The latest post from the wonderful Captain Awkward has spurred me into finally writing a post that’s been stewing in the back of my mind for months now.
I have a hard lesson for you. I had to learn it and a lot of people don’t seem to have learned it. It’s summarised in the title of this post – NO-ONE OWES YOU FRIENDSHIP.
You deserve friends, dear reader, you deserve to be loved and wanted and appreciated for the beautiful, unique, irreplaceable person that you are. You deserve to be surrounded by people who love you and are happy to see you, people who you love and whose company you enjoy. You deserve that and I hope you have it.
But if, now or in the future, you don’t, you can’t demand it of anyone. No-one owes you. No other person in the entire world has to love you or like you or be your friend. No person is obliged to take delight in you, to want to spend time with you or find you endearing.
No matter how many hobbies or interests you have in common, no matter how much DNA you share, no matter how many hours you have to spend together at college or Uni or work together anyway, no matter if you think they’re the best person in the world – no person is obliged to like you or want to spend time with you. Nothing you can say or do will mean a person has to be your friend and even someone who was your friend isn’t obliged to always stay your friend.
I know it’s scary but it’s true. It’s also kind of liberating.
Since nothing you do can make someone be friends with you, you can concentrate on just being the awesomest person you can be and then people will want to be your friend.
“BUT BUT… ” I hear you say, “But Liam, surely people do have obligations to each other, one is an island and all that?”
Well, yes. People owe you exactly what you owe them. They should treat you with respect and kindness because you are a person, they should help you with your struggles if they can and do what they can to see to your safety. They should respect your boundaries and your autonomy and treat you as a person with your own life beyond whatever circumstance they meet you in. You should try to do that for everyone you meet too. People who can’t treat you with respect and decency when you’re not their friend are not people you should become friends with, they are likely not very nice people.
We all want and deserve friendship. We are social creatures after all. But please don’t let your need for friendship turn into a sustained attempt to get friendship out of one particular person or group of people.
I’ve had people try to become my friend or assume that they are my friend because we have a few things in common and it isn’t fun. They tried to tell me that we were friends even though I didn’t feel it or that we should be friends even though I didn’t want to just because we had things in common. This made me really uncomfortable and I’ve had to get my actual friends to help me say “No, we are not friends. I’m sure you’re a nice person but you’re not my friend and I don’t want to be your friend. Please stop following me around”. It’s confusing and upsetting but I can see how easily I could have done much the same thing.
No-one owes you their friendship and nothing you can do will make someone be your friend. Someone not being your friend or not wanting to be your friend doesn’t mean they think you’re a bad person, just that they don’t want to be your friend. Maybe you look like someone else they used to know and didn’t like or maybe you talk too fast for them to understand you. Maybe they only want to have three friends and they’ve already got three. That’s on them. Just be the most awesome, most kind and respectful, wonderful YOU you can be and see if any friends come along.
“But what if someone doesn’t like me because of my disability / race / sexuality / trans status / gender / HIV status / accent / religion / nationality /etc? Once they know more about it / me, surely they’ll have to get over their prejudice and be my friend, right?”
That’s still on them. As much as it is awful that someone might miss out on being friends with the awesome person that is you because of a fact about yourself that you can’t change, they still don’t owe you friendship even if you try to teach them about it. And as you’re not a mind reader, you can’t be sure you have the whole picture. Does your workmate find your accent annoying or is he perhaps hard of hearing and literally cannot understand what you’re saying without extensive lip-reading? Is your friend avoiding you since your transition because she is transphobic or because she knows her parents are?
And if it turns out that their reasons for not being your friend are in fact based in prejudice and bigotry, here is a serious question for you – why do you want them to be your friend?
I know it’s scary. I know how easy it is to catastrophize and imagine yourself doomed to eternal friendlessness. It’s okay.
Just throw yourself into being an awesome person. Trust me on this. Even if you don’t make friends from it, you’ll still be awesome. But I bet you’ll make friends too.