Illustration: Wenting Li
The friendships we have are an important part of who we are but how strong are those circles? Read on to find out if your posse holds up to this friendship checklist.
There's nothing more important than the sisterhood of friends. Where would we be without our gal pals? Lost. We'd be cast adrift without our anchor, our North Star. That unconditionally loving, nonjudgmental circle of friends who supply endless amounts of support, empathy and laughs (and, let's be honest, Chardonnay), they get it—they get us.
In fact, in the early part of the 20th century, the psychological theorist Alfred Adler called the creation of friendships one of the three vital tasks of life. He said—and successive theorists have agreed—that one of the most fundamental tasks of any person's life is to find belonging.
"Who am I? How do I fit in?" These are the questions answered by finding meaningful connection. None of us could survive solo; we need others, both practically and personally. From the earliest stages of life, mere babes in arms, we're psychologically and physiologically hardwired for social connection. Encoded into our DNA is the circuitry we need to attune to others, to respond, to cooperate. To belong. This social connection not only ensures our survival but also enriches our lives.
So that means strong friendships are central to robust and resilient mental health. Just how strong is your circle? That's a sensitive question, isn't it? After all, the sisterhood is sacred. But life is long, and relationships change as we evolve and grow. Some friendships no longer fit, but we keep them around for their historic value, like the prom dress and platform heels at the back of our closets. It's painful to think about walking away from someone who has been a fixture in our life. The thought of discarding an old friendship makes us cringe, but what is more cringe-worthy is continually compensating for so-called pals who stand us up, put us down and stomp all over the hallowed bonds—people who don't lift us up but drag us down.
Some of our friendships need to be recharged; we have to plug in and make an investment to bring them back to life. Occasionally, we must take stock and do a complete friendship reboot. Here's FRIEND, an acronym I sometimes use as a litmus test. If you hold this checklist up to your posse, do all of the boxes get ticked?
No, that doesn't mean your BFF isn't allowed to "cheat" on you by seeing other friends but, rather, that she faithfully adheres to the sisterhood code: having your back and keeping your secrets. What you say in the cone of silence stays there. Period.
This is a two-way street, and she gives as good as she gets.
Her words and deeds and the way she moves in the world inspire you to do better and be better. After spending time with her, you're charged up to take on new projects and attain new goals.
A good friend is one who supports you in doing the right thing, not the easy thing. She has integrity and makes sure you maintain yours, too.
She loves your imperfect self, through your glorious moments and your unfortunate missteps. She may not always agree with your choices, and she'll certainly hold a mirror up (see Ethical, above), but she won't judge you or hold you in contempt.
If she says she's going to be there, she is. You can count on that. She doesn't show up just some of the time but every time.