Lately, I have been thinking a lot about friendships and the impact they have on our lives. Now that I am in my early 30’s I have noticed a remarkable shift in both the quantity and quality of my friendships. Friends I’ve known since childhood are no longer part of my circle and new friends have emerged altogether. Some of these new friends have been long lasting and other new friends left as quickly as they came. This made me really question what is the purpose of friendship or any kind of relationship? Should you be open and free with whomever wants to spend time with you or should you be very strategic about who you spend your time with? Or, should you have a balance of both? I have been struggling with this for a few years now as I’ve noticed my circle of friends evolving and shrinking. I’ve also had many different emotions as I’ve lost and gained friends over the years. I’ve felt sad, relieved, confused, abandoned, angry, and detached just to name a few.
The Purpose of Friendships
We often build friendships with people that fulfill a purpose in our lives. We look for those who share common interests, values, or experiences. Often times, we are looking for people who provide us the reassurance that we are not alone in life. That there is another person who either shares our quirks or accepts our quirks as they are. We also build friendships with people that we enjoy interacting with. These are the people we find interesting, pleasant to be around, or easy to talk to. Some of the top reasons we establish friendships with people include companionship, acceptance, someone to talk to, and collaborators to help us achieve our goals.
“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” – C.S. Lewis
Evaluate Your Friendships
Every stage of your life requires a different version of you. Therefore, the people you surround yourself with as time goes on will inevitably be different as well. When we are young and carefree, we spend time with nearly anyone that is available and shares a common interest. However, the older we get and the more challenging life becomes, we begin to realize that our friendships need to become partnerships. Partnerships allow us to evolve at a better pace creating a stronger foundation for the person we aspire to become. That’s not to say that your friendships should be opportunistic in nature. All this means is that your friendships should be supportive, balanced, healthy, and reciprocated.
“Be slow to fall into friendship; but when thou art in, continue firm & constant.”– Socrates
Remove Toxic Friends
Realizing that you are in a toxic friendship is very painful. Sometimes we realize it when we are going through some difficult times, after we’ve had some distance from the friendship, or through a disagreement. After reflecting on some of the friendships that I have lost over the years, I realized that anytime I thought about a particular former friend I had a negative reaction to their memory. Even if the memory was a positive one, I still felt like during that time my energy was being drained by that person’s presence. I also realized that this particular friend was never available to support me in a happy time of my life but was very quick to offer judgement during a difficult time. I knew I had felt this way for a while but until I finally had distance from the friendship I couldn’t label my feelings in order to understand them. We also like to see the good in others and believe that those in our inner circle have the best intentions. The reality is that is not always true. Therefore, it is important to evaluate your needs and offerings in a friendship to determine the type of friendships you would like to have.
On the flip side, consider whether you are that toxic friend. Take a minute to reflect on any particular patterns you may have experienced in your friendships over the years. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Have you lost friends for similar reasons?
- Are you the constant source of drama and negativity?
- Do you find yourself constantly blaming others and being the victim of your circumstance?
Self reflection is a very important life skill to have. It teaches us to view ourselves objectively, remove the emotions from the situation, and understand how our actions contribute to a particular situation. It also allows us to evolve into better, more compassionate, and humble individuals. Realizing that you may have been wrong and expressing that to someone you care about is a sign of strength and maturity. Your friends will feel more respected by you and more likely to forgive any past indiscretions.
“Just because you lost me as a friend doesn’t mean you gained me as an enemy. I’m bigger than that. I still want to see you eat just not at my table.” - Tupac
Be The Friend You Want To Have
Leading by example is the best way to teach people how to treat us. Be the friend who is comforting and non-judgemental. Be the friend that is supportive and ready to offer a solution when appropriate. Be the friend who is available to help in a difficult time. Be the friend who is genuinely happy for others when they succeed. Be the friend who sees the good in others and respectfully rejects any nonsense or bad behavior.
Having toxic people in your life or being that toxic person prohibits you from living a really good life. There is so much more to life than that one person. There are so many other people in the world that can offer you a better experience. The world is full of beautiful people and places so don’t waste it thinking about the negative. There are also many more ways of thinking that through a victim mentality. Learn to be more positive and surround yourself with positive uplifting people. You will notice a major shift in your life and higher quality experiences overall.