It's Not You, It's Me... Wait, No. It's Also You
It's Not You, It's Me... Wait, No. It's Also You
a post about Managing Friend Expectations
We are women. We are all noble enough to admit that we are, to some degree, a certain level of crazy. Now, obviously, I don’t like using this word (especially when referring to our own gender), but I am left with no choice. We’ve done this to ourselves. Although, it's not entirely our fault that we have a tendency to be very emotional, I believe that too often we let those emotions get the best of us.
It's time to open our eyes to perspective and help ourselves LET GO… of everything we can’t control and maybe have a little empathy. I’ve personally been struggling with this concept of letting go, but by doing so, slowly but surely, I've been able to maintain better relationships with friends, family & most importantly, myself.
I’m going to take a shot in the dark and assume that most of us have similar issues among friends… Whether it’s lack of commitment, faulty actions, or failed expectations…you name it! Conflict exists whether we like it or not. Now here is the big tip to jump start the attitude shift in all of this… Any reality that is not YOUR reality, is something you CANNOT control… no matter how much you disapprove or how disappointed you are, you can’t control what people do, what they say, or how they act. Additionally, no matter how validated and credible your opinion is, telling someone what to do based solely on your experiences and expecting them to be totally receptive is unrealistic.
It seems the older we get, the more intense we are about maintaining control, and typically, I find that this is ruled by our emotions. Ironically, the moment emotions gain power, that's the moment our reality is dictated by emotion instead of logic. The universe will go ahead and give you whatever the fuck it gives you. So stop dwelling on what makes you upset and out of control, and focus on yourself, what makes you happy, and what you DO have control of. It's time to fix our problems, be at peace, or move the fuck on.
Over the span of my 28 years on earth, I’ve spent quite a bit of time developing countless relationships. If you ask any of my friends, they will tell you that I have “SO many friends”… maybe “TOO many friends”. I’m not bragging, by any means. I’m merely helping you understand that friendship is something I value so much, that I’ve spent my life nurturing many, many relationships. Not all of those friendships have worked out either; however, I have a very unique perspective about it, having experienced interactions with several opposing personalities, viewpoints, opinions, and situations. The key is opening your mind to perspectives, really making an effort to understand those friends and listening to what they have to say or why they think the way they do. The other key is balance and compromise. This is when you can learn whether or not it’s time to cut someone out or let someone in. It’s so easy to blame everyone else when there is conflict, but the reality is that you are the only person in charge of setting expectations for your relationships.
I’d like to go ahead and disclaimer that the selection of examples below are based on my own personal experiences, friend’s experiences, situations I’ve witnessed, and my personal advice or opinion on how to deal with these situations. In no way am I advocating that I am an expert in relationships. I simply want to help broaden the thought process on some of the issues that are now incredibly consistent within all of my friend groups. It’s time for us to release our inner “chill girl”. These situations are definitely applicable to everyone, so if you think I’m talking about you, I totally am.
In the end, I’m hopeful you’ll discover that the relationships that thrive are typically those that can adhere to this broader way of thinking. I hope that this will also help you be at peace with yourself and let go of unnecessary animosity toward others.
Example 1: The ever popular, “Let’s make plans and bail last minute” friend:
The Focus on Ourselves:
Let’s be honest with ourselves here. We are ALL guilty of this. It’s the Millennial way to make plans and bail or to confirm your presence at a party and not show up. It’s sad, but oh so true. This is something that totally still happens. Over the years, this is something I personally struggled with. I never wanted to let people down, so I would always say “yes!” initially, and it always bit me in the ass. I would realize later I was double booked or exhausted, and out of selfishness, I'd flake. Then I would feel the wrath or disappointment of my friends. However, because of that fear of disappointing others, I then started to feel like I could never said “no”… ever... and I ended up over committing myself and eventually resenting anyone who even just invited me to do anything… Balance. The most important thing to note here is that being upfront and honest is 100% not a bad thing. We all get it. EVERYONE is busy! EVERYONE has shit going on. If your friends are truly good friends, they will understand when you say no. If they don't, maybe reevaluate the friendship.
I’ve learned that most people appreciate a “No thank you. It’s not really something I’m interested in.” over “Yes!” and then a “never mind” one hour before the event. Eventually, you’ll become the boy who cried wolf and likely, nobody will invite you to do anything anymore, and then maybe you’ll end up feeling sorry for yourself. Even when friends have been more blunt- “I’m not really feeling social today,” or “I’m really tired,” I’ve surprisingly really appreciated their response, because the answer is clear and upfront, and because we can all totally related to that! Obligations are obligations: fun or not.
The Focus on Others:
Not many people feel comfortable with the concepts stated above. In general, people don’t like to disappoint other people, so saying straight up, “no” for some is actually incredibly difficult. I mean… it’s a common problem for a reason. This should be noted as well. Instead of directing SO much anger toward your friend for constantly bailing on you, try to understand where they might be coming from. Just because now you have mastered this art of saying “no”, does not mean everyone else has.
Perhaps there is more to it than you think. Are they actually interested in what you invited them to? Are they busy af? Are they more introverted or do they have social anxiety? Maybe they have a majorly private issue and they'd prefer to be a hermit for a while. Then think of the more pressing issues: If this continues, is this something that will eventually break our relationship? Is this something that makes me so mad that I can’t live on like this anymore? Are they even aware that this is a habit of theirs? Are they aware of how it makes me feel? If this is a quality you don’t appreciate, be vocal about it (and in a manner that doesn't attack their character). Focus on why you are upset and help them see where you're coming from. This is where you have a chance to set that expectation. If you are a friend who doesn't appreciate this quality, how will your friends ever know if you keep making snide remarks about them behind their backs? If they don’t care how it makes you feel, consider making some “snip snips” in your life, but if this is something you can deal with, just be at peace with it. Identifying these problems should help you let go of resentment and anger. Bottom line: It’s actually not THAT big of a deal.
Example 2: The “I’ll never attend a function you plan” friend
The Focus on Ourselves:
Are you someone who needs to be in control all of the time? Or do you feel like your friends can never make a damn decision, so you naturally assume the leadership role? Then you find in the end nobody appreciates the work you’re doing? … Stop doing it then. If your friends can’t get their shit together, it is not your responsibility. I assure you, everyone will survive. That is, unless you absolutely love planning.
Now, if you absolutely love planning and find you’re always taking control, maybe everything doesn’t always necessarily have to be so planned. Having high expectations for the outcome of an event, dissecting every last activity or detail, can add way too much pressure. Trust me, I’ve seen it happen time and time again with women of ALL ages. Typically in situations where expectations are SO high, the let down is so much more probable. (Birthday Blues? Holiday drama? No Plans for NYE? One of your relatives can’t make it to the party?) Relaxxxxx. Sometimes the most fun times happen when there isn’t a solidified plan. If you still need a little planning…start by picking a place and then having no agenda.
In addition to being more relaxed about plans, perhaps consider other people’s opinions as well. Sometimes other friends may have a good idea about going somewhere or doing something different. Be open to those experiences. You don’t have to be the one in charge all of the time. If you are indeed the one always making decisions and plans, chances are, someone in your group could be feeling like they don’t ever have a choice. It's absolutely okay if a friend plans something you wouldn't necessarily do or execute it in a manner you wouldn't. That's the beauty of friendship and compromise. All of my friends have hosted different functions on all ends of the spectrum (themed pub crawls, backyard BBQ's, elaborate stay-cations, or chill movie nights)! When there is variety, you’ll typically have much happier friends. Not everything has to be a big ordeal and planned out to every last detail. Have you ever hung out with dudes? Much more relaxing…
The Focus on Others:
If nobody ever wants to do what you’re doing, it may be incredibly maddening. You may have been getting progressively angry because someone in your group will naturally always hijack all of the planning. Maybe you have a few friends that are a little more “buddy, buddy” and they make all of the decisions for the group, but won’t compromise. Every time you make a suggestion, you get no response from the group text message or their projection of… “mehhhhh.” Maybe you suggest something and a friend takes that idea and completely changes it. While it is annoying, the reality is, just because you’re friends with someone, doesn’t mean you need to do the same activities together ALL the time, ESPECIALLY if you don't have a voice. Here’s a solution: Let them do what they want to do, and temporarily leave the nest. Easier said than done, I know, but just know that you can also say “no.” (see example 1) Chances are, all of your friends are not interested in ALL of the same hobbies anyways, and that is perfectly fine. Ever consider going to a movie alone, or more intensely, a solo road trip? Yeah… It’s awesome. Not an exaggeration! Or perhaps, consider reaching out to a different friend or friend group that shares those same interests. I have a network of friends with many common and uncommon interests, and it's fantastic. (the volleyball girls, college crew, server buddies, the Improv friends, entrepreneur ladies, NeonBeige! etc) Staying within ONE friend group seems a bit limiting anyways, no?
Keep in mind that there is also a chance your friend(s) may hold it against you or try to make you feel bad for never participating anymore. However, if you’re constantly getting the shaft in the activity department, I think it's only fair that you stop committing to so many things they want to do. They don’t sound like good friends anyways. Slowly drift away and drift back when you’re in the mood to indulge again. This will be hard if you don’t have very many friends. You don't want to isolate yourself, but if this is something bothersome, consider spending your time and energy finding people that do have similar interests. Maybe post a status on Facebook about something new you’re wanting to get into: “Looking to start a book club. Anyone interested?”
Example 3: The “I’m so over her” friend
The Focus on Ourselves:
This example is much more complex, because essentially, it’s not just one or two people affected by a conflict, it’s a friend group. Are you a friend who doesn’t get along with another person in your friend group? Maybe you’re potentially getting criticized for being so harsh with your judgments, but nobody else in the group understands. This is perfectly okay, because it’s natural. We are all human, and we can’t be expected to get along with everyone in the world. That is our prerogative. However, there must be a reason you’ve ended up in the same circle of friends with this person you cannot stand. Ask yourself these questions. Is it really that bad? What about this person makes you so angry? Are these characteristics deal breakers? Do they mirror any insecurities or jealousy? If it's vapid or petty and built on unconscious negativity, cut that shit out. Nobody has time for that.
On the other side, maybe it's a little more complicated. Maybe this person didn't directly hurt you, but is hurting you by association. IF this is someone you just can’t be around, think about your needs first and the group second. Then evaluate what is more important. If it is necessary, remove yourself. You are absolutely entitled to that. In ways, it'll make it easier for everyone. And your friends, while they may be sad, should truly understand. Although, do also consider how you choose to take action and how it may affect everyone, most importantly, your closest friends within the group. What I'm saying is, try not to torture your good friends in the process. Be reasonable about what you will and will not stand for. In the end, by resenting or having negative feelings for someone in the group, you may be burdening and exhausting your closest friends even more without realizing it. Just don’t hold it against anyone if they don't necessarily follow your actions. Good friendship is not based solely on who is most loyal, and loyalty is not based on whether or not someone agrees with your opinion.
Now, if you’re not willing to compromise removing yourself from your friend group, consider cutting the other person some slack. No matter how much they piss you off, you may learn something from them and their behavior. In the end, this someone is not SO bad that you simply cannot put a happy face on and be cordial. You don’t have to be best friends, but you certainly don’t have to make enemies or dwell on their behavior. You’re wasting your time. On the flip side, it is entirely possible that there is something about you that makes someone else’s blood boil at an equally high temperature. And what's funny is... that it is their problem. You don't spend time thinking about the people that hate you, so again, try to understand and identify why your negativity toward that person is so strong. Then slowly try to eliminate it. It'll only make you stronger. The alternative is, the more time you spend hating them, ironically, the more time you spend thinking about them, and in turn, the less you are spending focusing on yourself or your perfectly awesome friendships.
The Focus on Others:
Sometimes your friends may not all get along. When you put a group of people together, especially women, the likelihood that everyone really truly gets along is not very high… And that is 100% okay. It may feel frustrating or sad, because you want peace and harmony, but as long as your own friendships are solid, you’re good. You can only focus on yourself. Remember: YOU CAN’T CONTROL SOMEONE ELSE’S OPINION OR FEELINGS. Eventually they will come around ... or they wont. Let it go. No matter who’s side you take, each person that is not getting along has their own reality and their own truth, their own set of experiences that shaped who they are. You may see both sides and can’t understand how these friends can’t get along, but you aren’t in their shoes, and you can’t make someone like someone else. That’s not for you to decide.
What you can do is be neutral, not respond to the negative behavior, and let them deal with it or isolate themselves. The most important thing to remember here is ultimately, it is NOT your problem. All you can do is set the expectation for your relationships. If they try to make it your problem, or it affects the group, simply make it clear that it shouldn’t be tolerated. If they're relentlessly unwilling to leave you out of it, take a friend break. You're wasting precious time.
Example 4: The “You are bound to me and obligated to suffer my burdens, because we are best friends” friend
The Focus on Ourselves:
This one is tricky. It’s not easy taking a look in the mirror and considering ourselves as the problem, but ask yourself these questions: Do you feel as though you are constantly being let down by your friends? Are they always making you mad or upset, because they don’t consider your feelings? If so, is their behavior malicious? Do you think they do it on purpose? Is it because they legitimately are crap friends or are you overly sensitive? Identifying that you’re the problem isn’t really something we are used to, but you have to consider whether or not your expectations of friendship are realistic or not. Perhaps you’re making it impossible to be pleased. You might be frustrated because you always think of every possible outcome of your actions and how they may offend someone else, but nobody else seems to do the same. You seem to be able to read other people’s behaviors and you’re sensitive to other’s feelings, but they aren’t to yours. Reality check. It is very rare that someone has the capacity to think of your problems and how their actions may potentially be offending you. Chances are, you’re equally guilty even if you tend to be hyper aware of this. The main focus on your life should be YOU, so why should YOU be the focus of others' lives?
Try setting the bar a bit lower. Your problems are just that: yours. Friends can be there for us when we are feeling blue, but that’s not an obligation or written rule. Friends are there for each other because they want to be. I have specific friends I go to for specific things, because I know who is the better listener, who has the most fun, or who is best at giving advice. This has helped me decipher which friendships are stronger, more effortlessly connected, more in sync. This has also helped me decide which friendships aren't worth as much attention.
Friends have let me down countless times, but they've also been there for me countless times, usually when it matters the most. I personally had to learn that the expectations I created and then hoped for in return were two very different things. You choose to be there for your friends, because you want to be, not because you expect them to reciprocate everything. That’s not actually how friendship works. Think about it, you typically don’t do something nice for a friend and then hold it as collateral. You do something nice, because that is your own perception of friendship. At what cost are you willing to expend you friends’ energy? Do you want to be the friend that everyone walks on eggshells around? You wouldn’t want to be in their shoes, so pick and choose your battles. What you may not realize is that you could be creating a situation to be resented by all that feel burdened by you. All I’m saying is, think twice before you decide to give someone the silent treatment for text messaging something you misinterpreted as rude. Think twice before you torture your friend for accepting an invite to something you weren't invited to. And for those friends that do matter, be a little more forgiving. Also, remember that conflict can be okay. Friends aren’t obligated to agree with everything you say. How can you grow if you are always at the mercy of your sensitivity?
The Focus on Others:
There is a difference between being a good friend and being taken advantage of. In the past, I’ve had friends that have unconsciously burdened me with their problems. Honestly, I've always loved helping people, so this was something I never seemed to mind. Even friends I barely knew would latch on and exhaust me with their problems, and I truly felt I could handle being their rock. However, the more I engaged, the more their pursuit of happiness was at the expense of my existing happiness. Guilt was commonly so intensely drilled into me that I eventually couldn't distinguish who it was that was actually crazy. I had never thought of myself as an inconsiderate friend, so I was hard on myself because of someone else's insane expectations: “How dare you do this when you know I’ve gone through this”, “How inconsiderate of you to have fun. I’ve had a tough week.”
“Friends” with this behavior may be trying to manipulate you, for fear of losing the friendship. “Friends” like this may not even really, truly understand what friendship is; holding you to such high standards and setting you up for failure. You have to remain focused on yourself. Compromise only what you’re willing to, and never put your friend’s needs before your own. Own who you are, because it's easy to get roped into a toxic friendship without realizing it's toxic. EVEN if the friend’s problems are very serious, the moment a friend starts comparing their problems, workload, and life problems to your own, red flags should go up and you should be looking for an exit strategy. True friends appreciate (or at least try to understand) all sides of you, no matter what.
That being said, maybe you have a friend that is very, very special to you. Perhaps you've known them for a really long time and you've invested a lot in each other. Maybe they've gone through something extremely tough, or you know that they tend to be overly sensitive. You feel the need to be there for them at all times, especially because their other friends, perhaps, won't tolerate their behavior any longer. Balance is everything here. Don't be SUCH a great friend to the point where you can almost predict when they'll get upset or explode. If you're trying to put out fires that aren't even ignited yet, all you're doing is hurting both of you by enabling the behavior. Some friends may be more sensitive than others, but when did we ever get anywhere by being overly sensitive to each other's feelings at unreasonable cost, ESPECIALLY at the expense of your own sanity. Tough love might sting at first, but in the end, if this friend is a reasonable human being, they'll not only appreciate you, but they'll respect you and your unbiased insight.
Example 5: The “Gossip VS Vent session” friend
I'm not even going to go there. We should all know the difference between negative, malicious behavior and getting something off of our chest. We are ALL different, yet we still tend to flock toward those whom we find similarities with. Usually this is where gossip starts, picking apart the people that we can't understand or those who aren't so much like us. BUT if you're strong enough, secure enough, and woman enough, this is where it ends.
If it's you gossiping, please stop. It's exhausting and it's boring.
If it's a friend gossiping. Don't react, don't respond, don't acknowledge.
In the end, there are many, many complex layers of friendship. I truly believe that if you open your heart, stick to your truth, hold yourself accountable, and let go of what you can't control, you can maintain relationships that matter. Sweating the small stuff is a time sucker, but having meaningful, sometimes intense discussions to resolve conflict or create mutual understanding... That is an investment in our own growth. Hope this was insightful!
Peace & Love