Friendship I: The 4 levels of friendships and what they mean

Introspection and retrospection can be the best foundation for a lifetime of teachings. It is only now at my big age that I’m coming to learn of this. Lately, I’ve been practicing these two concepts and I’m in awe of what I established.

I’ve always had the understanding that friends do everything together. In my junior high school I had the most amazing friends, who not only affirmed this notion of doing things together – but also made me believe that friends think the same way, like the same things, want the same things in life, and are completely co-dependent of each other.

But then, I grew up and things changed. Some years later, I started watching shows like The Bold Type, Insecure, Being Mary Jane and I found myself drowning in envy because I want what they have. Some years back, I watched Girlfriends and Moesha and other shows relating to blackness but at the time, I wasn’t mature enough to get the nuances behind them. So, watching the former shows made me think a lot. Sure, television shows are not necessarily a correct representation of what happens in reality, I get that. But there are aspects that make sense for real life situations. And that’s what got me thinking

via GIPHY

I’ve since come to learn a few things about friendships. My major take away is that friendships don’t operate on a binary template. That they can be layered. That each friend has their own role to play without competing with the other. That each friend has their own value to add to your life.

But I didn’t know this because we grew up under a parenting system that didn’t teach positive sisterhood. I mean, the amount of times I was told things like “you think these little friends of yours care about you?””you think they’re going to be there for you” etc. It’s not a wonder that we fear getting too close and vulnerable with one another.

To add to that, society has normalised the concept of pitting women against each other. Each waking day, society reinforces the ideology that women don’t support each other. This has been happening for generations after generations. It’s like an unbreakable curse. We are learning the same broken and flawed education our mothers learnt from their mothers. The upside though, is that my generation is a generation that questions things. We’re asking why and we’re starting conversations. One day we will succeed at unlearning everything negative about friendships and sisterhood and we’ll love each other, care for each other, and lift each other up.

For now, we are on journeys of discovery. I am on a journey of discovery. And I like where it is going. I like that I’m leaning that friendships are more than all the fluff, and the shiny things. I like that I’m learning that friendships are about a mutual exchange of respect, care, support, and love. That it is about sharing fun and cool experiences, the same way it is about sharing the difficult experiences.

Learning all of this forced me to take a look at my friendships and I found that something is lacking and I had to dig deep into what that is. I realised that more than anything, it is the culture of miscommunication, silence, and enabling that has led me to this insufficiency that I’m feeling with regards to my friendships.

See, although I’m hella opinionated, I’m also painfully introverted. There have been numerous occasions where I would let things slide because I wanted to “keep the peace.”

You know what I mean?

But all of that is a result of being told I am aggressive in the way that I speak as well as being surrounded by people who are comfortable speaking over me. More often than not, I end up checking out of conversations altogether because of this.

What that breeds is unspoken tension, which is dangerous and damaging. Because the thing is, when things are not addressed, they linger. They linger within. And the second party continues to live on because they haven’t the slightest clue about the things you wished to say but didn’t. Things that are forming a fire that might erupt like a volcano someday.

Knowing all of this, I decided that I had to first accept the role I played because accountability is key. Then assess what types of friendships I hold and what role they play in my life.

If you read below, you’ll find a guide, which I found through research that I used to unpack my friendships and co-ordinate accordingly.

Although, there are many types or levels of friendships, I specifically used this to help me:

  1. Level 1 friend – This is a person who knows you, in and out. They are your go-to with any huge life-changing decision or story in your life, be it positive or negative.
  2. Level 2 friend – This is a person you are familiar with, you hang out and have fun times with but only occasionally. You’re not familiar enough to divulge any of the heavy shit in your life.
  3. Level 3 friend – This is an acquaintance, be it someone you work with or met through work or through a friend in the above levels. You may even have their numbers, but you barely talk to each other.
  4. Level 4 friend – This is a friend that is only in your life for their own gain. They usually contact you when they need something from you. Then they disappear until they need something again, and so the cycle continues.

Take a look at your friendships and assess which levels they fit in and then look at the next article about speaking a friend’s friendship language.


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