If you’ve watched any of the classic teen movies of the last decade, you could probably recite this cast by heart. There’s the main character (MC) and the MC’s best friend (BFF), who sticks with her through cafeteria mishaps, encourages her hidden talents, is always down for late-night heart-to-hearts over ice cream and never fails to forgive MC for ditching her in favor of HGMC (hot guy main character). Even the villain in the story gets a bestie—or, if she’s the stereotypical mean girl, probably two.
Rationally, we know movie stereotypes rarely match our reality. But a strange thing happens when we watch the media portray “normal” life. As eye-roll worthy as it might be, sometimes we begin believing these stereotypes are—or should be—normal in our lives too.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting a best friend, just like in the movies. And if you do have a friend who completely understands and accepts you and is not only willing but also able to spend all of her social life with you, that’s great. Enjoy it. But if not—or if you’ve drifted apart from your best friend—take heart. Most of us can relate.
The good news is that we can experience more meaningful connections with others if we ditch the BFF myth.
Become the friend you want
Surprisingly, a lot of girls I talk with describe themselves as lonely. In fact, many of the girls you’d assume would feel totally friended actually say they’re not. It’s a strange phenomenon. Regardless of how many people a girl knows, how confident she appears, how well she’s liked, how many group chats she’s in or how often she’s with people her age, she still feels like she doesn’t fit in. That makes me wonder: Could our focus be wrong?
Instead of waiting for a BFF, what if our goal was to be a TF—a true friend? In other words, what if you became the friend you wish you had to those God puts in your path?
A true friend puts others first, looks for ways to encourage and is honest, kind and trustworthy (1 Corinthians 13:4-5). Practice with the people around you. Even if the friendships don’t “stick,” you’ll still make strides toward being your best self.
Rethink your expectations
Maybe you’re OK not having a best friend—you just wish you had friends, period. If you’re trying to be a good friend to others and still feel like an outsider, maybe it’s time to rethink your expectations of friendship. Could it be that you have unreasonable hopes for what a friend is?
If you consider someone a friend only if that person initiates texts at least once a day, always sits by you at lunch, knows your childhood secrets, appreciates your humor and never forgets your birthday, your expectations might be a smidge unrealistic. Don’t get me wrong—those friends are great. They just don’t come around as often as you might hope.
Being friends doesn’t mean you have to share the same age, hobbies, fashion sense or grade-point average. It might simply mean you enjoy each other’s company, even if you don’t get a ton of time together. Or you think well of someone, even if they aren’t your usual type of companion. If you’re willing to widen your definition of a friend, you might find more of them than you realize.
Learn from your loneliness
You might be reading this and thinking, Yeah, Jessie, but there are legitimately zero true-friend-material people in my life.
It can be hard to understand why God would allow us to go through seasons of loneliness. When I don’t understand God’s “why,” I try to ask myself, What am I going to allow God to teach me through this hard thing?
What can you learn in the middle of your loneliness that would be hard to learn surrounded by friends?
Some of the most amazing people I know say the loneliness they experienced as teens actually drew them closer to God’s heart, made them decide who they were and what they stood for, and gave them a ton of empathy for others who felt left out. In other words, they became better people because of their loneliness. God used the empty “friends” slot in their hearts to plant some of their best characteristics. Is it easy in the moment? Absolutely not. But there’s also hope when we know deep down that God doesn’t waste our pain.
Contrary to the stereotypical script, having one BFF through high school is a social anomaly. The good news is you don’t have to have a BFF to experience connection with others. And we can all become TFs even if we never have a movie-worthy sidekick.