Wednesday, November 14 , 2018, 8:10 am | Fair 45º


Collin McShirley: It’s Never Too Late to Learn to be an Amazing Friend

Friendships are one of the greatest investments we can make for our long-term happiness.

“To have a friend and be a friend is what makes life worthwhile.” — Unknown

Studies show that one of the most important components of psychological well-being is not family, materialistic possessions or work-related successes, but rather our friendships!

I have few very close friends. There are several reasons for that: I’m an introverted extrovert, I was afraid of rejection because I knew that friendships take time and effort and I wasn’t always available to give that. But the root cause was that I never learned how to be a friend. I wish I would hae read the Art of Friendship while growing up! ;)

My inability to create and maintain real relationships brought me to really looking deeper and how I could change this. Luckily, I realized I could teach myself to be a better friend and build meaningful connections.

Now, I actively seek out new potential friendships, evaluate my current ones, and FULLY invest my time and energy in continuing those that have all the elements of an amazing friendship. It isn’t always easy with how busy life can get, but it’s definitely worth it.

It is never too late to learn to be an amazing friend. Here’s some ideas to start.

Make Choices That You’re Aware Of

I never actively chose my friends; they were based on proximity and convenience. Oh, how I yearned for the high school and college days when friends were widely available and everyone else was in the same boat and open to making friends. Most of those friendships from high school and college didn’t last because I hadn’t chosen wisely — or at all.

Today, I’m selective about who I choose to be friends with. This doesn’t mean that I think I’m better than others. It simply means that I understand how much energy and effort it takes to be an amazing friend. And, quite frankly, that’s what I think a friend deserves. I am loyal and selfless to the core, and when I choose a friend I go above and beyond.

It also doesn’t mean you shouldn’t maintain the friendships you already have.

I met one of my best friends when I was 4 years old. My mother was working on a major motion picture and one of her co-workers had a daughter who was a year younger than me.

We are radically different people. While I didn’t consciously choose to be her friend, I do choose to continue investing in our friendship because we are mutually committed to having an amazing friendship and actively practice the other elements on this list.

Be a Good Listener

What is the value of a friend? For most of us, it is to have someone with whom we can share our feelings, hopes, pains and fears — without judgment or ridicule.

I always loved when people would tell me their stories, and I always responded by giving advice. In my past I had a tendency to listen by offering opinions and solutions. I now understand that I wasn’t really listening to people in a way that facilitates amazing friendships.

A true friend understands that each one of us has the answers within us. This doesn’t mean we can’t share our insights or give feedback, but it does mean that we need to learn to listen to and for the other — not to validate our own opinions, but to encourage our friend to explore his or her own truths.

Being Vulnerable Is the Ultimate Friendship Super Power!

Do you tell your friends how much they mean to you, and why? Do you share your struggles and fears? Do you apologize if your hurt someone’s feelings, even if that wasn’t your intention?

All of the above statements are must-haves to have amazing friendships, and are only possible if you allow yourself to be vulnerable.

I’ve found that by choosing wisely and really listening and being listened to, I have more courage to be vulnerable.

The friendships I haven’t been able to maintain make me all the more grateful for the ones that I have. And all the more committed to being an amazing friend in the present by letting the friends in my life know how much I care about them.

My friend, Tracy, and I tell each other how grateful we are for each other every time we see each other. It always makes me smile and I see that smile across her face as well.

Don’t Lose the Faith

If you’ve chosen your friends wisely and you both put in the effort, have been vulnerable and accountable, then you assuredly have an awesome friendship. Yet, this doesn’t mean there aren’t misunderstandings or disappointments.

One of the most important friends in my life is my sister. She is loving and funny, and lives hundreds of miles away. I’ve felt hurt by her at times and I have done the same to her, but we always talk it out, no matter how awkward — because we have an amazing friendship with all the elements on this list.


If there is a moment that you feel betrayed and hurt, try not to give up. Feel your pain, share it and work through it. It is easier to walk away in the short term, but the creation and maintenance of amazing friendships will be beneficial to you for the rest of your life. Your future self will be thankful when you see that you’re surrounded by true love and people who have your back.

Collin McShirley, MA, IMF, is certified and specializes in mindful eating, emotional eating, body image and self esteem; she provides coaching services in Santa Barbara, Montecito and Goleta; and she developed the program, “Break Free From Emotional Eating and Learn to Love Your Body.” She grew up in Santa Barbara​, graduated from UC Santa Barbara and received her masters in clinical psychology from Antioch University Santa Barbara. Click here for more information, contact her at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter: @CollinMFTI. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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