Friendships, they’re tough, aren’t they? Here we are, looking at people on social media surrounded by so-called friends and endless praise, only to forget just how many of these people are lonely. Making friends at school is relatively straightforward, although I hung out with the slightly unpopular but interesting people, they were my kind of people. When I went to college, I reinvented myself and went slightly off the rails, I quickly earned an unwanted reputation as a party girl who never paid attention.
I suppose the struggle started when I left college and went into full-time employment, suddenly I was no longer surrounded by endless new faces. I’d stopped going out clubbing, I was trying to sustain my first long term relationship and work out who the hell I was. The years passed quickly, soon I was in my late 20’s and lonely, really lonely. I’d just moved in with Graeme; I tried to get to know the wives’ and girlfriends of the local Rugby team he was part of. But due to my lack of confidence, I just couldn’t make it work.
“When you stop expecting people to be perfect, you can like them for who they are.”
– Donald Miller
We ended up joining a friendship group which for whom for which I’m very grateful for, we had so many amazing adventures and I really enjoyed the company. But, over time my mental health vastly deteriorated and I was finding the experience stressful, I felt like I couldn’t fit in. I’d spend an age trying to ensure that my outfit was the right side of glossy, fretting that our home, my car, handbag or social interactions weren’t good enough. So, I let go and it was absolutely terrifying, I lost friends but I found out who I really was and who I really wanted to be.
“If you go looking for a friend, you’re going to find they’re very scarce. If you go out to be a friend, you’ll find them everywhere.”
– Zig Ziglar
I used social media to reach out to people and formed a wonderful friendship with someone who I could have adventures with, I loved that she was calm and none judgemental. Then my colleague turned into an unexpectedly good friend, she’s bursting with incredible style, full of sound honest advice and life experience. Following this, other friendships started to blossom, I’d relaxed more as a person and welcomed many new people into my life. All of a sudden, I was feeling more comfortable than ever reaching out to other people on social media and making friendships a “real life” prospect.
“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”
— Dale Carnegie
Gradually I started to realize that to build and maintain friendships I’d need to treat people how I wanted to be treated. I started cheering for my friends, not popular strangers on the internet, people I actually cared for and I wanted them to know that I thought they were great. I started making friends with their friends, I discovered that actually, it was okay to drop the obsessive “Must be in bed by 10pm” and be a little less regimented. I learned that friendship is give and take, that actually I had the power to really help someone. For someone who at times has felt completely helpless, I can’t tell you how good that feels.
“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”
– C.S. Lewis
One of the most powerful discoveries is that if I am unapologetically myself, people will like me for that and it will change my friendships. I’d gone from endlessly trying to cover my flaws, crippling myself in sky-high Gucci heels (to be that girl) to posting pictures of myself looking like a manic in my PJ’s. Then slut dropping in a glorious dress I found in a charity shop, whilst rapping to House Of Pain. The kind of behavior normally hidden behind closed doors was suddenly open to public viewing. Because I realized I could just be myself. Flawed, playful, sometimes introverted and extremely caring, but less caring about what people think and more caring about how good I can make people feel.
I’m excited about the future, I’m looking forward to making memories and getting to know these wonderful new people in my life better. I can’t wait for the smiles, laughter and to be there when life gets tough. If someone is my friend, I’m happy to ride in the limo with them, or wait for the bus in the pouring rain and take the long route home. Making someone smile or laugh is great. But having them know I’d be there for them is what’s most important and because of this, I don’t have to focus on trying to impress them. And I guess, that’s what I like the most…