By now we’ve all probably heard the idea that our friends are a reflection of who we are. Whether we’ve heard how “birds of a feather flock together” or TLC’s old hit “What About Your Friends” – we’ve learned that friends come in many different varieties.
We’ve also learned that while some people are invaluable to our lives, others just aren’t good friends.
Navigating the highways and byways of friendship can be difficult, so we want to discuss how having healthy friendships play a role in maintaining a happy lifestyle.
“Are they gonna be low down?” – Some people just aren’t good friends.
If a person is negative, how is that a reflection of you? Can friendships that don’t last still be positive?
We’ve all been there, so let’s first discuss what not-so-positive friendships look like and how we can grow when in them and/or leave them. We believe that you have a choice of whether to stay in a friendship just like any other relationship. Of course making that type of decision requires a lot of self-evaluation. Any time you notice that something isn’t right in your friendship, you might consider looking inside yourself to find pieces of the problem. And once you identify the problem, give yourself permission to grow. Be a better friend and a better you.
Aisha’s Story: When I first moved to Pittsburgh, I quickly became friends with the woman who lived below me in my apartment building. We hung out almost every day and things went pretty well until she started acting weird. She was always a more pessimistic person, and at first her negativity seemed quirky, until it started to wear on me. It started off small. Then she began making negative comments about the people in my graduate program and how they made her feel inferior, and it continued to grow as she began binge drinking most nights of the week. Sadly, I kept hoping she was just going through a phase. I invited her to San Diego with me for spring break and she showed out! This girl was outright rude to my sister (who we were staying with) and me the whole time. She told me at one point that most of the new friends she was making were racists. By that point of the trip I was exhausted. Luckily, she decided to leave one morning; she had her flight moved up and also had a town car take her to the airport. When I got back to Pittsburgh she didn’t want to speak to me, and I was OK with that. That trip helped to end things swiftly. I’m glad I got out of that situation when I did. It was surely going downhill.
Simone’s Story: The last time I saw Francheska in person, she had short brown hair and a sad face. I wondered what made her think she had to be so sad all the time, because when she was happy she told me how much she enjoyed smiling. But, I knew what made Francheska sad; she thought that the man she was seeing owed her love. She had given him so much and he hadn’t noticed.
I know these things, not because Francheska told me, but because I experienced them, too. The idea that we attract what we are is a true statement. When you notice something in someone else it is because it may be a familiar pattern/experience in your own life. Our relationships are reflections of ourselves. However, I didn’t realize this connection while Francheska and I were best friends. I thought I was there only to help her, not myself as well. At times, I felt overwhelmed with her problems. She would call me at six o’clock in the morning, and though I did not hesitate to answer her calls, her sadness became a part of my life. I became sad when I talked to her. When we were together, I would frown so that we looked the same. When carrying her became too much, I talked to my Godmother and told her that I needed a break from Francheska because I hated the negativity—how it bounced between us and settled into me. My Godmother told me that it was probably best that I keep my distance for a while. However, each time I took a break from Francheska, she would find me and I’d be listening to her again. I had no idea that I was listening to myself.
Yes, you attract what you are. The same time Francheska and I were best friends, I was also seeing a man who I thought owed me love. I would become angry if he did not return my calls, because I returned his calls. I didn’t talk to Francheska about it too much, but the sadness was there and it came out when she opened her mouth; she was telling me that I was sad, too.
It wasn’t until this past summer that I realized the lesson that my former best friend was there to teach me: “Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.” Francheska showed me my own internal struggles and also taught me that I can choose to be happy.
I am very thankful for her. I am also very glad that I realized I deserve to surround myself with happy, positive energy. I did not sit down and tell Francheska that our friendship needed to end or that something needed to change. She sort of went her own direction, and she occasionally drifts back into my life. It is when I recognize her sadness on the other end of the telephone that I acknowledge that I need more moments with myself. However, when I hang up the phone, I leave the sadness with her and remember the power I have to choose happiness.
“Will they stand their ground?” Positive Friendships
Just what is a good friend? How do you know when someone is a good friend?
Aisha: I’m really close with my family. My mom, sister, and brother are all like close friends. When I think of a best friend, I think of people outside of my family who provide me with the same kind of support and love that my family does.
With that said, I met my best friend Asheley in my 8th grade health class. I sat down next to her and asked if she wanted to be friends. She kindly told me, “you’re weird,” to which I agreed, and we’ve been best friends ever since. Asheley and I have only ever had one argument (because she thought I didn’t call her early enough in the morning on her 16th birthday). I think that we have managed to make our friendship last so long because we really have a deep understanding and respect for each other as individuals with different personalities.
Asheley has always accepted me just as I am. Once a group of our friends was giving me a hard time for using a “big word” and she jumped to my defense saying, “That’s just how Isha talks! She thinks in big words!” Over the last 12 years Asheley has become a part of my family. We laugh and cry together. She pushes me to be a better person and is always there to bring me back down to earth if I stray too far. I’ve watched her grow from the girl who I split 10 dollars of junk food from the corner store with into a strong single-mother who loves her son fiercely and works every day to make their life better.
Aside from Asheley, I have a lot of other sister-friends who make my life better just by them being in it:
Support System. Simone and Starla are my support system through our group chats. If I need advice on men, fashion, food, or just want to share pictures of our pets, they are there.
Inspiration. Belinda and Cherrell, I adore greatly. They can make anything happen (they basically make all of their dreams come true) and emanate good energy that is contagious!
Strong Connection. Chrysten, Taylor, and Tera are my long-distance sister-friends. Since we’ve all left college we live far away but have worked on keeping in contact actively.
Positive Reinforcement. Lastly, the fabulous women I’ve made friends with in my graduate cohort, Liz and Hillary, have really gotten me through the last year and a half. I don’t think I could have survived this transition into a PhD program without them. We pull all-night study sessions, text, and e-mail each other all day long, and we also talk one another off numerous academic cliffs.
I love all of my friends, and maintaining friendships is at the top of my priority list.
Simone: I tell people all the time that my younger sister, Brittani, is my soul mate. We have such a strong connection—something I can’t explain here. It makes me so happy that I can call her my sister and best friend. Although she is only twenty-one, she is so wise and tells me what I need to hear. I just love my little button-bear-cupcake-sweet! We talk to each other about everything. And when I say everything, I mean there are things I’ve told her that she can’t repeat to God.
In addition to Brittani, I have so many people in my life that make it wonderful:
Good Advice. My group chats with Starla and Aisha help me through the day. We are always laughing and giving one another advice about school, men, and wine.
Spiritual Network. Kenton and Goyland are my friends in prayer. I met these two when I moved to Kansas, and though this was just last year, I can’t imagine my life without our late night runs to Sonic and our prayer/talk/laugh sessions before Scandal.
Happiness. Lanisha is always so happy and never hesitates to share her happiness with me.
Commonalities. Funmi is my Scorpio sister! Our iMessages are basically screenshots of our daily horoscopes and a back and forth of “Girl, this is sooooo true!”
Love. Yewande, my Coffee Pot, is a big-hearted fashionista who keeps me laughing with statements like, “Simone! I look like death warmed over. You can’t see me like this!”
So, what makes a positive friendship?
- Being supportive: Support your friends no matter the cause. Okay, we’re going to limit the cause when it comes to twerking and dancing on tables. But, be sure you are supporting the dreams and goals that keep your friends happy and healthy!
- Honesty: If something is bothering you, tell your friend. This includes anything that has to do with the friendship, as well as things that you are dealing with emotionally.
- Respect: Well, you all know what this looks like. Treat your friends how you want to be treated.
- Constructive Criticism: Friendships help you grow. Don’t be afraid to offer advice. We are all working on creating ourselves, and we know that we need advice and suggestions from friends in addition to the conversations we have with ourselves. Additionally, our friends can teach us something about ourselves, so be open to hearing what they have to say.
- Openness: This includes honesty as well as the willingness to share and try new things. Have fun with your friends! What’s the point of having someone as a friend if you can’t share or do crazy things with each other?!
What does a positive friendship look like to you? Let us know!
Aisha Upton is a second-year PhD student at the University of Pittsburgh, studying Sociology and Women’s Studies. Her research interests include Black women in service organizations and violence against Black women. She is passionate about many things including community service, lipstick, baking, thrifting, knitting, and being a proud owner of a Cockapoo, Napoleon. At the intersection of being a diligent student, a fashionista, and an activist – you will find Aisha, attempting to find a balance. Be sure to read Aisha + Simone’s unique take on Life + Style and the importance of letting who you are shine through when defining your personal style.
Simone Savannah is an English instructor and contributing writer for the Project on the History of Black Writing at the University of Kansas. She is currently pursuing a PhD in English-Creative Writing and Women, Gender, & Sexuality Studies. Her poetry is based on personal experiences she can’t let go—imagined or otherwise. Simone also enjoys making green smoothies, attending Bikram Yoga classes, and laughing uncontrollably. Simone is teaming with Aisha (read about her below) to bring you a unique take on Life + Style.