Something that’s been on my mind lately is friendships. Specifically friendships as an adult. It’s a question I get a lot and I have to admit, it’s something I myself question. I do find that I’ve done a relatively good job of making friends, but it’s not exactly easy or something that I’m naturally inclined to do. I have to force myself to “get out there.” I’ve gone to meet ups with moms from local Facebook groups, I’ve reached out to neighbors, exchanged numbers with moms in Jack’s classes, etc. It’s hard because I’m not from here, and Mike is, so it felt like I was having to start completely from scratch. Maybe I can do a post about that in the future, though I still very much feel like I’m in the friendship “building” phase here.
I wanted to talk about something related to friendships that has been a very difficult thing to come to terms with, personally. There are two big hang ups I have about this 1) it is a little embarrassing to admit out loud and 2) there’s this stigma about not having a “ton” of friends. Like there must be something wrong with someone if they don’t have a million friends or if they’ve grown apart from others. Here’s the thing though, and ultimately why I decided to share it. I think these kinds of things are so common. And this realization I had will, hopefully, lead to better friendships in the future. And maybe my experience will resonate with you.
It somewhat recently occurred to me that I haven’t always had the healthiest friendships. I don’t even blame the other people involved, it’s all my own issues and it probably (err definitely) goes back to childhood. I think I was so…. desperate to fit in as a kid and then in middle school and even worse in high school that I would do anything to be keep a friendship going, even if it wasn’t reciprocated. See, this is the part that I’m really embarrassed about. Like what was wrong with me that people didn’t want to be my friend? It was probably because I was so desperate to be liked and to have friends, that I was never actually able to be myself.
It didn’t even occur to me until college and right after college, that it was better to be myself and to have people like me for me than to have to be someone else in order to be liked. Which, duh. It makes sense now, but it really was an epiphany for me in my early 20s. It probably helped that I was actually trying to figure out who I was, too, instead of just going along with who I thought I was supposed to be. And this realization been great in a lot of ways. I am a little weird and I have my own ways of having fun, but over the years, I’ve cultivated amazing friendships where they also like to have fun in the same ways that I do and it’s just so much better all around. (Sometimes I wonder about the friendships I missed out on in middle school and high school had I done the things I wanted to do instead of done the things that I thought everyone else liked doing.)
But even as I found friends who were much more aligned with me and liked me for me, I don’t think I ever addressed that childhood fear of losing the friendships. I still felt desperate to make and keep friends. Like I was constantly worried about someone “being mad at me.” And I felt like I needed to give everything to friendships, regardless of whether or not it was reciprocated.
And, look, I’m a firm believer that it’s never worth keeping score about things. Life ebbs and flows and sometimes you’ll be the person being cheered on and sometimes you’ll be the cheerleader. And it may not be an even 50/50 ever…. but it can’t be so off balance. That was where I’ve made some mistakes. In that desperation of ever losing a friend, I had been giving a lot of myself to friendships without (sometimes) getting friendship in return.
This all came to me when I felt so incredibly supported by a few of my close friends. I was laying in bed and thinking, “Man, I feel so grateful for these friends of mine.” Seeing how great some friends have been has also highlighted how maybe not-so-great others had been. I didn’t even want to admit it because, again, embarrassment. My mind immediately jumped to, “well what’s wrong with me!” But I just think I was clinging onto certain friendships more afraid of losing it in name only for what? Fear of embarrassment? Sometimes it’s just not that deep and sometimes it’s just as simple as a friendship fading or growing apart and it’s really okay.
What’s not okay, at least how I see it, is not having equal levels of support, especially if it’s hurting your feelings. It’s just like any kind of relationship and if it’s one-sided it’s not fair to the other person. Again, it doesn’t need to be an exact 50-50 and it can have some natural ebb and flow….. but it should that support should be given easily from both sides when, and as, needed.
I finally have those friends that love and support and celebrate me for me and nothing brings me more joy than loving and supporting and celebrating them for them! And in this new chapter of life I’m in, I am continuing to work to add to that group. It’s made me realize how it’s so, so worth investing in good friendships. The payoff is invaluable.