The Importance Of Having Supportive Friendships
The relationships we have in our lives help form who we are as a person. Who we surround ourselves with speaks mountains about us—and to us. Our friends represent who we wish to become, who we identify with, and who we care about. It's very common, though, for us to get involved in friendships that are not beneficial or perhaps even healthy for us. Some people will call themselves your friend, but they can be detrimental to you. When you find true friendship, however, it just feels right. They are there for you to lean on and vice versa. True, supportive friends become family.
What Is A Toxic Friendship?
There are times where it is necessary for friends to go their separate ways; sometimes friendships become so consuming that they begin to affect our lives negatively. When friends let you down constantly, these friendships are referred to as toxic.
In toxic friendships, this friend turns all the time and attention to themselves. They leave very little room for your needs. They may make you feel as though there is something wrong with you and suggest that you change who you are. They may make you feel like you're waiting for a ticking time-bomb to go off at any moment. These friendships sap away at your energy and emotions, and it's important to get out of them as soon as you can. It will not be easy, but with the support of other friends, family, or a therapist, it can be made easier.
What Is A Casual Friendship?
Those friends that you see from time to time or randomly are what you would call casual friends. You don't have dinner with them every Friday night or chat with them on the phone daily, but they are people you like to hang out with now and then. They are fun, and you always have a good time when you are with them. Though you may not rely on them for life's tribulations, if your conversations have always revolved around having fun and not going too deep, these friends are healthy and important to have. You know that when you go out with them, you're going to have a good time and you will not be stressed.
What Are The Characteristics Of A Supportive Friend?
Usually, the most supportive friends are those that start in the casual friend category, then, over time, the friendship grows and deepens. One of the qualities of a good friend is someone who understands who you are and what you need. You will quickly learn that they will stand with you through thick and thin. Even if you fight, that isn't going to hold you two back from a healthy friendship. Instead, you will both learn and grow from your fight and come out stronger from it. Even on your worst days, a supportive friend will be there for you.
This type of friend may not always agree with your decisions or opinions, but they care deeply for you. They will stand up for you to anyone that may try to cross or hurt you. They are loyal and trustworthy. You will not need to question where you stand in your friendship with them, as they will remind you frequently with their actions just how important you are to them. A supportive friend is the most important kind of friend to go through life with. Whether you live near each other or are thousands of miles apart, a truly supportive friendship will feel reliable and overall just good, with both of you knowing that you are appreciated, validated, and loved by the other whether you talk often or not.
Why Is A Supportive Friend So Important?
Many times in life, we feel as though we can get through a stressful situation if only we have someone to go through it with. A supportive friend is always there for you and is willing to walk through that burning building along with you. This isn't to say that they are going to follow you wherever you go blindly. They can, and will, help you by identifying the pros and cons of a decision you're about to make, or they may tell you they don’t agree with what you’re doing. But they will also do their best to stand by you after you make whichever decision it is that you make. They're not judgmental, and they do not have an ulterior motive in showing that they care for you. They’re just genuine.
What If I Have No Friends?
Sometimes it's hard to identify who our true friends are, especially when we're going through stressful situations. It's easy to feel alone in a very big world if you can't identify another person to go through life with. However, to start, sit down and write down people you know. Write down co-workers, fellow churchgoers, moms of your children's friends, neighbors, schoolmates, etc. Then, sort them out.
Are there any who are toxic to be around? We all know the gossip mom on the ballfield or the troublemaker at work; cross them out. You don't want to draw toxic energy into your life. Then, think of anyone whom you have done something socially with. Have you gone to a work happy hour? Has there been a parents’ sports night? Do you attend a church group? Cross out everyone else on the list if you have not talked with them outside of the assigned activity that you know them from.
Then, try to think of who you have divulged some personal background details to. In speaking about yourself or your family, you have obviously felt comfortable enough with them to do so, and that means something. Those whom you have hung out with the outside of the aforementioned activities (whatever those may be in your case) can be considered casual friends. Those whom you began speaking about your personal life with have the potential to become supportive friends. You can build upon those budding friendships by fostering them. Like plants, friendships need to be watered. You can do this by reaching out to the person, seeing how they are doing, and finding out if they'd like to do something together. If it sounds a lot like dating, it sure is! It might feel strange at first, but even the best friendships can feel a little awkward at the beginning!
Nice Try, But I'm All Alone
As much as it may feel that you are alone, no one is alone in this world. There are so many people in this world, and though it can seem daunting, there is greater potential than ever with technology to be able to rekindle old friendships and create new ones. Consider reaching out to an online therapist, such as those available through BetterHelp. At BetterHelp, thousands of licensed online therapists are available to speak with you. They may not be a friend per se, but they are supportive and can help you navigate into supportive friendships and maintain the ones that you have (but may have lost sight of).
Online therapy has been found to be just as effective as face-to-face therapy in treating a plethora of conditions, including anxiety and depression—both things that you may experience if you don’t feel as though you have a supportive friend system. In fact, a study conducted by the University of Zurich found online therapy to be more effective than in-person therapy; 57% of online clients continued making significant progress even three months after treatment ended, as opposed to only 42% using traditional therapy.
Additionally, sessions are fully customizable and can be conducted via phone call, instant messaging/texting within the app, video chat, or live voice recording. Instant messaging in the app affords the ability to chat to your therapist as you have time, whether during a scheduled session time or not. They can make suggestions on how to get out of toxic friendships you may be in and how to replace them with more supportive and trustworthy friendships.
Supportive Relationships Are Key To Your Health
Surrounding yourself with supportive and caring people will foster your own success, happiness, and self-realization. You will have the peace of mind that if you take a risk in life and you fail, your friends will not laugh at you or criticize you, but rather pick you up and help you to get ready to try again.
They will be your biggest cheerleaders and your biggest fans. They will stand by you through thick and thin and be the strongest support system that you possibly can have. Hang onto those supportive ones and be sure to return the favor to them. As important as having supportive friends are to one's success and overall health, so is being a supportive friend to them in return.