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Niamh Ennis: ‘Let go of friendships in which you can’t be fully, authentically and openly yourself’


by Niamh Ennis
18th Sep 2020

Friendship isn’t about whom you’ve known the longest. It’s about who walks in the door asks what do you need, what can I do, and means it, writes Niamh Ennis


People talk about ‘releasing’ people from their lives like it’s something that’s pretty easy to do. It’s not. Making the decision to let some people go, to move on without them, can be difficult and painful.

The friends we gather throughout the years are like little life landmarks, that remind us of the good and sad times in our lives, the times we grew and changed as well as the reminders of events we don’t ever want to repeat.

Friendship isn’t about whom you’ve known the longest. It’s about who walks in the door asks what do you need, what can I do, and means it. Who are they for you?

Think of the friends you have made along the way – in school, your neighbours, college, your first job, your ‘going out’ friends, your partner’s friends and your children’s parents’ friends. Think about how you feel when you imagine each group of friends. You’ll see how the feelings towards those friends match your feelings towards the memories of those times.

I think it’s time for us to bust the myth that those who have friends from their childhood are somehow great examples of loyalty. I believed this myself for so long. I thought that if I let go of some of my earlier friendships that it meant I was turning my back on that part of my life and on the people who helped shape me.

Friendship isn’t about whom you’ve known the longest. It’s about who walks in the door asks what do you need, what can I do, and means it. Who are they for you?

When I think back on the friendships I have released, I can see now that it was because they weren’t making me feel good about me. And quite honestly the same could well have been true for them. We weren’t bringing out the best in one another and here’s why…

Fitting in

Growing up, I was desperate to fit in and to feel like I really belonged somewhere. Like so many young girls, I wanted to be part of the ‘cool’ group and to be friends with the ‘popular’ girls.  I utilised my sense of humour (and sarcasm) to make myself more attractive to the friends I craved. I studied them and then became the person they wanted me to be. This was part of a well thought out strategy  and I thought this made me very clever.

I had convinced myself that friends, once made, remained. Anything other than that, pointed to a huge sense of personal failure on my part

Of course what I didn’t realise was that this actually marked the beginning of me turning myself into someone I wasn’t. I became less connected with who I really was or what it was I truly wanted. I believed it was more important for me to be the person others needed me to be and I chased validation in their approval. If they liked me, I felt I could like myself (which never actually happened!)

I didn’t have the language back then to fully understand just what I was doing. I didn’t know that in fact I was creating a lifetime habit that would not serve me, and that it would result in me not liking the person I was and really struggling to become the person deep down I knew I was supposed to be.

Some may drift out of your life temporarily, some may float back into your life unexpectedly

I also bought in to the notion that you just didn’t let friendships go. In my book that was just wrong. I had convinced myself that friends, once made, remained. Anything other than that, pointed to a huge sense of personal failure on my part. Something more to beat myself up over!

Yet I can see now, that friends can, and should, come and go in your life. As you change, grow and evolve, your friendships should too. Some may drift out of your life temporarily, some may float back into your life unexpectedly, but it doesn’t always need to come with a klaxon announcing the end of anything or heralding the beginning of something new.

Grey Friendships

I will admit that my former addiction to drama did not help in understanding this process. If I noticed someone withdrawing from my life, I believed I must have done something wrong, or that this was indeed the evidence I was searching for to prove that I was a terrible person. I used the flux and flow of friendships to measure my status at being a good human. This addiction to drama took me to the place where I believed all friendships needed to be black and white.

These days, real friendships are the ones in which I can fully, authentically and openly be myself.

It is only in recent years and after much soul searching and growth, that I now fully understand friendships to be grey. A gorgeously, comforting and warm shade of grey.

I don’t demand anything from them, I don’t expect anything from them, but I value those that I have hugely. It’s no longer about keeping count on the number of friends in my life but about devoting myself to the chosen few. It’s about nourishing those I want, and appreciating those I have. It’s about asking for little in return but knowing I can rely on them for when darker days come.

These days, real friendships are the ones in which I can fully, authentically and openly be myself. I express myself honestly and truthfully and do so knowing that it is safe to be me. They don’t ask me to be less me. They don’t always understand me but they ‘get’ me.

Who I am with my friends is who I am with me.

My friendships are me unfiltered. It might sound glaringly obvious to most of you reading this but it is has taken me a long time to get here, not just to know this, but to believe and feel it.

I love the friends I have now but I also love the friends I have let go. I am leaving the door open on all of my friendships for when they might want or need to come back in or want or need to take some time out.

I trust that those are in my life right now are supposed to be here and that’s good enough for me!

Niamh Ennis is Ireland’s leading Change & Transformation Specialist and Founder of The RESET for Change 3 Month 1:1 Private Coaching Programme. If you’re looking for clarity through journaling, download your own FREE Journal for Greater Clarity with prompts to get you started or visit niamhennis.com 


Related: Niamh Ennis: 7 steps to managing your fears

Related: Niamh Ennis: How to cure yourself of comparisonitis

Related: August Anxiety: Why we get anxious at the end of summer

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