Having someone in our lives who think our opinions matter, who value our company and make us feel wanted is important to most of us. I think that this applies to most human beings as most people ultimately want and need to feel close to other human beings.
Having good friends can also help us to develop our self-esteem but there can, and often are, other reasons for choosing our friends. And be in no doubt, mostly we do choose people to be in our lives – they’re not always there by chance.
So why do we choose certain people to be our friends?
One reason is that it’s easier to get on with people who have similar values – while having different opinions is good in lots of ways, most close friendships are with people who think in the same way as us. If they don’t have the same values as you, there will be lots of compromises and sometimes that can be a strain, to say the least. When friends have similar values, it helps them to be accountable to each other and the wider world.
The pandemic has highlighted this for a lot of us – suddenly, people whom you thought were great friends have had different opinions about vaccinations, isolation and quarantine. It’s been a real eye-opener for many of us!
Having common goals is a big thing with a lot of friendships – if you’re ambitious in your work-life, you might choose people who can help your career take off up to the next level. This sounds a bit calculating but it may not be deliberate, just the way it’s worked out. If your usual friends are happy in their careers and don’t want or need to advance, it can help to be with people who feel the same as you.
Choosing friends who bring some balance to your life is important too – some friends have the skills and abilities that you don’t and vice-versa, so you can both enhance one another’s lives.
Past shared history is hugely important to a lot of us – that’s why it’s often hard moving to a new area, because you didn’t grow up there and can’t laugh about the crush you had on Ryan Smith in the last year of school. That’s partly why school reunions are appealing to some people – you can look back on your shared past and reflect on it, laugh, cringe and generally know that you got through it somehow.
Choosing friends with the same interests makes life more fun – if you both enjoy walking, the cinema, playing music or eating out, it’s great to have someone who shares those passions with you.
So, choosing the right friends for you is important for your happiness and self-worth. If you find yourself choosing people (or they choose you!) who don’t enhance your life, but pull you down and make you miserable, ask yourself why they’re in your life. Maybe your self-esteem is very low and you feel that you don’t deserve someone nice as a friend, so you have people in your friendship group who you can’t really relax around and, worse still, you can’t rely on. If that’s the case, look at your reasons for staying in a friendship like this and if it’s not what you really want. try to disengage from it as gently as possible. See less of that person, don’t respond to texts straight away and gradually ease away.
Lastly, if you want great friends you need to be one yourself so treat them as you want to be treated – that way your friendships will be rewarding as well as fulfilling.
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