Would you be friends with yourself?

“If you have two friends in your lifetime, you’re lucky. If you have one good friend, you’re more than lucky.”  I have been seeing this quote by S.E Hinton several times on social media – and while I agree with the quote to some extent, I strongly believe that our friendships are not based on luck. We are humans and being human comes with the bad as well as with the good. Last week, I was on YouTube when I saw a heading on a video that caught my attention – apparently, there is friendship crisis, an epidemic as one of the headings suggested. There was a lot of talk about how people are lonely these days and a lack of genuine friendships – I was curious to know what the people talking about this subject thought on the matter. At the centre of all the discourse was people wanting to take care of their mental health – and I supported that one hundred percent. However, what I did not support was the notion that people had to be friends with us because we wanted them to be. As much as I prioritise my mental health, I wanted others to do the same and if doing that required them to not be my friend, I supported that no matter how much it hurt me.

Not long ago, I was talking to a therapist – she asked me a question that would change how I viewed friendships. I am my biggest critic and I am very harsh with myself and that sometimes spills out in how I critique others. As I spoke about the stuff that had led me to seek therapy, she asked me if I liked myself. What? Of course I like myself – I was offended that she would ask me that – the problem, I thought, was not if I liked myself or not, it was all the people and situations I had dealt with, or was it? She would not back down as I gave her the many reasons why I thought I liked myself – when she asked me what I liked, I did not have an answer that came straight to mind. I had pursued perfection so much so that I had forgotten about me, the real me. She then finally asked me if I would ever speak to a friend the way I spoke to myself when I did something wrong. I immediately went quiet and realised that my anger at her question was not towards her but rather at myself for neglecting me. For not being my own friend!

Most people do not like themselves and this extends into our friendships – and like me, most people have been through things that make them choose friendship with people that are not good for them! Yes, some of us have no business being friends with some people, however, their abuse of us is what we are used to, so we stay! There is a very toxic culture where I come from, and I believe I may have written about this before but I wanted to address this again. Most girls in their younger years would form beautiful friendships but as soon as these girls grow and get married, their friends become competitions and suddenly, they start seeing certain traits in them that no longer serves them. I had heard whispers of this issue, however, I had never experienced it until well into my thirties. Then I started paying attention to conversations around me and I realised that there were people in my immediate circle who thought along these lines. Why would a faithful friend suddenly be a threat after so many years of friendship? The realisation much to my dismay was that in most friendships people are self serving – they care about what they can get out of the friendship and nothing beyond that. If they are not at the centre of everything, and their friends are not agreeing with them, then their friends are bad!

Perhaps, the question that we must all ask ourselves is that if we were to meet ourselves and befriend us, would we be comfortable with that friendship? The thing about not liking ourselves is that it spills into all we do. We may pretend that we like ourselves but eventually our true nature comes out and we project our dislike onto others. And then there are the narcissists among us who really love themselves and are great at manipulating many in the name of friendships just to get the attention they so crave. Friendship is mutual – however, these days, what I am hearing is very one sided and self based. Like the toxic behaviour among women in the culture I come from – you cannot expect your friend to put aside their feelings so you can have all the attention you want just because you got married, had a promotion or had something you wanted to celebrate. I get it that there are envious people out there, however, if you have a friend for decades that has been there through all celebrations and tears and did not see them celebrate a recent event like you wanted, maybe it is time to look out for your friend. Because our friends have bad days too – these bad days do not automatically disappear just because you have something to celebrate.

I can count the many times I had let myself down because I was dealing with something – I give myself the grace to not berate myself for feeling down or letting myself down. So why do we hold others to such impossible expectations? Less than five years ago, I would dismiss my own feelings to make someone else happy – and what that produced was resentment afterwards. I no longer do that – I explain to the people that matter to me if I am having an off season. There is no expectation for their understanding, but I tell them because I want them to know. Most times they understand and give me the time to go through whatever it is and offer support where they can. I do the same for them too – we know our friends and if I feel they are not themselves, I ask if they are ok and I listen. But I did not always move this way – I had expectations I had not communicated and I suffered severe attachment injuries and got into many bad situations because of this. I strived to meet the expectations of selfish people in the name of friendship and hurt myself in the process. You see, I did not like myself and I felt no one would truly like me, so I latched onto every friendship without thinking if it was good for me. Using my previous unhealthy attachment friendships as an example, I now do all the things I did for others to maintain friendships for myself! I really like myself now and in turn, it has opened my eyes to how I can be a better friend. I am not perfect but I am working on being better than I was yesterday.

There is not a shortage of friendships – there is a shortage of having realistic expectations of others. We project our expectation on others and expect them to abandon themselves for us. Vet your friends but most importantly vet yourself also. Accept that people go through the same highs and lows you go through – be gracious. Be kind to yourself and in turn you can be kind to others too. I have known people who manipulate their friends for money, others that ask for favours they never returned. I have known others that demand people remember things that didn’t even matter to them. I will not expect my friend who may be having relationship issues to turn up to my wedding and be ecstatic nor expect the friend having fertility issues to not be sad if I announce a pregnancy. We must allow people to human – no matter what looking human looks like. Life is happening and it is not easy, let’s be kind to others. And in all this, remember that we grow and sometimes that mean we outgrow people and yes, we all have toxic traits – so it is ok to end a friendship if you are no longer down with certain things. It is fine.

It is not luck – it is work and a lot of conscious decisions to be there for each other – that is what sustains friendships. It is not one sided and it is most definitely not static – friendships evolve and it is not by luck. I hope this post challenges you to look at how you relate to yourself and to ask if you would like to be your friend. Thank you for taking time to read, like, comment and share. Let’s effect the change we need by sharing our experiences.


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