By Sanah Thakur
My best friend. One of the most important social aspects of human interaction. It’s regularly the emotionally charged topic at the centre of number one songs and blockbuster movies; tugging on our feelings and mental experiences like toddlers fighting over a favourite toy. The term is used so frequently we rarely examine its significance or whether its definition has changed over the years. Despite the world, (and everybody in it), changing dramatically since the dawn of the Internet age we just expect everybody to know its role.
So have the rules and expectations of a ‘best friend’ remained constant over the years? It is known that if you are bestowed with the term, not only are you lucky, but you ‘know the rules’. Your skills of executing best friend duties are at a ‘master’ level and once anointed as a best friend, mistakes within the union should be minimal. It’s like the ‘unbreakable vow’ in the Harry Potter books. However, it comes with a whole lot of pressure that people just accept without reading the terms and conditions. Most people don’t even know what a ‘friend’ is never mind a best one.
We are all complex individuals and with some special people, we share just how complex we truly are. Divulging our deepest secrets, our most painful experiences and turning to them for support, advice and validation. We ask for their counsel on the most trivial of topics to the most ground-breaking personal choices. Apart from giving up this emotionally draining time, what else do we expect from them?
We expect them to be loyal, trustworthy, patient, caring, understanding, open, and non-judgemental, amongst many other things. We may expect them to drop everything in their life, at the drop of a hat, when we need them. To stand by our sides through any situation and to listen to us, when nobody else will or wants to. We expect them to react, the way we want, (or expect), them to and to always make things feel better. In return, do our best to reciprocate.
However, is this an illusion in itself? The illusion we create of a best friend is that they often have to be flawless. That they will always react the way we need them to. And the reality is that this is rarely true for most people.
So who are these best friends? Usually somebody we have known for a large duration of our lives; perhaps an intimate partner; maybe a person who shares the same distinct outlook on the world or who was there during the most significant experience of our lives. However, our best friends have their own lives too. They have their own complexity and also their own interpretation of the whole ‘best friend’ thing. It may not be the same as our own.
We also discount that our best friend may be dealing with that insecure, difficult and overly emotional individual that is us. That person that nobody else sees for a reason. Sometimes, when there is a disagreement in our perceptions of what a best friend should do, the sense of disappointment can be monumental. If the best friend struggles with this or ‘lets us down’, some people quickly switch to another person who ‘knows the rules’
Having ‘several’ best friends may mean you have options to turn to in times of need. However, it defeats the purpose and is also paradoxical. The term ‘best’ implies peerless; without equal; ideal; unparalleled. So if nobody has reached this level you may never know the true heights of a best friend. Having more than one may mean you place unfair expectations on more than one person. You might damage your own self-esteem attempting to avoid the possibilities of disappointment, betrayal or non-validation from any of them. Although, you may say that you have many, ironically, this practice may reveal that you in fact have no actual best friend.
Having a best friend should be the simplest thing in the world. In an ideal one, it would be. However, ours is not perfect and we need to ensure we don’t take our best friend for granted. This means we must work on ourselves continuously. We owe our best friend that. Like the world, we are not perfect. They may be your best friend, (and although you may not admit it and you want it badly), you may not necessarily be theirs! That is a hard reality to face but it is a very real reason to consider whether the expectations you have of your best friend are fair.
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