Lately I have been feeling like I cannot escape the phrase “best friend.” It is all over social media, with quizzes on how well you know your “BFFL,” Facebook statuses about it, and instagram photos captioned #besties. I will admit to possibly being overly sensitive about this, but this does not seem very healthy to me.
The concept of a “best friend” is one that I can never consciously recall grasping, it was just something I learned between birth and preschool, a status I coveted even then. Throughout my life, I have had roughly 13 “best friends.” While none of these friendships were ever the way that media portrayed them, they became less and less similar to the friendships I saw on TV and read about the older I became. In fact, the last time I had a “best friend” relationship similar to that, I was 14. I have spent a lot of time thinking that maybe it was just me, and everyone else had someone they saw multiple times a week, knew better than anyone, and had a million inside jokes with, but I am finally beginning to see that I may be lucky to not have this relationship in my life.
If you were to ask me who my best friends were today, I would tell you the two very different people I have known since freshman year of high school. They are wonderful and hilarious and I love them so much, but they do not fit the category “best friend” as we define it as a society. One is married with a 2-year-old daughter. Between her work and home life, and my school and work life, we are lucky to see each other every few months. She is tough, comical, and an amazing mom. The other is hilarious and extremely popular, with a bigger heart than he likes to let people see. He has more friends than I can count, and although I see him all the time and talk to him almost daily, I know that at the end of the day I am not his best friend. This is something I am okay with, because a lot of the people I am close with have way closer friends than me, because they live nearer, or are more exciting or just closer to them. I tend to be drawn to extremely bright and talented people as friends, and as such they have a lot of close friends.
Do I absolutely adore the people I call my best friends? Of course I do, and I would do or give up just about anything for them. Do they fit the conventional idea of best friends? No, but that is not why I do not think it is healthy or fair to call them my best friends. It is not fair because it is not true. I absolutely adore all of my friends, and there are a few close friends that I would do just about anything for. Who am I to place more value on a person, even if it is just internally, when all of my friends mean so much to me for different reasons? There’s the friend who has completely changed my views on how good hearted and loving people can be. He has listened to me ramble on about the stupidest, most pathetic and embarrassing things pertaining to my depression and crap in my life without judgment. I have a friend who is like a little sister to me, and seeing her grow up as she raises her son and become this funny, smart and sassy woman is inspiring. Another friend of mine is someone whom people just want to see as funny and straight forward, but is incredibly talented and more self-aware than people realize. She says some of the most poignant things without meaning to. These are just a few of the wonderful friends I have in my life, and none of them are any less important to me than another, even the ones I am not as close with.
My worry with labeling friends is in part selfish. I know that I am no one’s “best friend,” and not really even anyone’s 2nd or 3rd choice, if I am honest. I am slowly learning that it is okay to not be someone’s favorite as long as they still want you in their life. If they do not, then they aren’t worth it. I am aware of how I feel without a best friend, and I don’t want any of my friends to feel this way. Feeling left out is an awful feeling; especially over something as silly as a status level of friendship that really means nothing. As someone who wants people to feel equally loved and accepted, it makes no sense to me to proclaim one or two people as better than others.
I hate the concept of calling someone a best friend, yet I am guilty of it. The thing is, however, having the type of best friend that is so popular online seems unhealthy. Not only can jealousy and hurt feelings arise, but also basing so much of your happiness in one person seems awfully codependent to me. Having had relationships where you put so much into one person before, I can safely say that very little good has ever come from it for me. I’ve learned that for the most part, people grow apart and eventually leave. Why would you want to have just one or two friends who mean so much to you when there is a chance they will too, simply because that is how life works? It is better to have people in your life that bring joy to you for different reasons and in different ways, not in every way. Being codependent on someone is not healthy or smart. I go to my friends for different things based on our relationship dynamics. There are friends I go to for more serious stuff, and I definitely am closer to them than the friends I hang out with when we want to go out to a bar. But for me, having different friends for different things allows me to not become too attached to one person over another, and it lets me be around a greater number of people and different viewpoints.
If you’re one of those people who truly have a relationship with a friend like the kind media portrays, that is awesome. I am not saying to ditch that friendship; merely that it does not seem attainable or wise to me on the outside. Not having a best friend has lead to me being more independent and developing healthier relationships with friends. If we spent less time trying to label our friends as best or greatest and just enjoyed being around them, I truly believe that we would have longer lasting and closer relationships. Instead of trying to have a “best friend,” try to be the greatest friend you can be to everyone important in your life. It is amazing what things can be accomplished when there are no limitations or expectations. Cherish what you have, and not what you want.