By Shari Levine
My first friend was named Trudi. We were 2 when we met. She lived in my neighborhood, about three houses away. We became best friends and we did everything together from ballet lessons to the high school field hockey team. We were connected mind, body and soul. Twenty years later I am still very close with her, and I love her like a sister. As I write this article, I wonder what brought us together back then? I am amazed at the lasting strength of our friendship.
Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for awhile and leave footprints on our hearts. And we are never, ever the same. -- Unknown
This article is about picking friends. Think about your first friend -- back when you were around 2 or 3 years old. How did you meet this person? What did you like about her or him?
Young children often make friends with the kids who live in their neighborhood, attend the same daycare, or who are the children of their parents' friends. It's kind of random, the way you pick your friends as little kid. You probably see something in the other person that reminds you of yourself.
As you get older, not only do you make more friends, but the intensity and importance of your friendships changes as well. Going to school is a huge step in a girl's life. For the first time you are learning to interact with people outside of your family. While your family members are still the most important people in your life, you learn to interact with all different types of people your age (also known as your peers.) You are beginning the process of leaving the family and experiencing what it is like to be yourself. Learning about what you can do, who you are, and how you interact is a really important part of a girl's healthy development.
Friendship with oneself is all important, because without it one cannot be friends with anyone else in the world. -- Eleanor Roosevelt
In elementary school children tend to pair off by gender, and girls play with other girls. Remember when you thought boys had cooties? (Maybe you still do.) It is natural for girls and boys at this age to split up and not play with each another. If you grew up with a brother then you probably know why this happens. Boys and girls play differently. They enjoy different games and activities at this age.
The only way to have a friend is to be one.-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Fast forward to the pre-teen years. There were huge changes going on in your life during those years. Up until then you probably looked to your parents or grandparents to tell you how to act, what to wear, and how to see the world. This stage of development is very complex because you still rely on your parents for so much, but you are also developing your own identity outside of your family. It is in this stage of a girl's development that she needs to learn how to relate to others, and how to identify with people other than family. This is a time that you may have a best friend, someone you can connect with and feel close to but who is not part of your family.
A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words. -- Unknown
Peer groups influence teenagers a great deal. Your friends help you to figure out who you are, so choosing friends is one of the most important things you will do as a teenager. In high school girls pick their friends for a lot of different reasons. You may be attracted to someone because you want to be like her. Or, you may be friends with certain girls because you play sports together, or because you are in the same classes. Or maybe you are into music or theatre or art and your friends have common interests. It's really common for cliques to form in high school. Cliques usually come together around a mutual interest like sports, music, and theater. Cliques also form around other things like smarts, drugs, and looks.
A friend is one who knows all about you and likes you anyway. -- Christi Mary Warner
Choosing your friends based on the way they look is a common mistake. Just like the old saying, You can't judge a book by it's cover, you shouldn't select a friend based on the way she looks. But a lot of girls do this, and it leads to very unsatisfying friendships. As I said earlier in this article, we often pick our friends because they have things we want for ourselves. Here's a very simple example:
- Let's say you want to be tall and thin, but you are actually short and average weight. You may pick friends who are tall and thin and have better bodies hoping that you'll be considered attractive and cool because you hang out with them. Or, you may pick friends who are chubby and have worse bodies hoping to appear better looking by comparison.
If you are really in search of a good friend you will pick her based on her inner qualities like her sense of humor, loyalty, and values. Remember: friendships based on looks alone are only skin deep.
No person is your friend who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow. -- Alice Walker
I would never be the person I am today without the support and guidance of my girl friends. The sisterhood you surround yourself with can be an incredibly powerful force, one that can comfort you through tough times and celebrate good times in your life. Sisterhood is not to be taken lightly. So, choose your friends with great care and nurture your relationships and they will grow as you grow into a healthy woman.
A friend is a gift you give yourself. -- Robert Louis Stevenson