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Circus Rings

I have a way of categorizing the people in my life. It’s a way of refocusing priorities and setting boundaries.

First, you are the Ring Master of this circus. You get decide who goes where and when. Who gets access to you and who has to wait. Who you will prioritize and who you won’t. I want you to imagine a Circus tent with 3 rings. But they are set up like a bullseye instead of next to each other.

First Ring:


This is the center of your life. This is where the people that get immediate access to you go. Who goes in this circle is different for everyone. For me, it is my immediate family. That means my husband, my three kids, and myself. That is it. They are the most important people in my life. This should be the tiniest circle. You can’t comfortably fit more than maybe ten people at most in this ring. These people are yours. Their energy and yours is completely aligned.

You absolutely need to put yourself in this ring. You are the Ring Master. You need to be in the center so you can run this circus. That means prioritizing your needs over anyone who isn’t standing inside this imaginary circle with you. Even sometimes over the other people who are in your first ring. An exhausted Ring Master means the circus falls apart.

Second Ring:


This is where the people that you trust completely go. They have proven themselves. They show the fuck up (in whatever way they do, you get to decide). For me, this is my extended family and a few very close friends. (Extended family to me is anyone I didn’t give birth to). Again, this is not a huge ring. You might be able to fit 50 people here but I wouldn’t advise more than 20. These are the people who are there to listen to you vent, who don’t judge you, who accept you exactly as you are. They get access to you most of the time. You show up for them in the way that you can. They understand when you can’t. Excuses aren’t needed for these people. You can tell it like it is no matter whether you are a dumpster fire or on fire with productivity. These people are safe for your energy regardless of what it might be that day.

Third Ring:


This is the largest ring. You might have as many as 100 people here, but 50 is an easier to manage number. You know their names and about their life. You’ve maybe had dinner a few times. They may have 2nd Ring potential but you don’t know yet. You like these people but there are only so many hours in a day. You usually respond to them within a few days. They are generally safe for your energy but you keep a some distance.

This is a great space for clients because you connect with them on a business level. That means there are boundaries and structures to your relationship with them. Your conversations are often scheduled to work around both of your schedules.


These people are not a part of the show. They do not get to participate, they only get to see if from their seats. They do not get a lot of access to your energy. This is where crappy friends go, the ones who have proven themselves untrustworthy. People you knew in high school but barely connected with. Old coworkers. Super extended family that you only share genetics with. People who follow you on social media but you have barely spoken to. Potential clients sit here to see the show and decide if they want to move into the third ring. People in the audience are either unknown or untrustworthy. They are welcome to watch the show. A few may move into the rings, but this is where acquaintances mostly stay. You wouldn’t avoid them in the grocery store, but you aren’t close.

Parking Lot:

You don’t know these people. You wouldn’t recognize them in the grocery store. They are strangers. Maybe someday they’ll move into the audience and so on. They get nothing more than polite distance from you. They have no impact on your energy because you don’t know them at all.

Outside the Fence:

These are your NO people. They don’t get to see inside your circus. They don’t even get to be in the damn parking lot. Toxic family members who belittle you. The bully from middle school who made your life miserable. That crappy ex-boyfriend. An old boss who delighted in making you cry. These people are dangerous to your energy. Their presence is usually draining. They do not get a ticket to your life. Hopefully this list is small. Toxic assholes who make you feel bad about yourself don’t deserve to even be in the parking lot. It is very rare that someone can change enough to be allowed inside the fence again. These people have hurt you, sometimes badly.

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