Making friends today can often feel less about connecting with someone who is similar to you and more about feigning a façade of the best version of yourself to attract what you think will make you look best. We are just about numb to the difference between how things look and how things feel.
Having a guard up is standard. We keep things hidden because we don’t want to drop the burden of not being perfect on someone close to us. We don’t want them to have to deal with the atrocity of loving us as we are. So we all stash our failures and our weaknesses and our shame in a closet and then walk around like it doesn’t exist – plagued by it only when we’re not distracted enough by a screen or Tweet or filtered photo to remember what’s real.
And most of the time, nothing in that closet is huge or dramatic or different from what anybody else has stashed away. They’re just little pieces of imperfect selves. Human, normal, honest selves.
So we struggle with anxiety, in various forms. Social and general and panic and phobia. What would happen if our demons were unleashed and everybody knew the truth?
Because we are controlled by what we hide, we become insecure. About our bodies or our jobs or our financial situation or all of them and more.
Because we’re in a constant state of tension, we become depressed. Chronically and seasonally and situationally.
The point of friendship is not just to have someone you can laugh with, get a beer with, or spend a night out with. Real friendship is about finding someone who will love you and all your honest parts, hidden and not, scary and safe, wild and tame. It’s about having someone who will love you for your whole self, not just the collection of pixels that’s become your image.
And the sad thing is that we do have these kinds of people in our lives, we just don’t realize it. Our friends can be kind and loyal and dependable, and yet we still feel the need to play a role. We need to seem like we’re always brave and independent and not in need of any kind of support or encouragement. We finally find good, solid, three-dimensional, trustworthy people, and we’re so happy to have them in our lives and so worried about losing them that we clam up. We make it seem like we’re happy and open and like we got this. We’re afraid to open up and count on our friends for the very thing that friends are made for – loving us in spite of our ugly parts. We don’t want to scare our friends off or make them think that we’re too much of a hot mess to be friends with, so we fool them. And we fool ourselves.
We present the best version of us to our friends because it allows us to lie to ourselves as well. We can avoid the difficult task of learning to love ourselves as we are, of accepting the things we can’t stand about ourselves. We can avoid looking in the mirror, and we can avoid acknowledging who we truly, actually are. And instead of having to face our deepest insecurities and our darkest feelings of self-hatred, we can just live in a temporary dream world where we act and behave like the type of person we’ve always wanted to be, the type of person we deem as worthy of love and friendship and care and happiness. We present this person, this “better” version of us to our friends, and we wonder why we stumble through our twenties feeling unfulfilled and confused and insecure and uncertain.
We’re putting on an act for our friends, but we’re also putting on an act for ourselves. We are willing to share so much information about our lives with hundreds or thousands of people every day, most of whom we barely even know. At the tap of a button, we can tell people about our new job or our latest accomplishment or something funny that we witnessed on the street. But when it comes to being honest and genuine with someone who actually knows us and cares about us in real life, we convince ourselves that we would just be a strain. A burden. An embarrassment.
This is what our friendships are like in 2015. They’re careful and hesitant and wary. They’re smooth on the surface. But they have a chance to be so much more. So much deeper. So much more meaningful and beneficial in our everyday lives. They can be better than perfect – they can be messy and rocky and ugly, which will lead them to be honest and genuine and true.
But if we’re not willing to open up and be every single part of ourselves, including the ugly parts, we’re going to be left with the smooth surface friendships. Our friends will just love the perfect version of us. They’ll love the version of us that doesn’t actually exist.