Today I want to talk about something very near and dear to my heart. Healthy friendships. This concept is something I talk about literally every day in some way, shape or form. I believe wholeheartedly in the power of connection with people and that if you are able to cultivate a circle of friends who empower you, inspire you, love you unconditionally and proud out loud for you, you will be unstoppable.
A few years ago, I had a lot of friends. I said yes to everything and I felt so terrible letting people down. I was a total pushover. I would be so excited to settle into my couch for a Netflix binge, but the phone would ring and I’d put myself on the back burner. I’d get so excited to have a Saturday to recharge and get things done, but forget that I’d committed to planning a literacy day. I would be so mad at the very thing or person I was allowing myself to commit to, but the anger should have been directed at myself. I had terrible boundaries. I couldn’t say no. We often get pulled into commitments and say “yes” before we have a chance to think about whether it’s something we are deeply rooted in. In other words, we follow our head and not our heart.
I know I’m not alone in this. So many of us were raised with the mindset of being kind to everyone, helping wherever we are needed, and really living as best as we could in God’s image. Do all of the things, make all of the friends, organize all of the events, join all of the clubs, socialize, and make a name for yourself. We sometimes live in the fear of missing out and sadly, we in turn neglect ourselves an end up miserable and unfulfilled.
Despite being able to say that my friend list was long, inside I felt really empty. I would see “friends” out and about and feel so embarrassed when they would walk right past me like we were strangers. I would struggle to carry a conversation with someone and end up saying the most bizarre, off the wall things just to avoid awkward silence. I would sit in rooms where people were doing nothing but shaming and judging others and I’d either laugh along or sit in silence because I had no idea what to do. Is this what it means to have a bunch of friends. Do I just do what everyone else does to avoid conflict? In changing who I was for all of those “friends,” I actually lost myself. I LOST MYSELF. I had no idea what my ideals were anymore. I didn’t know what I actually believed. I grew to despise myself because I felt completely fake.
I don’t think there was a specific day that I decided this, but through tons of self-help, research, trial and error, and discovering how to be an effective communicator, I was able to better understand how to establish and maintain healthy relationships with people. This included but was not limited to good communication, healthy boundaries and exercising my God-given voice. It was time to find my circle.
I quickly realized that I didn’t have to feel obligated to do it all. I didn’t have to work so hard to maintain friendships with everyone, but rather, I learned to differentiate existing friendships and invest in the ones that strengthened and supported me.
My best friends are few in number. They are strong, empowering and empathetic AF. My best friends are my support system. They are the ones I call in an emergency and vice versa. We aren’t afraid to break plans “because we’d rather sit at home in our jammies instead of meet for happy hour.” Literally, honesty is key and in our friendship, we do real. There are no excuses or lies. There is no reason to hide anything because within this circle, it’s a judgement-free zone. We drop anything to comfort each other when we are hurting and celebrate the shit out of important milestones. We were so perfectly weaved together and in building and growing our sisterhood, I’ve realized that the sky is the limit for what we can handle together.
When you are looking for your circle, find the ones who push you further. Find the ones who are cheering for you and encouraging you. Find the ones who are healthy and real. Don’t settle for friends who tell you what you want to hear. If you have to change who you are or what you believe to fit into a group, you need to reevaluate whether that’s really the place for you.
Know that you are going to be involved with people in work, life, extracurricular activities, etc. who may clash with the values you’ve established for yourself as well as the expectations you’ve set for who you choose to surround yourself with. Just because you are working with someone or come into contact with someone doesn’t meant you have to be their friend. It does, however, provide you the opportunity to be your authentic self. There is so much empowerment in being real. In those moments, choose to set an example. Choose to show people that you are not defined by the number of friends you have, but rather the quality of who you allow into your life. You are who you surround yourself with. Choose wisely!