I’ve written alot about friendships on this blog and completely acknowledge the difficulty in finding a good friend and subsequently, maintaining the friendship.
Many people struggle with friendships, as my articles concerning being cut-off by long-time friends are some of the most popular articles on my site. This is because we were never taught how to discern what makes a good friend and how to be a good friend to others.
One thing that I’ve noticed lots of clients and friends who have friendship problems do – and I’ve done the same myself is that:
We aren’t very clear about what we are looking for in a friend, and we are not too honest about what we want in a friendship either. This unintentional “dishonesty” can lead to us suppressing our needs to please a friend and in the long-term, leads to unhappiness and resentment – which you also suppress.
When we are dishonest about what we truly want and need from a friendship, we don’t feel like we can truly be ourselves. As a result, we put on a facade, a persona, we play a role
Because we feel that it’s the only time we will be accepted as a “friend”, that we will not experience FOMO and at least have someone to have meals and go to the movies with.
But what is the point of doing all these fun things with someone you can’t even be yourself around?
I had a long-time friend once, let’s name her X. We met in college and clicked quite quickly and even went on a trip to the Middle East several years later. Along the way though, we started drifting apart and I noticed that she’d only get in touch with me to hang out when 1) She wants to go to a particular place 2) There is no one else that will go with her.
I would go along if only to spend time with her. But these were places that I never liked hanging out at and activities that I didn’t enjoy doing. And honestly, I felt quite used by her. Alot of these outings also revolved around hearing her gossip about her friends – whom she didn’t seem to like very much – or pass comments about the people around us.
I started to resent her and started feeling irritated (this is usually a sign of something which I will address later in the article) whenever she contacted me. I felt like she treated me and my time carelessly and whenever I made suggestions to go elsewhere – places that I rather hang out at – she’d get quite judgmental about it.
I had to distance myself from the friendship because I didn’t feel I was being myself and I didn’t feel like my needs were met.
So how do you know if you are suppressing your needs?
Ask yourself these questions:
#1 What do you like to do with a good friend? Hang out in a quiet cafe? Watch a play?
Over the course of your friendship, make these suggestions to your friend. Suggest things you like to do and see what the reaction is. Is he/she open to it? Are they willing to compromise sometimes? Or do they diss your suggestions?
#2 What do you like to talk about/what do you value? Are you able to express that comfortably in your friendship?
When you talk about things you like, how does your friend react? Even if it were a topic he/she had zero interest in, do they at least keep an open mind? Do they ask questions or dismiss it?
Sometimes expressions and opinions point to our underlying values. When you talk about something meaningful to you, how does your friend react?
My friend X would never ask questions about me or my life. Conversations always revolved around her and her life and her thoughts. She was so self-absorbed that when I turned up to a dinner with my arm in a cast, she didn’t even venture to ask a single question about how the cast came about. Not one.
I don’t value self-absorption or a lack of concern about others as traits in people, so it was clear that this was one of the many things we aren’t very aligned on.
When we suppress our needs, we are not ourselves, but role-playing a persona to please our friend
A big sign that the friendship may not be what you are looking for is when you have difficulty and discomfort in being yourself. You feel like you may be judged or not accepted in some way, which is why you filter your personality and hide away parts of you to be accepted, to get along with others and…to please them.
There we go again – people pleasing. When we don’t feel safe being ourselves, we end up playing a role. To feel happy, to feel needed, to have a part in the friendship.
I used to play roles too. My most popular role was the Counsellor. The one who listened to people’s sorrows, provided a shoulder for them to cry on, comforted them.
Inevitably, I’d always get incredibly resentful in these friendships whenever the act wasn’t reciprocated (and it often wasn’t).
It also wasn’t too much of a surprise whenever these friendships ended when I stopped playing the role. When I stopped wanting to show up the way I always did, the energy of the friendship changed.
Many of us tend to unconsciously play roles in friendships – Counsellor is common as is the Advisor/Teacher and the Pursuer.
So ask yourself – what role are you playing in your friendship? Are you trying to feel a void, to feel useful and accepted? Or are you being yourself?
Being true to yourself is the best way to attracting people who will likely be aligned with your values and whose company you will truly enjoy
Because when you are being yourself and someone sees that and goes – I can work with that/I’m open to that /I love that – then you’ve found your tribe.
Always check in with how you are feeling around someone or when they get in touch with you. Are you excited? Elated to go meet them? Can’t wait? Are your interactions comfortable?
Or do you feel like you need to lie or be someone else or filter yourself when you are around them? Do you feel dread, irritation, annoyance when you are in their presence or when they get in touch with you?
Never be afraid to be honest with yourself and with others, and to show up as your true authentic self. That is how you attract people who are aligned with you. You can then start enjoying genuine friendships with people who like you and who you love being around too.