For many years I believed I was a failure at friendships, always underestimating my value as a friend because of teenage arguments, relationship bust-ups and bitchy backstabbing ‘friends’ that belittled my self-belief.
‘Surely not all girls are like this?’ I’d think, promptly followed by, ‘What have I done wrong?’
Hindsight has shown me my friendship muscle was rapidly fading as a result of these teenage experiences, but at the time I put on a brave front and planted a big FU smile across my face to prove I was not impacted by their hateful ways.
But that was far from the truth.
Little by little over the years, my confidence in being a friend deteriorated. I would hide myself away, never sharing my truth out of fear it would come back to bitch-slap me, and strongly believed I’d done something to deserve the hateful attacks and bullying I’d endured years earlier.
As I approached 30, these suppressed emotions came back to haunt me and I suffered severe panic attacks in group settings, was plagued by paranoia and anxiety ALL girls hated me, and I was building a very unhealthy relationship with red wine for its ability to take away the soul-sucking pain and fear of being unliked, which I’d harboured for close to 15 years.
In those days, I didn’t journal, I didn’t meditate and I constantly searched for external validation from clothing, shoes, men, alcohol and so on… so I had no way of knowing how to deal with the realisation I needed to work my s*#t out!
Seeing a Counsellor to discuss my panic attacks was definitely a turning point, as I’d blocked out the experience so vehemently, I didn’t know why I was crumbling in the first place.
Yet, while talking to a Counsellor was a crucial part of my recovery, it dawned on me that the real work started when I had to take a look at my current friendships and ask, ‘How do I go about cultivating strong friendships as an adult when for many years I’ve been running from them?’
And more importantly, ‘Who am I as a friend?’
“What you resist persists” – Eckhart Tolle
Over the years since this low-point, I have been blessed to celebrate some gorgeous milestones in my life including living overseas, travelling, meeting my partner, starting a family, starting a business and following through on my intention to set up a better work/life balance for my family in my childhood home town.
Despite all these personal accomplishments, cultivating strong friendships has been one path I continue to trip over and doubt myself on, until Eckhart’s words rang so loudly in my ears I acknowledged it was the alarm bell I needed to hear.
How do I create strong connections as an adult?
I need to be the friend I want in return and value myself enough to trust that friendships come and go, but like a garden, my female relationships need love and attention to grow over time. I can no longer expect friendships to take care of themselves and still survive harsh conditions.
That is, I know I need to water it. I need – and want – to actively focus my attention on it and continue to shower it with beautiful energy in order for it to gain strength and emerge from the mud, one bud at a time. I can no longer exist with my head in the sand assuming my friendships will survive if I ignore them out of fear and what others think of me.
These days, I trust the women, friendships and sassy sisters I attract in to my life are here for a reason and together we can cultivate a relationship that is mutually beneficial in its flaws, funny adventures, fierce flash dance parties, feisty feminism, and forgiveness because real friendship is strong, supportive and simple – if you allow it to be.
Now, on the eve of my 35th birthday, I have the maturity, tools to get through personal challenges and life lessons under my belt to confidently put myself other there and show my friends what matters to them also matters to me.
I believe in building my own path and building a life around what matters – and my friendships matter.
Please share with me below, has there been a time in your life when friendships falter and you didn’t know how to survive? How do you maintain strong connections with friends as an adult?
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