What is ‘being a friend’?

Picture of slogan that says 'you are as great as a dress with pockets'

A Christmas present from one of my great friends who knows how much I appreciate practical clothing… (from Oh Squirrel, ohsquirrel.co.uk)

It’s been a while. I lost writing mojo over the summer – and partly the worry about upsetting people, and pressure on myself to keep producing writing led to the exact opposite of what was intended with writing: to do something I love doing and expressing myself using a method that works therapeutically and effectively. Of course as it’s January you can all assume that new year, new blogging… I don’t do new year’s resolutions, utterly pointless, as they become something else to berate yourself about. So consider this me not berating myself and the timing coincidental.

I’ve also had the relief of a fortnight away from working and commuting because of the joy that is our festive period in the UK, and that has resulted in some reflection and thinking about where I am and what makes me happy. I don’t have the answers, but back to the berating theme, I do know that I constantly feel there are things I ‘should’ be doing, and those pile up to the point where I do none of them, and thus back to the start. On the principle of one thing at a time – a principle I frequently exhort to friends – I figured that while I’m in a fairly calm place (the time off) I should use that as a place to begin with. The things I really have to do to survive (food shopping for example) manage to happen, and some weeks that really is the only thing I do that I ‘should’ do, but I won’t die if I don’t find the perfect relationship this week… Admittedly that last one is a fairly big one thing so incremental steps with that.

Friends are where much of my strength and inspiration to do a few ‘one things’ come from. I’m a shy person and much of my life one who has doubted her self-worth and finding people who want to spend time with me for the pleasure of only that, spending time with me, has been a source of constant amazement and disbelief. You may also experience that self-doubt, I have no idea, because I wouldn’t dare express it for the genuine fear that people would think either that I was very strange or that actually perhaps I was right and not a person to be friends with. What this manifests as is a constant need to be a source of help and advice, wholly unintentionally at first, but then a behaviour that I am unable to shake. The wanting to help people is not a bad thing, far from it. It being the only reason I think I am someone’s friend, as in, as long as I am constantly helpful I am worth being in someone else’s life and as soon as I become a person with problems or is unhappy, needs help or cannot be available all the time, then I must be a bad person. And I don’t say any of this because I think any of those things are bad things. Only that they are in me, because why else would I be liked if I weren’t providing some type of physical, active assistance, that if I can’t always ‘be there’ for someone I am not a worthwhile person to be friend. As I wrote down when a previous counsellor made me list the feelings and things I liked and didn’t like about myself, some of the latter included:

  • That I feel guilty for not doing enough
  • That I’m a not a good person if I can’t ‘be there’ for friends
  • I put myself last and don’t think I’m important to anyone
  • That I can’t support everyone I want to

I don’t expect this of my friends! They have been a constant source of joy, learning, inspiration, support, laughter, strength and love, and yet I find it hard to believe that they would find any of those things in me. I’m not saying this for pity or sympathy or dramatic effect; it was and has been my reality in my view of myself for years. And it is not because any of those friends have made me feel that way. It is my own sense of self-belief and self-worth doing that to myself. That, readers who’ve stayed this far, is hard work to fight when you have an illness that tells you all the bad things you already think about yourself are true, and a hundred times more true when it has a very strong grip on you. On normal days, I still fight an internal battle with myself about my closest friends who I still think will decide they’ve had enough and find new and more interesting, positive and entertaining people to spend time with. I know it’s crazy. And I know (well I think I know, but of course I wait to be corrected) that they would say it’s crazy. I don’t know why I think the friendships I have would lie on such fragile ground, but for some reason I do, and I hide how much pain the sometimes constant thought of they’re going to decide I’m not worth it causes. Because it sounds stupid and egotistical, and as if I’m selfishly trying to get attention.

My counsellor asked me to read out the list I wrote in response to her request to record the things I like about myself. I won’t lie, it wasn’t an easy list to start but it got easier! When I finished she asked me what I thought about knowing the person I’d just described, and I had to say that they sounded like a person I would want to know. It was a really huge stage to reframe my thinking in my head and that was four years ago; I still battle but I am looking at the ‘like’ list right now and it reminds me of what I have achieved. Just some of those things I like that have resonance with this post:

  • That I care and that I am emotional
  • That I have very good friends
  • That I want to help people
  • That I think trust is really important
  • That I think of my friends and my family

If you’re batting with similar thoughts of self-doubt and self-worth, I hope you can put them aside in time, or find strategies to reduce them. As always, links in About, and always believe you are a person worth loving.

2 thoughts on “What is ‘being a friend’?

  1. Lovely to see a new post on your blog (on a sidenote – that picture is a gem! Dresses with pockets are perfect!)! And rest assured, you do not come across as a ‘strange’ person. We all struggle, and we all have self-doubts – some people just can shove them to the side more easily than others.

    Like

    • Thank you very much for the kind words – it’s always good to know you’re not alone. And dresses and skirts with pockets are very perfect! x

      Like

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