My new friend Hendrik Van Rensburg of The Church of Bass recently made a post on Facebook about friendship. He wrote that the following things make a true friend:
To desire the best for each other
Sympathy & empathy
Honesty (also when it’s difficult for others to be truthful)
Mutual understanding & compassion
Mutual Trust (able to express feelings, without fear of being judged)
Provide each other emotional support
Positive reciprocity – relationship based on equal give & take
These have been major themes in my life this year. I have been doing a lot of recalibrating in relationships and have been finding these themes cropping up over and over again. I have grappled with co-dependency much of my life and have found that the biggest problem that I deal with in relationships is my inability to be a good friend or advocate to myself.
This year is the year of becoming my own best friend. This comes after facing great loss in my life in the span of four months including deep betrayal by one of my dearest friends, nearly losing my mother to a stroke (and the subsequent family drama that came with that), and losing enough financial ground to end up having to move in with a friend temporarily. Much of what I thought was real and true has dissolved or fallen away. What is left is my awareness of the temporal nature of existence as well as the deep joy that comes with appreciating the grace of the moment.
What this awareness brings me today is an appreciation of the importance of self-love and care. It means advocating for my own well-being and noticing what is true. This means tuning in and listening to my body at all times especially when I’m with others–listening to what they are really saying and showing me rather than what I want to hear–and paying attention to how I feel when I’m around them. Do I feel constricted or open? Do I feel like my solar plexus just got punched and afraid or do I feel safe and loved?
I have been learning to be discerning and ask lots of questions and to ask for what I need and leave if I don’t get it. I have so often feared loss of what I have, I stayed in bad relationships that were hurting me. Part of this is that I didn’t know how to leave or didn’t want to endure the pain and conflict involved with doing so. I once had a friend (who is highly skilled at getting what she wants) tell me that I am lucky to be in relationship with her because I get to learn how to be assertive from her. I didn’t feel lucky. I often felt controlled and manipulated. What I have since learned is that I was assertive and did articulate my needs but I was hanging on to relationships with people who were not willing or able to meet them. Assertive communication is one necessary piece of fulfillment in relationships. The other important thing is discerning who is actually showing up with genuine openness and reciprocity. Done are the days of hearing “I love how you are always on time and honor your commitments to me”! from the person who can’t seem to do that for me.
I’ve also realized it’s important for me to know my own worth so that I feel deserving of good flowing to me. I’ve learned that I can choose to thrive rather than just survive.
I have learned to lovingly let go of people and situations that don’t honor me or serve my greatest good. This takes courage but it’s worth it. As I spend time becoming my own BFF, I realize that I have often not engaged on my own behalf because it was just easier to show up for others instead of myself. It was an old, co-dependent default setting. It also created a great excuse for me to not take responsibility for myself. I was able to blame “them”. What a waste of life force!
Taking myself out of the role of victim or rescuer in relationships and into a place of shared power means taking responsibility for my own well-being and trusting that others will do the same. As I look through Hendrik’s list, I can re-frame it to emphasize being a good friend to myself with the following affirmations:
I desire the best for myself.
I have sympathy & empathy for myself and both pay attention to and take responsibility for my own feelings.
I am honest with myself and others even when it’s difficult.
I understand my own needs and have compassion for myself.
I trust my own judgment and express my feelings without fear of being judged.
I am my own advocate first and foremost and put myself in situations where I feel emotionally supported.
I make sure there is positive reciprocity in my relationships.
And so it is.