When I was growing up, I was taught that there are “leaders” and there are “followers”. I always believed my brother got all the leadership abilities in the family. I admired the way he marched to his own beat and didn’t seem to care what others thought. But I constantly found myself being a follower of the crowd. Not in the obvious way where I would get myself into a lot of trouble luckily, but I just always eventually realized I wasn’t thinking for myself — I wasn’t being myself. Which meant I could have three, ten, 20 billion friendships, but it was always extremely lonely. After all, what good is it if the you people love isn’t really you?
But recently, I found myself still doing that. I’m 24 years old, married, with two kids, and was still getting into friendships and not being myself. I was still putting myself into whatever tiny box they made for me and conforming to the person they wanted me to be. But then, something happened, and I stood up for myself. I made the choice to end the friendships. And I felt so… light. Sure, I was upset and hurt; but still, everything felt so much lighter. I was “allowed” to be myself. I was “allowed” to be this open-minded, confident, passionate, loving, silly, free spirit that I’ve always been. No longer was I imprisoned by the question, “What would _____ think?” That alone has been incredibly freeing.
But honestly, I think the most freeing thing was… I was “allowed” to make mistakes. I’m an imperfect human, just like everyone else, and I felt I was being held to a perfect standard 24/7. Even if I wasn’t around them, my mind responded as if I was being watched by them and feared crucification of my mistakes. I was working on my relationship with God, my role as a wife, a mother, an individual… I was adjusting to a big move and a second child and what still felt like the infancy of my marriage. Not to mention trying to find something for myself to care for my mental health. That’s a lot going on! And feeling pressure to somehow be perfect in the midst of all of that, rather than patience as I learn to navigate it all and grow as a person? That’s not what anybody needs from friendships.
So I don’t have any close friends at the moment, but I don’t feel lonely either. You know what I do feel? Joy. Because I have been able to be who I am without the fear of losing something or someone.
I’m not gonna lie though — it’s hard sometimes. I love Braxton, but there are days where I really do crave that “girl talk”. But I’ve also come to accept that there are some times in my life where Braxton may be my only friend. And what an awesome friend he is to have! I’d rather have one, really awesome, (though, yes, really male) friend who loves me for me, over any number of girlfriends who don’t value me and have me live in fear over losing them if I say one “wrong” thing.
And maybe you’re reading this and don’t currently have a significant other in your life to be that “one friend” during those times. That’s okay! I’ve been there too, and it’s seriously been a blessing. I always feel like God is just like, “Okay, Briana. It’s time to focus on you and nobody else right now.” Honestly, the seasons I’ve been without friends [whether including or excluding Braxton] have always been the seasons in which I grow the most as an individual!
So I wanna encourage you; whether you’re still investing time and energy into toxic friendships out of fear of being alone, or you’re currently in that season without friendships; time alone doesn’t have to be lonely. Sometimes it’s God giving you exactly what you need. Take the time to discover who you are and what you feel your purpose is in life, then live your life intentionally to become the best version of that person.
Friends will come again. And when they do, make sure they’re people who want to support and encourage you (as well as be humbly honest with you, because sometimes we need another perspective). If you’re constantly leaving them feeling discouraged and drained, it’s probably not a healthy friendship. It’s okay to take a step back. As unfortunate as it may sound, not everyone is meant to be friends. But you will find your kind of people, and they will love YOU!
Don’t think because you’ve always been a “follower of the crowd” that it’s just the way you are and can’t be changed. I know from experience how heavy that can feel — to think you’re never gonna be able to be yourself due to the inability to speak up for yourself. But trust me; all it takes is one time to speak up and then it gets easier with each time after that. It also gets easier to recognize when you need to.