When I was a child, I didn’t have any friends (not fishing for sympathy here – just stating a fact.) I was an introverted child who led a very reserved and sheltered life with a mother who was also an introvert and who had no personal relationships that I could use as role models.
My only companion in my early years was my sister who was nineteen months older than me. We went to school together, spent our lunch breaks together and came home together. When she left Primary School to go to High School I was devastated. I remember spending my lunch breaks that year sitting on the steps of the school library, watching other kids play and feeling like a fish out of water.
I didn’t meet my first real friend until High School. I hooked up with another girl who was as shy as I was and who was teased by other kids. We became very dependent on each other and spent our High School years together. Although we then went our separate ways, we still keep in touch today.
As an adult I had the opportunity to meet more people but was always too shy to make the first move (this applied to dating as well), so consequently I often found myself spending time with people who I didn’t necessarily have anything in common with or even really like much in some cases, but I was grateful that somebody found me worthy of being around.
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It took many years and a lot of personal growth for me to reach a point of actually ‘choosing’ friends. I learned quite late in life what real friendship meant and how enriching it could be to spend time with others that shared a common interest or made me laugh.
The good thing that has come out of all this is that I now take my time to get to know people and to choose friends that bring out the best in me. I avoid people who try to change me or discourage my ideas. I also avoid those who would take advantage of me, drag me down with their negativity or demand too much of my time or energy. I know this sounds a little calculated and deliberate, with no room for spontaneity, but this is far from being the case. I can usually identify pretty quickly the kind of people I like and who are easy and fun to be around, but I still take things pretty slowly, having been burned in the past.
Image courtesy of artur84 / freedigitalphotos.org
I know what it’s like to be with a false friend and also what it’s like to be without a friend – and if it came down to it, I would choose the latter. Choosing the right friends should be as important as choosing a partner. You wouldn’t jump into a relationship with the first person who approached you just to avoid being alone, would you?
In friendships as well as relationships we all want compatibility and longevity. Being mindful of the kinds of people you really like and being clear about what you expect from your friends and what they can expect from you can make all the difference. What usually develops is a nice, easy, stress-free ‘fun-ship’ that lasts the distance.