I just got done catching up with an old friend on the phone, which is fueling my inspiration to write this blog post tonight. A few updates: my Facebookless life is going well so far – I am accomplishing more at home and at work (which are the same place HA!) I am happier in my marriage and other relationships, and my ability to focus has improved. I still have anxiety, but I had that well before Facebook so we won’t blame that social media monster for it. I’ve also got a better handle on how I want to run my coaching business moving forward.
On to the topic at hand: Friendship, and all the business surrounding it. I appropriately named this blog after the period of time I am progressing through on my personal timeline, and I’m really glad I had the foresight to do so. My thirties have been a contrast to my twenties; I’m sure most adults in their thirties and beyond would say the same. When you’re just starting out, you make mistakes because you don’t know any better. After you’re experienced, you have a better idea on how to side-step a lot. One area among many that I’ve seen a metamorphosis in is my concept of friendship.
I think that my current idea of friendship has been heavily influenced by two things: the fact that I am a female in western society, and the fact that I am a black, not-hood-whatsoever female in Western society. Whether I wanted to or not, I fell into a certain place socially because of these traits. Men may look women up and down, but ultimately, women go hard on judgment of other women. It’s just a fact. Anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is just oblivious. Though men can have social pressures and expectations placed on them, the more rigid sex is definitely female when it comes to appearance, attitude, endorsement, and affiliation. Women are socialized, bred, and trained to have expectations of each other, which are most often ridiculous:
*If you are my friend, then you cannot be friends with people who I view as “enemies” (usually established by catty circumstances such as a slam book or someone starting a rumor or someone dating someone else’s boyfriend freshman year of high school).
*If you don’t act the way society says you should, you cannot be my friend.
*If you refuse to devote time to me when I ask for it, i.e. phone conversations, attendance at a birthday party, staying in with me because I have nowhere to go even though you might, then you are a bad friend.
*If your life doesn’t accommodate mine across circumstantial lines, then you’re an unsupportive friend. For example: Why can’t you come on this booze cruise even though you’re married??? Or, not understanding why you’d feel awkward at my baby shower as the only single girl among married ones.
Because most girls grow up wanting to be desirable, lovable, and admired, we do things that we think will earn us these traits by trying hard to fit in, sticking with cliques, adopting certain fashions or trends just because they’re fashions or trends, and, at times, even being something we really are not because we think it will boost us somehow. My experiences in dance as a child, in high school as a teen, in a sorority in college, and as a young adult in my early twenties all brought me to this conclusion. Some women will step completely outside themselves socially for the sake of trying to appease a crowd. There were many “kickbacks” and other social events I went to throughout high school and college that I felt I needed to in order to remain “cool” with everyone else. A portion of this can probably be attributed to my belief in people-pleasing that I had as I matured from a teen to young adult to now thirtysomething, but the social pressure was there, and I believe that being a female was a large culprit. Boys don’t have as much to think about in that regard. Their social game has fewer rules.
When it comes to my own way of thinking in the present, at just over 32 years of age, I see my favorite and most cherished friendships as the ones that ask absolutely nothing of me. They’re the ones where the other person gives me permission to be exactly who I am without judgment or need of explanation. I am not lazy in friendship, so when I mention that I appreciate relationships that ask nothing of me, that isn’t so that I can sit back and reap special benefits from anything. The friendships I’ve had, I have given a deep part of myself to. I think that’s why it hurts so much to reflect on the ones that have crashed and burned – I’ve had to come to a place of acceptance sans harsh criticism and guilt over what was, and learned to be grateful for what they’ve taught me. But as I move forward through my life, and develop new friendships with the people I bump into during each experience I have, I’ve learned to side-step the arrangements where expectations that I’m not comfortable with are placed on me. This is tough in some situations; people I used to bend over backwards to try to impress or stay in contact with might be wondering if I’m even alive anymore now. In every circumstance where there is a gain on one side, you can always count on there being a deficit on some opposite end. In my case, I’m gaining better control on my emotional, time, and personal investments, and those are more valuable to me than making everybody happy…which is an impossible feat anyway. My favorite friendships were and still are the ones where I can just be accepted for who I am – a woman with flaws who is still trying to figure herself out while also balancing her changing roles as a woman. Sometimes, I might forget to call. I may not always want to talk about what’s bothering me. My “next move” may not make sense in your eyes, but it’s what I’ve decided on and so I’m going for it.
I should point out that my shift in how I regard friendship has definitely also exposed to me the relationships where I made unfair expectations of other people which consequently didn’t serve me or the other person involved in any way. I think that our world could benefit from more people loving each other as they are rather than drawing up lines and opposition over everything we aren’t to one another. My place in anyone’s life isn’t to criticize or give endorsement where it’s not needed. My place is to accept the people who are in my life for all their imperfections as well as strengths and be here to listen silently when they need me. That hasn’t been an easy lesson to grasp, but one that I am surely thankful for.
One mantra that I’ve come to adapt through this life reset journey I’m on is that if something no longer serves me, I have to let it go. People-pleasing (though I haven’t been a chronic people-pleaser in about five years now) definitely wasn’t serving me, and it’s one thing I’ve been able to shake off since stepping into 2016. But when it comes to friendship and any relationship really, if you feel like you’re asked to act in ways you normally wouldn’t, to endorse things you don’t believe in, or to participate in something you don’t really want any part of, I challenge you to speak the word, “No,” in defense of who you are. I believe all of our future selves will thank us for it. Also, if something isn’t serving you but still occupying space in your life, find a way to let it go. Our time here is limited and therefore precious and shouldn’t be wasted.