Black women value their friendship tremendously and for good reason. Our bond as sisters can often save us, be safe spaces for growth, vulnerability, and overall just a place to feel love. It is a truth that can be felt even when you look at Black films and shows, where subject matter is often centered around relationships between Black women. In short, we are what keeps each other going. But we can also feel trapped by our friendships, uneasy at what to do when we feel ourselves outgrowing a relationship, or wondering if as Gabrielle Union said, "Your day ones have been hating since day one."
Because there are many levels to friendship, it's essential to decide how to navigate your friend circle and access what friend works in what place in your life. Therapy has allowed me to realize that there are circles and layers to myself, and the same should go for my friend circles. And when discussing self-care, learning to decipher what a friend is, and how they differ from associates, can genuinely help you.
Consider these questions when assessing your friend circle:
Who do I feel safe around?
I've learned that with friendships how I go into them directly correlates with how I feel while hanging out with them. If anything in me says that I don't feel comfortable sharing things with you, or if it's not an environment where my full self can be present, then that tells me that I need to have a conversation with you, and if that isn't successful, then you need to be removed from my immediate friend circle altogether.
Who has proven to be considerate of me in my high and low moments?
It's easy to show up for your friends when they're successful and happy in their lives, but what about when they're battling depression, or grieving the loss of a loved one or a relationship? Realizing which friends can hold space for you and who you, in turn, can do the same for, regardless of your life and its pivotal moments, can show you who is there for the long haul. It can also makes celebrating wins with them even more special. Joy can be deeply felt when you feel cherished in your friendships, not just when things are good and the other person is directly benefitting from something you have to offer, but also when you're down and in need of taking off your superwoman cape.
How does this friendship navigate time where we don’t speak?
To determine if you're in a high-maintenance friendship or low-maintenance friendship, you need to ask yourself if this friend gets upset when you go days or weeks without speaking? Do they require you to be present for every moment of their lives? As Scottie Beam said on her newest podcast Okay, Now Listen, "There are several layers to your friend." Some friends can go months without talking to each other, see one another, chat and feel like nothing has changed. Whereas other friends might require weekly check-ins to play catch-up in order to feel connected. Establish what you're willing to give and what you expect to receive, make sure that they are in alignment, and take the relationship from there.
How do I feel when I leave this friend?
I ask myself much more now, and I keep this thought with me after I leave events, restaurants, etc. How do I feel? Did I walk away lighter and encouraged to spend more time with them? Do I feel grateful to have experienced their presence? Or, did I walk away feeling like maybe I shared things I regret or an overall feeling of having outgrown the friendship? The answer to those questions will tell you where to place this friendship in your life, if anywhere at all.
Because our friendships are often so much of where we learn how to exist in relationships, we can overlook moments where our boundaries are crossed, cross boundaries with others, or how we feel about our future goals and where our friendship aligns with that. It's never easy to find yourself having deep care and love for someone and not wanting to be around them as often as you have before.
If you find that the friendship is no longer serving you, it might be time to step away from the friendship altogether so that you can make room for the new relationships that will manifest once you make those hard decisions that will benefit you long-term.
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