Friendships can bring out the best in us but can sometimes weaken our resolve to live with dignity and clarity. A friend is like a family member who we have chosen for ourselves. Friends hold our secrets, see us at our most embarrassing and vulnerable moments. Quality friends also teach us the value of loyalty and show us our own strength.
While some friendships can help you grow as a person, some knock you around and are simply not worth holding on to. Many friendships are nothing more than the recruitment of pastime companions in a mission to beat boredom. So many friendships are also merely location based alliances that exist as a way to 'find something different to do' that isn't work. Some friendships also function as fronts to bolster one's social image since it may feel good to be 'seen as someone cool enough' to hang out with. Some friendships may also be little more than activity based gatherings that may devolve into largely vacuous and routine self-congratulatory exercises aimed at mutual usage. A mutual scratching of backs may ensue.
Also Read: 3 Ways To Not Be An Insecure Friend
To know where a significant friendship in your life stands, here are 5 signs to look out for.
1) The one who doesn't discredit you
Sustainable friendships are based on foundations of mutual respect. A good friend doesn't take pleasure in turning your life & choices into a 'joke' or 'punchline'. Human beings are prone to patterns & are often seen making mistakes. Even the greatest minds of our generation couldn't escape a few bad choices as they tried & figured their way through life. A friend who uses every opportunity to remind you of your mistakes by rubbing it in your face or who enjoys making you feel like 'a fool' in front of others is a friend who's probably not very good for your self-esteem.
Such a friend would take special efforts to embarrass, expose or strike out at you while letting others know that you're incapable of 'getting things right' & 'that you need fixing'. This is a PR crisis waiting to happen as you are responsible for the image you project to the world if you wish to be successful & seen as reliable.
2) The one who is honest
A lot of people may call themselves our friends if they hang out with us. Such people are keen to fulfil their needs at having 'something interesting to do' or 'have someone to give them company' or 'listen in to them'. However, you must value the presence of a friend who takes a special interest in helping you learn about life, take up a new skill, get over a bad habit, hone a craft, someone who helps you know interesting people, adapt to a new place, figure out an industry or gets you to partake in a unique life experience.
Such friends aren't just warm bodies who populate the house party scene & pose in photos with you. These are people who see you as valuable & want to help you upgrade the quality of your life. Never ignore the presence of such friends.
Their honesty & earnestness will give you the courage to explore several dimensions to your personality & live a fuller life.
3) The one who doesn't divide and rule your life
Friendships may get possessive. Such friendships are usually based on the immature & testy constructs of 'ownership' over people's emotions & time. This is unsustainable & can feel stifling. Friends who try & have you 'all to themselves' or who try to bulldoze their agendas on you can lead to a lot of fatigue & frustration in you. Friends who merely want to transform you into a companion piece in their grand master plans for their own lives, are likely to want to create divisions between you & significant others & find ways to direct & control you as much as they can. As a human being with emotions & a journey that you'd like to attend to with earnestness, you're likely to feel coaxed & hoaxed into situations that may not agree with you in the long run if you become a 'yes man' to a friend who's trying to boss & toss you around based on their whims & fancies.
4) The one who gives you space
Everyone could benefit from some privacy & me time. A good friend will understand your need to re-calibrate & just gather yourself or spend some time to reflect on the day. Friendships need to be realistic & based on the understanding that everyone has good days & bad days. Adversity & pain visits everyone at some point in their journeys. A good friend will realise that there are certain moments where you need to 'be by yourself' & get a fix on certain matters without the interference or forced counsel of someone else. A good friend respects your needs & doesn't attempt to rescue you when no rescuing is in fact needed.
5) The one who isn't a leech
In some friendships, one may observe that there is a role of a 'taker' & a 'giver. This makes an unfair & lopsided dynamic between people. A friend who sees you as a person & not as a gift voucher or discount coupon is ideal. Some friends overdraw on their friends' resources by manufacturing a crisis so that their friend gives them attention. They are constantly expecting their friends emotional, financial, physical & intellectual resources to be available 'on tap' to them without any sensitivity to their friend's life, mood, values & schedule.
Such friends can be termed as pile-ons who don't know when is the appropriate time to take a few steps back. These are the friends who always need money, time, solutions & attention. A friendship is based on the concept of reciprocity & if one friend is over-reaching or tiring out another friend, then it's time to assess if such a friendship is adding value or merely adding fatigue.
As you hold on to friendships, know that a good friendship can hold you through some pretty dark times. However, as our choices continue to define us, friendship is one such choice that can open our eyes or bother our minds based on who we've let into our life. As with most things of value worth holding on to, a thorough vetting process is a good idea indeed.
Aman Bhonsle is a Psychosocial Analyst and Youth Mentor at the Heart to Heart Counselling Centre, Mumbai, and has been working with the youth for eight years.