“Don’t walk in front of me… I may not follow
Don’t walk behind me… I may not lead
Walk beside me… just be my friend” ~ Anonymous
Listen to today’s post on the go or continue reading below …
At a young age, we all realize the importance of friendships. Many of our childhood memories stem from friendships because they contribute such a significant part to not only shaping the person we become, but also the people we surround ourselves with.
As I wrote about recently, we all require love and belonging in our lives. No surprise, family and friends are often the greatest source of love and belonging we have in life, despite the ups and downs that may befall any close relationship.
I feel fortunate and grateful for the lasting friendships I have formed over the years and recognize the importance they hold in my life. As for all of us, such meaningful relationships play an important role in my well-being.
How do friendships enhance our well-being?
Friends can influence your lifestyle both at home and away. For instance, you may have a friend who likes to be a yoga buddy, you may have friends that enjoy going out for dinner, or you may have friends that like to travel together. Through shared activities, bonding and enhancing positive emotions, such friendships can provide certain health benefits such as stress relief. In fact, studies have repeatedly shown that people who form strong emotional connections not only live healthier but longer lives.
So then, is having more friendships better than fewer?
Absolutely not. The older you get, the more you realize that true friendships are not based on quantity but rather quality. Although casual relationships such as coworkers, neighbors, and general acquaintances can be beneficial, such relationships don’t usually allow for strong emotional connections that we can share our life struggles with. The confidents and people we can rely on in our life to share such things with, are the ones who have supported us through both the good and the bad times.
What about toxic friendships?
I think I can confidently say that everyone has had the unfortunate experience of a toxic friendship. Unfortunately, sometimes we are completely unaware of ‘toxicity’ of the relationship until an unbiased observer enlightens us. Alternatively, it may just involve a gradual realization that this friend does the opposite of “lift you up”. Such friendships can be ‘energy draining’ where you feel depleated with nothing in return. In the end, you may have to decide whether or not the relationship can be mended without trying to change the other person, or for your own self-preservation you have to just step away.
How can you develop & foster meaningful friendships?
Another way of looking at this question – what do you hope and look for in a friend? For me, I have some dear friends that live across the country. Given that I see them so infrequently, feeling that I can pick up where we left off, whether in person, over the phone or in writing, means for a lot to me. Almost just as important, I appreciate authenticity and vulnerability in a friend, and in turn, I want to feel free to be my authentic and vulnerable self.
Many years ago, after we started to get to know one another, one of my dear friends once said to me that the more we became friends, the messier her house would appear to me. I will never forget those words and the significance of the meaning I took from them – true friends show “warts and all” and lose the need to appear perfect and put together all of the time.
In closing, I just want to end with a note of gratitude for all the friendships in my life – old and new, family and non-family, near and far. Thank you to all of you for contributing to my well-being.