Can you think of the first friend you ever made? It could be someone you shared desks with in school or someone from your neighbourhood who you found in your evening dance classes. As human beings, no matter our age, we thrive on companionship, and it is a pleasure to share connectedness with others.
Robin Dunbar, a British anthropologist, and evolutionary psychologist, proposed the concept of Dunbar’s number, referring to the theoretical cognitive limit to the number of stable social relationships an individual can maintain. This concept suggests that most people can maintain meaningful social relationships with approximately 150 individuals at any given time. These relationships can range from casual acquaintances to close friends or family members. These can be the people you remember the names of, a few details about, or share a somewhat or very close relationship with. It is often possible that some of these people remain mere acquaintances, while others transcend to become our friends. What makes the very few become so special and a part of our friends’ list is maybe the kind of activities we do with them, how we interact with them, how they make us feel, and how we feel about ourselves when we are with them. Even though these reasons might be very subjective, these interactions strengthen the fabric of our relationships with them.
As social beings, we might have a lot of people around us who we can put on our "close friends" list. It is quite possible that we create a new meaning with each and every friend that we have, and that is the beauty of friendship. The beauty of friendship also lies in the diversity it brings. Each friend may offer a distinct perspective and bring out a different personality and set of interests, allowing us to explore various facets of ourselves and the world around us. It's through these diverse friendships that we learn to appreciate the richness of human existence and embrace the differences that make each person special.
When we form friendships, we often find that specific bonds are forged for particular reasons. One friend may become our go-to person for engaging in late-night conversations and sharing our deepest thoughts and emotions. With them, we feel understood and accepted, finding solace in their empathetic ear. Conversely, another friend might become our designated partner for early morning breakfasts, sharing light-hearted moments and starting our day with laughter and joy. They bring a different energy to our lives, one that uplifts and motivates us to do better and live life fully. This diversity is so rich, it offers so much to a person, and it helps them get connected to different parts of themselves with the help of different people.
Friendships, like all relationships, naturally evolve. As we age, we go through various life changes, experiences, and challenges and become a part of the constant rush and hustle; thus, it is quite possible that we lose out on some friendships that we considered to be really dear to us. Growing apart or losing a friendship does not necessarily mean that the friendship was unimportant or unsuccessful. Sometimes losing friends is also beautiful because of how different friendships help us connect, discover, or simply allow us to borrow certain habits and make them our own for the rest of our lives. Even if some friends are no longer a part of our journey, they always leave us with something that we can hold on to. You might still listen to the same music that your first best friend introduced to you, or sometimes, like taking a big sip of tea that tastes exactly like what your roommate used to make or a whiff of new stationery, it takes you right back to the moments you shared with them and can immediately put a smile on your face. There is so much contentment in carrying those people close to your heart at all times. It lets you rest and feel safe through the smallest of things.
Friends can really enhance our lives through their compassionate perspective. Sometimes the way people see us can become the way we perceive ourselves. When friends are unconditionally compassionate with us, and adopt a kind lens towards us, we truly might start to believe them about how good, worthy, and deserving we must be and even start to be compassionate with ourselves.
Each friendship, shared emotion and experience adds depth to our story. As we continue our journey, let’s embrace these friendships whose essence remains woven into our identity.