Am I a Good Friend?

I think, often, within my friendships, I search for a constant and consistent kind of validation. A certain type of validation that’s able to offer reassurance and justification that I am, in fact, a good friend. 

Recently, a friend of mine had been experiencing some anxiety over some recent big changes in their life. While she was talking to me about her feelings and thought processes, I felt that I didn’t really have the capacity to handle the emotional state of the conversation, and I felt that I wasn’t offering enough support. Even if she did just want a listening ear to rant about a current situation that was happening to her, my replies to her stories and shared feelings were usually short and came across as detached, consisting of “that sucks” and “Yeah, oh my god.” Beyond that, I wasn’t really sure I was doing much to be a helpful friend, which led me down a spiral of questioning my ability to actually be a good friend. 

Dealing with emotionally charged conversations or feelings has never really been my strong suit in friendships, and I have become increasingly aware of it. I tend to avoid leaning toward my emotions and instead try and distance myself from the person and the situation. It’s not that I don’t feel any sympathy for my friends; I really do share in the awful things they are feeling and I want to make it better for them. But, at the same time, it makes me uncomfortable and that feeling of discomfort makes me feel like I am falling short as a friend. I just wish I could express in some way, “Hey, I’m glad you feel like you can talk to me about this stuff. But, I’m not the best at handling emotional situations. I’m here for you though and I will continue to support you.” At one point, I actually did reach out to my friend to apologize for my lack of helpful responses and for the insincere tone that came across. I did really care about what she was going through, and I tried to convey that to her.

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I wanted to delve into why I continue to react in a short and distant manner when it comes to emotional issues or discussions with friends. I strive to understand why this detachment feels like it is out of my control at times. Kimberly Holland, the author of the article “Emotional Detachment: What It Is and How to Overcome It” for, describes this idea of emotional detachment as sometimes being voluntary or involuntary and oftentimes used by individuals to set up boundaries within friendships. Holland then goes further in-depth to discuss how emotional detachment can be enacted by choice or as a result of abuse. This detachment can, at times, be a normal method that people use in friendships to conserve their energy. However, it can sometimes be a more severe form of detachment and lead to commitment issues or substance abuse. 

Overall, if I’m aware that I’m not responding to a situation in the best way, to avoid spiraling I remind myself to check in with my friend to make sure I am at least helping them in a way that supports them. But, I also know I need to conserve my own mental health without letting their situation and emotions become my own. And by checking in with myself, I am not allowing the emotions to overwhelm me, and simultaneously, I am showing up for my friend in a way that works for both of us.

A great place to go and maybe have these conversations about boundaries with your friends is Colomba Bakery! And use this coupon to get 20% off your coffee order, when you bring your student ID!

By: Ashley Geiser

Ashley Geiser is a Junior studying English with a concentration in Creative Writing at Pace University. She is also the Editor-in-Chief and Co-President for Her Campus at Pace. She loves reading and editing. And when she is not reading or editing, she can be found baking in her kitchen.

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