This past year has been one of the hardest years of my life. I had a ton going on emotionally, I went through some unexpected life changes that left me reeling, parenting was beyond challenging, and I felt in over my head constantly. During that season I had nothing left to give and I realized something: I had never learned to love myself outside of what I did for others.
Since middle school, I’ve prided myself on being a giver and not needing much back. I was amazing at loving people at their worst and at their best with no judgment. I was quick to sacrifice. I did all the initiating and planning things for us to do. I’d drop everything for friends who needed me. I’d give constantly of my time, energy, and money. I strived to be “the best possible friend” (and I was a really, really, good friend). The thing was, I never really expected that in return. I always felt like “I’m fine, my life isn’t hard and I can be that for others”.
But then everything changed and I needed people to show up for me at my worst. I had no energy anymore to play the “I’m fine” game and I needed back what I had given. Because of that, this year I have learned so much about friendship, more than in any other stage of my life.
Because I “couldn’t” anymore I left space to find out what my friendships were really made of. I am beyond grateful for the few who have shown up for me and shown me the true definition of friendship. They showed me what it feels like to be on the receiving end. They showed me what it feels like to be loved well.
Here are a few things they did for me this year that made all the difference in how I see friendship and will forever change the type of friend I want to be:
They didn’t judge the truth when I was open about my life, even major parts I’d kept to myself because I didn’t want to appear “not perfect.” They shared their faults, their shortcomings, their secrets, and normalized my feelings. They affirmed me and let me know I wasn’t alone.
They listened. I mean really listened. They listened with compassion, kindness, encouragement, and affirmation. They would let me talk about myself (something that is hard for me to do) and asked questions to understand better. They prayed with and for me. They exuded love on every level and because of that, I felt safe to share more and more of my feelings and emotions.
They took the lead. They let me rest in the friendship and be taken care of. They took the lead in planning get-togethers. They texted and called. They were constantly checking in and making sure I was okay. Even though they had things they were going through personally, they were amazing friends when I needed it most. They showed up for me exactly how I needed them to.
They were consistent. Some friendships over the last year have been in and out, but I’ve been blessed with a few that have shown up in the most consistent way possible. There hasn’t been a day they didn’t call or text or schedule a time to see each other. This was what I needed above all else.
They showed me they loved me for me. This seems simple, but most of us go through life being loved for what we choose to present to others. If they see us as valuable in their lives or we check certain boxes that someone wants in a friendship, they tend to “love” us. This year, I realized who loved me for ME, not for what I provided for them financially or in status but because they truly loved me with no strings attached.
They didn’t have to relate to be my friend. All of my friendships in my adult life have been connected to what we have in common. Are you married? Do you have kids? Do we have a similar faith stance? Do we like the same wine? However, when some of those “checked boxes” changed, these women stayed. They showed me they didn’t have to have all of our lives or views. They embraced my journey to being more authentic, even if it didn’t align with theirs. They loved me for me, and that meant everything. They accept me for who I am and I accept them for who they are—similarities and differences. THAT IS REAL FRIENDSHIP.
I truly never knew the definition of real friendship until this past year. I hated needing others like I did, but I am beyond grateful for how these few women have held me up and walked with me. They allowed me to be completely, authentically myself for the first time. They loved and accepted me, faults and all. There is no greater love you can show another human than showing up for them when it doesn’t benefit you.
Have I been a good friend to these women? Yes. But, in the last year, I had lots of times I couldn’t show up for them. I wasn’t myself and I needed to be cared for more than they did. They showed up consistently, lovingly, in the most non-judgmental way, embracing every lesson I was learning and encouraging me along the way.
I hope to be the kind of friend they have been to me in their hard seasons and share the kind of love they have shown me with others.
I have let go of the crazy pursuit of perfection that I have held tight to my entire life. With that has come freedom to know and love myself outside of pleasing others. I no longer present a perfect little box of my life that looks like what I thought people wanted me to be. I am me. I am not what I do for others, and because of amazing friendships I feel loved like never before.
Yes, it’s rare in a very self-centered world, but if you can find one or two women like this, hold them close, they are diamonds in the rough.