“So who’s your best friend Connie”
When I was in Primary school I dreaded this question. I hated it when I saw pairs of friends walking around, whispering secrets, playing games or speaking languages that only they knew cause they were ‘best fwends’. I thought that something was wrong with me because I didn’t have anyone who I called my best friend.
To be quite honest, I really didn’t have the best time in primary school. I shan’t go into too much detail but it made me very insecure, I constantly tried to get people to like me and made up stories to impress them, or have something in common with them. I felt like who I was wasn’t good enough. This feeling continued into my older years, through high school, through sixth form and still exists, to some extent, in my adult life. I don’t feel the need to make up stories now, and I’m far better at cutting out harmful people from my life, but I still sometimes worry about whether people like me or not.
My worry about not having a best friend lasted through high school and sixth form too. I craved someone to be my best friend and for me to be theirs. But I didn’t have one. It wasn’t that I didn’t have friends, I had great friends, friends I really trusted and who made me happy. Many of whom I am still friends with now, almost a decade later. But they weren’t my best friend… and I wasn’t theirs. I often heard the phrase “you are one of my best friends”, which sometimes felt like a bit of a slap in the face. Why ‘one of’? Why not the only? What was wrong with me? Why didn’t anyone want me to be their BFF?
Another thing I feel I should mention is that there have been… patterns I guess, in my life, of people letting me down, hurting me or using me. This often too the form of someone who I might have thought of as my best friend doing something that completely broke my trust and hurt me. I absolutely don’t want this to be a pity-party post. I am not looking to write a poor-me-narrative, because I know that people can be cruel and unkind as well as people being kind and supportive. It’s part of life. That unkindness can be deliberate or accidental, but it happens to everyone. Everyone experiences it. And sometimes, well a lot of times, I was a bit of a doormat and I didn’t stick up for myself. I don’t think I deserved to be treated unkindly, but I sometimes didn’t help myself. I thought that being a friend to someone, or being a nice person, meant just forgiving and forgetting everything. I thought that the way to get people to like me was to not complain. I also doubt that I was never unkind myself, but I hope I always tried to show kindness. I didn’t want my hurt and pain to make me someone who hurt others.
It took a lot of being mistreated and hurt for me to finally learn how to stick up for myself in an effective way. It took a lot of feeling sad and upset to learn how to surround myself with people who made me happy and challenged me in a productive and positive way. I learned that I can’t make everyone like me, and I don’t need to be friends with everyone. I can be kind, while still being kind to myself. I learned to be my own best-friend. It took a long time to get to that point, and sometimes I’m a bit of a rotten friend to myself, but I now have friends who can be a good friend to me when I can’t.
I’m actually happier without searching for that one person to be my best friend. Now I have friends who I can call on in certain situations, or for particular advice. I think if I limited myself to one person who I invested in totally, I’d end up unhappy again. I think that when I desperately sought to have a best friend, I was actually seeking for a sense of identity. I wanted a best friend because I didn’t know where I fitted in. But I wasn’t able to find it in other people, and as I tried to shape myself and my personality around what I thought others wanted, I lost sense of who I was myself. And people sensed that. They saw that I wasn’t sure of myself. Some people saw that as an opportunity to make me an easy target, and others just thought it meant they could get away with more. The friends who have lasted the longest, lasted the longest because I was myself with them, and who I was was enough. Rather than having one partner who is like my second half, who I rely on entirely and who relies on me, I have a network of support. I think nowadays the idea of having one best friend terrifies me a little bit. Because what if I’m hurt again? Or what if I hurt them? Then I’d be alone, or at least I’d feel alone.
You might just think that my unwillingness to have one singular best friend reflects my issues with trusting others, but I feel I trust people a lot more now that I’ve stopped seeking a BFF. Because now, I accept that relationships and friendships can last, or end, and that that’s okay. I accept that I’m not able to befriend everyone, that not everyone will want to be my friend, and that honestly there are people I don’t want to be friends with. I accept that people are flawed, but that doesn’t mean I can’t trust people. But most of all, I accept that that best friend I can ever have, is myself.
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