How to manage your friendships

By Juliana Kassianos, Transformational Coach, Yoga Teacher and Founder of The School of Fertility

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When trying for a baby you may not want to tell everyone, even you’re nearest and dearest and that’s okay. It’s knowing that you have friends that would be there for you in your hour of need that’s important.

Looking back to early schooldays it was all about how many friends you had and who they were. There was always a Queen Bee who led the so-called popular group, while others, including me, didn’t make the cut. Sometimes I’d find myself trying to behave differently so I might at least be invited to a party or two by the cool group if not accepted by them.

When I started university, I was given a fresh start, nobody knew me, and I could be whoever I wanted to be. By this time, Facebook had exploded on to the scene and social status became dictated by how many friends you had on the platform. Friend requests would pop up daily in my notifications from people I’d met just once or twice. When my friends began to number in the hundreds I started to feel like I’d finally made my way into the cool club. I didn't have much in common with these students, but they were the ones everyone wanted to claim as their friends.

I felt I needed to be liked, accepted and labelled popular, so I started to adopt the so-called cool behaviour and attitude of my new-found chums, becoming the archetype of the girls I’d wanted to be at school. People said how much fun I was at parties, but this put me under pressure to live up to their expectations. Suffice to say, I began to lose any sense of self.

It got to a point where I realised the person I was trying to be was no longer serving me, but my friends still wanted the version of me they knew. In one sense I felt peer pressure, as though I had to conform and be someone I wasn’t in order to be accepted into their circle – clearly not a sign of good friends.

As I started to see the light, I gained enough courage to move away from people with whom I felt I couldn’t be me, who didn’t bring out the best in me or I felt were a bad influence on me. I stopped trying to be someone else and instead started my personal journey of self-discovery, becoming more in tune with my real self, and making more conscious decisions about my friendship choices.

As motivational speaker Jim Rohn says: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” So, it’s pretty important we choose our friends carefully and be more aware of how they shape and influence our lives. Are we hanging out with the right crowd, for the right reasons? Or is it time we move away from some friends and invest more time in those that bring out the best in us? Maybe it’s time to form new friendships?

WHAT IS A FRIEND?

Let’s explore what a friend means. I believe people have different definitions, as not everyone has the same needs and expectations. For instance, there may be certain qualities a partner – or family members – doesn’t provide, so the tendency is to look for them in friends.

For me, a friend isn’t made in an instant – it’s not accepting a request on Facebook. They don’t come in the hundreds. In fact, they’re more likely to be counted on the fingers of one or two hands. They’re people in whose company I feel truly safe to be myself. I’m able to show my vulnerable side, express my emotions and share my secrets. When I’m with them, I feel supported, strong and empowered to grow into the greatest version of myself. Have a think about how you would define a friend and the qualities you would like to find in her or him.

WHAT TYPE OF FRIEND ARE YOU?

Friendships are a two-way street, not a one-way road, so it’s important to look inwards and consider what type of friend you are. When friendships start to drift or encounter problems, it can be easy to put the onus on the other person, but its important to own some of the responsibility for the state of a friendship. Have a think about the qualities you offer your friends. There’s a saying in life that the more you give, the more you receive, so ask yourself if it’s time to re-valuate how authentic you are in your friendships and if you need to put in more effort.

WHO WOULD YOU SPEND YOUR TIME WITH?

With a greater awareness of who you are as well as a deeper understanding of how you define a friend and what type of friend you are in return, it can clear a path to choosing people with whom to spend time. If you’re having trouble tuning into what your intuition is telling you about your friends ask yourself the following questions: If you had good news, would they be among the first people you’d share it with? How do they make you feel when you’re around them – emotionally and physically? And would they be there for you in your hour of need?

FRIENDSHIP DYNAMICS

Friendships come in many different forms and will continue to evolve as you age, grow and change as a person. Over time, some friends will come into your life, some will leave, others will stay.

Most people have friends from their past, perhaps old schoolmates, former colleagues or friends of ex partners with whom they’ve lost touch. By accepting that, despite your best intentions, you will never hold on to every friend you make, it allows you to be grateful for the time you had with these people – the adventures and memories made – as well as to accept that both parties have moved on separately with their lives.

I remember when the farther of a best friend of mine at school died. Shortly afterwards, she moved to another school, and that was the last I heard from her. Around 10 years later she wrote me a letter saying how she was sorry we’d lost contact and explained what she has been going through at the time. I think it was her way of releasing feelings and thoughts she had subconsciously been holding on to, allowing her to finally let go.

I have friends I see occasionally, maybe a few times a year. We’ll go out for long lunches and talk non-stop about what’s been happening in our lives. Having had such a good time, we always insist we’ll meet up more often, but life seems to get in the way and we never manage to make it a regular thing. I’ve come to accept this is how some friendships work and it helps me to get rid of any niggling guilt for not spending more time with them as well as making sure I fully appreciate the occasions when I do get to see them.

For friends that live further afield, I try to make a conscious effort to meet up now and again. I usually spend a weekend with them and, in a way, it makes the friendship feel more special. For the ones who work and live closer to me, they have to see me on a more regular basis!

The dynamics of all friendships are different and I accept them for what they are. Sometimes work and family commitments mean I have to turn down invitations to nights out or even birthday. This used to leave me feeling as though I was letting people down, but it’s important to remember you can’t please everybody. Everyone has a schedule that has to be worked around, which is why it’s wise not to place unrealistic expectations on friends. Like you, they have busy lives and may not be able to attend every event you arrange. This doesn't mean they won’t be there for you at a time of crisis.

WHEN FRIENDSHIPS GO SOUTH

Our lives also offer us an opportunity naturally to move away from friends without the need for confrontation. It’s not like childish behaviour at school, saying “You’re not my friend anymore”. However, sometimes when there’s an issue, a conversation may be necessary to clear the air and help decide whether the friendship is worth continuing.

With true friends it should be able to have open, honest and frank conversations, freely expressing what we felt and needs to be said – even is it’s not what a friend wants to hear. That’s what makes real friendships so special. You shouldn’t be harbouring worries, bad thoughts or ill feelings, as that’s when friendships start to break down.

Sometimes you can outgrow friends as you move in different directions. When I changed paths in life and got more into yoga and healthy eating, some friends didn’t get the new me. They started to think I’d turned into some sort of hippie. I asked them to join me at a yoga class followed by a bite to eat to try and bring them along on my journey. For some it just wasn’t their thing but they still supported me. For one or two, however, I didn’t feel that support, which made me question the value I placed on the friendships and, in time, we ended up gradually drifting apart.

CIRCLE OF FREINDS

In childhood and teenage years, friendship can be all about numbers and coolness. With age, life changes and a growing confidence in your own skin, it transforms into choosing to spend your time with people who align with you as a person and how you want to live. As the saying goes: “Sometimes your circle decreases in size, but increases in value.”

REFERENCE

• Adapted from an article written for Breathe magazine, p64-66, Issue 7


Juliana Kassianos