I don’t know what it is, but there is something about my age group (mid 20s to early 30s) where you start to find out who your real friends are. Before I continue to delve down this path, I just want to point out that this post is not intended to be negative in any way – it is simply an observation that I have made in both my own and other social circles of late.
The foundation of friendships
Friendships are traditionally made and cemented in our early years, when we are inextricably bound by school, shared sports and family gatherings. In these environments, we are all thrown into the pot of life and are in a way forced to make friends with the available people there, or else risk spending our childhood alone and socially isolated.
Upon graduation, the solid friendships we have formed tend to last, at least, initially. We spread our wings, go to uni, meet new people, enter into romantic relationships and mix in different circles. New friends come along and stale ones naturally drift away. Fast forward five years and you may find that you have only a handful, if any, of friends left from high school, an illustration of the fact that other people you have met throughout life’s journey are now more relevant to your interests and needs. Some times we find that with school friendships, we just don’t have that much in common anymore except the old element of nostalgia, which doesn’t provide enough glue to make the friendship stick for longer than a five minute chat in the street.
Modern day friendships
In adult life, making friends, keeping friendships and servicing these relationships is vitally important for our health and wellbeing. Feeling part of a group is something most humans yearn for and friends have that uncanny ability to soothe our worries and brighten our spirits. Yet adult friendships can be tricky. For a start, social circles can be extremely cliquey and hard for some people to break in to. Social circles, particularly groups of girls, can be extremely guarded and protected when it comes to their friends, and some loathe the idea of opening the circle to one more. Strange behaviour I know but I’ve witnessed it happen hundreds of times.
The second issue with adult friendships however is that ‘life’ gets in the way. Work pressures overtake us; we spend longer hours in the office and out of the restaurant and bar scene, and make excuses as to why we can’t catch up with people. We become ‘too busy’ living and working to be a good friend, or any kind of friend at all. People now believe that a friendship can be maintained with a couple of texts once a month, or worse, a Facebook comment every now and again. I hate this attitude and approach to friendships. This kind of interaction with others is not friendship.
A close (primary school) friend of mine once did an experiment where she didn’t reach out and contact any of her ‘friends’ for a month. The idea was that if people wanted to see her, they would let her know. This exercise was in some ways psychologically difficult, however it produced both surprising and excellent results. She now had some idea of who she wanted in her life as a friend, and who she would prefer not to spend her precious free time with, based on the people who reached out and connected to her.
My go-to measure of a real friendship is this: if the person is someone you would go out to coffee with, have a drink with, visit the movies with or go out to dinner with, one-on-one, then you have yourself a friend. A real friend is someone who knows about the fight you had with your Mum that week, or the fact that you hate your job. It’s not someone who didn’t even realise you had bought a property or were embarking on a new fitness plan. If your so called friend contacts you once a month via Facebook to check in, I say dump them. This type of behaviour fulfils their needs more than yours – they want to feel like they’re doing the right thing by reaching out but social media and text message communication is the laziest form. Not to mention people who don’t respond to texts – get rid of them all together. Seriously, how long does it take to punch out a text message? 30 seconds? If someone doesn’t have 30 seconds for you, they are definitely not worth it. Ditto to ‘friends’ who are negative, put you down or belittle your goals, plans or ideas. Why continue to have these destructive people in your life who only bring disapproval? As Oprah Winfrey says: “Surround yourself with people who lift you higher”.
I’m not telling you to go out immediately and ditch all of your friends. You may, however, want to perform a little experiment of your own to see who in your life really knows you and cares about you. It can be an awful feeling shredding people from your life, particularly people whom you may have known for years, but don’t forget, by doing this, you open yourself up for stronger and more solid friends to enter your life. Friends who actually want to help you lose that last 2 kilos and not encourage you to order the dessert next time you’re out. Try it for yourself and see if you emerge lighter and ready to embrace more positive people.