1. You gravitate towards growth. Not because you’re made to feel like you need to change in order to be accepted. On the contrary, you feel so accepted and so cared for, that you feel safe enough to challenge yourself and to push yourself further than you’ve ever gone before.
2. You realize very clearly who deserves to be in your life, and who is just pulling you down. There’s a lot of people we all keep in our lives that are bad for our mental and emotional health. Sometimes we keep them there out of habit, sometimes we keep them there because we don’t realize how toxic they are, sometimes we’re just afraid to be alone. But when you finally spend time with people who actually care about your happiness and wellbeing, the line between your genuine relationships and your toxic ones becomes very clear.
3. You feel loved for who you are as a person, not for what you look like or what you do for a living or how much money you have. You know that you could gain ten pounds or be laid off or lose your hair or gain thirty pounds or have to pull back on your spending or anything else that you might have a hard time with – and that no matter what, the people who matter will still be there, pulling you up and telling you that you’ll be alright.
4. You learn that some friendships just naturally fade, and that that’s okay. Sometimes your texts will go unanswered or phone calls won’t be returned. Reunions will only be made if you put forth the effort, catchups become clunky because there’s just so much you don’t know about each other now. And sometimes, those types of friendships eventually fade. And you’re okay with that, because you’ve learned what it takes to keep a friendship alive, and you know the types of people whose friendships are still worth the effort.
5. You’re not ‘protected’ from criticism. You’re just given an honest opinion by people who truly care about you. You’re not lied to, coddled, or indulged by people who don’t want to hurt your feelings. Rather, you have the types of relationships where both parties feel comfortable being honest and straightforward – because you both care about and want the best for one another.
6. You actually feel better physically. You’re not as tired (because you’re sleeping better), you’re drinking socially but not heavily, you’re active, etc. Just the knowledge that you are surrounded by friends who truly love you makes you feel lighter, more relaxed, and safe.
7. You learn what it feels like to have relationships that are equal parts give and take. Sometimes you have an insane month at work, and your friend is the one making sure you exchange texts and have a catchup dinner or two. Sometimes, your friend is going through a heart-wrenching breakup and you’re the one inviting yourself over on Friday night so they’re not alone. When you’ve found the right kinds of people, this is just how it works. They put in effort, you put in effort; sometimes it’s heavier on one side, but it always goes back and forth, no matter what.
8. You’re not as afraid to fail. Because you’ve already experienced some failures. And your friends didn’t go anywhere.
9. You learn that you’re not being a ‘bad friend’ by cutting someone out of your life who only brings you pain. Once you’ve surrounded yourself with people who really bring you joy, you realize those kinds of relationships weren’t even friendships at all.
10. You feel like you. And you know that they wouldn’t have you any other way.