Can you be your true self with your friends?
It’s no secret that who we are around our friends is often very different from who we are around our parents or colleagues. Friends get our weird sense of humour; they share our passion for eclectic music; they know what to say when we’re down. They’re the family that we choose for ourselves, but sometimes, even with our best friends, we might choose to adapt the way we communicate.
We often behave differently depending on who we’re with, but it’s usually with our friends that we feel the most comfortable. Good friends should make us feel safe to express who we are.
We spoke to Will, Reubs, Maya and Jada about their friendships and how they make them work.
Let’s recap. How can we be our true selves with our friends?
Maya had some negative friendships in the past which has made her insecure about opening up to people: “I've had lots of friends and loads of friendships, but a lot of them have gone wrong,” she says. But she’s honest about this with her close friend Jada and she’s honest with herself: “I'm not as trusting when it comes to a tight group of people.”
Being honest with your friends about where you are coming from and your past experiences can help you to make sure your new friendships stick.
Friends grow with you
Will is deaf. On a night out at uni, his cochlear implant was knocked off and went into the mosh pit: “I just remember seeing some bloke just treading on the thing!”
Will was stripped of his hearing, and unable to lip-read due to a lack of light, but he was able to write messages on his phone so that his friends knew what had happened.
After this, he says:
My university friends wanted to learn sign language and to be able to communicate with me if that situation was to ever happen again.
Reubs is a trans, feminist, social neuroscientist with autism. She has some great friends who she can moan to “about everyday stuff that happens when you're trans and autistic,” but sometimes finds herself tweaking how she moans to avoid upsetting or offending them:
“I tend to do my moaning in a way that doesn't make them feel complicit, even in the ways that maybe very indirectly and unwillingly they are.”
Sometimes you might feel like you need to change to fit in with those around you. Like Jada did when she moved to a new school and “was picked on for being the well-spoken one, the posh one.”
Although adaptability is a useful skill, real friends will get to know you and love you just as you are – you don’t need to change to fit in.
Friendships are some of the most important relationships we will ever have. Friends are there for you, help you when you need it, let you be yourself, and let you share your true feelings. Good friends can last you a lifetime so, as Maya says, when you find a good one who loves you just as you are, “Stick to what you’ve got and don’t let go of it!” And make sure you’re the type of friend that they want to hold on to as well!
For more advice on support on being yourself have a look at our Bitesize Support Identity pages.