How Lowering My Friendship Expectations Changed My Life

It's important to take pride in yourself and naturally expect that your real friends value your time and company—but friends can't (and shouldn't be obligated to) be your everything.

I consider myself a reliable, loyal, generous, trustworthy friend, and, for the most part, I expect the same in return. But there was a point in time when the expectations I had for friends exceeded what was truly attainable. Whether it was writing someone off for good for flaking on plans, or expecting someone to hang out with me 24/7 and being crushed when they didn't, I didn't take into consideration that I wasn't (and had no reason to be) anyone's top priority.

gossip girl characters in school uniforms

(Gossip Girl via The CW)

While friends are supposed to be there for you when you need a shoulder to cry on or when you need a reasonable favor, you must remember that they have their own lives to live. Now, don't get me wrong—people who blab secrets, gossip behind their friends' backs and flake to the point of why bother? are not real friends, and that behavior shouldn't be tolerated. But, generally speaking, friends do make mistakes, have interfering schedules or have distractions going on in their lives that may not necessarily share with you.

I do regret putting particular stressors on certain friends over time. Dealing with the backlash of my past behavior has absolutely made me change my ways and, as you can imagine, the outcome has been positive. I still have standards (as everyone should!), but I've accepted that everyone has their own life and I'm not the center of it.

Keep reading for how changing my friendship expectations changed my life.

 

1. I Realize Not Everything Is Personal

It used to be that if someone flaked on plans or didn't call me back when they said they would, I would totally take it to heart. I immediately thought of them differently and put them in this category of people I'm not going to make another effort with.

Now, however, I realize there are so many factors that go into people bailing on various commitments. Some people are just really bad texters/callers or are horrible with time management. Not that that's an excuse (it still annoys the heck out of me), but at least I know it's not because they don't want to see me. Other people have personal matters to tend to and don't feel ready to talk about it. And others have a lot more on their plate than me and get easily sidetracked. Sure, there are times in which someone deliberately avoids hanging out with me, but more times than not, it's something to do with them and not me.

gossip girl- blair staring at her phone

(Gossip Girl via The CW)

 

2. I Acknowledge That Different Friends Have Different Strengths

A friend of mine told me about the term her therapist refers to as "limited friends." These are essentially people who excel in particular areas of the relationship but can't provide other things. After hearing that phrase, it stuck. In a way, I kind of think everyone is a limited friend—and that'okay! I mean I'm sure the (close to) perfect pal exists out there, but I'd say most people have their strengths and weaknesses.

I have one friend who I can tell anything to and never judges, but they're also the least reliable; I have another friend who is insanely reliable, but is a horrible listener; I have another friend who is over-the-top-ridiculous and I can't take them seriously, but they are so much fun. The list goes on, but you get the idea. I've accepted that no one's perfect, and even though I represent many positive traits in a friend, I have my own issues, too.

Mean Girls shopping

(Mean Girls via Paramount Pictures)

 

3. I Have a Sense of Social Independence

Always relying on people makes you constantly at others' mercy. My whole mood and plan for the day used to be based on whether or not so-and-so asked me to hang out, or if I'd be invited to this or that. Instead, now I don't wait for anyone to include me. If they want to, awesome—and if not, it's fine because I already expect to do things independently or with friends I don't see as often. Of course, I still want a social life, and I don't want to be locked away alone in my apartment for days at a time, but I think much less about what other people are doing without me. It feels good to do things on my own—and quite frankly, now I often even get the opposite of FOMO, or Fear of Being There.

Riverdale: Betty looking in the mirror

(Riverdale via The CW)

 

4. I Freed Up Energy That Welcomed Other Things

I can't even tell you how much negative energy was pent-up in me over time when I had high expectations. It was like this negative ball sat inside of me—whether based on hurt feelings from being flaked on, or sadness about not asked to hang out by someone else. Now that I've loosened up a bit, more people and opportunities have come my way. I feel so much more inspired and excited about life when I'm not worried about others being the perfect friend.

Riverdale: Betty Cooper makes a speech

(Riverdale via The CW)

 

5. My Relationships Have Improved Overall

It probably goes without saying, but when you lessen your demands and expectations, people see you in a much mellower light, making you so much more personally attractive. Slowly but surely, old friends who I once scared away gravitated back to me, and once they sensed that I changed for good, things went back to normal (well, a new, healthier normal).

Pretty Little Liars

(Pretty Little Liars via Freeform)

 

6. I Understand the Difference Between What Should Be Expected and What's Okay to Overlook

As noted above, there's a difference between requiring a friend to be your end-all/be-all and expecting that they're trustworthy, encouraging and loyal. I now acknowledge that people are going to flake from time to time, or not reply to a text. I get that they may have conflicting plans on a date I want them to be present for me. Life happens, and complications come into the equation the busier we get. It doesn't mean I'll ever tolerate someone stealing from me, hooking up with someone I'm dating, or doing something shady behind my back.

Paige talking to Emily on Pretty Little Liars

(Pretty Little Liars via Freeform)

 

Curious if your expectations are too high or if a friend's behavior is simply toxic? Click HERE for 10 signs you have a toxic friend.