What I've learnt about friendships
I recently got back from LA where I completed The Bridge Experience workshop with Alexi Panos and Preston Smiles. One weekend, two mentors, eight coaches and 53 epic souls; I can hand on heart say it changed my life. This year I really started leaning into my intuition, so it was my intuition, impulse, and need to be pushed outside of my comfort zone that led me there. I won't go into too much detail now as it's all still bedding in, but I will say that one of the key takeaways from that weekend was that we are the bridge in all areas of our life. We are the only thing standing in the way between where we are and where we want to be. Not outside influences, not our environment and not the victim story or diminishing beliefs we've created, due to circumstances that have happened to us, at a point in our lives.
I realised that I was living in victim consciousness. I was playing the victim of a broken family, a dad who wasn't around much, school girls who were mean, boyfriends who cheated, a schizophrenic curriculum vitae, and 'life that was just life-ing', as Preston would say. Each time one of these things happened - another emotional wall went up. I kept most of my friends and family at arms length; I wore many masks to avoid the vulnerability hangover from showing emotion. I dated guys that would inevitably say "you're very interesting/unusual" or comment on how closed off I was and then exit stage left. My childhood friends were all marrying and procreating, whilst I busied myself with choosing the next country to escape to. I was the distant but funny and care-free friend who wouldn't have the faintest clue what to do if someone was crying, or in need of advice (which is kind of ridiculous that I'm now on my way to becoming a life coach). As the old maxim goes: 'those who can - do, and those who can't - life coach', or something like that.
It came down on me like a tonne of bricks in LA; this wasn't who I was, it's who I became. A victim to a set of circumstances. And as you can't intervene in a world you can't see, I was bloody glad I was finally seeing it. The thing I had been needing my entire life - connection - was the thing I was starving myself of. From that point on, my desire for connection became stronger than my fear of it.
Since starting on this journey of personal development and self-exploration, I have opened my world up to some incredible connections. My existing friendships have deepened, old friends have resurfaced, and I've met a ridiculous amount of epic humans who I now call friends. Some through industry events, some at a yoga retreat in Bali, some at at this crazy old workshop in LA and some who have just contacted me on social media to ask me out for coffee. At the risk of an overinflated humblebrag, I want to share this because never in my wildest dreams did I think I could attract so many beautiful souls just by flipping a switch and owning my shit.
Earlier this year I made a friend through Instagram, and 5 weeks later I was at her wedding. It's a far cry from two years ago when I actually believed that I couldn't make new friends. I remember crying over the phone to my mum during a bout of situational depression because I was certain if I died there would be nothing to write about in my eulogy and no-one to deliver it.
On a lighter note, and in the spirit of consciousness, here's what I've learnt along the way about friendships:
You can be friends with the opposite sex without assuming that they want to bone you.
When I was 5, my best friend was a boy. We looked like twins, and I'm still not entirely convinced he wasn't my mothers' lovechild. We would build forts in the garage, lay down and just stare at each other, trying to imagine why adults did it so much. At 8, it was par for the course for me to hang out in my friend Sam's spa pool, with him and his buddies. Probably naked. By 15, the majority of the people I spent my time with, were guys. I was going through a skateboarding phase and not surprisingly, most girls my age weren't. It's not to say I didn't have girlfriends, but I just found a real ease hanging with the opposite sex. Girls were becoming far too emotional and period-y at that age and I was still busy identifying as an emotional eunuch.
Somewhere along the way, jacked up on my own ego, I decided that if a guy was even remotely friendly to me he was in love with me, so I would do everything in my power to make life super awkward for both of us. What followed was a very confusing time, many mixed messages, embarrassments, momentary heartache and eventually - shame, for being so high on my own supply. Fun story: about 5 years ago, on a plane trip from London to Portugal I decided that I had feelings for one of my guy friends and needed to tell him the second the plane landed (I was an anxious flyer and thought the plane was going to crash and I'd miss my golden opportunity). I'm not entirely sure why I had decided at 38,000 feet that this was a thing, but it was, and I emailed him right away and he emailed back quite flabbergasted and short story long - the lust was unrequited. I'm actually getting sweaty palms typing this because, as awkward as it was, I think it made me realise that a guy can actually just be nice to you with no amorous intention. It also marked the first time that I had told someone I had feelings for them - a pinnacle point in my life affectionately known as 'the melting of the ice maiden.'
You don't have to say yes to shit you hate.
If your friend Susan calls you up and asks you to go to Zumba and you hate Zumba; you don't have to fucking go. You don't! In my twenties, the people-pleaser in me would accept an invite to something that I really didn't want to do, with people I really didn't want to do it with but I would do it anyway because I hated saying no. I thought that I was a loser because I didn't want to go out and get drunk and have one night stands, when really I had Emetophobia (fear of vomiting) and I was just really frigid and thought AIDS was really catching. After working myself into an anxious spiral, I would ultimately reneg on the invite at the eleventh hour with an excuse about being 'double-booked' whilst burying myself under my duvet in an internal prison of my own shame. It is so much more liberating just saying "thank you for inviting me, but I don't want to do that tonight or ever." Please try it and thank me later.
You don't have to stay friends with people forever.
This year a couple of my friendships have died a natural death, and whilst my ego suffered a little bruising, I now know that everything in my life is happening for me and not to me. All events are neutral and I apply the meaning to them. You are never too old to rewrite your story and make new friends. If you feel like a friendship has run its' course, or you are simply no longer a vibrational match, cut the oxygen supply, thank the universe for the lessons and move on. Clear old energy to allow new energy. (Tip: energy-sucking friends usually have really large eyes).
Whilst I'm not encouraging you to commit Hara-kiri on your friendship group, it is healthy to make new friends in every stage of life. It is said that you are the sum total of the 5 people you spend the most time with, and who you spend time with you become. So it makes sense to choose wisely, but don't think that once you've chosen, that's your only chance. The beauty of life is that every 24 hours, with each sunrise, you get to choose again. Make time to consciously evaluate the decisions you make in your life; food, career, love, shopping, friends - all of it. Once you realise your worth, you'll stop giving people discounts.
Be in love with yourself, first.
Be a light in a world of darkness and your people will find you. You can't expect others to give you what you can't give yourself so make self-love and self-care a priority. If you're not sure how you're showing up as a friend, ask a friend! We were invited to do this exercise at The Bridge Experience workshop and while it was entirely confronting, it was hugely rewarding. Awareness is truly the key to all transformation, and so many of us are unaware of our ineffective patterns. I urge you to become comfortable with the discomfort of giving and receiving feedback.
I'm uncomfortable with the term 'best friend'.
I've decided that the term 'best friend' doesn't really sit well with me. Why should our friends be ranked? They are all in our lives for their own beautiful reason.
It's safe to say I'm on the adventure of a lifetime and this is just the beginning. I invite you along with me (whilst fully appreciating that some of you don't have a choice. Ha!). I want to express my gratitude to my nearest and dearest friends for coming along with me on this journey, for giving me feedback if I was being a dickhead, for the unwavering support in this latest adventure, and for the new friends I've made along the way - I hope I honour you as much as you honour me.
So, I invite you this weekend to consciously reassess the company you keep. I'm not just talking Facebook friends; all of them. Your nearest and dearest friends, your weekend friends, your work friends, your friends-of-friends friends.
Do they light you up? Do they support you? Are you at your most open and easeful when around them? You do not have to be cut from the same cloth, but they need to fill your cup and you need to be in alignment. You'll know if you're not. Trust your intuition. Or your mum. Or ask me, I can tell you.
And if you're currently mourning the loss of a friendship in your own life, look for the gift or the opportunity - you'll find it.
In friendship and love,