I’ve said this before, and I will say it again: friendship qualms, questions, concerns, and curiosities are one of the most frequent topics of conversation in my sessions with young people. Humans want to belong and feel important to others. So, of course, it makes sense that friendship is something we are often exploring and grappling with. We are simply trying to get our very human needs met!
Friendships Aren’t Always Like the Movies
Take a moment to consider. When you think of the word friendship, what images, words, or people come to mind? There are no right or wrong answers here, just noticings.
Lots of media for young people– movies, TV shows, and books– features the idea of BEST FRIENDS FOREVER or BFFs. Did this idea of the BFF come to mind for you when you thought about the word friendship?
It’s totally okay if it did! I can relate. AND I’m here to say that this image may be a reality for some people, but this is not the only reality, or even the “best” reality. There are countless ways to be connected to other people or experience friendship.
I encourage young people I work with 1:1 to think more broadly about what friendship means to them– how can/does it look, sound, and feel. I invite you to take a few moments to journal, draw, or think about this yourself.
For me, friendship looks like time spent together (IRL or virtually), texting, cards and notes and occasional gifts, and hugs. It sounds like laughter and crying and everything in between, conversations (both light-hearted and serious), songs and playlists we share with one another, and kind, supportive words. Friendship feels safe, supportive, playful, and connected. Sometimes it feels really comfortable and familiar, and other times, it feels new and exciting.
Notice: Can ONE person, ONE friend be ALL of these things?! My guess is no. Furthermore, to think that I could only have ONE “best” friend feels a bit limiting when I have so many different interests, hobbies, needs, and desires. What comes up for you?
Making Space for Different Types of Friends
There may be times that you notice yourself grasping on to the myth of BFFs. You might be thinking things like:
- Everyone has best friends except me.
- I am always left out.
- We are competing for the spot of the best friend.
When these thoughts arise, first, I invite you to notice them. Perhaps you can create a name for these throughs. I am personally going to call them “myths.” I might say, “Ooops, I am repeating those myths again.”
Next, I invite you to practice talking to yourself in compassionate ways; in other words, try talking to yourself as you would a friend that you care deeply for. Finally, remind yourself that friendship can look, sound, and feel LOTS of different ways. Ask yourself: “What kind of connection do I need right now?” Then, make a plan to reach out to a friend or acquaintance or two to connect.
You’ve Got This
There’s no one right way to be in a friendship, and there are many more types of friendship than BFFs. All types of friendships are valid, and most importantly, you are worthy of love, support, and friendship in ways that feel good to you.
As you navigate life with friends, you might like to explore The Four Agreements in friendship— an exploration of how you can be true to yourself, not take things personally, avoid assumptions, and do your best. If you’re a parent reading this piece, and you’d like some tips on holding space to talk about friendship with your teen, check out this piece.