There is nothing quite like the feeling we get when we stumble across someone who gets our weirdness and craziness and doesn’t judge our crankiness. They understand our dreams and hopes and ambitions. It’s that ‘Me too!’ feeling and it’s awesome.
Friendships are formed when we feel a connection to another person. Some common ground. A sense of unity. A bonding experience. That’s the foundation on which we build.
Often we start with a solitary brick and we keep building until we’ve got a skyscraper of a friendship that stands tall and proud. Maybe it feels the odd tremor, but hopefully it remains solid and safe.
It’s not always that way.
As humans we change and grow. It’s all part of our life experience. We don’t necessarily have the same taste for food, music or fashion at forty that we did at fourteen. Can you imagine?!
Sometimes our childhood friends choose different paths. School is a place where our minds are fed, yet we don’t all have the same palate. Once we leave school we have a whole variety of new avenues to explore. We get to choose.
The earth tells us of all the wonders that it holds. We explore and we experiment. We reach and we roam. We see that there is more than one dish on the menu and we savour each new experience. Some of our friends will feel the flavours we do. Some of them won’t.
There’s no right or wrong path. There’s no one way to live this life. There is choice and there is individuality. We can’t force friendships in a specific direction. We can’t decide that somebody else has to stay on the trail we want to tread just because we made a pinky promise when we were ten. Or thirty-three.
And, by the same token, we don’t have to place unnecessary stress on ourselves to be a person that we were many moons ago. We can only make choices that suit us for the person we are today. And that may well be a different person than fifteen years ago. Perhaps, even from fifteen months ago.
None of this means we have to fall out with our friends. Many relationships thrive on the opposites attract theory. Different interests don’t have to mean a divide. They do, however, have to mean respect for choices that may not be aligned with our own beliefs.
Tolerance is a tool that we all need to keep in our kit bag.
Undoubtedly, the most important friendship we will ever experience is the one we cultivate with ourselves. When we learn to lovingly accept who we are, we stop seeking approval from others. Our self esteem is not attached to anyone else’s opinion.
Investing in ourselves isn’t being selfish. It’s honouring who we are and creating the space to evolve into who we have the potential to be.
Life is fluid. Change is inevitable. Not all of our friendships will last all of our lives. It doesn’t mean that they’re any less worthy. If we respect and appreciate the friendships we have (and ask that our values be reciprocated) then we start to gain a deeper understanding of how all of our personal relationships can be beneficial without feeling depleting.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
1) Recognise that just as you are allowed to say yes to yourself, you are also allowed to say ‘no, thank you’ to others. And, your friends are allowed to say the same.
2) Understand that there will probably be conflict at some point in every friendship you have. It might be a big clash of opinions, maybe a minor collision. Either way it doesn’t necessarily have to be a deal breaker.
3) Respect boundaries. Nobody else is obligated to deliver happiness to your door. That’s your job. Likewise, you’re not responsible for anybody else’s contentment. Encouraging somebody else to empower themselves is a far greater gift than trying to ‘fix’ their feelings.
4) Being supportive is quite different from being someone else’s entire support system. Caring is amazing. Feeling burdened is not. We don’t have to sacrifice our own needs in order to show support to other people. By keeping balance we are less likely to feel a sense of encumbrance and subsequent resentment.
5) Nothing is permanent. Everything is temporary. We are all just passing through this world. The people we meet and the places we visit are all part of our life experience. Appreciating the value of each encounter (without placing conditions or restrictions on it) allows us to form more meaningful friendships, regardless of their duration.