I was always quite a sociable person, and made friends easily with people. People on my level anyway. I was quite ‘unpopular’ in school (whatever a popular kid is) but I always had friends. Some have come to be my most treasured and others are lost in the past. But I’ve learned a great deal about friendships as my dependence on them eased as I got older, and I realised what a friendship is – and what it is not.
It is what I have learned that I’m going to base this post on. So here goes –
1. What Is A Friend?
The term ‘friend’ means different things to different people. What some may define as a friend to them doesn’t necessarily mean what I would call a friend – and vice versa. It also changes with time. For example, back in school, I considered all of the people I hung out with to be my friends – but as time has gone on and I’ve thought back, I’ve realised the majority were more associates and acquaintances than actual friends. Why is that?
Well, as much as I enjoyed spending time with them and hanging out – they wouldn’t be the people I would turn to when I needed support, and there were only a select few people I would share my secrets with. Those few were – and some to this day – remain my friends. A friend to me is somebody who supports you, is there for you and values you as a person. Back then, I didn’t realise that. I thought it was about being liked and spending time with people. But I spend time with tons of people at work – that doesn’t make them my friends. And so, as I’ve gotten older and my needs have changed, I’ve realised what a friend actually is – and what a friend isn’t.
2. Your Friends Don’t = Forever Friends
People come and go in our lives – that’s a fact of life. But just because they were a friend at one point, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they will be a friend forever.
And that’s because – people change. Situations change. Needs change. We aren’t the same people we were in school or college 10 years ago. Sure our personalities may never change, but our lives do and with that, our priorities and requirements change. Some friends can’t handle that change – or don’t fit in with that change.
For example, someone having a child will usually effect at least one of their friendships – usually with a child-free friend. As a parent’s priorities change – it’s not about nights out and day-dates anymore, but about their child’s care and play-dates – some friends can’t adjust or find their place in that arrangement. Another example would be one friend deciding to go to college where the other decides to go straight into work. Their schedules and priorities don’t align and they may find the friendship starts to deteriorate. I’m not saying this is what always happens – these are just some typical examples. But it does happen – and sadly, it’s something you’ve either got to fight to work for or just accept as something that once meant something to you, but doesn’t any longer take priority. *Cue Gotye on repeat*
3. Loyalty – Not Numbers
I used to think that the amount of friends I or someone else had defined how likeable and popular they were – and so I tried to surround myself with as many people as I could when I was younger.
As I’ve gone through my twenties, I’ve realised that numbers don’t mean anything. I could be surrounded by 30 people who call themselves my friends but each person could be stabbing me in the back as I turn around.
I’ve also been through some really difficult times in the past few years – and it was during these difficult times that I realised all those people who called themselves my friends – weren’t. Those I thought I could depend on in times of need weren’t there – and it hit me that I don’t need lots of friends to get me through – I need the small and few who were loyal and kept me motivated when I lost my way.
I also stopped caring about how many friends I had on Facebook, and how many followers I had on my blog and social media. Numbers literally do not define anything when it comes to your self-respect and self-worth. Look at Sophie Gradon’s tragic suicide – she had 100ks of followers but she felt so alone and isolated in her hour of need and she didn’t feel like she could turn to a single one. So – loyalty and support for me is more important that having lots of friends for nights out and the like.
4. You Won’t Always Be Treated Equally
This was a hard one for me to accept – but I have finally accepted it.
We make friends of all different backgrounds and personalities that we won’t find someone that is a carbon-copy of ourselves. Whilst this is fabulous for riveting conversation, support and banter – they also won’t deal with and process things in the same way you do which can cause negative feelings depending on the type of person you are.
I was always told to treat others how you wish to be treated – and I expected others lived by that motto too. But, I have been in so many situations where I have ended up getting hurt because I expected my friend to act or think as I would in response to something, but didn’t – and I ended up getting hurt.
I know that I’m a good friend – I’m loyal, supportive, loving and easy to get along with. I’m a really easy friend and don’t expect much from others in terms of friendship maintenance. I’m cool with not getting text-backs, or not hearing from someone for a few weeks or even months. We’re adults – we lead busy lives. I would expect my equally busy friends to feel the same – and most do. But there are some that need constant energy and attention and feel neglected when you don’t contact them for a few days.
There’s also friends who won’t support you as much as you support them. They won’t be there for you as much as you are there for them. And that’s not your fault – don’t stop being a good person. Just accept that they won’t give you the same courtesy – and either stop being as supportive and good to them as you are – or continue and try to let go of the niggling feelings of being not as important to them as they are to you.
5. You Don’t Have To Remain Friends…
Sometimes the people in our lives become toxic for us – they put us down, give us anxiety or stress or don’t offer you what you need from a friend – be it enjoyment or support, or even mutual respect. It’s usually much easier for us to remain friends with someone to save disagreements and confrontations – I am that sort of person, I hate confrontation and I prefer to be the peacekeeper than the antagonist.
But I’m starting to accept that it’s better to be upset for a short while about something than to remain in a partnership that causes nothing but negativity and unhappiness. I’m tired of constantly being the person that’s upset or unhappy; life is too short to spend it miserable because of the actions of others.
It’s often hard to imagine life without somebody who has been there for such a period of time, been ‘there’ through the good and bad – and for a friendship to either gradually or suddenly fizzle away for whatever reason, it can make you stop and think whether ending a friendship is the best thing to do. I would suggest that if a friendship brings you more unhappiness than enjoyment and fulfilment, then perhaps it is best for you. There is no use in remaining friends for the sake of being friends – life is not there to be wasted on those who do not appreciate and give you the time and effort you give them.
Surround yourself with good people – those who share your passion, who want to see you happy and push you to achieve your goals and make memories with. Don’t be dragged down by bitterness, jealousy and selfishness. Your friendship is worth much more.