The Toxic Concept of a Best Friend

Published on 10/5/2022

Blaire and Serena. Chandler and Joey. Thelma and Louise. Shaggy and Scooby-Doo.

For decades, we’ve been presented with the concept of a best friend: an iconic duo that prioritises each other over everything else. A best friend is the person who will always pick up the phone, drop everything for you and be your sidekick throughout any adventure. They’re the one you should call to help you bury the body, or your plus-one to any event.

It’s a heartwarming concept - dead bodies aside- but, unfortunately, a toxic one as well. As while this can be the case for some people, who have their designated best friend, many others don’t fit into this cookie-cutter mould. You can be left feeling like you’re the issue; you’re the strange one for not having a best friend and being someone else’s. The concept of a best friend may be a toxic one, that does more harm than good, and belongs on TV screens rather than in our actual lives.

You can’t rely solely on one person

One of the main reasons I find the concept of a best friend so toxic is the sheer responsibility it places on someone. You are asking someone to be your everything; to be the person you always complain to, the person you ask for advice, the person you share each story with, the person you rely on. You are placing all of that on one best friend, as they’re your priority.

We can’t be everything to someone and be what we need ourselves. We can’t always be available for someone, whether that’s in time, energy, or emotional support. We can’t tick every box of what makes the perfect best friend to someone.

If a friend needs me, I will always be there for them. But sometimes that will take a few hours if I’ve put my phone away. Sometimes I’m struggling myself, so I can’t give them as much as I’d like to.

The concept of a best friend is toxic, as if someone is your everything, you stand to have nothing. Friendships fade or fall apart or have moments when they’re dimmer, and you can’t be left with this gaping hole in your life. Having multiple best friends allows you not to be so terrified of losing someone and to be honest with them no matter what, as you have other people there to support you.

You can have multiple strong friendships

I recently described a person as being “one of my best friends”, to which I received a rather curt response.

“You can’t have multiple best friends, only multiple friends.”

Unfortunately, they do have a point. To be the best is to exceed all others, to be the highest of the category, and it’s ultimately a solo position. Only one person can be the best at something, including being the best at being your friend.

But grammatical technicalities aside, I wouldn’t say that I have one friend that stands out from my close friends. I may not have a best friend, but I have half a dozen very close friends that are equal to me. I have a unique friendship with each of them, they bring out a different side to me, and we discuss shared interests that I don’t have with the others. I couldn’t rank them if I tried, as they’re all important to me and cover the complex person I am. I’d message one of them if I embarrassed myself in public and another if I needed some advice about work. I’d invite one of them to go on a beach holiday and another to a family event. Some of my closest friends live in a different country and so while I try to maintain long-distance contact, I need other people close to me as well.

You may not be able to have multiple best friends, but you can have a lot of close friends, and maybe that’s more valuable. Why have only one friend when you can share yourself with several? We can’t expect one person to tick all our boxes as otherwise, we’d be endlessly seeking a clone. I can’t expect the same person to discuss musicals, Tiktoks, writing, mental health, marketing, books, Taylor Swift and Grey’s Anatomy with me - if you’re out there, hit me up!

Someone can’t be our everything, so instead of seeking an iconic duo, create a pack that can fulfil each role without placing too much on one person. Acknowledge every facet of who you are and allow yourself to learn from more than one person.

They say that we’re a product of the five people we interact with the most, so shouldn’t we consider all five of those people our best friends, or close friends? If all five have equal influence, they deserve an equal role.

You may not be your best friend’s best friend

This was recently discussed on my favourite podcast (Should I Delete That?). What should you do if someone is one of your closest friends, or even your best friend, and you’re not theirs? Well, in all honesty, you shouldn’t do anything.

If you’re happy giving that person such a big role in your life, then you should do so without expectations. Some people have more friends than others, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

A lot of my friends are far more extroverted than I am. I need at least one rest day between all plans and am at my happiest home with a mug of coffee and a good book. They love doing things, meeting new people, heading to busy places and other extroverted things. So it makes sense that they have more friends than I do, some of which are close friends and others are acquaintances. They’re the main people I see on a regular basis, and I’m one of many to them.

That doesn’t have to be insulting to me. I can attribute that to our differences and be glad that I get to see them when it suits me and not be pressured to do more social activities.

If you have a single best friend and it works well for you, then that’s great, and I hope it stays that way. But if you don’t have a best friend and you’ve often felt like you’re missing something or it’s an issue, know that you’re not the only one. You don’t need to have a dedicated best friend as long as you have people to love who love you in return. So we can leave the idea of a single best friend for TV shows and films and instead, focus on the joy of having a group of close friends.

Fleur

Fleur

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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