Today – February 11th – is an international awareness day dubbed ‘Make a Friend day’ – and that’s something many of my clients have anxiety around, or negative experiences with. It can be hard to let your guard down with new people and trust that kindness is simply given as intended, with no catch, when we have experienced negative or imbalanced friendships before.
The world we are in right now, however – a world with an extended lockdown, with 12 months of a global pandemic still ongoing, and isolated from our usual routines and the contact we may be used to having with others – means that more of us than ever are feeling the impact of loneliness, of isolation, and the pressure of dealing with the anxiety and worries of that isolation and the pandemic itself, the impact on our work, on our families, on our entire lives means that a lot of people are reluctant to ‘burden’ others with their worries, because they have worries of their own.
The wonderful thing about healthy friendships is that you can love and support people through their struggles without either taking the burden onto your own shoulders or expecting a friend to carry the weight of our own. Sharing problems is a great way to relieve the weight of them, even when no practical action is taken – just speaking about issues, voicing concerns, sharing feelings, all help.
But if you’re isolated, and find that you pass days at a time with absolutely no contact with others, even remotely or virtually, how can you begin to find a new friend, or re-establish contact with an old one? How – when you have friends – can you ensure that your boundaries aren’t crossed, and that the friendship is healthy and balanced so that both parties benefit from the relationship?
Healthy friendships don’t need you to ‘psych yourself up’ for time together. You shouldn’t feel that you need to take some deep breaths and brace yourself before you speak with or spend time with your ‘friend’ – if someone is exhausting to be with, or takes more emotional and mental energy than you feel comfortable giving, there’s an imbalance in the friendship. If someone – knowingly or not – saps you of energy, you aren’t getting what you need from that friendship.
That doesn’t mean you need to end it – it could be remedied with some forthright conversation, and it may just be that the friend is having a hard time and hasn’t considered their impact on you.
It may, however, be that this was a transitory friendship; one which has fulfilled its role in your life – and the time has come for it to fade away. There doesn’t need to be any falling out or grand event – you are allowed to distance yourself from people who don’t fulfil your needs, and who can also benefit from more independence from your support.
A healthy friendship is one where, no matter how bad you were feeling before, time with them or spent speaking to them lifts you. You can talk, cry, laugh, share your experiences and worries, and still find time to make each other smile and reassure each other. Simply unburdening can make life easier – and a good friend isn’t one who is just there for the good times, but who is able to support you when times are hard. A good friend is one who, when you see them, you soak in the energy created between you, and both come away feeling happier and better for shared time.
You are not a burden
Think about a friend you adore; about a time when they needed you, and had nothing much to give in return, but you love them and knew it was ok to give them what they needed, because it’s a healthy, loving friendship. Do you begrudge what you gave? The energy and love that you so willingly and happily gave, knowing they would benefit? Do you regret sending gifts, cards or messages of love?
Of course you don’t!
So why, in this same friendship, would that person feel resentful of you? Of supporting or listening to your needs? Of helping you or giving you gifts in return?
If you can feel the love and benefit of giving in a friendship, allow your friend that same joy in giving back.
You are not a burden on people – not even when you ask for help and are struggling – you are simply a human in need – an experience each and every one of us has had.
New friends in difficult times
It isn’t an easy time to go out and meet new people, so if you have found yourself isolated and struggling alone, wanting friends but unsure how to find them in lockdown, there are still opportunities to reach out to people and to find friends.
Many people are making better use of online communication – using their internet access to chat to people, joining groups on Facebook for those with a shared interest in a hobby – there are groups for book clubs, for crafting, for TV or movie fans. There are groups for most towns, villages and cities, even housing estates, where you can chat to those who live very locally, and where you could even arrange to go on a socially distanced walk with someone from the next street!
If you struggle online, or haven’t got access to those kinds of groups, why not leave a message in a local shop or on a bulletin board looking for someone to walk with, or offer to help a neighbour with shopping and extend some help where you can, and make new relationships that way?
Friendships are priceless
None of us can thrive in isolation – we are, at our very inner nature, pack animals, and we need to interact with others and engage in conversation, shared experiences and share our passions in order to feel fulfilled and happy.
Friendships can seem difficult to find, and especially so when we have low self esteem or tend to lean towards alone time, shying away from busy spaces and group activities. But even those of us who thrive in our own company still need time with others, and a small group who share interest in the things we love.
The health benefits – physically and mentally – of friendships are immense, and no person is unworthy of that interaction and of the benefits which come from having a trusted, loving friend.
There are a great many articles available which offer more advice on making friends in adulthood – I’ll include the links for those below.
If you are struggling with other issues, and anxieties and trauma which have impacted your friendships, leaving you isolated or feeling trapped in unhealthy and imbalanced friendships or relationships, I can help you. I can help you to process those traumas, to discover your inner core strength, to build boundaries and enforce them to protect your emotional wellbeing, and to thrive in healthier, happier friendships forever. You can contact me through my Facebook page, through this website, email me on firstname.lastname@example.org or you can call, message or WhatsApp me on my mobile on 07849 037095