Whether it’s at school, college, University or work – at some point in our lives we’ve experienced the highs and lows that friendships bring. During these life stages I’ve learned a thing or two about friendship- what it is, what it isn’t and the value and power it has on our wellbeing and our lives as a whole.
“Friendship improves happiness and abates misery, by the doubling of our joy
and the dividing of our grief.”
It’s not about HOW MANY friends you have, it’s about WHO you have
In this generation, social media (i.e., Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc.) is such an important and valuable thing in our lives. It helps us to stay connected, share our stories and learn about things we may have never come across otherwise. But it’s so easy to get caught up in at all and become fixated about how many ‘likes’, ‘followers’ or ‘friends’ you have. This may not always be a bad thing, but it can when it becomes an unhealthy obsession. The important thing to remember is that friendship is not a popularity contest.
“Be careful who you call your friends. I’d rather have four quarters than one hundred pennies.”
This is such an important quote for me because I’ve experienced what it’s like to be surrounded by so many “friends” and to have so few “friends”. As the saying “more money – more problems” goes, I found the same applied to my friends. I’m sure we can all think of a situation we have been in where we are surrounded by people…but not friends, and the minute I realised that is when I became more content. We can put so much energy into unhealthy friendships and it’s honestly so draining as it can take so much out of you. I personally would much rather have friends that I know I couldn’t do without, knowing they feel the same way about me, than to be surrounded by people who I’m always questioning what their “motive” is.
There are many “best friends” I’ve had throughout the years who you think will be there with you in the nursing home cracking joke like the “good old days”. Of course in some cases, this does happen but for most…it doesn’t. I don’t think it’s “too late” to ever start a true, authentic friendship.
“Friendship isn’t about whom you have known the longest… It’s about who came, and never left your side.”
How long you’ve known someone shouldn’t really be indicative of how good of a friendship you have. You could meet someone today or tomorrow who has your best interests at heart way more than people you’ve known since school. You’ve only got to watch Jeremy Kyle once to see that a Mother can be so quick to disown their child after many, many years. So how are friendships any different? This relates to the first point that it’s who you have around you. In the past three years I’ve made a friend who quickly became a sister to me and has been there for me through tough times when we barely knew each other that well, compared to people who I’ve known for so long. When we younger, making friends and maintaining a friendship were learning curves. Some of these friendships do last- which is great. But in the cases where it was only temporary, no matter the outcome, we can all learn something from it and be prepared for when the right friends do come along.
Conflict is a part of friendship
I used to think that a true friendship with someone means you’ve never had or never would have an argument. Now, I appreciate that like with any relationship, conflicts occur and things never go as smoothly as we like. This doesn’t mean that all friends argue- some people just aren’t like that. What’s more important is when a conflict of interest occurs as that is what can determine the authenticity of friendship.
“It is never a true friendship until it has gone through & survived a few rough times.”
My Mum always warned me that living or travelling with someone is a true test of friendship and I can see that now. At the time me and one of my best friends lived in together we had had rough times, but never argued. Up to this day I can say that we still have not ‘argued’ but we get annoyed with each other- just like sisters do. When things happen we talk about it, forget what it was that pissed us off in the first place, laugh about it and move on. But we learn about each other and how we deal with things. She got so confused at how much I still care for her even though I may be annoyed with her. A classic example is I got annoyed on a night out and barely said much all night and we were walking home and her feet were killing. Without saying a word I took off my boots, gave her my socks and carried on walking home in silence and we still laugh about it to this day. But to me, that’s exactly what a real friendship is. We know what pisses each other off so we just don’t do it! But when things do come we address it. So it’s important not to let resentments build up. You should feel comfortable in your friendship where you can tell someone that they’ve upset you without it turning into a big thing.
Friendships vs. Dictatorships
Ask yourself this: Who has the power in your friendship? The answer should be none of you. Friendship should be shared between those involved. You should never feel like you’re doing overtime trying to save a friendship with someone who couldn’t care less about whether you’re friends or not. In the past I’ve had what I thought was friendships, with people who I thought were truly my friends. I used to put so much – too much into my friendships, thinking that that would make them like me or value me more. But I soon realised that wasn’t the case. Friends don’t not contact you after you moved cities. Several “friends” stopped talking to me for no reason after I moved and didn’t even ask how I had settled in. It’s now been 6 years and to this day I have no idea why most of them stopped talking to me. It’s a waste of time, energy and emotion. Ask yourself- why should I stress over someone who wouldn’t stress over me?
Maybe you don’t feel like you’re trying too hard, but possibly you might feel like you’re not part of a friendship, but a dictatorship. Friendships are supposed to be a reciprocal relationship. This is so typical of being in a ‘fake friendship’. Perhaps your friend is not blatantly a controlling ‘mean girl’ but does things that can easily go unnoticed. Maybe your friend only contacts you when they need you and expects you to drop everything in a second to tend to their needs. Or they can expect you to be there for them all the time and make you feel as though you can’t have any other friends or go somewhere else or pursue what you want. You should feel comfortable within your friendship and feel as though you are respected, wanted and valued. Your friends shouldn’t talk to you in a condescending, sarcastic or manipulative way and make you feel stupid, over sensitive or embarrassed. You’re nobody’s puppet and that’s not a friendship.
“Some talk to you in their free time others free their time to talk to you”
I don’t believe that you can be “too busy”, just “very busy”. I say this because we all have the same 24 hours in a day and we make time for what is most important to us, no matter what. There will be times when your friend is really busy and when you are really busy – that’s life and sometimes friendship is not a priority for a temporary time (e.g., during exams, stressful time at work, on holiday or whatever). But when it’s the same old thing and they’re not making time for you that can easily become a problem. Remind yourself that if they were important to you, they would make time.
So… What is a friend?
Friendships can be so awkward at the start because we’ve gone past the stage of asking someone “Would you like to be my friend” and unlike a romantic relationship, it’s hard to figure out if you’re in a real one. Unless you’re Cynthia Bailey, you might not have drafted a friendship contract. So how do we know if our “friendships” are real?
I guess one of the main things is that you should never be questioning your friendship often. Sometimes it can be hard for us to accept that someone does actually want to be there for you- especially when you’ve been hurt by friends in the past. But if you have to keep on questioning whether or not someone is your friend or if you have to question whether a friend has said something about you behind your back then it’s probably not as authentic as you thought. If someone had told me that my best friend had told them something about me I would be in complete denial because I know know and trust my friends and the people who I allow to get close to me. It can take a long time to get to this place where you tell your friend how you feel about them before going to someone else – if at all. Friends shouldn’t spread your business, point, blank period.
The friends I have in my life right now are so important to me and have got me through several of the most difficult times in my life. Friends should know you more than you know yourself. They may not have to know every single thing about you but they should notice things about you and pick up on things that you don’t even realise you’re doing. Body language…your tone…the things you like…the way your eyes light up when you’ve met someone new…the way you are when you’re really angry etc.
Finally, remind yourself that you can choose who you want in your life as a friend. Sometimes it is better to be alone than to be surrounded by fake friends. Stand up for yourself: Burn that contract!
I'm Rebecca, a 23-year-old blogger, depression and social anxiety 'sufferer' and qualified mental health therapist passionate about mental health and well-being, self-development and self-care.
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