Unfortunately, I’m sure most people reading this will have asked themselves this exact question (or something along the same line). I wanted to write this post because questioning my friendship quality is something I do extremely often.
I’ve been reflecting on the pressure I feel to constantly be ‘the perfect friend’, both on social media and in real life. Whilst I’m aware I’m extremely thoughtful, I always worry about whether I could be a better friend, or if I’m not as good a friend as someone else.
Where does the pressure to be ‘the perfect friend’ come from?
As the phenomenon of self-exposure continues to grow thanks to the likes (literally) of every social media platform, the authenticity of each post or memory becomes more and more dubious. Now that we’re able to share pretty much every part of our lives with everyone and anyone, therein lies the opportunity to subconsciously create a curated version of ourselves. This online persona is accidentally an extremely complex formulaic combination of our favourite parts of ourselves; well, the characteristics and thoughts that we want to share with the world.
However, the ability to create this endlessly effervescent persona leads us to the desire to perpetuate our current feelings of self-confidence in one area through to every area we can. Before you know it, the people you follow have turned into adverts not only for their work, but for themselves as people. The combination of the determination to appear ‘fun, reliable and easy to work with’ alongside the disintegration of the wall between our ‘work-selves’ and our ‘real-selves’ has led to the pressure to be an all-rounded excellent person in every way, shape and form. It is no longer enough to be good at what you do; you have to be an exceptionally good person, too.
When we think of being a ‘good person’, it largely centres on how we relate to other people and interact with those around us. When we do so successfully (for lack of a better word), we find ourselves building new friendships (which is always so exciting!).
I’m noticing more and more the way in which people discuss their friendships (particularly online), and I’ve divided them into three categories, as well as a solution for dealing with each one if you often find yourself doubting your own worth as a friend as a result, like I do.
Friendship Portrayal 1.0 | The Name-Dropping Friendship
The name-dropping trend is potentially the most timeless piece in the ‘I’m worth your time’ capsule wardrobe that humanity has been trying to navigate and pull off successfully since forever. This one tends to manifest itself in the ‘I’m friends with X, so I’m clearly a great person!’ type of manner. Not only does this lower your own feelings of self-worth, it causes them to rely on someone else’s approval.
Know that the fact that this person feels the need to mention someone else’s name to push their own validity isn’t a super reassuring sign. Furthermore, if this person really is their friend they wouldn’t be mentioning them in a way which focuses on their status, rather than who they are as a person.
Friendship Portrayal 2.0 | The Instant Best Friends
This one is particularly prevalent online. The ‘we just met and we’re already best friends!’ friendship is one I find particularly hard to get my head around. Of course, it’s wonderful to see people click and find their ‘tribe’, but this kind of post does leave me feeling like every time I meet someone we should have an instant connection, because if we don’t, I’m not as approachable and fun as I should be.
Remember that it’s highly unlikely that the friendship is as deep as they’re portraying it – it’s impossible to instantly be 100% connected on every level; you need time to get to know each other first! Keep hanging out and, if the friendship is meant to be, it’s meant to be!
Friendship Portrayal 3.0 | The Since-the-Womb Best Friends
The portrayal of these friendships can be difficult to handle if, like me, your past is something you want to move on from. When you’ve had a tough time at a young age, the friends you made then are either going to be your friend forever, or drift from you at the speed of light. Both of these situations are natural and, whilst the ratio is always off-balance, having just one friend who stays by your side is all you need.
Please don’t feel like you’ve done anything wrong because you don’t have ten friends whom you’ve known and loved since the womb. Know that when other people talk about these groups, they simply got very, very lucky; and that’s so wonderful for them. If you find someone who totally gets you – no matter what age you’re at – that friendship is just as valid, loving and valuable as one that lasts much longer.
How to Handle the Pressure
I want this post to act as a magnifying lens through which we can analyse and discuss why we feel friendship-related pressure (which, to be honest, is incredibly paradoxical considering the very notion of friendship).
If you find yourself feeling the same way that I often do, please remind yourself that there is absolutely nothing wrong with you as a person or as a friend – this pressure comes from comparisons against friendship portrayals that are – much like online personas – highly curated and definitely not as ‘perfect’ as they seem.
Surround yourself with people that bring out the best in you; people that make you happy when you see that they’re happy; people that make you laugh till you cry; people that are their for you no matter what. If you can tick these boxes, you’re doing friendship right. I promise.
illustrations: Tyler Feder