Relationships are one of the most essential needs of humankind and are the basis onto which the entirety of human progress and collective livelihood is built. Relationships come in a variety of forms, be they family, romance, or friendship. Friendships may be the most common of the three. We may choose any number and any variety of people with whom we may form a friendship, creating bonds between ourselves and others, no matter who they are, by simple commonalities.

With the amount of value it brings to our lives, it may come as no surprise that a good deal of our time is spent either creating or strengthening friendships. Loneliness does a good deal of harm to our bodies, both mentally and physically. Conversely, friends enjoy the benefit of each other’s company, discussing with one another about an array of common, obscure, and personal subjects. A testament to just how deep of a need friendship is can be seen in the size of many social media apps such as Instagram, Twitter, and Discord. They have grown to great size (Discord reports over 100 million monthly users in 2020), simply due to the human desire for companionship.

I am no different from anyone else. I dedicate much of my time to starting and building friendships, and naturally, my thoughts center around this topic quite often as a result. However, these thoughts tend to be corrupted by my fears and anxieties. I stress over minute points; I think back to interactions with people and brood over every small time I did something slightly strange. I try to comfort myself saying, they probably mean nothing to anyone but myself. Still, I cannot disprove my fears, so they remain. Do my friends just tolerate me?

With friendship, a key component is trust. I must trust that my friends are good to their word. I must trust in their ability to be there for me when I am in need. And arguably most importantly, I must trust that they are, in fact, my friend. Without absolute faith in our mutual amity, I seem to always have room to fear.

Fear, like pride, consumes the mind. It eats away at it, but unlike pride, fear magnifies your attention not on your greatness, but your incompetence. Fear will convince you that what you fear is true, for you often cannot disprove your fears. When you are convinced of something, it is hard not to act out of it. Will my fears of my friends’ insincerity drive me to push away my genuine friends, becoming colder and acting not out of my genuine self, but a kind of persona I imagine people would like? Even such a thought, to not fall victim to such a trap, brings about anxiety. How can I try to act natural? By thinking about it, I have lost any ability to act ‘natural’. The conscious mind is very unnatural, far more logical and rigid than a real personality is.

Anxiety is the root cause and ultimate effect of these fears. Like some conscious, evil being, fear lays root in my mind and gorges itself on all that it can find. I cannot help but believe the reason for my recurring anxieties is deep feelings of unease about friendship from long years of great loneliness. It makes me wonder if something is wrong with me as a person.

But if that is true, and want my friends to like me, why couldn’t I mask my personality with a persona? A filter that sorts out what I believe people dislike about me, may put my fears to rest. But this is amongst the worst possible solution for many reasons. How do I know what people like and dislike about me? If I get it wrong I will have created a filter that only ensures everyone will end up disliking me. It is also deceitful, and easily seen through. I do not wish to deceive anyone, for that would mean lying to people for my selfish gain. Am I such a bad person as to desire that? Fear causes these thoughts and then seems to cheer as I berate myself, willing it to go on forever… Fear seems only to increase anxiety and fear, it does nothing to solve it.

Perhaps I could tell my friends how, and end the worrying? If they were true friends maybe they would console me and rebuke such thoughts. Or, it may seem pitiful… a sad disbelieve in their legitimacy, in essence, it may come off as distrust of them. But do I distrust them, or myself? I cannot tell. So I refrain from bringing it up.

Furthermore, if such thoughts are occurring, what is the cause? Am I being cynical; distrustful? Is one of my friends ingenuine, and something is going on that I am not consciously seeing? Is it any number of things I am not considering? If I knew with certainty why I fear that my friends secretly dislike me, I would be able to put my mind to rest. I would be able to do something, rather than sit, absorbed in my thoughts.

Still, even without absolute certainty, fear will do me no good. Even if some of my friends are ingenuine, it is the worst option to fear. I cannot repress fear, but I can choose to listen to it. Such an action is extremely difficult to imagine putting into practice. But perhaps, with repeated practice, I may become better at it. Additionally, it may be wise to consider who of my friends are genuine and caring. While this distinction is not easily made (especially amid anxiety), I cannot help but wonder, am I willing to be straightforward and honest about them with my anxieties? If not (unless it is a young and actively growing relationship), perhaps it would be better not to put my energy into forming that friendship.

Why do I put so much of my time and energy into making friends? It is a simple need. I want a friend who I may rely on, and who relies on me. Someone who blazes trails with me in our common interests, who I may talk to about any variety of subjects, and who I may laugh with, cry with, and share my heart with. Someone who will grow me to be a better person, show me my weaknesses I could not see, and reassure me of my strength when the world seems to be bending over backward. I cannot allow anxiety to ruin me, for, in the end, it brings nothing but hurt. As C.S. Lewis puts it, “Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.”

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