The Comprehensive Guide to Friendship
Friendship is a huge part of our lives, yet it can present some difficult and confusing challenges. The relationships that we build with the people around us can have an overwhelming impact both on the future and also who we are as a person. There are friendships that can be positive and impact you in a good way. They can also be negative and pressure you into choices or make you a person you don’t like. Friends can also challenge you to grow and help you learn to thrive with change by encouraging you through dynamic situations or to help you let go of the past. Below are many ways to better understand your friendships and tips on how to navigate these vital relationships.
Be a butterfly, not a chameleon
Butterflies don’t hide their true colors – they are free to be themselves and appreciated for their beauty. Chameleons blend into their surroundings and adapt to make it through tricky situations. Although this works great for little lizards, people shouldn’t need to pull this camo trick. The most important part of any friendship is to remember to be yourself. Although this might be hard at first, once you’ve developed a deeper connection you can be true to who you are and not feel pressured to conform or alter yourself to fit in. As someone who has often found herself being a chameleon, I understand the inner battles that stop you from being yourself. If you’re with the right friends, you shouldn’t need to conform to their preferences – be the colorful unaltered butterfly you deserve to be. A true friend will want you to be you.
Not everyone deals with difficult situations the same way, which can create rifts in even the strongest of friendships. You may want to run to your friends and cry it out over a tub of strawberry ice cream, have a deep and complex conversation to sort out your feelings, or want to be completely alone. Just because you know what makes you feel better doesn’t mean that’s what will help your friends. The most important thing I’ve learned is to ask, “What do you need?” These three words can be the key in knowing how to be there for your friends in that moment. Asking how to help instead of immediately doing what you know helps you shows how deeply you care about your friends, and they’ll be more likely to open up to you in the future.
Just like toxic romantic relationships, sometimes friendships need to end. A toxic friendship might turn you into someone you don’t recognize or emphasize your worst traits. Constantly competing to one-up you or prove their life is worse when you’re having a difficult time can be other signs of a toxic relationship. Sometimes people can be addicting, demand all of your resources, and constantly steal you away from the rest of your life. This could mean holding you back from important opportunities or even just having fun without them. Separating yourself from these people can be extremely difficult, but ultimately better for both of you. Remember that just because you and your friend aren’t compatible doesn’t reflect on you as a person; you may just need some time to get your life together and figure out who you are without each other’s influence.
In a healthy friendship, you feel like you can be honest and completely yourself. When you ask for help, good friends know how to make you feel better, or at least do their best. Personally, although neither of my best friends comfort very well, one relentlessly tries to make me laugh and the other helps me put my game face one. You never feel like a burden with good friends and don’t have to endure those insecure inner battles every time you talk. Even the greatest friends will never be perfect, but they will do their best to be your person through life’s most wonderful and most difficult moments.
Quality over quantity
Although sometimes it’s fun to have tons of friends, other times it can be overwhelming and hard to find those people who are there for you no matter what. Having tons of friends doesn’t always mean you will feel fulfilled. You may even find yourself alone in a crowded room. These people are called fair weather friends. They are always there for a good time, but when storms roll in they’re nowhere to be seen. As someone who has always been a bit of an introvert and had a few really incredible friends, I promise it can be enough.
One of the most important things in any relationship is honesty. Friends who are honest with one another tend to have deeper and stronger relationships because of their solid foundation. Some things may be difficult to share or you may hate asking for help when you feel like you’re drowning, but good friends will be there for you whenever you’re ready. Sharing in each others’ joy and crazy lives is a priceless part of friendship and another result of honesty.
How to Change and Grow
You will find yourself losing friends, making new friends, and having to move on, grow, and change, especially during this time in your life. Starting high school or college, moving to a new place, or even discovering who you are can cause you to lose friends or foster new friendships. This can be a difficult process, but it is truly necessary to surround yourself with positive people who will challenge you to be better.
In the next few years, you and your best friends will move away, go to college in different states, find jobs in new areas, and have incredible opportunities to better yourselves and the world. The possibilities are endless. As difficult as it may be, make sure you are encouraging your friends to take advantage of all the new things life has to offer. Ensure they know you are there for them if things go wrong and even though you’ll miss them, you never want to hold them back.
A spongy friendship is when one person is constantly giving and the other is constantly receiving. When people only reach out because they need something or you feel your relationship is one sided, it can be really difficult. In situations like this, honesty is always the best policy. If you value your relationship with this person, you can have a conversation with them about how you feel and talk about what you need. On the other hand, this may be a friend that it is time to let go of. If you’re being taken advantage of, just start saying no. As someone who has a very hard time saying that small word, ask for support from the people around you. Do what’s best for you!
Long Distance Friendships
We all know long distance relationships can be really difficult, but so can long distance friendships. I only see my best friend from high school once or twice a year, and I haven’t seen my college BFF since the end of spring semester. It is so important to have two sided effort when going into a long distance friendship. When both people reach out, it is much easier to maintain a strong and positive relationship. Phone calls and Facetime are much closer to in-person than texting, and having a few of these interactions during the month can help put you right back to where you left off. Although I don’t see my high school best friend very often, every time we talk on the phone, it’s like nothing has changed. Even though you miss them, give them space to live where they are. Ask questions about their day and encourage them to do fun things and take advantage of opportunities (especially during the summer!). The more fun things they do, the more you’ll have to talk about during your next Facetime date!
Prioritizing Your Friends
We all know sometimes life gets very busy and it can be difficult to find time to spend with our people. Despite this, it’s important to remember all flowers need water to grow and to give your friends the time and love they need. Make plans for a lunch date or movie night and stick to them! Getting blown off can really hurt and you may miss out on something really great by canceling that time together. Make sure they know even when things get busy, you’re always there for them, and show them they’re a priority by carving out time.
Friends are the family you choose. Surround yourself with love and positivity that you need to grow. Although all relationships can sometimes be difficult, investing in your friendships and bonds with other people has one of the greatest returns.
This blog was written by Ali Shinton, an intern with Immunize Nevada.