Being Afraid Of The Friends That You Need.
“We are a group of ladies that like to group hug the shit out of each other and make it feel like home. Welcome to the lady gang :-* “
I received this text the other night from a fairly new-ish friend, a rad gal I’d bonded with via WANT and le internet but had never met in person. Now that we’re in the same time zone, we knew we had to meet up.
I was figuring we’d meet up for a quick coffee or some other socially/emotionally “safe” encounter that lasted no longer than 60 minutes max.
But once we started texting, she did something that completely caught me off guard in the best way possible: she invited me into her circle, and into her world.
I don’t know whether it’s an alien sixth sense that I have or some sort of planetary alignment working in my favor, but throughout my life I’ve been presented with some pretty badass babes out of the blue. It always plays out like one of those 90s rom-coms starring Rachel Leigh Cook or Jennifer Love Hewitt or some other teen idol with three names. Except in my version, it’s the potential friend I see from across the room, not the potential love interest. I see them in a group or meet them for a split second and I think, YES. This person is the real deal. This person is My Kinda Person.
Whether I’ve always chosen to do something about it or not has been a different story. When these people, primarily women, present themselves into my life, I sometimes hesitate to take action. What if they don’t like me? What if I am too much, too little, too awkward, too normal? What if I’m a nuisance or a bother, what if I don’t fit in? What if this person I hope I’ll connect with doesn’t understand she can show me her flaws without fearing judgement, and retreats back into her world shunning my friendship forevermore? What if she doesn’t realize that I’m on her side?
My inner dialogue around new friends ends up sounding a lot like the way I talk to myself about the person I hope to be but don’t believe I can (or am ALLOWED to) be.
Just like in romantic relationships, the sign of a healthy and meaningful friendship (especially female friendship, for the sake of this article) isn’t always just that two people can “be themselves” with each other – it’s that those same two people can go to the dark places together as a team and come out stronger on the other end. The sign of a healthy and meaningful friendship is when two people trust they’re right where they know they need to be, and trust that they’re there together.
But that’s not what’s happening out there IRL. I know, because if it was happening, we wouldn’t be talking about finding friends as an adult over and over and over again. “One study, published in 2015 in Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences, looked at 540 men and women and showed we lose an average of two friends when we gain a romantic partner,” the WSJ tells me. “People have an internal alarm clock that goes off at big life events, like turning 30. It reminds them that time horizons are shrinking, so it is a point to pull back on exploration and concentrate on the here and now,” one study in the New York Times concludes. Even science agrees that making friends as an adult kind of sucks.
I keep reading the NYT piece, and something pops out at me: “As external conditions change, it becomes tougher to meet the three conditions that sociologists since the 1950s have considered crucial to making close friends: proximity; repeated, unplanned interactions…and a setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other.”
1950s sociologists might have been using the word “setting” to describe actual places and locations, but I think it’s something much more complex:
In order to set the stage to let our guards down and confide in one another, we must first let our guards down and confide in ourselves. The perfect “setting” that encourages friendship isn’t in a coffee shop or living room: it’s in our hearts.
The perfect 'setting' for friendship isn’t in a coffee shop or living room: it’s in our hearts. Click To Tweet
Friendship isn’t about something exciting and cool to go to in order to bond. Friendship is about compatibility on a soul level. We tend to forget this as we get older, and focus on reserving that soul-compatibility factor for our romantic partner. Friends are for having fun with. Friends are the ensemble. Friends are the side dish, a romantic partner is the main event.
So we engage in more and more superficial experiences and stay on more and more emotionally safe terrain, subconsciously and simultaneously looking for that soul connection but not wanting to go out on a limb and show our whole selves.
That’s the problem: not the coffee date, not the group hang.
If we’re supposed to be the sum of the five people we spend the most time with – then they’re our mirrors, so to speak.
The problem lies in the way we treat ourselves and the internal expectations we set when it comes to how much we actually want to hold a clear mirror up.
Self-acceptance, self love, and therefore friendship, is a messy experience. Many times, we’re scared. We’re scared of the person we could be and the risks we’d need to take to be that person. We’re scared of the rejection, the disappointment, and most of all, the truths that will be revealed along the way. The best work we can do in this life is also the work that brings to light things we’d rather not admit.
And so staying in “safe” friendships is a lot easier to stomach than the alternate. We’re not asked much of, we’re not challenged to the core; we stay in the loop of sameness we’ve always been in because it’s just so comfy there. We fear we might not be able to rise to the occasion, so we sink to the level of good-enough to quench our thirst for connection with others ergo connection with ourselves.
And then we keep talking about how hard it is to make friends as an adult.
We’re afraid of the friends we know we want – nay, we know we NEED – when we’re the least stable in our own sense of self. We sink to the lowest common denominator or keep things “friendly” with a lot of people at once without connecting with anyone who really seems to get us. We get trampled on because we love to be of service and feel useful, but we aren’t down to be of service to ourselves so we try and be of service to others, but because we’re not being of service to ourselves first and foremost we end up overcommitting and fanning everyone’s fire but own own. If we’re not valuing our OWN presence in our OWN life, how can we expect someone else to value it in THEIRS?
Are we really so afraid to face ourselves that we’re limiting the mirrors we look into?
'Find your tribe. Love them hard.' -- @DanielleLaPorte Click To Tweet
I spent way too long shrinking back from the friends I knew I needed – because I spent way too long shrinking back from the person I knew I needed to be. I passed judgement, too; thinking certain people would never want to be my friend or were way cooler, funnier, smarter, etc than I could ever hope to be. I shied away from the women I’d feel that sixth-sense-feeling about, the ones I knew I would connect with in a deep and meaningful way. I was scared. I was scared that I was too much. I was scared I was too little. I was scared I wouldn’t be accepted. I didn’t believe we were on the same level. And obviously, it wasn’t really about the potential friend at all. It never is.
Ever so slowly, I started to build up the self worth and positive self image to be my fullest self in every situation I was in. And then I’d meet a soul-friend and she would awaken me to an even fuller version of myself. And so on and so on. The more I committed to not only being my true self out in public, but to diving deep into what really made me my truest self when I was alone in my head in private, a miraculous chain reaction started happening. I gave less shits about winning over everyone and gave more shits about connecting with the select few who resonated with my bravery to show them who I am – because they too were being brave and showing me who they were.
The trick to finding the friends that you need doesn’t lie in a shared affinity for 90s rom-coms or a mutual love of yoga. It doesn’t lie in a class you took, or a mutual friend you made, or even the fact that you fight for the same causes. The trick to finding the friends that you need is being completely and brutally honest about what you need from YOURSELF.
Then, and only then, can you – as Danielle LaPorte says – find your tribe and love them hard. Then, and only then, will your gals come around who can group hug the shit out of you and make it feel like home.
No games. No haze. Just two crystal-clear mirrors facing each other and bouncing the light off til infinity.
Welcome to the lady gang.
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