Those were the hallmarks of how I loved in the past. I was desperate to be loved, to have friends, to keep friends. Everything about me was desperate and insecure. I was painfully insecure in my friendships, never fully convinced I was worthy of their love.
Once I made friends, I was so happy to have them, but part of me still waited for them to leave. I clung to them, smothering them with my love, hoping that if I just loved them enough, they would stay, that these friends wouldn’t leave me.
I was jealous of their friendships with others, afraid that I’d somehow lose my place in their life. I wanted to be their number one friend, their person. I needed to be. I needed to know I was loved above all others because if I wasn’t, then someone else may bump me out. I could be left in the cold, on the outside, friendless again.
While it was an improvement for me to have friends, to believe I was loved, there was still an unhealthiness to it because I didn’t love me enough.I didn’t see me as worthy of the love I had found.
Sometimes, looking back, I don’t know how my friends put up with me. I would use guilt as a manipulation tactic; it was one I knew well. Italians are great with the guilt.
A good friend of mine almost moved out of state. I don’t remember the specifics of what I said, but I know I tried to guilt her. I tried to burden her with my sadness. I was slightly in a better place, and to some degree, I thought I was sharing my feelings, but in reality, I was taking my feelings and dumping them in her lap, like, “here, this is what you’re doing to me.” I still was not confident enough in myself to fully have the confidence I needed in our friendship.
Through the years, I have had a few amazingly close, life-changing friendships fall off. It hurt like hell. Losing a friend is as painful if not more painful than losing a romantic partner, I learned. The other thing I learned? I could survive it.
Eventually, and a lot had to do with a very close friend who made me see my worth, and me doing the work, going to therapy, changing my thought processes, etc. I finally knew: I am enough.
Now that I finally love myself, I don’t have to cling to others to give me love, a life, or worth. I can love my friends freely, without expectations. I can lean on them when I’m in need of support; I can hold them up when they are in need. I can step back when I’m facing a potential change in a friendship dynamic and know that it will be ok one way or another. I will survive it. I don’t need to manipulate or guilt anyone into being my friend or staying in life.
That same friend who almost moved out of state years ago? She was facing a potential move, a few hours away, due to circumstances beyond her control. This time? This time my heart was heavy, but my focus was, “don’t say anything to make her feel bad about this. Don’t guilt her or throw negative emotions her way. Love her. Support her. We got this.”
It is freeing to love others without needing to control, without desperation, or insecurity. It’s powerful to have friends and know that yes, they could walk away at any moment but trusting that they will stay and profoundly knowing that no matter what, I am ok because I am enough.