I graduated from high school ten years ago, it feels like an eternity like literally a distant, distant memory. When i think back on it it was a good experience but i’m sure we can all relate to remembering things we did and how we acted at times and get a little red in the cheeks. Lately i’ve been thinking about how i’ve changed in the last ten years, and of course there is the very visible fact that i’m married, have 2 kids, live in a different state, etc. But really i’ve been reflecting more on the way my personality and thoughts have “grown up”, and more importantly how the friendships I have now are stronger and happier relationships than i’ve ever had in my life. I’ve been really blessed with wonderful friends who have taught me how to be a better person and so i came up with 6 ways that i have learned to be a better friend.
1. Be genuinely happy for others.
I went to an art college and majored in fashion design, i made some wonderful friends and i was surrounded by extremely talented people. Of course my dream was and is to be a fashion designer with my own line, as is almost every fashion students dream. After college I chose a different road than most of my fellow graduates and did not move to Manhattan or even Los Angeles, instead i moved to the midwest and started a family. For the first few years it was really hard to look at social media and see friends who had such amazing jobs with fabulous designers, it was even harder when fashion week would roll around and i would envy not being there. Even though i knew i was where i needed to be, it was still really hard to be happy for my friends. I’m not sure what happened in the last 5 years to change my attitude, i’m sure its a combination of lots of factors but i’m happy for my friends, genuinely happy for their success.
A few days ago i was perusing instagram and a photo of Beyonce in one of my friends designs popped up on my feed, seriously?! i mean Queen B! I was so excited for Jessica! My friend’s brand is going somewhere big and i’m so happy to say that the green monster of jealous is gone, i’m truly excited and happy for her. Even though she is doing something that i would love to be doing and i’m not, i am happy for her. I think it all starts with making a choice to change our attitude, choose to be happy for others, for their successes and their joy.
2. Leave the competition for the races.
Going with the above comments i think if we realize that competition and comparison are destructive we can have deeper and more meaningful relationships and happier lives. Because someone else has something great does not make me less of a person because i don’t. In this possession-loving status-seeking world we get caught up too often in the “she has it, i want it, i hate her” attitude, lets stop it. If someone is good at the same thing we are good at lets be happy we found someone with common interests instead of seeing a rival. Lets collaborate instead of competing. In day to day relationships i find that when someone is competitive others can feel it and an underlying sense of discomfort exists. Do you want people to be intimidated, uncomfortable and stressed when they are around you? I know more and more my goal is to make others feel validated and happy when they are around me. I want to be a person who radiates joy, and making others feel like they have to compete with me is a sure way to fail at that goal.
3. Be kind.
As adults I think we all balk at the bullying that is going on in schools today, at the unkind words and actions that are all too common in our children’s lives, its sad. But here’s the thing, kids learn it somewhere and i think more than we would want to admit they learn it from us. Your daughter hears you talk on the phone to your bestie about how awful that neighbor looked in her swimsuit. How often do we tell our kids to be kind but then turn around and use our words to demean others? Most of the time i think we do it behind each others backs, we aren’t as obvious as posting a bad picture all over facebook, but spreading rumors in the old school word of mouth way is just as destructive. Lets start each day with a new resolve to be kinder, to stop ourselves when we start to veer into gossip and unkind words. I’m as guilty as anyone, its a hard thing to do to not give into that pessimistic critical little voice saying “its just the truth” or “she wouldn’t really care if she heard us say it”. The kinder i am to others the better i feel about myself.
4. Be inclusive.
There might not be a worse feeling that being left out. You see all your friends in a photo on facebook out to eat and you’re not there. You hear later about how great that movie was that it seems like everyone was at besides you. You know the feeling, the pit in your stomach that you desperately want to not be there because “you’re good”, its ok if you weren’t invited, but you still feel a little bit like you got punched in the gut. I hate that feeling and even worse i hate thinking that i might have made someone else feel that way. Sometimes its just impossible to invite everyone to everything but here’s my rule- i never specifically exclude.
5. Let go, forgive.
Lets be honest, we all make mistakes. We have all been a bad friend at some point. So when someone does something that hurts you, let it go. I have a friend that has a habit of overlooking other people’s feelings a lot. I know this about her but yet i still get my feelings hurt sometimes and i hold on to things a little longer than i should. Forgiveness is a part of the human experience and if we don’t let go of things that we feel offended by its really only hurting us. I know when i dwell on a grievance i’m not a happy person to be around, and you know the saying “when mom’s not happy ain’t nobody happy!” Forgive others, its hard but if i’ve learned anything in my life its that forgiveness is the only way to have peace in your soul.
6. Be Happy Now.
One of the most important things i’ve learned is to find happiness wherever you are at in life. I don’t think you can really be a good friend if your not happy on your own. Everyone has lots of reasons why they “shouldn’t” be happy- you don’t make as much money as you want, your husband is always away with school or work, your kids are difficult- i mean i can tell you right now i’d be a lot happier if the maid’s came twice a month and someone else potty trained my kid. The truth is you have to choose to be happy. Its all about our choices, are you choosing to be annoyed at your husband for leaving crumbs all over the counter or happy that he made the kids breakfast? Being grateful is a sure way to be happier, choosing to have a positive attitude is a great vehicle to joy, loving others even through their weaknesses will in turn make you a better person.
For me i can be happy even when my kids are screaming or i don’t feel adequate or when i weigh more than whats “ideal” in my mind because i know who i am. I know that i am a daughter of God who loves me know matter my weaknesses. Because i know who my Savior is and what he has done for me and i want to be more like him. I want to share his light, his kindness, his love with all those around me. I want to bring happiness into the lives of everyone i know because i know that he loves each of his children and as a disciple of Him it is my job to share that love. So in ten years i’m happy to say i’ve come a long way, i’ve still got a lot to work on but i feel good about who i am and where i’m headed.