Being A Little Selfish Made Me a Better Friend
By Thao Nguyen
Ever since I was little, my parents told me that the most important thing for me to be was good. Because of that I’ve always done what I thought would make me be and perceived as a good person. Someone others could depend on at all times. Someone people could look at and say, “she’s one of the greatest friends I’ve ever had; one of the best people I’ve ever known.” And one way I’ve really tried to implement that is by being a good friend.
This is something I struggle to see myself from time to time, because a) it’s pretty presumptuous of me to assume I’m being a good friend, and b) even if I am a good friend, that should be a given. Being supportive for the people you love (and even those you don’t) shouldn’t be an extraordinary concept, it’s what we’re supposed to do. Regardless, this is why I found myself feeling a little holier-than-thou every time I felt like I’d gone above and beyond for my friends. It was not just that little glow you feel from knowing that you’ve helped someone in some way, it was more like I’m-great-and-this-person-should-feel-lucky-to-be-my-friend. Not a really good reaction right? It was a pretty selfish and prideful feeling and basically took away any altruism points I racked up for being there for a friend, which in turn made me feel like a crappy friend and added more stress to my life.
This all led to me doing more and more from my friends to make up for the guilt I felt for that pride. From emotional support to physically being there for them to being up late to help them with work and school, I was giving everything I could. I was also afraid that if at any point I couldn’t help my friends, they wouldn’t love me anymore and that they wouldn’t ever come to me for help again. That fear of losing a friend and being left in the dark when they needed me drove me to the point of emotional exhaustion. The desire to be loved, appreciated, and needed was making me focus way more on the well-being of others than on my own.
Ultimately, I became emotionally burnt out. I felt exhausted just hearing my phone go off. Every time one of my own issues cropped up in my mind, I would bat it away, telling myself I needed to help everyone else first. So the more stressful my life became, the more invested I became in my friends lives. Eventually, I became secretly annoyed with my friends. For something that was my own fault. I never asked for help for my own problems or even showed that anything was bothering me, yet I was annoyed that they couldn’t sense something was wrong. It upset me that I was wringing myself dry for my friends without any reciprocation.
I had to step back and see that the problem was me though. I had to realize that being a friend doesn’t always mean getting something back when you give something, and it also means being open and vulnerable when necessary as well as being selfish sometimes. By taking care of my needs and issues, I was able to be a better friend because I had more to give. I’m not a huge Bukowski fan, but damn did he know what he was saying when he wrote “drink from the well of yourself and begin again.” Making the decision to take care of myself and to ask for help alleviated so many of the anxieties in my life. I felt more ready than ever to be a good friend.
I also had to learn to trust my friends’ love for me more. Reminding myself everyday that they loved me for me and not just for the things I did for them was difficult, but it made our relationships so much stronger; not to mention it did wonders for how I viewed myself. I had to be a good person, not just a person who does good things.