Valuable Truths I've Learned about Friendship
Updated: Jan 8
Friendship can be a beautiful thing, although sometimes complicated. Especially with today's technology, like social media, easier travel, and easier emigration, there is more room for all kinds of growth, adventure, and opportunity, but likewise more room for miscommunication and drama.
A good social circle is vital to our health, yet there is no formula for socialization, which is why the matter can be particularly complex. That's why I was inspired to share these truths to help you gain some clarity.
Although plentiful, these truths are not the only lessons I've learned, but the ones worth sharing. In no particular order:
1. Some people take, and take, and never appreciate.
My mom raised me to be a very generous person since she is the same, but I've learned the hard way that not everyone has the same heart as you, and not everyone will appreciate your efforts. I was blown away at the amount of people I've met that just take advantage of others' kindness.
This may be partly cultural as my family is from southern Europe, but my mom always taught me that I cannot have guests over without something to offer them. Even if someone who's never invited me over and was quickly dropping by for the 1000th time, I would be vilified for not having at least drinks and snacks waiting for them. If we had nothing in the house because plans were made last minute, I had to cook or bake something, or rush to get some offerings. Long story short, I became really angry and burnt out when I spent years investing so much effort, time, and money into people who have not once done the same for me, especially because it's not like I had a lot of money or time to spare.
For years, I kept making excuses for these people as to why they never invited me anywhere, or why the one time one girl did, she charged us all for the pizza she served at her party. And for the record, she lives in a mansion, on a street full of mansions, so it's not like she couldn't afford it.
Anyways, once I stopped initiating our get togethers, I never saw these people again. So after some time I accepted that they didn't want to be my friend as much as I wanted to be theirs, and I moved on.
Even though I was heartbroken for a while, I'm glad this happened because it made me aware that I have some serious self-worth issues to work on. And, it also taught me the following points:
2. It may take years to realize you're in a one-sided relationship.
It's okay to let it go.
3. People will treat you how you allow them.
4. Your happiness and boundaries are your responsibility.
And it's okay to say no to help yourself before helping others.
5. If you give too much right away, you won't know who's really in it for you.
It's nice to be generous, but if you give too much too soon you may attract a mooch that's just taking advantage of you, or someone who is a taker despite enjoying your presence. If you wish to learn more about this subject, I recommend reading Adam Grant's Give and Take, where he analyzes the dynamic between what he calls "givers, takers, and matchers."
6. How the relationship starts is how the relationship ends.
In short, if the relationship starts with 99% of the effort falling on you, it's a good chance it'll end that way. This applies to various scenarios.
7. Friendships can cause heartbreaks too.
It's totally normal to feel super down when a friendship ends. A relationship is a relationship, whether there is a sexual element or not.
8. What bothers you about others has more to do with you than it does with others.
Everything in this universe is about perception, and how we perceive others has a whole lot to do with ourselves. As a super simple example, a kid perceives adults as big, whereas adults perceive kids as small. A quiet person can perceive someone as too talkative, whereas that talkative person can perceive them as too quiet. It's all about us.
9. Uncommunicated expectations are a recipe for resentment.
So often we expect something from someone that we perceive as obvious, while the other person doesn't think the same way or doesn't even realize that what they did upset you. Thus, we must communicate our thoughts because:
10. You'll never know what someone else is thinking.
In grade 5, I remember sitting beside a friend who caused some drama out of nothing. Behind my back, she told a bunch of people that she was annoyed with me because I kept pushing my eraser shillings onto her desk. Our desks were connected, and it was just a habit of mine to instantly brush them away. I was also super focused on my work, so I didn't notice they were going onto her desk. Once I discovered she was mad at me, I told her I was sorry and that I would brush my shillings to the other side. She could have told me right away and the issue would have been resolved instantly, no drama needed. I obviously didn't intend to bother her, I just wasn't aware that I had bothered her. This little grade 5 drama can serve as a metaphor for all friendships because it represents how we can't read people's minds, and we're not capable of paying attention to everything. For example, you can be super focused on your work, and be unaware of anything else going on around you. That doesn't mean you don't care about others' feelings. There is so much going on in this universe at the same time, being observed from so many different perspectives that it's not possible to take it all in. Our awareness is limited, and it's no kind of life to consistently focus on not upsetting people. Even when you do, which is something I know all too well, people still get mad at you because you can't read their mind. What upsets others may not upset you and vice versa. That's why it's everyone's job to voice how they feel.
This drifts into my next point which is:
11. If you live every second catering to others, they'll still get mad at you.
As another example, connected to numbers 4, 8, 9 and 10, I was once in Las Vegas with my boyfriend at the time, and 2 women asked me to take a photo of them. I slightly adjusted their positions and told them how to move their hair after the first photo so it would turn out nicer. I love it when people do this for me because I hate it when photos make me look bad due to poor angles and lighting. After I handed them back the camera, my boyfriend made me feel like I did something wrong. He said that what I did was so weird, and that they might think I'm rude for suggesting they look better on the different angles. I've honestly only ever been praised for my readjustments and attention to detail, but to each their own. Maybe I did offend them. And even though I had their best interest on my mind, which they wouldn't know since I didn't tell them, it's possible they left there that day with there feelings hurt. I'm not trying to sound dramatic, I just thought this was a good example to prove that it's important to think of yourself because it's just not possible to please everyone. What upsets others may not upset you and vice versa. And if you don't announce that you're making a sacrifice, it will likely go unnoticed. That's why I also think it's okay to let friends know when we're going out of our way to help them.
12. The word friend means different things to different people
Now, this is a fun one. Just like the word "love," "friend" is a fairly ambiguous word. For myself, the word "best friend" holds a very heavy weight. It's like chosen family. Ride or die to the fullest.
It took me years to find out that this is not at all the same for everyone; a lot of people throw around the term like it's nothing.
I was quite shocked when my best friend in elementary school, who I had done so much with and so much for, referred to people she hung out with for 2 weeks as her best friends. I would never call such mild relationships best friendships, and I was lowkey a bit hurt that I was put on the same level as them. However, neither of us are wrong. It's just that everyone is different, so it's nice to establish the meanings we give to the words we use to communicate.
13. Some people value friendship more than others
Bouncing off of number 11, some people cherish their friendships more than others, and some people are willing to put more effort into maintaining their friendships than others. Again, neither way is wrong, it's just a good idea to figure out who stands where, and find people whose dedication matches ours.
14. You don't have to throw the baby out with the bath water
Again with a smooth transition from the previous point, if someone doesn't value friendship to quite the same degree, or has maybe revealed a quality you don't like, you don't have to dispose of them completely. It's crazy to me that some people will be friends for years and then have one fight and never speak again, instead of trying to work it out. The deeper you go, the easier it is to find things to dislike in others, and even the strongest of relationships can require therapy. So to think someone is not worth being around because they've upset you once is bizarre, especially if things were so good for so long.
Although I do think that full-on betrayals should not be forgiven, it's helpful to know what to expect from who. So say one of your friends shares a secret of yours, you can continue to hang out with them to have fun, but know not to trust them or establish a deeper relationship. It's ok to have different "levels" of friendship, and different friends for different things. So it's good to evaluate whether it's worth throwing the baby out with the bath water or not.
15. Sometimes you've been the mean one
If I could pick just one point to share, it would be this one. Many of us like to think we've never done anything wrong, but sometimes we don't realize how our actions are coming across. (See points 8, 10, 11.) We often judge ourselves based on our intentions, and others based on their actions. And on top of that, there are different perspectives to our behaviour that we may not be aware of. So sometimes you've been the mean one, not because you're a bad person, but because you didn't see it from their perspective. Of course, what's mean or not is open to interpretation, so deciding that is personal.
16. Lots of people have no friends
If you're a solo traveler for now, there's nothing wrong with you. There is a myriad of reasons you could not have friends, and if that's the case, you're not the only one. Plenty of people are on the same boat.
17. There is no formula for socialization
We can't guarantee the future, and as aforementioned, we can't control how others perceive us, or know what they're thinking. Sometimes you are not your best friend's best friend or vice versa. Sometimes you are #1 to your #10 and vice versa. Sometimes someone won't hop a puddle for you after you've swam an ocean for them. Being a good friend doesn't guarantee getting a good friend. There is no guidebook for any of this, and even if there was, control would still be an illusion.
But if there's one thing that's clear to me, it's that:
18. Relationships work when both parties are equally dedicated to making it work.
Amongst other factors, of course.
I hope these revelations help you the way they've helped me.