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33 and Still Struggling to Be a Friend

33 and Still Struggling

It’s time to talk about friendship again. Partly because this topic comes up with nearly every teenage or young adult client that I work with. And partly because this is a complicated aspect of my life too.

While talking with a friend the other day, we were joking about the way that we expected the challenges of high school to end when we went to college. They didn’t. Again, we expected the challenges to end when we got our first jobs. They didn’t. And so on. One of the challenges I’m referring to is friendship. 

So, here I am now: 33 years old and STILL trying to figure this whole friendship thing out.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ve grown. SO MUCH. And if you’ve read my post about the growth spiral, you’ll know that I believe and trust in the fact that I am more equipped to meet the next challenge than ever before. The same is true for YOU. Life requires ebbs and flows. In other words, we will inevitably face struggles, AND we will keep knowing ourselves and our truths more deeply along the way.

This article is another nod to the paradoxes of life. I’m 33, so grateful for the ways I know myself, AND I still have a hard time being a friend sometimes. Anyone else?! 

What About Everyone Else?

I recently polled my IG community about the topic of friendship. Yes, I realize that this is a vulnerable series of questions, which may explain why 160 people viewed the story and only 23ish people responded to the polls. This is a vulnerable article for me, too, but I’m trusting the words of Brene Brown and putting myself out there. Below, you’ll find the questions I asked, as well as the results. I encourage you to consider your own answers as you read along.

  1. In the last month, have you had a conflict/disagreement with a friend? 43% yes; 57% no
  2. In the last month, have you felt insecure about your role/place in a friendship? 77% yes; 23% no
  3. In the last year, have you decided there’s a friend you’d rather not continue the relationship with? 77% yes; 23% no
  4. In the last year, has a friendship taken a new course and gotten deeper/closer? 95% yes; 5% no
  5. Have you experienced FOMO in the past month? 70% yes; 30% no
  6. Is there someone you’d like to get closer to but don’t know how? 67% yes; 33% no
  7. Is there someone you’d like more distance from but don’t know how to get there? 44% yes; 56% no

As I see these results, I can’t help but think, friendship is hard, it takes work to be in relationships, and a lot of the time, a lot of us are facing insecurity and uncertainty. All of this is human! The need to connect AND the fear of not being enough. What do you notice or take away from these results? From your own answers?

Answers from a Struggling 33 Year Old

  1. Yes, I am in the midst of a relatively long-term conflict with a friend. I have been trying to figure out how to be in a friendship that feels good with this particular person. My guess is that they are doing the same. Through this process, we’ve both been upset and hurt, maybe even angry. There have been tears and a lot of distance. I’m feeling a lot of uncertainty about what our relationship might look like moving forward. 
  2. Yes, I have felt particularly insecure in relationships this summer. I’m so fearful that the conflict I mentioned in my answer to #1 could impact (or already is impacting?!) other friendships, and this scares me. I’m having a hard time trusting myself, and this influences the ways I show up in all of my relationships. Additionally, for years, I’ve faced insecurity in a certain extended friend group. I’ve never felt like I fit in, and sometimes I wonder why/if I really even want to. I have a desire to belong, and I like the people, but my lifestyle (sober, anxious, in bed by 10 pm, and not-so-spontaneous) does seem to make the relationships more distant, more like acquaintances. Oh, and when I send a text with an idea or connection and don’t hear back… I sometimes feel quite unworthy.
  3. Yes, I have let go of a friendship. I noticed that a particular friend and I weren’t aligning in some values, and these are high priority values of mine. We didn’t have a conflict or marked disagreement; instead, we just seemed to drift apart. If this person and I ever ran into one another, I would be happy to see them. Yet, I don’t have a desire to invest energy in this relationship. 
  4. Yes, I feel grateful that I’ve met so many inspiring, kind, and badass people in the last few years. One friendship, in particular, feels really lovely. We talk with one another about shared TV interests, vulnerable curiosities or challenges we are facing, and inspiring people/art/books in our lives. This feels fun and exciting to feel the friendship grow!
  5. Ugh, yes, FOMO is too real some days. In all honesty, sometimes I can’t watch IG stories without feeling like I’m being excluded. When this happens, I know it’s time to take a pause and consider what my real need is… For example, do I need connection? Do I need excitement? Or do I need time with myself?
  6. Yes, there is someone I’ve wanted to know more deeply and connect with more regularly. I have tried including this person in activities and inviting them to hand out. However, I notice this person isn’t making reciprocal efforts. Consequently, I don’t know if this person wants to be friends or just acquaintances, and I’m not sure that I’m ready to ask directly. (Friendship can feel a little like dating, huh?!)
  7. No, right now I feel like I have established distance with people who I needed space from or wasn’t resonating with. Usually, this happens organically, as I mentioned in my answer to #3. 

Friendship is Complicated, And That’s Okay

It is my hope that this raw reflection on friendship can help us all feel MORE HUMAN, more normal, and, in effect, more connected. Friendship is complicated, and that’s okay. While relationships require energy, time, and attention, I fully believe the process is worth it. 

Stay tuned for an awesome guest blog by Sex Educator Erica Smith next week. Then, I’ll be sharing a series of articles using Don Miguel Ruiz’ The Four Agreements as tools for reflecting on the topic of friendship. 

In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you. What from this article stands out? Is there anything that resonates? What other thoughts or ideas do you have on this topic?

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