When the word “College” pops up, this image of a tight-knit friend group laughing and having a good time is at the forefront of my mind. We all want that picture perfect friendship depicted in t.v. shows and movies where we finally meet our friends for life. While this all sounds fun, maintaining friendships isn’t as easy as it seems. With the new environment of university, there comes the new responsibilities of burgeoning adulthood which can make things a little more complicated.
Throughout life we’re going to find out who we are, meet new people, and make and break multiple friendships. Here are some things that I learned about
1. Being “Nice” is NOT Enough
During high school, I thought being a “nice” friend was all you had to do. If you’re polite, you don’t make them mad, and you laugh along with your friends, then you’re basically a great friend. All the boxes are ticked and everything is okay.
What I’ve learned through college, is that you have to be an actively concerned friend. You can’t just sit back, be unproblematic, and your friendship is basically guaranteed. Friendship is one of the strongest support systems you’ll find in college. Your counselors, professors, fellow peers can help you, but it’s your friends who take the time to understand most of your emotional, mental, and physical needs to lift you up during the most difficult times.
Just as you need your friends to lean on when the doom of finals eats at your soul, or when a guy on tinder ends up being trash, your friends need you right back.
Instead of sitting back, make sure you check up on them, listen (really listen) to their needs, ask if they’ve eaten (yes become mini-moms), and generally show your love and support in your own ways. All friendship dynamics are super different, and you need to find what works for both you and your friends. The basis of this is that you need to make sure your friend’s feel that if anything happens to them, you’ll be by their side.
2. Perfect Friends Don’t Exist
You have a friend for different reasons. This friend listens well, this friend is interested in the same thing (psychology), and this friend is like your soul dmate lolol.
During high school, it was common for me to compare my friends to each other. I would wonder why Kelly wouldn’t listen as much as Sarah, or why Sarah didn’t understand my weirdly specific science jokes like Kelly.
There was this image of the “ideal friend” in my brain where they would hit all the marks and be the best type of friend to have. They would basically be incredibly similar to me but in a different body- that was my ideal idea of a friend. Well, as I gained more life experience and slowly crawled out of my sheltered high school perspective, I realized the common knowledge that people are different!! People have different personalities, morals, interests, and overall vibes.
You will have friends for different reasons, and different friends will be there for you in different ways. Some friends will be able to relate to your struggles and give you advice, while some friends are great at making you laugh and taking you out of your comfort zone. Other friends are great when you want to talk about the same t.v. show, or if you want to study for a class.
Either way, don’t expect perfect friends that will hit all your “perfect friend” ideals. The magical list is one that doesn’t exist, and the best of friends are those you just love unconditionally.
3. Friends Can Be Annoying (Yes Even Your Best Friend)
This one was a pretty funny realization. This ties in with the “there are no perfect friends” idea. In high school I thought if a friend was annoying, they couldn’t possibly be a good friend. Good friends are not supposed to annoy you! You’re supposed to be on good terms all the time!
In college, since I’ve learned friends can and will be annoying! You won’t get along all the time, and avoiding conflict or bickering doesn’t make a strong friendship. It’s okay to squabble over some things! The important part is whether or not you communicate what’s bothering you. Usually the arguments friends get into are pretty small, and silly. So after a nice chat everything’s back to normal.
4. Our Friends Have Their Own Lives
As much as you would like their attention at that time, your budding adults, deal with it. They’ve also got people to see, places to go, things to do!
The perfect friend is supposed to be there ALL THE TIME! This is absolutely false. As you enter college, there will be such a hectic workload. Classes, jobs, extracurriculars, familial relationships, and other issues will be on everybody’s plate. It’s hard to balance all that sometimes.
Sometimes, you’re going to want to hang out and have fun with your friends, but maybe they’ll be dealing with something important. Or maybe you’ll want to talk about your feelings but your friend is not in the right mental headspace for it.
You have to realize that your friends have their own lives and issues to deal with, and be respectful of that. This doesn’t mean that they have a right to always ignore you because they have their own issues, it just means you have to be mindful of their time and circumstances.
Don’t expect to have their time and attention 24/7, no human being is capable of supplying you with constant attention.
In college, I made the mistake of being angry with a friend when she wouldn’t hang out with me but made time for other friends. I realized, I wasn’t very respectful with her time and would demand to hang out during times that were hard for her, and I never worked around her schedule. It sounds like common sense, but sometimes it’s hard to realize when your in the situation itself.
Friends have hectic lives too!
5. Have You Asked Yourself if You’re the “Toxic Friend” Yet?
Did you friend change…or did you change? You can definitely be the toxic one.
During college, I was terrible with some friends. I would drop them and cut them off if they didn’t meet one of my standards. If they did one thing wrong, I would be shocked and ghost them, cut them off.
It was a sign of emotional insecurity, and immaturity. I didn’t know how to maintain healthy relationships once conflict would rise. For some reason, I thought it was only my friend’s fault. Then I realized…I was the one cutting people off. I was the one who was refusing to deal with the challenges and issues that came up.
Don’t get me wrong, some friends were quite toxic and unhealthy to be around, but sometimes you just need to look within yourself and see if you’re the one with issues.
Friendship is a two-way street. Ask yourself why you’re reacting the way you are, and if you need to sort things out with yourself so you can mend and form healthy relationships in the future.
Why is there this need for someone else in a podcast, youtube video, or self-help book to motivate us, to validate our worth, and how long will I be seeking self-improvement content?
Then I realized the ratio of how much we’re talking down to ourselves, vs. the ratio of positive motivation we get from self-help. The ratio of mental negativity to what I hear outside of myself is pretty large.
If I have spent years talking to myself negatively, convincing myself I am not capable, or worthy, or beautiful, it’s going to take way more than a couple self-help books and powerful speeches to get used to the idea. The reminders will have to be consistent, the reminders that I am awesome will have to be something I hear daily.
Every hour our moods change. One moment you can be on cloud 9 ready to tackle your next project, and the next hour you can be berating yourself for not understanding the next step in your project.
Our brains go from “I’m a magical beast that can accomplish anything in this world! I am kind, compassionate, intelligent, and NOT lazy!” to “You’re so stupid!! You can’t even get this done! It’s because you’re too lazy to learn!”
Since we’re are our own worst critics, it’s comforting to hear someone who is not us to say, “hey! You’re human, you make mistakes, but you can also thrive and reach your goals!”.
Sometimes we have trust issues with ourselves, so we don’t believe it when we try to send positive messages to ourselves.
We need that detached perspective, we need other people who seem to have felt the same way we did but are on better paths to reassure us that things will get better.
If a successful business woman is saying that she also felt lost and was anxious about her life, but she’s where she’s at in the moment, there’s more credibility in her message in our minds. When we say it, there is still some uncertainty.
So although we are slowly learning how to love ourselves, and trust ourselves, it will be a long journey. We look for others for comfort, for relatability.
There’s definitely nothing wrong with seeking self-improvement content. There’s nothing wrong with trying to improve yourself. Just make sure you’re not too pressured to change overnight, as the process will be long. With this new wave of lifestyle and self-improvement content, there can be this frustration with hwo slow results can be.