One way or another, we’ve all navigated through the murky and tumultuous waters of burn out. In order to appease a society that has glorified doing more than being, and subconsciously taught us to punish ourselves for prioritizing rest and leisure by overcompensating with “productivity,” we’ve inevitably tired our own selves out and ran our batteries dry. We’ve put too much on our plate that we can barely even wobble back to the dinner table to enjoy the meal.
While this kind of burn out is known to show up professionally, and many times even creatively, it’s important to note that it can come up socially as well. And it’s not just in the amount of day parties and healing circles you’ve joined in a month, but it’s also in how much your own one-on-one friendships have taken from you, too.
There’s always an emphasis on how we evolve relative to our romantic relationships, but our platonic ones play just as important a role in shaping our identity. Our friends see us at our rawest, our silliest, our truest. Within our friendships, we see ourselves and experience love at its most primal. This can be beautifully revolutionary, while also overwhelmingly draining.
This conversation isn’t typically had because of our aversion to discomfort. It’s hard for us to take off the comfortable rose-colored lens we see our friends through, at least long enough to realize that they could be damaging us under the guise of need and affection. But truthfully, toxic dynamics can play out relationally within any partnership, whether it be platonic, romantic, or familial.
We’ve been taught that to be a good friend means to always show up, to always hold space, to drop everything when they need us and eat every bucket of ice cream through every breakup alongside them. But what happens when being a good friend to them starts to mean being a bad friend to yourself? What happens when we’re left with nothing but the choice to redefine selflessness when it leads to our own depletion and living selfishly if it means prioritizing our well-being?
We love our friends through and through, but when we allow patterns to take a too solid hold on our lives, we can get trapped in them. When you’ve never turned away an ear or held the entire weight of their lives and disasters even when your arms were too weak to carry your own, it becomes muscle memory for both parties. They know you’re the lighthouse they can always seek in accordance to their emotional schedule, and you subconsciously equate your worth to an exchange of energy. I am lovable when I am in service to those that are unable to be their own source of counsel.
Here’s a test: You’re going about your day, brewing your chamomile tea in fuzzy socks and answering the emails you’ve been avoiding all week. Your phone chimes and lights up, and it’s a FaceTime from your friend. How does your stomach feel, upon immediate reaction? Is there a sinking feeling, a moment where you feel obligated to pick up the call? Does this unwarranted conversation feel invasive to your time? Or is there a slight burst of energy, excitement and curiosity for the tea you’re about to be served? Or just the thought of getting to hear their voice?
It’s important to take notice of how our body reacts to how people show up first and foremost before our mind does, because our mind can convince us of a conditioned truth. It can tell you that you’ve known this person since childhood, that there’s no way you’d ever outgrow them, and that to think you have would only be disloyal. But is your body telling you a different story? Does it leave a conversation feeling drained and depleted instead of energized and renewed? This is how you weed out the relationships fueling you and the relationships you’re the only one fueling.
This will also brighten in bold lettering those beautifully magical low-maintenance friendships that deserve our utmost commitment. The ones where it doesn’t matter if it’s been six days or six months, breaking bread with them feels like only seconds have passed since the last time you connected. You’re both fully stocked homes already, anchored in self-sufficiency and not looking for either to fix the other, but maybe only to hold their hand while they walk themselves home. These are the relationships you tend to, the gardens you water with love and sustenance. It’s a reciprocal exchange; we feed these relationships because they feed, nourish, and mirror us back, gifting us the exhale we all deserve.
But does this mean to get rid of the friends that tire us? Well, that’s up to your own discernment. There’s a difference between a relationship being inherently toxic or simply draining, and if it’s the latter, that’s where the beauty of boundaries come in. We have all kinds of friends that serve all kinds of purposes, and to expect a one-size-fits-all experience from our very individual partnerships wouldn’t make logical sense! You can have your Sunday brunch friends, your “I’m anxious and need to be talked off a ledge” friends, your travel friends, your spiritual friends, your childhood friends, your “Let’s shake our ass to Megan thee Stallion and regret our decisions in the morning” friends, and the friends you see once a month because that’s all you really have the emotional capacity for. The only quest here is being honest enough with yourself to figure out who is who, and brave enough with them to speak on what it means to choose yourself.
The most important friendship you will ever have is the one with you, and you owe it to yourself to honor how much you have to pour out and which plants are demanding more than you’re able to give. Whether it’s boundaries, distance, or a breakup all together, life will make it very obvious when your subconscious has reached full capacity and when it’s time to weed out what’s only taking unnecessary space. And to the friends that fuel you, encourage you, uplift you, and energize you? Check on them more often. Make a vow to commit to the beauty in finding your soul family. Send those “thinking of you” texts, support their projects, buy them something just cause. It’s not only a thank you to them, but a nod to the universe for gifting you the example of what the healthiest love truly looks like.