How To Still Be A Good Friend...When You're Totally Tapped Out

How do you hold your friends down when you are worn all the way out?

What About Your Friends?

Friendships are a responsibility. If you don't take anything else away from this article, please try and retain that lil' gem because, I was well into my 30s before I truly did. And with responsibilities, there sometimes comes the need to push through our immediate feelings or situations, in order to handle things in a mature and beneficial way. That's one of the reasons why I wrote the article, "Life Taught Me That True Friendships Are 'Inconvenient'". There have been so many times in my life when a friend has needed me when it wasn't the best time for me personally and vice versa. Still, we were there for each other because, well, that's what real friends do.

Yet what do you do when the moments arise when you feel totally drained, your friends still need you and, while it's totally nothing personal, you feel like you wanna just…vanish for a while? How can you find the balance between still being a good friend and taking care of you too?

2020 has been taxing AF for so many of us. No question. If you want to figure out how to personally maintain without sabotaging your friendships in the process, I've got a few tips that have helped me and my friendships to stay afloat.

Figure Out the Source of Your Exhaustion


The die-hard Love & Basketball fans will remember the scene when Quincy came home to see his mom sad and saying, "I am tired." It was an all-encompassing tired. The kind when the source of your stress has you so worn out and spent that you don't know if you need a bottle of wine, two days of uninterrupted sleep, to sit on someone's therapy couch or—all three.

A part of the motive behind the article, "You're Tired AF. But What Kind Of Rest Do You Need?" is because "tired" is a pretty layered word and, it really isn't until you get down to the very source of what is wearing you out that you can get replenished so that you can give out of your surplus rather than out of your lack. So, if your friends are reaching out to you right now yet, in spite of how much you love and care about them, you really don't want to be bothered because you don't have a whole lot to give, spend some quiet time meditating, journaling or just chilling out and reflecting on what could be causing you to feel the way that you do. The sooner you get to the answer, the sooner you can find a solution that will help to revive you again.

Then Figure Out If There’s a Specific Friend Who’s Draining You


OK, so when it comes to figuring out what could be the root of your tapped-out-ness, be honest—is it actually one of your friends? Man, although there's a fair share of articles out in the world that touch on the topic of high-maintenance partners, there aren't nearly enough that get into how to navigate around a high-maintenance friend. You know the type—they've always got a crisis and/or always want advice even though they never take it and/or they always seem to have a ton of more expectations about what you should be giving them than what they should be offering you.

I once had a friend like this (a few actually, over the course of my life). What I came to realize is, because I was putting so much into their emotional vampire-like ways, I oftentimes didn't have enough for me or for my other friends. As a result, a lot of my other relationships suffered. Moral to the story? Once I started to draw boundaries with that particular individual, I began to have a lot more energy and I was able to balance my relationships so much more effectively.

Listen, sometimes the high-maintenance friend has enough good qualities that you don't want to totally cut them out of your life (or, as I prefer to do it these days, release them). Yet if the reason why you feel so tapped out keeps coming back to one specific person, it is definitely time to set some limits—for your sake and so that your other friendships don't get "penalized" due to what one person is doing. Or not doing.

Share How You’re Feeling—Without Any Guilt from Doing So


I am all about taking out friendship inventory. It's when you and a friend are intentional about discussing where your friendship stands at any given moment, so that you both can determine if there are any needs that are going unmet. Just recently, a dear friend of mine and I had one of these. She's the type of person who tries to find the upswing of bad circumstances which is good; it means that she's a positive individual. However, sometimes her timing sucks. What I mean by that is, I could be sharing something that happened that really hurt me and when she comes with her "silver linings", sometimes that comes off as flippant rather than sympathetic.

When I brought all of this to her attention, her feelings were hurt. When I responded with, "Since we are friends, I trust you to say whatever you want without walking on eggshells. At the same time, you've got to accept that I don't always have to like what you say or agree either." When I expressed where I was coming from in that way, she totally got it. We both agreed that having that conversation would definitely help us to communicate more effectively with one another in the future.

For better or for worse, I've got a couple of friends who, when they are worn out, upset or frustrated (whether it's with me, another friend or due to some other reason), rather than sharing that, they get ghost. All that does is cause me to worry about them and try and seek them out when, if they had simply called or even shot an email to say, "I need some time", I'd be less concerned and they would automatically get the space that they need.

Personally, I think one of the biggest mistakes in relationships is that so many folks expect others to be mind readers. In order for any kind of relationship to be healthy, people need to share their feelings and feel totally safe, comfortable, loved and accepted while doing so. If you love your friends yet, for whatever the reason, you need a minute, tell them that. Only a bad friend would try and make you feel guilty or penalize you for sharing where you are coming from. And if someone isn't serving you well…well.

Ask Your Friends What They Need. Then Negotiate.


Not too long ago, a married friend told me that she heard someone say that they don't like to use the word "negotiate" when it comes to marriage because it means that someone ends up "winning" at the end of the negotiation and that shouldn't be the goal. I really do strive to be as word specific as possible and so, since I know that definitions of negotiate include ones like "to arrange for or bring about by discussion and settlement of terms" and "to move through, around, or over in a satisfactory manner", I personally like the word "negotiate" a lot. At the end of the day, it's all about compromising and, for relationships to remain healthy and functional, compromising needs to happen—often.

That said, when you know that you're in a season when you'd like to focus more on self than others, a way to remain a good friend in the process is to ask what your friends need from you during that time. Share with them where you're at, both mentally and emotionally, and then try and figure out where the two of you can meet in the middle.

For instance, if you've got the kind of friend who needs a lot of quality time, to the point where you can rarely get off of the phone with them in under an hour, let them know that you're still available for emergencies but a half-hour chat, a couple of times a week (maybe even once a week), is all you can do right now. Again, if they're a good friend, they're gonna recognize how you prioritizing them at all means that you value the relationship, so they'll be thankful and back off a bit. Besides, if you are the only person who they can rely on—and more importantly, if they don't know how to do an adult-level of self-soothing—there is some imbalance in your friendship, anyway. Right?

“Love Language” Your Friendships


If you haven't already read it, one article that I encourage you to check out on this platform is, "This Is How To Apply Love Languages To Your Friendships". By knowing if your friends feel most loved by words of affirmation, physical touch, acts of service, quality time or gifts—that can also help you to figure out how to still be available to them, when you're tapped even, just on a less active level. For instance, if you've got a friend whose primary love language is words of affirmation, while you might not feel up to phone conversations at the moment, sending them a Hallmark card or shooting a text about how much you appreciate them will speak volumes in their life. Or, if you've got a friend whose primary love language is acts of service and you know that they've got a big project coming up, sending them something that can make completing the project easier would probably really make them feel seen and appreciated.

It's been my experience that, a lot of people can handle their friends not being as available as they usually are, so long as they still feel connected to their friends on some level. There are all kinds of ways to let your peeps know that you "got them" without you having to further exhaust yourself in the process. You just need a little quiet time and creativity to figure it all out.

Don’t Force What Isn’t There


Even with all that I just said, sometimes "it's" (the time, effort, energy or even interest) just not in you, no matter how much you wish that it were. This is when your friends need to show up and reveal how much they've got your back. I remember back when I went through my last heartbreak, one of my closest friends literally sat on the phone with me while I cried, pretty much all day long. Not only that but she had food delivered to my home—and she lives in another state. She's married, with kids and has a really booming career, so best believe that all of that was a sacrifice. Matter of fact, she actually had some things going on at the time that she needed to discuss. Still, she put things on the back burner to help me through.

And you know what? If you're so tapped out that you need a little help, your true friends will see that, put their needs (from you) on the side, for a season, as well. Because another beautiful thing about friendship is, when two people are good friends to each other, they both are willing to make sacrifices to help one another out.

We all have moments when we're simply spent. Communicate. Compromise. And allow your friends to be a friend to you when they've got more in them at the time than you do. If everyone lived by this rule, friendships would remain intact. Even during the "Girl, I'm just so tired" seasons of life.

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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