I‘ve had a checkered history (at best) when it comes to friendships. It took me 20 years to realize I was bullied as a kid, a good eight to realize that I was sensitive to the core but fumbled when dealing with emotions, and a solid three to realize that I had some truly shady people around me. I think I realized I had BFFs when a handful of people started kindly pointing out these things.
Like anything, these things take time to figure out. And maybe starting now isn’t exactly a bad thing. We listed down five questions you have to ask yourself to find out if someone is your BFF. These are basic principles that take time to test and stress-proof. It takes a lot of compassion and forgiveness, and maybe one of your BFFs (should one even make it) will even fail this test at some point. It’s up to you to decide. Maybe the only way you can see if your friends pass this test is if you value your relationship with yourself first. But when we think we’re undeserving, there are the people who love us anyway, and that, I think, is the most important BFF trait.
DO THEY SPARK JOY?
You’d be surprised at how a number of friendships can trigger dread. With my intensity and sensitivity, I can predictably inspire the same feelings in others. Miraculously however, some people genuinely look forward to hanging out with me. They don’t flake out on me, and constantly check up on me. I do the same for them because they spark joy in my heart when I think of them.
Yes, I’m citing Marie Kondo on this one. If it should apply to your material things, it should apply to your friendships as well. This means a BFF-level of friendship speak of comfort and smell of home like your favorite sweatshirt. Or like your favorite bra: Supportive, non-constrictive, and makes you feel good.
ARE THEY KIND?
Upon examination, you’d also be delighted to see the number of tactless people in your life. Some of us really have the tendency to be careless with our words. The difference lies in intent. Some people are tactless because they’re ignorant about their effect on people. They feel the need to speak out loud to be able to think. Not an excuse, but it’s true.
Notice the patterns with which they make their comments. If they’re snide on purpose — particularly when you’re enjoying a career/romantic high — then you better be careful. BFF-level friends may not always be nice. They can throw shade (as they rightfully should), call you out, or argue with you. But this is all because they have your best interests at heart. They never make subtle but nasty remarks just to undermine you.
“They are on the lookout for exciting opportunities for you, and cheer you on as you rise.”
ARE THEY COMPETITIVE?
Writer Tim Urban defines a frenemy as “someone who really wants bad things for you. Because you’re you.” Heebie-jeebies.
Don’t get me wrong. Some friends are just plain competitive (think Monica Geller), and then there’s the frenemy. Sifting through your friendships requires intense rumination, observation, meditation, and strength. If you spot a frenemy, don’t wait until you’re ready. Make a plan, then run. Friends are only supposed to root for you.
ARE THEY INTERESTED AND INVESTED IN YOU?
When I was depressed, my BFFs looked after me while some people took advantage of my vulnerability. A surprising number of close friends ignored me while I was travelling as they claimed to miss me. But the same people who stuck with me through my depression kept in touch while I was away.
BFF-level friendships transcend because it is built on a relationship of love. We coach each other and give each other feedback. Central to the relationship is the other L word so rare in this noisy world — listening. We check up on each other, despite the timezones. They are excited for me, and they can’t wait for the world to meet me — and I feel the same for them. They are on the lookout for exciting opportunities for you, and cheer you on as you rise.
CAN YOU TRUST THEM?
If you tell them a secret, can you make sure that it doesn’t get out of the circle? When you are embarrassingly still in love with someone from five years ago, can you trust them not to judge you? Or more importantly, can you trust them when your worst self is out of control?
Let me rep my homie Aristotle: “Aristotle’s opinion was that friends hold a mirror up to each other; through that mirror they can see each other in ways that would not otherwise be accessible to them, and it is this (reciprocal) mirroring that helps them improve themselves as persons.” Sounds simple and clear enough, no?