For almost my whole life, I’ve had just one or two, sometimes three, close friends. I watched, with envy, as other girls flitted into gatherings and events, floating from one person to the next, seemingly knowing everyone in the room and making fast friends with those who arrived strangers. I wondered what was wrong with me as I stood in corners with my eyes averted, committed to staying glued in on one conversation with the one person in attendance that I already knew. The thought of taking the first leap into a conversation with a stranger terrified me. I wanted more than anything to just stick to and with the friendships I already had instead of risking embarrassment or rejection by engaging a new one. But even as fear fell over me at the thought of having to leave my introverted shell, I also felt a twinge of longing toward the effortless manner with which the girls and women around me were able to connect with almost anyone they encountered.
From middle school to high school to college and into young adulthood, friendships were always difficult for me. Some friends wanted more investment than I could give, others couldn’t give back what I was investing. And with imbalance came conflict. And often that conflict led to hard conversations and sometimes even the end of the friendship. With each friend that walked away and with each friendship that I walked away from, I wondered, what is wrong with me? Those continued attempts at friendship seemed to confirm my fear that something was broken with me—that somehow my capability for friendship had been stunted since I only ever had the capacity to show up for the few people I already knew.
Then I heard someone say, “Some people like friendships a mile deep and an inch wide. Others like them an inch deep and a mile wide. Neither one is better than the other, they’re just different.”
And suddenly it clicked for me.
Just as we all have different combinations of love languages and rank differently on all of those various personality tests, so too we also differ in friendship. Some of us crave weekly or daily interaction and communication with a select few, others of us crave more sparse interactions and communication with a larger group of people. Neither is better than the other—just different. I felt a deep sigh of relief echo throughout my soul at that revelation. Different styles of friendship are okay—even normal!
Hearing that truth jarred my inner self. All the insecurity I had about my friendships, my ability to give and take from the people who mattered most to me started to fade. It seemed as if someone had taken the viewfinder I had zoomed in on my friendship tendencies and turned it from blurry to clear and bright, from believing that I was incapable of meaningful friendship to simply highlighting my need for fewer, more invested relationships.
In the light of that truth, I began investigating my friendship habits anew—I began challenging myself not to let go too quickly, not to cut off too quickly those who seem disinterested or unwilling to invest deeper in the friendship. I forced myself to learn how to communicate my limits when a friend asked for more than I could give rather than waiting until resentment from exhaustion boiled over.
Not only is friendship messy, complicated, and frustrating, it’s also so needed, so valuable, and so full of healing. And no matter how many times we’ve messed up, no matter how many times someone else has hurt us or disappointed us, we still need people—we still need community around us, regardless of whether it’s a mile deep and an inch wide or an inch deep and a mile wide.
Friend, you have something unique and beautiful to give to others through the gift of friendship. And those people have something to give back to you too. A few hiccups, a few misunderstandings, a few insecurities shouldn’t be given free reign to dampen that power of friendship.