“Many of us learn as children that friendship should never be seen as just as important as family ties. However, friendship is the place in which a great majority of us have our first glimpse of redemptive love and caring community. Learning to love in friendships empowers us in ways that enable us to bring this love to other interactions with family or with romantic bonds.” – bell hooks
We tend to think of friendship in a casual way and not afford it the power we do a romantic relationship. Especially today, when social media has us calling people we’ve spoke to only once a friend. The problem is that all relationships, whether romantic, familial or friendly, can either prevent or promote our growth as a person.
This isn’t to say you might be friends with someone who is actively plotting to hold you back, just like you can be in a romantic relationship with someone who doesn’t cause you pain, but also doesn’t bring the best out of you.
The people we spend our time with are some of the biggest influences in our lives; the way they speak, what they speak about, their values and beliefs, the media they take in, even the people in their own lives, become part of our consciousness.
One of the most proactive things you can do to raise the quality of your life is create a friend filter.
Just because you hit it off with someone and have things in common doesn’t mean this person should have access to you daily. That wouldn’t be reason enough to start dating someone, so why friendship? Set a higher standard for all your relationships. They’re different yet are all equally important and influential.
Reading this might have already brought someone to mind, so check this list of symptoms to make sure your friendship isn’t stunting your personal growth. But if you find this list describes you more than your friends, it might be time to check yourself.
Sure you laugh and have fun, but do you find yourself keeping quiet on your opinions? This is a big negative, but not at all uncommon. Some people are of the mindset that their opinions are facts, and spending your time around them will push you to hold back your opinions or just agree to avoid discomfort. There’s a crucial difference between standing by your beliefs and being unable to have discussions that don’t agree with your beliefs. The latter doesn’t create a safe space for learning and sharing. You wouldn’t accept a boyfriend or girlfriend that curtailed your self expression, so why a close friend?
Giving More Than You Get Back
It’s basic math; if you subtract more than you add, you’ll end up in the negative. Both romantic relationships and friendships require and thrive with balance. Of course that doesn’t mean a perfect 50/50 split between give and take; a healthy relationship moves back and forth between giving and taking with not one person always doing the giving and the other always taking.
Do you both have cars but keep finding yourself in the driver’s seat when you’d rather not? Are you quick to pay for your friend but can count on one hand the times they’ve just offered to pay? Do they vent about their day to you but suddenly have to leave when it’s your turn to vent? Do you seem to come into existance when it’s convenient to them? If you’re the one giving too much, you probably already know it.
More Bad Than Good
This one’s important because it’s both easy to do and easy to overlook. Shit talking. We all do it, but (hopefully) try not to. While you don’t have to set your standards so high only a zen buddhist could be your friend, don’t lower them just because most people don’t meet them. There are people who occasionally have a bad word for someone, and then there are people who are constantly focused on other people and how they can insult them. It might be funny and even true sometimes, but that’s not worth filling your consciousness with shit talking. It even sounds terrible. Shit talking filled consciousness.
People who constantly bad mouth others are a blessing in disguise though. They are openly letting you know they will fill the space around you with negativity. There is no easier way to be certain someone will bad mouth you than if they do it to others right in front of you. Trust that once you break with this person you will be the first one they gossip about.
If you don’t already know it, let me tell you; a person who is always insulting the people around them has chosen a toxic method of dealing with insecurity and self-hate. You will never find a happy person bothering to search other people for flaws to pick at. They don’t need that low form of false confidence because they already have real confidence in themselves.
Not every person with low self esteem acts in a toxic way, so don’t make the mistake of avoiding all insecure people. We’re talking about those who, instead of confronting themselves, project their insecurities onto others. Don’t let them bring you down with them.
“Tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are.”
No, I’m not going to tell you to surround yourself with like minded people. Spending time with people who share your goals definitely has it’s benefits, but there are lots of great people who don’t pursue what you do. Instead of seeing people in terms of what they want to do, see them in terms of what they actually do. Someone might say they want to be a lawyer, but what are they doing to get there? If your goal requires hard work, then spend your time around people who work hard, not just people who have the same goals but aren’t doing what’s required to achieve them.
We Accept The Friends We Think We Deserve
Friends hold a lot of power in our lives. There are times when neither family nor significant others can help us, but our friends know exactly what to say and do. It’s so important we acknowledge the huge role friends play; this means not letting just anybody step into that position. Don’t feel like you have to compromise parts of yourself to have friends. It’s good to give, but not if the person you’re giving to isn’t helping bring the best out of you, too. Watch how quickly you’ll feel the space around you open up with room to grow when you raise your standards for friendship.
People are constantly changing, don’t be afraid to let them go; someone who was once at your level will hold you back when you begin to progress beyond them. So do a little check up on your friendships; sometimes it’s not you, it’s them.