Of the twenty-nine years I’ve been on this planet, I think the one thing I’ve learned most about is friendship. Any kind of ‘ship‘ requires respect and that’s what I want to talk about today.
WHAT I’VE LEARNED ABOUT FRIENDSHIP
I am not the perfect friend. I make mistakes.
Last year I suffered with my first bout of depression; I fell away from myself, let alone the people around me. I was holding on by the tips of my fingernails, fighting for a reason each day to keep my grip.
From there I went on to buy my first home, which very nearly shattered me completely (even though it’s one of the things I’m most proud of). I dealt with multiple deaths of people I loved dearly. And then, the illness I’d been living with for years flared up and hasn’t gone away since.
The last 18 months have pushed me beyond measure and I’m sad to say that within that time I let people down. Some friendships changed, some are seemingly no more and some flourished.
But it’s that low that’s made me think about having the conversation on friendships with you.
So I wanted to share the things that I believe help to strengthen my relationship with myself, and others.
BOUNDARIES ARE IMPORTANT:
A lot of us can have expectations of others and not voice them.
I believe that boundaries are imperative to a successful friendship – how can you expect so much, when you say so little?
I set boundaries with my friends and myself, because that way? There’s less room for disappointment.
This comes in handy if I ever run into a spot of bother with a friend, allowing myself to be strong enough to ask what’s wrong, or if I’ve done something to upset them (albeit with extreme anxiety in tow). But it also works well for the everyday, too.
One time my friend Laura asked to borrow my Tom Ford perfume. I didn’t even think about it before saying ‘No, it’s £150 a bottle and I cherish every squirt’. She was taken aback, not because I’d said no, but because I felt comfortable enough in our relationship to be able to say what did or didn’t feel good for me. Perhaps you could see it as a trivial example, but that’s just one notch to our super strong belt of respect for one another.
With boundaries comes responsibility. Hopefully, if we have boundaries, we have knowledge. We know what to expect from another person, whether that’s time, effort, whatever we need. It’s so much easier to have a lovely friendship with someone when you know where you stand.
THE UNSAID WILL FESTER:
I pride myself on being committed to honesty and transparency – but just because I practice what I preach, doesn’t always make it easy.
I truly believe that a friendship grows when the people involved have the strength to speak up.
Whether positive or negative, we should let our feelings be heard. Tell them you love them and appreciate them – find a way to show that you think they’re wonderful; it won’t ever go unnoticed and it’s something we can often forget to do.
And likewise, if they’ve hurt you, tell them; but be kind and gentle, honest and fair.
TRUST AND COMPETITION:
On competition –
Anyone that fights for the place in your spotlight isn’t a cheerleader. There is room for each and every one of us to succeed in our own right, and if someone is trying to pull you down and not lift you up, then something is very wrong. Minor levels of the green-eyed monster are healthy, I think it helps us realise what we really want; anything more than that shouldn’t be brushed under the carpet.
I don’t believe in ‘ghosting’ anybody. It is the worst feeling to be ignored and so on the occasion I’ve dealt with odd levels of jealousy, I’ve called it out. My intention would never to be nasty, but I do believe that everyone deserves a chance to realise their behaviours, explain them or even redeem him or herself.
On trust –
I wear my heart on my sleeve and will always trust someone’s intentions are golden from the off. Seeing the good in people makes me happy and for the most part it works out okay.
However, on a fair few occasions, I’ve put my trust in the wrong people. Not everyone has honesty at the root of their soul and it doesn’t make you a bad person to not see that straight away. It can hurt, to realise someone isn’t in it for the same reasons you are, but for me, the answer will never be to put my guard up. It shouldn’t be a fight, to gain someone’s trust, but once it’s gone, it could well be gone for good.
We are humans; we’re complicated, beautiful and totally unique. We feel things so very deeply and sometimes it’s difficult in the haze of pure emotion to remember ourselves.
I am stubborn and strong-willed and like to be right – these qualities don’t always bode well when someone is on the other side of them. I try to manage the parts that can get the better of me by talking it through with someone else.
I’ll explain a situation as neutrally as I can and hear out my flaws before I go gung-ho on someone for upsetting me. It helps me to see the situation a little more clearly and try and find a middle ground to hopefully come together on. Even though I find it hard, I do know that my opinion isn’t always the right one.
And all of this, it’s not about being perfect; it’s about showing that we care.
IT’S OKAY TO LET GO:
It feels like there’s an unsaid rule, that if you walk away from a friendship, you’re a bad person.
I say balls to that rule and where did it even come from?
Friendships have ups and downs, nothing is ever linear and life isn’t simple. We do things we shouldn’t and spend wasted time daydreaming about how much better we could’ve been. When actually, we can just be better right now.
If I’ve done all of the above – if I’ve put in effort to see and understand the relationship for what it is and it’s still not working? It’s okay to walk away. You might feel like you’re letting someone down, but if you’re unhappy, they will be too.
Friendships are born from so many different circumstances, and they aren’t all meant to last.
Friendships are the family we choose and having that choice means you simply owe each other kindness and nothing more. You deserve the happiness you want.
What have you learned about yourself and friendships? I’d love to know.
SHOP MY LOOK:
Photography by Slawek Jarocki