How To Maintain Healthy Friendships
7.27.12

ONLY.  That word.  The dreaded “only.”  The one word that takes sage advice and turns it into a harsh ultimatum.

Only surround yourself with people who enhance your life,”  your mother tells you in a moment of parental guidance.  And you automatically equate the word “only” with an extravagant massacre of social ties.  Taking every person who does not share your exact world view and barring them from your existence.  With a grandiose gesture and a Braveheart battle cry, you cut the ropes in one fell swoop and create a firestorm of burnt bridges, riding off into the distance towards the rising sun and cheering crowd.

Yeah.  It’s kinda like that.

I have no shame in admitting that I am a recovering people-pleaser – “only” was just not a word in my vocabulary.  I always wanted to be close buds with EVERYONE, wanting to lift the weight off of every shoulder I encountered.  I wanted to form that deep connection to transcend all deep connections.  And in turn, I wanted – no, expected – to receive inspiration.  I wanted everyone to be everything – a red-town-painter and a deep-soul-searcher all rolled into one.

This proved to be pretty darn detrimental, to both my friendships and my own state of happiness.  Some friends, I started to find, rooted their lives in cynicism, loathing, and what-ifs – things I certainly did not value nor bother myself with.  But as I held tight to hope and circumstance, I found myself becoming frustrated with these friends for not living up to my ideal of them.  MY ideal — how twisted is that?  Who am I to say who someone is and how someone should act?  It’s unjust, unfair, and very un-friend-like.

Important side note: I was never judgmental.  Never.  I simply viewed our relationships as closer than they really were.  The actuality of the scenario was not something I wanted to face – that maybe we weren’t best buds after all.  So I fabricated that “special” kind of affinity in my mind.  I was so longing to be loved, I thought the answer was to form deep connections with everyone.  And here’s the thing – ultimately, it’s our job to support and uplift, not untangle and overhaul, the lives of those we care about.  That’s when dissent arises.

Detoxing your social circle is less about weeding out and more about honing in.

Not everyone in our lives is going to be our savior, not everyone is going to be the one to rock our world.  No, not everyone will be the apex of connection and partnership.  And it is foolish of us to seek that out or expect that from everyone with whom we come into contact.  It’s not all-or-nothing.

I came to a realization the other day: all of the people I consider to be my true friends – the people I hang with regularly, the people I would not be surprised to receive a call from at 12:48am about god knows what – truly know me.  They understand who I am as a person and know how I function.  From my healthy eating lifestyle punctuated with random, sometimes regrettable (hello Self Sabotage!), trips to the local fro-yo joint, to the understanding that if I walk into my apartment at 7pm I am pretty much done for the night, to not thinking me “weird” or “boisterous” for busting out rap lyrics and crazy dances and a vocabulary of SAT words dappled in f-bombs – I am consistent in their eyes, and they are the same in mine.  And they provide me with inspiration.  They make me want to do better and be better.

So how do we detox our social circle from the people who are sucking all the energy out of us – without succumbing to the wrath of “only”?

We must ask ourselves: Who inspires me?  Who makes me see the world as one big opportunity for success?  And those are the people towards whom we shift our focus.  No Braveheart reenactment is necessary.  Maintain healthy relationships with everyone, just start to separate the true friends from the “friendly” friends – the people who are a part of the varied and illustrious ensemble of our lives, but aren’t necessarily contenders for “Best Supporting Role.”

Look. It is not anyone’s job to validate us or provide meaning to our existence – however, the people who count will end up doing just that.Keep your wits about you.  Do not, I repeat, do NOT take responsibility for anyone’s happiness but your own, and in turn, recognize that it is no one else’s job to provide you with a sense of worth.  The ones who are truthful and consistent, whose values coincide with yours, will emerge.  And take note: care about many, count on few.  Surround yourself with people who enhance your life in a BIG way, while still keeping your heart open to those who add smaller, nuanced, colorful detail.  Because life is a lot less vibrant without an ensemble.  Because life is pretty dull with just an “only.”

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  1. Wow! Katie, thank you for sharing. This really resonated with me. I love your quote “It is not anyone’s job to validate us or provide meaning to our existence.however, the people who count will end up doing just that.” This is something that a lot of people could relate to and I really appreciate you putting into words, but I feel in my gut. Thank you!

  2. *what I feel in my gut. not “but i feel in my gut”. more coffeeeee pleeeasse

    • Thank you for your amazing comment, Allison! So often all it takes is a few words to clarify abstract feelings and allow you to trust your intuition. Beyond honored this article could be of some assistance. Oh…and I’ll have coffee delivered ASAP! :)

      Katie | 08.30.2012 | Reply
  3. Katie. Freaking. Horwitch.
    You are so insightful and brilliantly telling bold truths in this little article. Speaking as one of your friends, I would like to say that you REFLECT so much joy to all your many friends and acquaintances every single day. I deeply value that…just as I value your articles on TCB mag. Thanks for sharing!!!

    • Those people I mentioned in this article? The ones who enhance and inspire? Thank you for being one of those. Very blessed to have such amazing forces of nature in my life to inspire articles like this one.

      Katie | 08.30.2012 | Reply
  4. Great advice! Absolutely spot on!

  5. You have put into words the thoughts and feelings I have been struggling with for many years, thank you. I am the ultimate people pleaser, putting others needs before my own and those of my family. I have just removed myself from a job that ended up sucking the life out of me for that reason. I have walked away from friendships because I felt I was not receiving the ‘love’ in return and then think about those people daily. Thank you for opening my eyes!

    Jen | 11.28.2012 | Reply
    • Jen, thank you so much for your comment – I loved reading it and hope you know you are not alone in your feelings!

  6. Your words truly resonate with me. I’m kind of amazed that you’ve put into words every feeling and situation I’ve placed myself in! The person that you were describing was/is pretty much me on every level. Right now, I’m at the point in my life where I am trying to find that balance and gather more people who I can count on. Thanks for the great wisdom and for writing this article.

    Caroline | 06.04.2013 | Reply
  7. This article stopped me dead in my tracks. It’s truly inspiring to share what many people secretly have in common- the strong desire for a friend, but not just any friend, a ‘real’ friend. Thank you!

    Natalia | 11.05.2013 | Reply

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