Have you ever been hit so hard by an emotion that it felt physical? This weekend I was struck by a powerful rush of gratitude that literally stopped me in my tracks. In fact, it left me with such an overwhelming feeling of appreciation that I’ve struggled to put in words while writing this post.
So with that in mind, I’ll forego any eloquent phrases. Instead, I’ll simply note that this emotional lightning bolt helped me recognize and appreciate the importance of friendship in my life.
Now, I realize this may sound like a no-brainer statement. “Of course friends are important, Paula…duh.”
And yes, I’ve always understood the importance of friendship. But this sudden reminder hit me hard over the weekend, and it made me all the more grateful for those I have in my life.
Let me explain this a little bit.
The importance of friendship in your life
I’m a pretty introverted person. I love my alone time. I am happy snuggled up on the couch with a book and my dog, and a quiet night in with my husband often (almost always…) sounds more appealing than going out.
What’s more, I am a workaholic who tends to fall in the “live to work “ rather than the “work to live” mentality.
This latter trait is not something of which I’m proud, and I have been working to improve it for several months. (See my importance of routine series for details)
Because of these characteristics, I found myself thinking I could “go it alone” for years. Getting my work done came second only to my husband and family. Everything else fell to the wayside.
Rereading those last two sentences makes me cringe a little bit… a lot a bit, actually. Because it’s the truth. It’s how I lived for a very long time. And it left me incredibly unhappy.
Sure, in theory, I knew that spending time with friends and doing things that I enjoyed would bring joy to my life. In practice, however, I just couldn’t do it. Anxiety skyrocketed, I felt guilty about “neglecting” my work, and I always felt I should spend my time more “efficiently.” (i.e. working)
The thing is, however, “efficiently spent time” is an entirely subjective opinion.
And over the past several months, I’ve slowly realized that my priority of work-above-all-else was completely skewed. (Recognizing the problem is the first step, right?)
I knew I wasn’t happy… I knew why I wasn’t happy… unfortunately, I couldn’t seem to fix it.
Friends are as companions on a journey, who ought to aid each other to persevere in the road to a happier life. -Pythagoras
You see, when I practiced self-care, or when I spent time with those I love, anxiety and guilt both managed to tag along for the ride. They sat in the metaphorical front seat and ensured that I never fully invested myself in the experience. Instead, they reminded me of all of the work waiting for me at home. I simply could not get over that mountain of deadlines and work assignments and let myself enjoy the moment.
And admittedly, I have not yet fully scaled this mountain. While I’m unquestionably moving in the right direction, anxiety and guilt manage to climb in the front seat every now and again. I am nearing the summit, but I still must push myself to get there.
During this time of self-reflection, I’ve also discovered that I can’t climb this mountain alone. In fact, there are three key elements that have helped make this personal journey possible, and today I want to talk about the first: friendship.
This weekend I met up with a dear friend who has played an essential role in helping me find balance. She has listened to me vent my frustrations, contemplate big decisions, cry about challenges, and explore possibilities. What’s more, she listens openly without judgment, before offering her sage advice. She is truly a gem.
As you might guess, it was my time with her this weekend that sparked my sudden rush of gratitude. I realized how positively she has influenced my life, and how fortunate I am to call her my friend.
Following this time of reflection, I felt inspired to share some of my thoughts with you. I hope that it might help you highlight the supportive people in your circle, and recognize the positive influence they have on your happiness.
So today I break down the importance of friendship into 10 broad categories, and highlight why it’s imperative that you nurture these valuable relationships. Then at the end of the post, you can download a FREE list of ways to show your appreciation to those you love, and let them know how much you care.
The importance of Friendship in your Life
Friendship brings laughter and adventure
Without a doubt, friendship brings plenty of laughter and fun into your life. Whether you’re trying a new restaurant, exploring a foreign city, or taking a class way out of your comfort zone, doing it with a friend brings endless laughter and joy. Friends not only encourage you to try new things, but they also try them with you, which always leads to unforgettable memories filled with joy.
Friendship brings encouragement
A friend’s encouragement doesn’t stop with simply pushing you to try new things. Nope, they cheer you on about all of life’s big and small decisions. Whether you’re debating a major haircut, or contemplating a drastic career change, they encourage you to follow your heart, and they have your back every step of the way.
Good friends are always there
Our lives tend to get busier with each passing year. As you well know, this makes it increasingly easy to fall out of touch with one another. Whether you’ve moved across the country, started a family, or changed careers, it can be difficult to reach out and maintain those connections. With good friends, however, distance is no boundary. Whether you need advice, a listening ear, or simply a giant hug, a good friend is there no matter what.
Friendship provides a listening ear
Sometimes you simply need a friend to listen. You need to take that jumble of thoughts filling your mind and talk through them with someone who understands…or at least tries to understand. Because even when your ideas don’t make any sense, it doesn’t stop a good friend from listening without judgment and providing support.
Friendship provides a judgment-free atmosphere
When challenges do strike, and the universe keeps knocking you down a peg, good friends let you vent, cry, mope, and complain as much as you need. They don’t pass judgment on your thoughts or actions. And they don’t tell you how you should respond to the situation. Instead, they offer comfort, and they prevent you from feeling alone.
Good friends provide a shoulder to cry on
There are times when words fail you, and you struggle to clearly express your emotions. It’s times like this when a friend knows what you truly need: a big hug and a shoulder to cry on. Friends offer that shoulder without hesitation, and they don’t move until you’ve shed your last tear.
Friendship provides perspective
Friends offer you their valuable – often candid – outside perspective. Whether you have a skewed perception of a situation, you’re too overwhelmed to see the bigger picture, or you’re blowing something out of proportion, a good friend offers their honest input and “tells it like it is.”
Friendships provide self-confidence
At different points in your life, you’ll likely experience uncertainty about your ideas, your decisions, or your sense of self. It’s at these times that a good friend sees past your fears. Instead, they highlight your strengths, they boost your self-confidence, and they help you recognize the strong, independent person that you are.
Friendship provides comfort
Good friendships continually impart laughter, encouragement, support, advice, perspective, and confidence in your life. Because of this, they also provide a feeling of safety and security. You’re comfortable showing your true colors, and you can speak your mind without hesitation, because you know you’re loved for who you are. By feeling confident in your own skin, you can let your guard down, hold nothing back, and embrace your true self.
Do you want to show your friend how much you care? Download this free list of suggestions and thank the special people in your life today.
What do you value most in your friendships? Have you ever struggled with work-life balance? How do you overcome those challenges? I’d love to hear your suggestions – let me know below!