When I was four, I met my first best friend. In our pre-school class, she and I gravitated towards each other as if naturally, the way kids seek each other out with no reason nor agenda. We acknowledged each other as “best friend,” and as young as I was back then, I think I already appreciated the honor.
As a guileless kid who was yet to be whacked on the head with the complexities of adult relationships, I would go on to have a different “best friend” each school year. But when I reached my teens and saw my peers begin to pair off and form strong best-friendships that actually lasted longer than a school year, I began to wonder if there was anything wrong with me. I had friends everywhere, but there was no one I could call my best friend and who would call me the same—and actually stay that way for years. Was I unlikeable? Why wasn’t anyone picking me?
Of course, I was a teenager then, and when you’re a teenager, your self-consciousness spikes and you’re always acutely aware of whether or not you fit in. Now that I’m in my 30s, I have grown to embrace the fact that I have no best friend; instead, I have several close ones.
I have my oldest close friends, my sisters who really have no choice but to put up with me but who I’m mentioning here anyway. I have my literal oldest close friend, a man 13 years my senior who became my steady rock during some of the messiest moments of my life. I have my heartbreak close friend; somehow, we always happen to sync breakups, causing us to amass the kind of tear-filled conversations that really cement a bond. I have my creative pursuits close friend, with whom I share similar visions and started a bunch of projects with—those projects may be dead and gone, but our friendship is alive and kicking. I even have a gym close friend, even though it’s been a month since I’ve been to the gym and she’s way ahead of me in the fitness game, that bitch. (JK. Love you, Emily!)
I look at these close friendships, and I am happy to have built a good number of them over the time I’ve been alive, and I no longer feel wanting.
Having finally become comfortable with having not one best friend, but many close ones, I realized a few things about myself that prove why this setup actually works for me. If you’ve ever felt down about being best-friend-less like I have, you might be able to relate, and hopefully, not beat yourself up about it anymore.
I actually like being on my own.
I may have wished I had a constant sounding board when I was younger, but at the end of the day, I’ve always sought the space to think, feel, and act on my own—and I’m aware that I’ve kept people at arm’s length because of this.
Friendship expert Irene S. Levine, Ph.D. writes in Psychology Today that “being guarded with other people and reluctant to self-disclose” can cause difficulty in deepening friendships. She continues, “Such a tendency, which is common, could inadvertently create an emotional distance between you and a friend. If your friend feels you are holding back, it will cause her to do the same.”
I’ve been in many situations where I held back with a friend instead of letting it all out. When I was younger, that used to bother me because I felt I was being inauthentic, but now I’ve come to accept that I just have a really rich inner world—and I don’t have to invite someone into it if I don’t feel like it.
Ironically, I’m also a people person who can strike up a friendship with ANYONE.
Just because some people are best-friend-less doesn’t mean they’re socially inept hermits who never leave their rooms. I may not let my guard down that easily, but I actually really love being around people. You could put me anywhere, alone, with a bunch of strangers, and by the end of the day, I’d have added 10 new friends on Facebook.
Writing for Cosmo US, Ellen Killoran lists this awesome perk of not having a best friend: “We like that we’re free to make new close friends without any guilt or pressure.” She continues, “In fact, since we don’t have a guaranteed partner in crime, we’re probably more open to new friendships than someone with an established BFF.”
Of course, these connections are nowhere as deep as the ones shared by best friends, but meeting people and bonding over the slightest similarities is a joy I’ll never tire of. Some girl I just met might not be the Monica to my Rachel, but hey, we both rapped along to Nicki Minaj’s “Super Bass” when it came on at a party—that’s still awesome!
I understand how complex I am, and I know now that I don’t have to bare all that complexity with just one person.
In an essay for the Washington Post, writer Leah Fessler says, “Like all relationships, friendships are about mutual exchange: Sharing parts of yourself, be it humor, memories, adventures, love or support, and receiving parts of others. Yet given the complexity of each person, it’s impossible to get everything from one person, or vice versa—a reality as true in friendship as it is in romance.”
Similarly, I tend to show different facets of my complex whole to different people—I have different go-tos for kulitan, for walwalan, for secret-sharing, for music fangirling—and I no longer hope for any one person to wear all those hats.
I learned this lesson the hard way when, in the times I’ve been in a relationship, whoever was my boyfriend became my best friend who came to fill all those roles. You can just imagine what a disaster that would turn out to be once we’d break up—not only would I lose these men as boyfriends, I would lose them as best friends, too, and I would have to rebuild ties with the real friends I had lost touch with during the time my boyfriend took their place. (Kids, don’t make the same mistake.
Lastly, my friends—plural—make me happy. Whether it’s just one ride-or-die, or several of them, the important thing is that the friends I do have are good for me.
A 2014 survey of over 5,000 respondents in the UK has found that people with quality friendships are more likely to feel good about themselves.
Among the survey respondents who described their friendships as “good” or “very good,” 87 percent reported feeling good about themselves sometimes, often, or all of the time. Meanwhile, among the respondents whose friendships were “average” or “bad,” the number dropped significantly to 63 percent, and for those who said that they did not have a friend at all, the number was comparable at 62 percent.
Clearly, it’s the quality, not the quantity, of friendships that matters. If you’re lamenting your lack of a best friend like I used to, remember that as long as you’ve got quality friendships, you’re doing great. Whether you eventually find the Monica to your Rachel or stay best-friend-less forever remains to be seen, but just keep strengthening the friendships you do have and be open to making new ones, and you’re golden.
Besides, it’s not every day that you meet someone who knows the entire rap in “Super Bass” like you do.