As women we have two choices: We can either be best friends, or we can be mean girls.
Sometimes we try to be both. We say we’re best friends, but we don’t act like it, and it took me years to understand the difference.
In high school I had a group of friends I thought would be my best friends forever. We had tons in common, were part of the same after-school activities, and spent all of our time together.
Somewhere along the line though, things started to fall apart.
I began to notice how small I felt when I was around them. I felt like I was always trying to be different, to say certain things, not to say others. I felt like I was squeezing myself into a pair of jeans that absolutely didn’t fit. I wanted to be what they wanted me to be. That was the only way to stay in, to still be invited, not to get shoved out. But even that didn’t work.
By the time graduation rolled around, I was no longer invited to anything. Nothing was said, nothing specifically happened.
The cold shoulder had been turned my direction and I was out without explanation.
Our moms had planned us a joint graduation party and I begged mine not to go. But she insisted and so I went. I stuck close to the moms, and my boyfriend—the only people at the party who were still nice to me—until I was finally released to go home.
We called each other best friends, that’s what we claimed to be. But nothing about our friendships, not at the beginning, and certainly not at the end, looked anything like true best friendship.
But for many of us, we haven’t seen anything different.
This wasn’t my only experience with mean girls. I’ve been friends with them my whole life. I’ve been one at times too. But in the past few years, and with the help of some lifelong friends and some wonderful new ones, I’ve learned a new definition of best friendship—one I like much better.
This is the definition of friendship I live by now—the kind of friendship I try to show to others, but also expect from my friends too.
Mean girls need not apply.
The definition of best friendship, according to Stephanie:
1. Make you feel good about yourself when you’re around them
The first way to figure out if you’re friends with best friends or mean girls is to ask yourself how you feel when you’re around them. Do you feel good about yourself? Or do you feel small, or stupid, or insecure? Be honest with yourself about how you feel around your friends. It’ll help you figure out if they’re people you want to continue investing in or not.
2. Don’t exclude you
True best friends don’t exclude each other on purpose. It doesn’t mean everyone has to come to everything—just that nobody should be excluded for the purpose of making them feel left out.
3. Let you be you and celebrate you for it
The quality about my best friends now that I’d never experienced before is that they let me be me, and they celebrate me for it. They know who I am, and it’s good enough for them. They don’t insist that I’m different, or make me try to push, pull, or squeeze myself into their idea of what good enough is.
4. Never talk behind your back
Best friends should never talk behind each other’s backs. Ever. There’s no excuse for gossip. Not a single one. Nothing deteriorates friendships and trust faster than talking behind people’s backs. Mean girls gossip, best friends should never. It’s that simple.
5. Are trustworthy with your secrets, your boyfriend, your stuff, and your heart
Everything we have should be safe with our best friends. We should be able to trust them to keep our secrets, to be appropriate with our boyfriends, with the things we have and lend them, and with our hearts. Friendships have to be built on trust for them to last.
6. Pursue you
Have you ever had one of those friends who always made you do the work? If you didn’t call them, or pursue them, or ask them to hang out, you wouldn’t be friends anymore because they sure wouldn’t do it. This is not what best friendship is like. Best friendship is reciprocal. It has to go two ways.
7. Aren’t manipulative
Best friends aren’t manipulative. They’re not twisting your words, making everything your fault, or trying to make you feel a certain way so they feel a certain way. Best friends love you. That’s it. End of story. They’re not using you to somehow make them feel better.
8. Fight through conflict instead of giving up
Friendship isn’t easy. Not ever fighting with your best friends isn’t a sign of health, it’s a sign that nobody’s being fully honest about how they feel. If you fight with your friends, that’s perfectly normal, but best friends don’t give up or fight dirty. They work through it with you, staying at the table until everything’s okay again.
It breaks my heart how we as women sometimes treat each other. It’s not a sporadic problem either, it’s a rampant issue. Women don’t know how to be friends with each other.
But I hope we can start moving in this direction—towards best friendship and away from being mean girls. Because we need these kinds of friends in our lives. Best friends change everything.