Who are Peers and How do I Identify Them?
Peers are the people who are at a similar place in life emotionally, spiritually, financially, relationally. Another way of saying it is, these are the people that are “in the trenches” with you. They are apart of your daily life and you connect regularly. It’s important to have the safety with these relationships because they are the ones you process with. They are the group of people you’ve built trust, who know where you’re at, and you’re willing to be vulnerable with. When your relationships have diversity and safety it allows coming out of hiding and into who God made you. While some of the same principles are true for mentors, it’s different with friends because the goal of a peer is to link arms with you instead of being the one pouring into you.
Good peers have the experience, authority, and access to your life and can help you push through where you’re at. Their role is to validate where you’re at, extend empathy and compassion, and come alongside you when times get hard. They make it “easier to fly” by helping push you through. Peers help you flush out things you need to process. They’re the ones you can call and talk to on a regular basis – they are available and know what you’re going through day-to-day. Using the metaphor of birds in a flying v, a mentor is a bird in front while peers are those that are around you.
It’s really important to have diversity in your peer group. If it becomes too one-sided it can skew your perspective on life. For example: If you were single and only had married friends, it could create a sense of hopelessness because you’re surrounding yourself with what you don’t have instead of what you do. On the other hand, If you are married and you only have single friends, you can resent your marriage because of the unique freedom that singleness brings.
Why it’s important to diversify.
If you only expose yourself to one group of people, it creates bitterness and resentment instead of gratefulness for where you are. A well-balanced individual is able to have both peer groups to get a holistic outlook on his or her life.
Some investment advisors will tell you that the best investments you can make are in mutual funds because multiple investments make it safer (disclaimer: I am not a financial advisor, and I am not telling you how to invest your money) ;-). Like a mutual fund, you need to diversify your relationships with people who are at different stages in their lives.
Anyone who has done personal development knows that you’re the sum of your five closest friends, which is why it’s important for them to not all be the same. If your closest friends are only consumed with business and don’t value their family, you’ll become that too. If you, however, have a friend whose focus is family and another that’s business in your core, then you’ll learn from the strengths of both.
What happens if you don’t have peers in your life?
There are several dangerous byproducts of not having peers. One of them is you can slowly disconnect from your heart (passions) because you don’t have people you’re processing life with. It causes you to isolate relationally and abandoned a key element of God’s design. Our true calling in life is often hidden deep in our heart. When we abandon our heart we inadvertently abort a big piece of our calling. Peers keep you pointed in the right direction and help you stay focused on what really matters. We are the “body” for a reason. We can’t do it alone!
Another issue that comes up is it can create massive blind spots in life. Peers should be close enough to identify cycles and call you out on things that even a mentor can’t see. They can identify weak points or blind spots that you may not realize because they are close enough to pick up on the subtle trends in your life.
Example: If your internal world tends to lean toward self-hatred, having peers that love and champion you will allow them to see that tendency and help you navigate out of that cycle. Without peers, you can drown in self-hatred and never pick up on that self-destructive cycle. That’s why peers need to be apart of your day-to-day. Without this, you can easily become isolated and stuck.
For some people, being seen by peers is the scariest thing in the world.
If you feel terrified/fear/anxiety just by reading this, it may be an indicator that you need to risk inviting people into your process. In the next few days, you find two people (peers) and share the feelings you have right now and invite them into your process!
Beyond just telling them once, you need to risk and trust those two people moving forward. They have to be people that you already have some sense of safety with, but it will feel like a risk inviting them into your process. I will talk more about how to identify and build these types relationships in a later blog post.