We run different courses during our lives. The cycle that begins with entering primary school, making friends, and growing up with those friends around us is considered a sacred one. We become the people we hang out with, and we pick up the most friends during our times of growth. While growing up, we may not understand entirely that we can choose the people whom we allow to have a say in shaping our personalities. We tend to think that since we’ve known our friends ever since the seventh grade, we must continue to see them, share things with them, or have them participate actively in our lives. Yet, we sense that something along the way has been broken, and our lives have taken distinct turns. And this is the point at which people are using friendship audit, to filter their social lives.
But, What Is the Real Definition of a Friendship Audit?
Conducting a detailed friendship audit means simply removing toxic friends from your life, the ones who don’t add any value to your growth, or who even create barriers to block this process, preventing it from happening. According to a study on Friendship Quality and Social Development, a high-quality friendship is characterized by high levels of prosocial behavior, intimacy, and other positive features, with low levels of conflict, rivalry, and other negative features. Friendship quality has been assumed to have direct effects on one’s social development, including self-esteem and social adjustment. Hence, if your friendship does not contribute to these qualities, you may need to reflect on its quality.
We are constantly, massively encouraged to socialize. Having friends boosts your self-esteem, lifts your mood, and makes life a whole lot easier. But is that always the case? Of course not. As we continue the process of growth, people we knew as best friends when we were 16 can feel like strangers during our twenties. We notice that the values we used to share with those people are no longer the same. We don’t like the same things, we don’t hang out in the same places, and we have chosen different directions in life.
You’re studying Anthropology, and your ‘bff’ is now studying computer engineering. As much as you tell her about the new research you and your study group are conducting on social norms, she will look at you with a dull face, uninterested. A meeting that feels like sort of a task that you have to do takes place and ends with no healthy communication between the two of you.
Letting Go Isn’t Bad
This is where you must realize that you both have changed. This is where people usually have to understand that letting go isn’t all that bad. It just means that you don’t have to share the same principles with people into eternity. The vow of ‘an eternal’ love dates back from the times of romanticism. Poets, authors, and philosophers of that time came to conclusions about human love which, examined from the perspective of post (post) modern times, lack rationality. And yes, you may argue that there is no rationality in love, but there can be a time when that love starts diminishing or fading.
Relationships between people are built upon mutual understanding, leaving enough space for growth without limiting the other or imposing any thoughts. It turns out that there are people who have managed to pull out friendships like that, and indeed stay friends for many years. But we’re not all meant to pursue the same destiny, are we?
So how does one manage this, and will it be easy? How do you eliminate from your life the people who have been a part of it ever since the early days? Here are a few tips for conducting a friendship audit, if that is what you think you need.
Put your well-being first
This is not called being selfish. This is called reflecting for a sufficient period of time, enough to determine that you want to become the best version of yourself that there is. And how are you going to manage to do that, when you keep around people who put out negativity? You have to differentiate the constructive criticism coming from them from the deconstructive version. And gradually disconnect.
Learn to say no
Old patterns are hard to break. Of course, you will sometimes have the urge to continue keeping your old habits, the urge to keep going out with those friends. After all, they were probably part of some of your most important experiences. But bear in mind that you can always politely decline, and head on with other activities that extend your growth. Your time should be way too valuable to spend it with people who bring out the worst in you.
Audit social media friendships
The concept of friendship has such a different meaning nowadays. Communication has mostly moved online, and this has been particularly pronounced the last few months, during the pandemic lockdown. Did you note who checked up on you during these hard days we’ve gone through? If so, keep the ones who did, and start taking some action respecting the “friends” who never bothered. You don’t really need those 545 friends, and nobody else does, either.
The best possible way to let go of toxic relationships is to avoid putting energy into resentment towards the people we’re letting go. You have to take some time to accept the fact. Slowly, that you’re moving on, and not blame yourself for doing so, but certainly not blame other people for being who they are. Keep nourishing the gratitude within you. Thank your friends internally for the good times, and for having a part in the making of your personality.
What we owe ourselves to keep in mind
By all means, when deciding to go through a friendship audit, one should really reflect and do an in-depth introspection, to realize if one is really making the right decision. Sometimes we rush into quick, euphoric life-decisions, which include removing people from our lives, without really understanding properly if they were the problem all along, or if we were.
Take the time to analyze your actions, and to assess how you reacted throughout the whole time that your valuable friendships were in danger. Ask yourself if you have tried to talk things out, if you have been a supportive friend, when your advice and courage was needed. Finding new friends may not be the most difficult thing to do out there; however, building on the quality of those friendships takes time and mutual effort. Before jumping into new social environments, we owe giving a shot at improvement to the ones who know us best. Maybe it’s just a matter of miscommunication, therefore, speaking out clearly about how you feel is crucial to any sort of friendship. Keeping your heart on your sleeve should never scare anyone off!
Photos: Shutterstock / photomontages: Martina Advaney
Read the article on “History of Friendship: From Ancient Times To The XXI Century” here.