To Flourish or Not to Flourish?

Illustration by Elisa Talentino

Until a year ago, I was under the illusion that friends were meant to be forever—that they would be by your side in the darkest and happiest of times. Now, as I’ve reached the age of 18, I’ve realized that I was wrong. True, genuine friends aren’t always those who you’ve known for years and years on end. You can have a great friend who you’ve only known for a few months. Time doesn’t necessarily define authenticity in a friendship.

But, what is a “true” friend? I think the line is drawn differently when it comes to each individual. For some, it’s a shoulder to cry on, while for others, the concept doesn't exist. I fall closer to the former, but not quite. For me, a genuine friendship isn't one in which you only talk about your problems, although that is a plus. It’s one in which there's an understanding about how each of you feel without having to outright say it. It’s when you’re comfortable being yourself, and know there's no judgement from either party. It’s mutually building one another up rather than tearing each other down. It’s happiness for their accomplishments and encouragement after their failures. 

With that being said, it’s easy to mistake someone who may not have your best interests at heart for a genuine friend. When you come across these people, take my word for it: remove them from your life. I’ve learned that it’s crucial in understanding yourself to create a distance between you and those who create toxicity in your life. The reason I say it’s crucial is because every day is a new opportunity for you to improve. You can’t improve yourself when there are individuals constantly trying to break you down. It took a while for me to understand that there will be people you consider friends who won’t put in the same effort into the relationship that you do. When it reaches that point, you have to take a step back, examine the friendship, and ask yourself, “Is it worth putting in the work to not get the same in return?”

I also believe in cutting off friends who aren’t allowing you to be the best version of yourself. There’s this misconception amongst many teenagers that losing friends makes you lonely. However, if anything, it allows you to focus on yourself as an independent individual. 

That goes hand in hand with another concept that’s common in a lot of teenagers’ ideologies. Many believe that weekends should be spent going out with friends or going out on dates. There is pressure put upon teenagers to be out and about, living life. I constantly see Snapchats and Instagram stories of people going out every weekend, and more or less doing the same thing week after week. Because of that, I’ve often felt guilty for not making plans and opting to spend the weekend baking, putting on face masks, and watching a good Korean drama. But, by giving time to myself, I re-discovered my passion for writing, and was finally able to read that book I’d been putting off. 

This leads me to my last piece of advice. Self-love is the best kind of love. Putting aside everything and everyone else, I've learned, loving yourself comes first. I won’t lie and say that I love myself during every waking moment of my day. I often say that it’s harder to love yourself than it is others, because you know of all of your flaws and insecurities. But, while you’re getting to know someone, said person can easily hide their flaws and insecurities. We’re all harsher critics of ourselves, more so than anyone else. I went to a conference once, and I heard a speaker say, “If we spoke to others the way we speak to ourselves, we would have no friends.” It’s sad that what was said rung true.

So I leave you with this: of all the love and support you give out to others in the world, it is vital that you show some to yourself. 

By Meshall Awan

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