeply affect people. 

Surrounding myself with people who didn’t care about the feelings of others turned me into a person I didn’t want to be. I hated how I let myself laugh at the mean jokes they told at break; I hated getting involved in drama that I should never have been a part of in the first place. But I never made an effort to stop them. I just wanted to fit in. Even my current friends told me I was intimidating because the group I hung out with was just too dramatic. 

So why didn’t I cut off the toxicity earlier? The answer is simple– I was afraid. And can you blame me? I had known these people for as long as I could remember. Also, It’s not like there are a ton of kids at SSES– for all I knew– I could have been the next total outcast.  

I hate to admit this, but I intended to stay with them, too, even if it was making me feel more disgusted with myself by the day. But many breakdowns later, I knew something had to change. This isn’t who I was meant to be. The friendships weren’t good for me. So I branched out.

It might sound cliche, but by spending time with my newly made friends, I began to realize how much happier I was, which is odd, because, at the time, we weren’t even close. So why did I feel more comfortable around them rather than my long-time group? It’s because they treated me the best I’ve ever been treated. They actually listened to me when I spoke, took the time to learn and understand me, and never put me down for a quick laugh.

The moment I knew these were my people was after a particularly bad fight with my old “inner circle.” I was left sitting in an empty classroom during lunchtime, bawling my eyes out in front of one of my new friends. Once the rush of emotions calmed down, I was mortified. I expected them to think of me as crazy. But they didn’t. They understood my feelings and even validated them; they barely even knew me yet, but they were there for me. 

Finding the right friends made me into a brighter, more confident person. For the first time in a long time, I feel like I truly matter.

— Grace Baxendale

Knowing I had my new group behind my back gave me the confidence to completely cut away the toxicity in my life. 

I was finally happier.

The people I met that year ended up becoming my best friends, and I wouldn’t take back my decision for the world. The only thing I would change is not doing it sooner.  

Within just a few weeks, my mental state improved. I no longer felt like I was carrying a ton of bricks on my shoulders. I could be myself, unapologetically. I didn’t have to try to fit in with them.  

It’s crazy how much hanging out with the right people can affect someone’s well-being and personality. Just by being around kinder, happier people, my mental state became more healthy.

Parts of myself that my former friends would make fun of, my new friends complimented: They accepted me for who I was.

Finding the right friends made me into a brighter, more confident person. For the first time in a long time, I feel like I truly matter.

Leaving a friend– especially as a teenage girl– feels like the end of the world. But if you learn one thing from reading this, just know that it won’t be. It’ll be hard at first, and it’ll hurt, but it is never worth it to stay with people who don’t value you and don’t share the same values. How can you value yourself if you’re constantly surrounded by people who don’t value you either? Friends are supposed to uplift you and support you, not bring you down. 

If I could meet freshman me, instead of only reflecting on myself, I would also encourage her to think, “Who is it I surround myself with?” Because really, they’re one and the same. Your inner circle is a big part of who you are. I hope that after reading this, you wont make the same mistakes I did. Find people who will treat you right. Find people who will make you a happier, better person. Surrounding yourself with the right people will always be the right choice– I promise.

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About the Contributor
Grace Baxendale
Grace Baxendale, Staff Writer, Staff Artist
Grace Baxendale is a Sophomore and a first year staff writer on The Gauntlet. She enjoys art, gaming, and listening to music in her free time. She’s watched almost every horror movie released, although she also likes thrillers and drama. She also has two cats that mean the world to her. Her favorite artists are Radiohead, Wave to Earth, Deftones, and Slowdive. 


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  • Jill SkardoutosFeb 26, 2024 at 12:25 pm

    Grace, I applaud you for 1. having the courage to make these choices and 2. write about it publicly. I’m proud of you for knowing the right thing to do for you, and then making it happen!