The bullshit of friendship

This week I have had some inspiring conversations with some of my industry peers, and I knew I’d have to write a blog post on the topic that we were discussing: friendship.

If it doesn’t cause you too much anguish, revisit your primary and secondary school years in your head. Chances are, you befriended someone in the early years because they sat next to you in class, or they had the same lunchbox as you. As you got older, maybe you struck up friendships at school with those in your sport or activity club, or who dressed similarly to you.

These early friendships are how we develop our social skills, but it isn’t how we need to define them.

Whether you were one of the popular kids in your school, or you preferred to stay at the sidelines with one or two friends, this does not mean you are stuck in that stereotype as an adult.

Remember – popularity doesn’t lead to happiness. The number of connections you have is totally irrelevant if each of those friends or acquaintances isn’t adding significant value to your life.

There is no need to spend time wishing that you had more followers or interactions on social media to feel accepted.

The conversations I’ve had this week have been proof of that for me, as I contemplated why it is SO HARD TO MAKE PROPER FRIENDSHIPS AS AN ADULT.

Social media opens us up to so many people. The thrill of the size of the network and its possibilities takes us far away from those meaningful friendships.

On the other side of the spectrum, there are people who have held on to their childhood friends, in the fear that they won’t be able to make new ones if they accept that they have grown apart over time.

I’ll reference the anti-bullying charity Kidscape to put this into context:

“Moving on can be scary, but you deserve people in your life who support you and make you feel good about yourself.”

https://www.kidscape.org.uk/advice/advice-for-young-people/friendships-and-frenemies/

I’ve heard from peers who have done just this. They have accepted that it is hard to make friends as an adult, but they have taken the risk anyway. They have realised the importance of surrounding themselves with better people for them, no matter how long this takes.

From the stories I’ve heard, it seems common for people are so concerned about not having friends, that they constantly put other people’s needs and wants ahead of their own.

Alone time is important.

There is a fear of being labelled “boring” or “a loser”. When people want to stay home and have some quiet time to reflect and recharge, instead, they’ve felt obliged to go out and socialise. This may be because of something that has been said to them, or a negative thought they’ve created in their own mind.

A true friend will respect your boundaries. Good friendships go both ways, and it should never just be one person compromising on their needs.

Kidscape can help us here too, with this helpful reminder of when a ‘friend’ is really a ‘frenemy’ (the kind of person you’re really too good to have in your life!).

A frenemy is someone who may put pressure on you to do things you don’t want to do, or be manipulative (e.g. ‘If you were my friend you would…’).

So I guess what I’m saying is, when you think about it – like really think about it – who are the people you really value in your life?

You don’t need to surround yourself with people who aren’t good for you.

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Mental health blogger & speaker | MSc student mental health nurse
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