When my high school friendship group split away into two groups, it became increasingly difficult to sustain all my friendships. I wanted to spend time with everyone, but this meant I missed out on conversations about what was going on with each friend. I felt lost and confused when they would bring up things I wasn’t aware of. Women have been conditioned to be competitive with each other—even our own friends. Young women in particular can be competitive about connection—we tend to prioritise certain friends over others based on who knows the most about our private lives. Realising this led to an intense sadness. I was avoidant in both groups for a while, seeking solitude in libraries or getting homework done instead of hanging out with everyone. I eventually decided that I couldn’t continue like this, so I stuck with the side of friends that welcomed me more.
Still from Mean Girls (2004). Michael Gibson—AP, sourced from TIME (https://time.com/67280/mean-girls-mythology/).
What I’ve learnt over the last few years is that you should do your best in showing up for your friendships. Part of healthy and empowering friendships is reflecting on your own accountability. For me, I held myself accountable for not being the one to initiate communication or casual catch-ups. I used to think it was up to others to keep friendships alive, but now I know that I need to meet them in the middle.
Some of my friends have drifted off, and that’s okay. Sometimes we lose friends because as we gain more independence and reach different stages of our lives, certain people may not fit into the path we shape towards our future. We may lose friends because we no longer agree with their views, values and morals. As this article explains, a healthy friendship means we don’t gossip behind each others’ backs, offer backhanded compliments, get jealous or purposely exclude each other from events and details about our lives. If a friend is making you feel uncomfortable or is negatively affecting your mental health, it might be best to talk to them about it—and if this doesn’t work out, to cut them off.
Photo by Thought Catalog on UnSplash.
Empowering female friendships involve accepting the most authentic versions of one another. You shouldn’t have to hide your thoughts and opinions, be pressured to change your personality to fit in or feel like you can’t say no to things. These are easy traps to fall into when we are younger. We may say yes to everything out of fear of starting conflict—but by saying no, we can set healthy boundaries for ourselves and our friendships. This establishes stronger friendships, and can improve our mental health. I certainly feel better about myself knowing I can communicate the opinions and decisions that are true to me.
Empowering female friendships involve accepting the most authentic versions of one another.
When a friend calls you out on something, take on the feedback rather than viewing it as hurtful criticism—it can help us become better versions of ourselves and improve our friendships. A friend once observed that I struggled with being reserved and labeled as ‘shy’. After reflecting on this, I decided to try and communicate better with my friends. I asked myself: how can I be more open in sharing my own issues and details of my life so we can strengthen our friendships?
Photo by Priscilla du Preez on UnSplash.
I have learnt that healthy friendships require contribution from both sides, and it is never too late to work on them. Challenges can arise in friendships as we change and the friendship develops, and that’s totally okay.
Today, my friends and I are in a great place because we have learnt to accommodate changes in our personal lives over time. We have come to accept that we are all different, and that is why we are closer than ever before.
Check out our video Let’s Talk About Friendship for more on the joys and challenges of friendship.
Briana graduated with a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Creative and Professional Writing, and has had her work published in WhyNot. She loves the outdoors with her toy poodle and reading. She enjoys fiction and non-fiction from authors such as Holly Bourne and Roxane Gay. She is passionate about young adult’s health and wellbeing.