Have you ever had to question what “friendship” means to you? Are you tired of not really knowing who your real friends are? Do you want to know how to build strong, beautiful friendships that will last for years to come? If you’ve answered “yes” to any of these questions, then you’re in the right place!
I think we all at some point or another go through friendship transitions, which I will get into shortly. We question the different aspects of friendship and what we personally want to get out of friendships. I can personally vouch for the fact that I’ve been through A TON of ups and downs with different friendships throughout my lifespan. In addition, those ups and downs have evolved over time to mean something totally different to me now than they did ten years ago. I’m about to break down all of the important lessons I’ve learned throughout these experiences to help you better understand the friendships in your own life. So here we go!
What Is friendship?
The first thing I want to say here is this: friendship means something different to everyone. There is no set definition for what everyone should view friendship as or what they should look for in a friendship. You are a unique person with your own set of needs and desires that you are looking to fulfill in these different relationships, so keep this in mind when figuring out what friendship means to you personally.
Of course, this is what can complicate things in a relationship between you and another person. You may not be looking for the same qualities in a friend that they are, which can often cause a disconnect and even some resentment. We see this all the time when one person is putting more effort into building an authentic friendship than the other, and it can lead to a lot of negative feelings in the end.
For me, I define friendship as this: a friend is someone who you’re able to connect with on an authentic level. You feel comfortable being your true self around this person and they feel the same. You enjoy spending time together and are able to find common interests to explore together. Finally, respect is an integral part of any relationship, including a friendship.
You might notice some similarities or differences to how you define friendship against my definition. Again, that’s totally okay! You know what you need from different relationships. If you’re not sure, I definitely encourage you to work on discovering your own definition of friendship, as it will make the next two steps a lot easier for you!
How to know if someone is a friend or an acquaintance
We all know that the lines between these get blurred all the time. Someone who you thought was a friend turned out not to meet the basic needs of what you look for in a friendship… don’t worry, it happens to everyone! As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found myself to be a lot more selective in who I actually consider to be my true friends. In fact, I can count them on one hand! You may have found this to be the case for you as well. From what I’ve seen just by observing those around me, it seems to be a pretty common trend. That’s not to say that the other people in my life don’t bring value to it, as I truly believe every single person comes into your life for a reason. However, the ones I consider real friends are those whose dedication and support stand out among the rest. And to be quite honest, in most cases I’ve known them for at least a couple of years, as building up trust is incredibly important to me!
To put things into perspective, an acquaintance describes someone who you may enjoy spending time with here or there, someone with a mutual friend, someone you know only a little bit. It’s the step before friendship! Yes, acquaintances can absolutely turn into friendships, and if you’re interested in becoming friends with an acquaintance, you should absolutely make an effort to get to know them a bit better. They may turn into a close friend, or they may fizzle out of your life relatively quickly. Only time will tell, but friendships aren’t built by doing nothing, so take action and make a friend! Which leads me to my next point.
Here is where a lot of people get stuck. You know what you want in a friendship, but how do you go about building that sort of relationship with another person? Here’s the thing: it often happens pretty organically without us even realizing what’s happening. I know, right? That makes things hella confusing when you actively want to seek out friendships! However, it’s not impossible, so don’t lose hope yet!
Take the following example, for instance. Ashley recently graduated from high school with many of her life long friends (and acquaintances) who she has known forever. She has two real, strong friendships with two girls that she has grown up with and built relationships with somewhat on autopilot. Ashley then attends university in a different city than her two best friends – a city far enough away from her hometown that she doesn’t know anyone. If Ashley doesn’t want to be alone, then she will need to make friends. How does she do this? (PS. I’m realizing as I write this that it sounds like a math equation… sorry for traumatizing you with math again, haha).
Does this example sound at all familiar to you? You probably experienced something very similar when you left home (if you have, no judgment here if you haven’t though, as I’m totally back home after graduating so I can pay off my student loans!). Think back on that time – how did you go about creating friendships, and which of those friends are still around? What made those friendships different than the rest to withstand the test of time?
In my own experience, I met my university best friend the first week of classes in my freshman year. Did I know we would become as close as we did? No, but I did have a sense that she was someone who I could potentially connect with on some level. I guess it was just a vibe I got, but we immediately got along and were joking around about all of the craziness of entering into university. From there, I got to know her through classes and seeing her at school, and then eventually spending time together outside of school every now and then. By our second year, we pretty much spent most of our time together in and out of school. In fact, if anyone saw one of us without the other, we got questioned about it! Yeah, we were totally THOSE friends, haha. We then lived together in our final year of university!
The point of all of this is that throughout all of the ups and downs that happened in university, this girl is still one of my closest friends to this day. And believe me, we’ve DEFINITELY had our fair share of disagreements! But we’re still there for each other, no matter what. That, to me, is a strong, authentic friendship. And at this point in our lives, isn’t it so valuable to have those types of friendships rather than 100 of your “closest friends”?
Now let’s talk about it! I want to know what your personal definition of friendship is at this point in your life (because as we established, it’s an ever-changing concept!). What are some of the qualities of your strongest, most authentic friendships that you have with people? And if you haven’t already, make sure to become a subscriber to receive access to our FREE RESOURCE LIBRARY! It includes lots of exciting freebies for a wide range of adulting needs, so you don’t want to miss out!