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How to Recognize Real Friendship

Historically, I'm a little slow to make friends. It took 3 years for Dani and I to go from sworn enemies over a dumb high school debate to tentative allies and eventually besties. Similarly, in college I'd notice friend groups immediately form around me and feel left out, like something must be wrong with me.

It may have taken more time, several missteps in judging character, and even the occasional heartbreak, but I finally feel that I’ve mastered the art of making friends wherever I go. Here’s ten lessons I learned along the way:

1. Take first impressions with a grain of salt.

You might judge a book by its cover, but don’t let that impression solidify immediately -- you might dodge a bullet or even be pleasantly surprised! Some people are better at performing socially than others, but it doesn’t necessarily make them better company. Make sure to have genuine reasons to like or dislike someone, and trust your observations about someone’s behavior over their reputation.

2. The bond is more important than the battle.

Two distinct personalities cannot always agree on everything, and sometimes fights are unavoidable. A disagreement among friends is not about winning the battle, but resolving the conflict. You may be able to influence your friends to some degree, but you should not try to control another’s emotions, reactions, or decisions. Communication and compromise is crucial towards understanding each other’s point of view and strengthening the relationship.

3. Match each other’s energy.

If you find yourself chasing someone’s affection, approval, or acceptance with little to no time or effort from them, you might have examine the root of the imbalance, and possibly rethink if the friendship is worth maintaining. You shouldn’t have to beg anyone to love or spend time with you.

4. Someone out there will love you for who you are.

Among the 7.8 billion humans on Earth, no one is perfect. A true friend will truly see you and accept you, dark side and all.

5. When someone reveals their true nature, believe them.

If a friend criticizes or gossips to you about your mutual friends, chances are you're not the exception. There’s something to be said for wanting to see the best in people, but make sure that charitable attitude isn’t used against you. Pay attention when others show you what they’re capable of.

6. Choose consistency over novelty, and quality over quantity.

Some people are just more exciting than others, but watch out for those who easily change their personality to fit different scenarios. An authentic person shouldn’t feel the need to constantly perform for the benefit of others. Dozens of casual friends and the appearance of popularity can be lonelier than having a small but tight-knit social circle. A real connection will prevail even in the most dull circumstances.

7. You don't have to like everyone, but never be hateful.

Spite can be a blessing in disguise, provided it doesn’t reside in your heart. Even when burning bridges, find it in you to wish the other person the best and don’t waste time on petty war, plotting revenge, or any other course of action that ultimately distracts you from living your best life. If someone decides to cut you off for whatever reason, the decision is their own to live with. Simply live and let live.

8. Believe honesty over flattery.

Friends should definitely root for you and vice versa, but beware of someone who only ever has positive things to say, and avoids any words of criticism (at least to your face). A true friend will be honest with you because they have your best interests at heart, even if you don't always want to hear it.

9. You choose your friends -- they don’t just choose you.

Friendship is a two-way street, and it upsets the balance when one person is constantly leading and the other always chasing. Don't falsely depict your character or compromise your individuality for acceptance or a sense of inclusion. Rejection is a a part of life, but never take it personally and always stay true to yourself. You will feel more complete which will in turn appeal to others.

10. Be your own best friend, always.

There's only one person you’re with 24/7, and disliking that person is a punishment that’s entirely within your power to control. When you aren’t clouded by insecurities or self-hatred, those things are infinitely easier to spot (and avoid) in others. It’s no easy task, but working towards introspection, personal accountability, acceptance, and transformation will train you to respect yourself and not accept less from others. This is the most important relationship you will ever have to maintain, and it's lifelong work.

What are your thoughts? Ever been let down by someone you thought was a real one, and then learn a valuable lesson? Sound off in the comments!

-- xoxo, La Bestie

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