I’ll be the first one to admit if no one else will, that at twenty-two I am still actively working on getting over past traumas from middle school. Yes, I said middle school. Trust me when I tell you that kids can be mean. However the one thing I do miss about middle school is how nonchalant calling someone your “Best friend” used to be.
For someone who didn’t really have many girlfriends until high school, I fell prey to just accepting any and everyone into my non existent circle. As an only child, I found joy when I was younger in going to school just to try and make new friends and meet new people. A large majority of the time these relationships were surface level, as are many in our youth. Still, for some reason I found it easy to trust people. Maybe it was the only child in me.
When someone did show interest in being my friend, I never hesitated to jump on the opportunity. I wasn’t a shy kid, just a really awkward one, and a little lonely, so when I found people who I thought accepted me for me it felt refreshing. Even though I trusted peoples initial kindness, as the friendships progressed, most times I ended up being the butt of jokes and eventually isolated.
If it’s a hard truth I had to learn from middle school, it’s the fact that you can’t trust everybody, and not everyone has your best interest at heart. Sadly even those who first appear to. I went out for dinner with an actual friend a year or so back and she had expressed to me how her then girlfriend viewed potential friendships and relationships.
“Everyone starts at zero, then they gain respect by how they prove themselves. Kindness, loyalty, that kind of thing.” she said.
At the time I didn’t completely agree, but now reflecting on the statement, I think if I had allowed others to show me who they were, instead of assuming I knew who they were, I’d have saved myself a lot of unhappiness in my past friendships.
The truth is we see potential in people in not just romantic relationships, but in friendships as well. This potential often allows us to accept less than what we deserve. What’s worse, is that betrayal or heartache when it comes from a friendship is an indescribable pain. Although friendships lack romantic intimacy, they are emotionally intimate.
I truly think my good friends are like sisters and brothers to me. You share part of your life with people who also share parts of their lives with you. Just like romantic relationships, a lot of the time people also bring baggage and insecurities into friendships that ultimately take a toll on the relationship. In my experience this usually happens when someone has a very narrow and selfish definition of what it means to be a friend, or puts too much pressure on someone who is also only human.
We give our friends more chances than we do our romantic relationships at times, because it is hard to believe a friend would ever do anything to hurt or betray us. In reality, when we step back, it is important to see that someone is going to only offer you what they can offer to themselves. Meaning, if a friend is unable to offer themselves patience, kindness, and understanding, it is more than likely that they will not be able to offer you any of those gems either.
In the age of social media it is so easy to create surface level friendships. It is easy to only want to be friends with people who provide to you a benefit or resource. I realized that to some people in my past, that’s all I was to them. Someone to party with, someone to use, someone who offered them something they couldn’t offer themselves. News flash if you didn’t know this already: Not everyone is your friend.
I’d like you to do an exercise right now.
Think about all the people who you call friends. Are you visualizing them? Great. Now take apart those people, and think about how many of them you just go out with, or who call you up when there’s a function or when they need some quick advice. A decent amount right?
Now how about the friends you feel you can talk to about real things and receive hard honest advice. The ones who you don’t have to see for months but are only a phone call away. The ones who you can go to crying, who push you to be your best, who constantly support you, but put you in your place when they see you going down a wrong path. The people who you are inspired by. The list is a lot smaller right?
The point of this visualization was to show you that the second group of friends are the ones with substance. They are good for you. It is also to show you just how small a circle of true friends actually is. Don’t get me wrong, I’m always down for a fun time, but if the same people you have fun with aren’t the same people you can be vulnerable with, maybe you need to do some thinking about who you consider a friend, and who you consider an acquaintance.
Now that I am older, I realize that all you really need is a close circle of people to keep you going. That’s not to say I don’t like making new friends or talking to new people. I am still very much that middle school girl at heart. It’s just to say, I am more aware of how important it is to protect not just your heart but your energy. That is not to say you can’t love people from afar. I practice this each and every day. Setting boundaries is an act of self-care. You must find balance in every friendship, and discern who is adding value, and who isn’t. This is not to say you should constantly have a guard up and not introduce your circle to new individuals that could very well enhance your life. It is to say that you must be very particular about the energy you surround yourself with. I’ve seen and experienced what happens when you simply keep others around for company and not companionship. You are the one who ultimately gets hurt.
So, where does that leave you now? Well, I’ll offer a piece of advice that I think everyone should understand: People are not disposable. If your friendships just need a little mending I encourage you to put in the work to fix them. True friends are very rare these days. On the flip side of that, if you feel that after reading this you need to re-evaluate your friendships, be honest with yourself and with others. Also, maybe do some deep thinking and ask yourself if you’ve been the toxic friend too. We have all been guilty of it at one point or another. The important thing to do is not to dwell in toxicity or continue to surround yourself with it.
I will also offer that it is okay to apologize, and it is okay to forgive. It is okay to tell someone that you need space, or need to end a friendship. You evolve in your friendships and personal life by taking accountability for actions, and being honest. Now, I don’t know about you but all this talk of friendships has me wanting a girls day. Let me know if you want to join. Like I said, I always love meeting new people.