Be honest with yourself. At some point in your life you’ve nursed some misconceptions of what friendship really is. It probably made you do some really crazy things all in the name of friendship. And if you say otherwise, you’re probably in denial.
I can’t say that I’ve figured everything out about friendship, but I know I made mistakes — at lot of them — and each mistake taught me a valuable lesson.
Sometimes I had to make the same mistakes over and over again for the lessons to sink in. In the process I discovered that the institution of friendship is surrounded by a lot of myths that are hurting a lot of unsuspecting people.
Here are 4 myths that almost ruined my life.
1. As friends we need to be in constant communication
I would be lying if I said I didn’t believe this concept for a major part of my life. I was one of those people who would routinely check up on everybody everyday. And if I missed a person, I’d feel guilty. It was exhausting and falsely gratifying.
This was my life until I made a ground breaking discovery that I’m human (who knew!) and as a human being I needed to actually experience “being”.
I had to experience what it feels like to be an individual. Recognizing that you’re an individual is so crucial to your existence. The minute you tie your existence to someone other than yourself, you waste your life — at least I know I did.
You owe it to yourself to live your life and if you genuinely care about your friend then the best you can do is to let them live their own life.
There can only be great conversation, excellent company and an awesome friendship when you lived your life enough to have something to talk about and share.
I’m not saying don’t talk to your friends. What I’m saying is that you should live enough to have something to share. Fill your cup first so you’ll have something to pour into someone else’s and vice-versa.
2. Friends don’t leave each other alone
Some months ago I got in contact with a friend of mine. We went to the same law school together. He’s very entrepreneurial so we flow on the same frequency.
That day I told him about how I wasn’t able to pick myself up. I was suffering a relapse of depression and it was affecting how I was facing my business. He told me to take the time I need to pick myself up. And that was it.
That was his way of giving me time to pick myself up. And since then I’ve been doing really well. I have more concrete goals, I’m taking action and things are picking up at my end.
The permission he gave me to be on my own for a while didn’t discourage me but rather empowered me to get better. I’ll probably call him next week and say “Dude, I’ve gotten over my blues. What’s the next project we’re working on?”
The old me would have been upset and felt like I was abandoned by my friends.
But I learned that those who give you time and space to be alone actually care about you the most. Yeah, they could check on you every now and then to make sure that you are not dead, but growth and development is personal — and in case you missed it, it means that you need to do it yourself.
This is different from those who refuse to help you when you are in genuine need. There will be times when you would need a favor but if they’re not there for you it doesn’t mean that your friends suck. There could be a genuine reason why they haven’t checked on you or asked how you’re doing. They only suck if they abandon you maliciously.
3. If my friend asks me for something, I’m obligated to give it to them
Newsflash: you’re not.
In a podcast episode, Noah Kagan, CEO of AppSumo, recounted the time when he was sleeping on his friends’ couches. None of his friends ever refused him, until he asked to sleep on his friend, Tim Ferriss’, couch.
Tim gave Noah a “no”, but Noah didn’t allow his friendship with Tim to go sour because he refused him to sleep on his couch. In case you’re thinking that it’s because Tim Ferriss was famous, he wasn’t.
I thought I had to give whatever my friend asked of me or I wouldn’t be a good friend. That only made me feel used and most of those “friends” took me for granted.
This always left me stressed because doing what my friends wanted most times meant I had to go out of my way to sacrifice my precious time and sanity to make sure they had what they asked for.
You can say “no”. It’s not a bad thing to consider yourself first.
If what they want is illegal, or it means you have to cancel an important meeting to have it done, or you need to stay up late at night just so that they get what they want at the time they want it, then you’re going to be a very sad person. Trust me, I know — I was.
4. True friends are selfless
Oh my gosh! If I had a dollar for every time I lowered my standards just because I wanted to be the “best friend”, I would be living in a house made of gold.
There was nothing I didn’t do to be the ideal friend, but I never got the friendship bracelet. My friend preferred to give it to Sally who I could have sworn didn’t give a shit about their existence.
Nothing in the whole universe is worth lowering your standards or trampling on your self-respect no matter how loyal that friend is. You have to think about yourself first. You can only be a good friend if you are a good friend to yourself.
Set standards. It doesn’t make you mean or inconsiderate. It would be mean if you didn’t care about the person who would always be there for you — yourself.
End of Rant…
Originally published on Medium