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We all know how important friends are. There are friends we go for coffee with, friends we shop with and friends we head to the gym with. But despite having a pal for every occasion, having a best friend is a huge bonus in life. Marilyn Barnicke Belleghem, a registered marriage and family therapist, offers some insight into what makes the bond between best friends so special -- and so important.
A best friend is someone you don't have to fill in the blanks with. They already know all the inner details of your life. "It's like picking up a book and knowing exactly where you left off," Belleghem says. You can cut to the chase and get right to the meat of any discussion because all the background information has already been stored away.
One of our most basic fears is being alone, Belleghem explains. Whether your best friend is around the corner or in another time zone, just knowing she is there provides comfort. "It gives you a sense of being connected and not just free-floating in space," she says. So if you find yourself feeling isolated, whether physically or emotionally, pick up the phone and call your closest pal. Both of you will feel better for it.
3. Unconditional support
You have yet to shower or even brush your hair and your best friend calls. She's upset and wants you to come over right away. What do you do? You get in the car without even changing -- because you don't have to. Best friends have seen us at our best and worst, and they love us either way. It's important to have someone in our lives we feel totally at ease with, Belleghem explains. Someone we can be ourselves with -- sweats and all.
4. Self-esteem boost
Good friends help us to develop our self-esteem, says Belleghem. "Having someone in our life who thinks we are important -- someone who wants our opinion on things and who values our company -- makes us feel wanted, boosting self-esteem," she explains.
5. Honest opinions
Best friends will also be totally honest with us, Belleghem says. They know you well and are able to tell it like it is. So thank your best friend the next time she looks you in the eye, shakes her head and suggests you rethink a possibly silly decision. She's got your best interests at heart.
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6. A fresh perspective
We are all individuals, with different experiences and opinions, but having a best friend to share things with can help us learn new things about ourselves. The things they share with us can open our eyes to new ideas and ways to think about the world around us, explains Belleghem. "By bringing a fresh perspective to a problem, things have a better chance of changing," she says. Best friends can help us find those "A-ha!" moments that lead to solving problems.
7. Life lessons
When a close friend does something you disagree with, you're more likely to confront them and discuss what has upset you than if it's a person you aren't as familiar with. Getting through this with a close friend helps to prepare you for other times in life where you will need to face a difficult situation, Belleghem explains. "Now you have this skill in your life skills bag," she says.
Loyalty means never having to worry about someone spilling your secrets or talking about you behind your back. Best friends equal built-in trust, Belleghem explains. Most likely, you've spent years building your bond, which just gets stronger over time. "A loyal friend will be on your team no matter what. They will be honest with you, but won't betray you," she says.
9. Personal growth
Having a best friend means sharing experiences, Belleghem explains. Sometimes, when we get stuck in our own routines, it's nice to hear about what other people are doing. "A close friend of mine who didn't have kids opened my eyes to new things," Belleghem says. Often we can live vicariously through our close friends and learn about things we may not have thought about doing.
10. The best sounding board
One of the greatest things about having a best friend is being able to share -- everything. They are the ones to whom we tell things we wouldn't dream of telling anyone else -- our greatest fears and biggest mistakes. Being able to share these intimate details about our lives helps to normalize whatever has happened, Belleghem explains. "Fear or discomfort is diffused when you share it with a friend," she says.
Read more: Is your friend out of control?
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