The other day I had a friend challenge me.
Her challenge to me was that she felt that friends should do things even when they don’t “feel” like it, because this thing might “make them happy.” She went on to remind me that there is so much value in showing support and helping each other, and that people appreciate that, and that it shows I value the friendship.
I’m the first to admit, I’m grateful for a challenge. And I honour my friend for challenging me, as I know how much guts that takes…
…but I totally disagree with her—let me explain why.
Let’s say I’m at my birthday party, and I have 20 people there. Now if 10 of these people (for argument’s sake) had somewhere else they would rather be more than at my party, then their energy will be heavy and resentful. They are likely to be thinking about the other place they’d rather be, or the other people they’d rather be spending time with.
Not that they don’t love me, after all we are friends for a reason, but that doesn’t mean that they always want to do what I want them to do. However here they are, they’ve put on their facade—their happy face—because they are here to “support their friend” (me) on my special day.
Now I know heaps of people who do this. They think that this is called “being a good friend”, by doing what they think will “make their friend happy”.
But maybe it’s time for a reminder that we can’t make anyone feel anything. Sure, we can be kind, and loving, and supportive, yet how the other person receives our behaviour is totally outside our control.
We cannot make anyone feel anything. How they choose to feel is their responsibility.
What a weight to carry—to think we are responsible for how someone else feels! Of course, we’re not. We’re only responsible for how we feel.
So if in the above example, I had those 10 people who would have preferred to be somewhere else that night, politely and lovingly tell me that, then I would appreciate that more than them trying to squeeze it all in. Or skip the thing they’d prefer to do, because they’re not being true to themselves, and I can feel it!
Who wants to be around that kind of energy? Who wants to stop someone living their truth?
I’d prefer to have one person who was totally excited about spending the night out with me to celebrate, than 100 people who were just there because “that’s what friends” do.
And I know that the people who truly love me, the people who truly are my friends, don’t need to come to everything I ask them to. They don’t need to be at my birthday (following this example) for me to know that I’m loved. They will show it in their own way, in their own time.
So, if you would like to move towards Not Making Everyone Else Happy, here are my five keys:
1. Be Present
When you stay in the present moment, and you really listen to yourself and how you feel when someone asks you to do something—recognize if your energy expands or contracts. If you feel expansive, light, excited, open to the idea or opportunity, then it means it’s true for you; you want to do it.
And you’ll be much better company to be around too!
2. Be Brave
It’s kind of hard, and sometimes scary to say ‘No’ to doing things that we know are important to people we love.
I too don’t like the idea that my friend might respond or react by being upset at my not coming along to their event (or whatever the invitation is), and so I have to remind myself that all I can do is speak my truth gently, and that their reaction is their responsibility.
3. Get Honest with Yourself
Are you friends with the same people you’ve been friends with since school?
Are you still the same person you were back then?
Maybe you are, and you still have awesome conversations, and you still have heaps in common, and that works for you. However I know way too many people who have grown and changed since school or university or college and they have so little in common with these friends.
Yet they keep lying to themselves that this is the company they honestly want to keep right now.
A more honest, self-loving thing to do would be to find some new friends who are interested in the same things, so you can be a more real version of yourself.
4. Show How Much You Value the Friendship in a Way That Feels True
Just as we all have different interests, we tend to like to display our love in different ways too (I recommend ‘The 5 Love Languages’ if you haven’t already read it).
If going to a friend’s birthday party, or spa party, or business event, or yoga invitation doesn’t feel true for you, or you simply have something else you want to do more that night, then ask yourself “How else could I show this person I love them?”
And not to say you need to “make it up to them”, but rather that any relationship takes work.
So ask yourself “When was the last time I added love into the relationship bank account?”, and if it’s been a while, and you still want this relationship to stay a part of your life, then add to it—your way.
Not only will this feel lighter for you, but a friend who really appreciates you will love the effort you went to in order to keep the relationship open and flowing.
5. Apply the “Reason, Season, Lifetime” Rule
Maybe you’ve heard the saying “Friends are in your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime”? I find this quotation so very useful as I watch the ebb and flow of people coming in and out of my life.
See the funny thing is, that so often we won’t know which one a person will be for us until many years down the road. And trying to make a friendship something other than what it is, is painful and heavy work for everyone involved as it’s out of flow.
If you’re reading this article there’s a good chance that you like to learn and grow, and with that comes change. And with change in you comes a change in the people you spend time with. So friends will come and go, that’s the way this game works.
If you follow these five keys to doing what’s true for you, I know from my own experience that you’ll have more fulfilling, healthy, happy relationships.
From these keys you can create friendships based more on love (which feels light), rather than with heavy expectation—and carry with you the wisdom of knowing that you are responsible for how you feel and others are responsible for how they feel.
Sure, there may be some teething problems as you switch from old behaviors to newer, wiser, more truthful actions, but I still think this phase of “discomfort” is worth it.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Apprentice Editor: Jess Sheppard / Editor: Renée Picard