“You must trust and believe in people or life becomes impossible.” ~~Anton Chekhov
There is a scene that has been immortalized from “Grey’s Anatomy”–do you know which one I am referring to? Two friends are seated at a bar when Cristina matter-of-factly tells Meredith that she put her name down as an emergency contact. “The clinic has a policy. They wouldn’t let me confirm my appointment unless I designated an emergency contact person, someone to be there just in case and to help me home… Anyway, I put your name down. You’re my person,” Cristina says.
I am sure many of you have heard (or even used!) the term, “my person.” Even though the phrase was coined over a decade ago on this medical drama, it is continually used to describe the deep bond between besties to this day. Meredith was Cristina’s person. Do you have your “person” (or people)? Think about it!
Let’s do a little exercise. Grab a post-it pad and a pen. Sit down and think about your answers to the following questions:
- You have a flat tire close to home. Who can you call for help?
- You receive some terrible news and are devastated. Who will you call for comfort?
- You have a fantastic professional day and want to celebrate. Who do you invite to join in?
- You need personal advice in a tricky situation. Who do you trust to advise you?
Suddenly the names on that post-it bear significant weight…you really love, trust and rely on those people, huh? I am not talking about the neighbors you casually consider to be “friends”–the ones you wave to when you drive by and occasionally shoot the breeze with. No, I am talking about your people, the few, the valued, the cherished people who have earned your trust over time by being real and reliable and constant. This term, your people (or your “person”) came from a pop TV show years ago–allow me to explain.
This term is more than just having friends or being family. This is about who you can rely on, who you know will be there for you in moments of need. For me, this summer was about knowing who those people are for me and reaching out to them. I fought feelings of weakness, extreme vulnerability, and sometimes unworthiness as I reached out to these people for help. Yet, through it all, I was met with love, acceptance, hugs and their own very personal stories of hardships. Yes, it was hard to reach out, yet my experience this summer taught me that I am not alone and my people care about me.
According to Brené Brown, trust is built slowly, in layers, over time and through vulnerability. Trust does not require a grand display but, rather, small acts that build a solid foundation. In the scope of talking about having people you can rely on in moments of need, vulnerability is not about pouring your heart out without filter to colleagues and stakeholders. Instead, vulnerability is accepting who and where you are, and the need to identify the right people who will support you not despite your vulnerabilities and imperfections, but because of them.
Even if you do not use the term, you probably have a person (or persons). Sociologist Bella DePaulo writes that some have an entire village, others have even just one person who they can rely upon. It is important to recognize that the role important people play in your life at present may shift to another down the road. For example a 41-year-old woman in Ottawa, split from her husband, yet she still considers him her “person.” By calling her ex her “person,” she acknowledges that there are all different kinds of love and reliance. She says their friendship and unconditional love (despite being separated) is enduring and meaningful; this is why they call each other “my person.”
On Instagram, about 1 million posts contain the hashtag #myperson. The term’s pop cultural presence extends far beyond “Grey’s Anatomy” which is beginning its 20th season! The beauty of the term is that it is not defined by blood or by law. Your person can be constant, or it can change. The term “my person” emerged right as it was becoming clear that millennials would be delaying marriage while investing in their friendships and their careers. Until there is a life partner in the picture, or even if there never is one, you need a word for the people who show up for you like Cristina and Meredith do for one another.
Have your people. You need your “people”!
So let me ask you again. Who are your people? Who are the people around you that have your best interest at heart, whom you trust completely, and on whom you can rely?
When you are done with that post-it note, put it up on your fridge. Not only will it make you smile when you reach for the milk, but it will make you feel grateful for these good people in your life, and it will inspire you to BE that person for others.
Melissa Cluff is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist based in North Texas, providing face-to-face and telehealth therapy options to clients in Texas.
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- Pew Research Center: The share of Americans living without a partner has increased, especially among young adults
- Washington Post: If you aren’t in a relationship, who is your ‘person’?
- Washington Post: ‘You’re my person’: How ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ created a stand-in for ‘soul mate’