I am the kind of person who tries to get along with everyone.
I love chatting to people, I love meeting new folks, and I’m a big fan of talking to strangers at parties. When I’m not friends with someone, it actively hurts me. Even people I know don’t like me. Even people I know I don’t like! I want to be friends with everyone.
I used to add friends to my collection like flowers on a chain — it was so easy to just add another, add another, add another — until the habit started becoming harder to break.
It got to the point where I started feeling like I was being downright unfriendly if I turned down invites, didn’t want to meet people for a coffee, didn't socialize outside my inner circle at a party. I hated feeling guilty about it, and I also knew that my friend-collection habit was unsustainable. I wanted to take the opportunity to break the habit.
So when my coworker (who I don’t love, frankly, and who I find a little annoying) asked me to come to her barbecue on the weekend?
I said no.
I didn’t have plans that weekend. I wasn’t brimming with business. I just didn’t want to spend time with someone I didn’t like, simply to make her like me. I didn’t want to give up my day in order to add just one more friend.
She stopped asking me to her events after I said no. She even started chatting to me less at work. I wasn’t sad about it — like I said, I find her annoying — but even now I still feel like I should pick that back up, cultivate that friendship. I still feel guilty that I purposefully chose to not have that possible friend in my life.
There is such thing as too many friends.
This is a concept I never would have believed five years ago.
I’ve spent the majority of my life desperately trying to get everyone to like me, no matter the consequence to me, my schedule, or my mental health. I’ve tried to change myself more times than I can remember to become universally likable. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve said I’ll reinvent myself to no longer care that I couldn’t be universally likable.
Obviously, it doesn’t work. I’m still me — a little goofy, a little awkward, still hungry for love no matter where it comes from.
This is why it’s so radical for me to come to the realization that I don’t have to be friends with everyone, that I don’t need to feel bad for not befriending everyone.
I used to feel that every acquaintance was an opportunity, that I would be foolish to turn down the chance to turn anyone into a friend. I used to be the person who, when ghosted, would frantically obsess over it. What did I do wrong? What could I do differently next time? How could I avoid losing a friend like this?
Now, I try to focus on the friends I have who love me. If someone chooses to step out of my life, that’s their right, and I won’t waste time chasing them. What’s more, I feel better about doing the same.
Some people aren’t worth chasing. I have more than enough love in my life already.
We only have 24 hours per day.
Here’s the thing. I could pursue a friendship with my coworker. I could accept her next invite. I could make plans to see her out of work. I could cultivate that relationship, and who knows? It might even develop into an actual friendship. I could overlook the fact that she’s rude and uncivil, and eat her dense vegan muffins, and become fast friends.
But why? To assuage the guilt that I just flat-out don’t like a person? To cave into the part of me that needs to be loved by everyone?
Yes, it’s true I could gain a friend. But what would I lose?
We only have so much time in our lives. I’m already blessed with a life rich in friends and family and love. Why should I make an effort to cultivate a relationship with this person, when I could instead use that time to pet my cats, kiss my partner, Skype my mom, or even write this story? Rather than focusing on what I was missing by not becoming friends with her, I needed to shift my perspective.
With social media, I realized there is something to be lost by putting empty hours into scrolling. Equally, I needed to learn that pursuing meaningless friendships simply to feel less guilty about not liking a person is a waste of my time. I don’t have an infinite number of hours in my day. I don’t want to clutter up the meaningful relationships I do have with people I don’t care about.
I’m aiming my efforts at strengthening the friendships I have that I care about. I’m not going to waste my time and energy pursuing potential friendships that won’t give me what I need from them, only so that I can feel better about myself for no reason.
We don’t have to be best friends with everyone we meet. And we shouldn’t feel bad about turning down those opportunities to focus on those we really care about.