We spend a lot of time looking for, and discussing, red flags. Whether it’s in a friendship or a romantic relationship, we’re often aware of potential red flags. We’ve all heard them before: they put you down, they refuse to apologise and so forth. But something that we consider less is potential green flags in a friendship. The moments that confirm someone as a good friend, as a healthy influence in your life. It can be big things as well as small things; it can be what they say, or rather what they do. But there are tiny indicators dotted across a friendship that confirm this person to be good for you, to be worth the time and effort you’re placing into this friendship. So today, let’s consider six green flags for a friendship.
I’ve spent years suffering from intense depression and a lack of self-worth that drove me to self-harm and an eating disorder. I’ve spent years telling myself that I’m worthless, I’m an awful person, and everyone will leave me. But part of what got me through were the people who saw through my mental illness, who saw past the mask I carefully formed, and who corrected those negative voices.
A true friend isn’t just about someone who makes you a better person, but also someone who accepts you as you are. They don’t embrace you despite your flaws, but with full knowledge and awareness of them. They accept you as the person that you are. Whether that’s snorting as you laugh, correcting people’s grammar or always running late. It doesn’t mean that they won’t nag you or try to help you, but rather they never make you feel like crap for being yourself.
Often we don’t even realise that someone does this because they do it so subtly and naturally, they’re not asking for praise in accepting you, as they can’t see why anyone wouldn’t. They let you laugh loudly and embarrassingly, they cheer when you drunkenly start dancing on the table, and they listen to all your longwinded Taylor Swift fan theories - sorry friends!
It is exhausting to keep yourself in check constantly. To feel unwelcome in your identity and to be transforming yourself into what everyone wants. When a friend accepts you as you are and creates an environment for you to thrive in yourself, they are definitely someone to keep around.
This applies two-fold. Firstly, an indicator of a great friend is someone you always leave feeling better than when you arrived. Whether you arrived sad and struggling, and they gave you advice and comfort. Or if you arrived feeling fine, but leave with a stitch from laughing too hard. There are special people in our lives that boost us with joy, that help us to feel better no matter the circumstances, and we could all use a good dose of that.
Secondly is that they make you feel good about yourself. This goes hand in hand with being able to be yourself, in that they also make you feel great about who you are. They read your writing and give you feedback on it, mentioning the parts that they really liked. They comment on your Instagram photos hyping you up. They congratulate you on your wins, and they genuinely mean it. The best green flag in a friendship is someone who is your emotional cheerleader, waiting on the sidelines and honestly hoping with all their might that you will succeed.
Sometimes we need a break, either from a specific person or just everyone in general. It can be introvert tendencies that need time to socially refuel in silence, or it could be a mental health pause. Alternatively, it may be a busy time in our lives where we can’t promise to reply quickly, and our calendars are looking pretty full. Whatever the reason, you are entitled to your space, and anyone who contradicts that is not deserving of being in your space at all.
A good friend will respect your space. They may recognise when you need it or just respond positively when you tell them. They may ask questions to understand, or they may just take your word immediately. Whatever their initial reaction, it’s one of support. They let you know that they are here when you need them and that you are entitled to this time and space.
Sometimes it’s more minor than a big social media cleanse or time away; sometimes, it is the friend that respects your working hours and lack of communication during them. Maybe you like to switch your phone off in the evenings, or maybe you prefer not to make plans during the week. Whatever the time period, whenever it is, a good friend respects and supports your space.
And why do they give you this space? Because they’ll be right here when you’re ready and because time is irrelevant to a good friendship. It doesn’t matter when you see each other, where you see each other or whether you do at all; a true friendship can take distance and time.
A good friend is one you don’t always talk to, as strange as that may seem. Because whilst it is great to have the kind of friends that you message 24/7 and spend all your free time with, these sometimes falter quickly or struggle when distance introduced for one reason or another. But when you have a friend that makes you feel like no time has passed, where you can pick up exactly where you left off, you know that you have a friendship for life.
They’re in this for the long game so that you can be too.
At the start, I mentioned that a major red flag is friends that tear you down. Despite being such an obvious red flag, it’s one we easily miss, as it can be cleverly disguised in the name of humour. Jokes are made at your expense or using you as their comedic prop. They consistently bring up your past mistakes and embarrassing stories in their desperation to appear funny and witty.
Therefore, it’s only natural that a significant green flag is friends that lift you up rather than tear you down. These are the friends that talk you up, that tell everyone how amazing you are and are eager to list your accomplishments. They’re proud of you, not because they take ownership of your success, but simply because they get to be around your light and a part of it. They’re eager to defend you or protect you, and they can’t wait to brag about you.
When something good happens to you, a green flag friend is not envious or quick to point out the holes in this success, but instead, they’re genuinely happy for you. They care about you and want you to be happy, so they enjoy your accomplishments no matter what is happening in their own life.
A friend who pushes you up is someone you want to keep around, as they help you feel good about yourself, and they ensure that group settings are fun for you and them.
This final green flag differs from the rest, maybe in that it is less obvious and mainly in that it isn’t always a pleasant experience. I’ve said before how you might have friends who you talk to all the time or ones that make you feel great. But these can be deceiving traits in a friend, as they could signify a short, intense friendship or superficial one. But a true friendship revolves around balance; it allows for good moments as well as bad moments, and its importance is on honesty rather than feeling good.
A good friend will call you out on your shit. They won’t stand by and watch you self-sabotage or hurt someone. They know when you’re lying to yourself or others, and they care about you enough to say something. A good friend won’t let you only talk about yourself, as they want an equal role in this relationship and they also have things to say. A good friend makes sure that you’re a good friend as well.
You should get the chance to talk but also take a seat to listen, and the green flag of friendship lies in that you don’t even realising you’re doing it, as these roles come naturally. That a friend can keep you in check without making you feel terrible or like you have to walk on eggshells. A good friend ensures that you apologise but also holds themselves to the same standards.
Every friend comes with their own green flags, the things that make them stand out and earn a place in your life. And maybe they each come with a few red flags, as we’re imperfect and consistently learning. So life is about finding the balance, so that the green far outweighs the red. The person you want to message as soon as something great happens, or something hilarious, that’s a true friend. Life is short, and so it’s vital to fill it with the best kind of people, the ones who make everything feel worth it. What do you consider to the best green flag of a good friend?
Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.
Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.
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