During my freshman year of college, I was technically enrolled in Psychology 101. In reality, I attended only about half the time, because most of what we were “learning” seemed so obvious to me.
Of course, looking back, I’m sure I wasn’t as well informed as I thought I was, and if I’d stuck with it, maybe I would’ve come to love psychology. But even today, I’ll sometimes read the results of a psychological study and think…Duh.
No offense to Dr. Rebecca Graber, whose study to “determine the impact of best friendship upon resilience development in adults” most recently elicited this response from me.
“The study provided statistical evidence, for the first time, of the vital role of these valued social relationships upon resilience development in an adult sample, while posing open questions for the mechanisms underlying this effect.”
As someone lucky enough to have a best friend at this stage of life, there’s nothing mysterious to me about the “mechanisms underlying this effect.”
So why does having a best friend act as a “protective mechanism” and make us more resilient?
I’ve got a few ideas.
1. The feeling of being loved. What we get out of our closest friendships is the feeling that someone’s always got your back—that no matter what, we’re loved. And that sense of support gives us the courage to take chances and face adversity, knowing that even if we fail or things go terribly wrong, we’ll still have the stability and comfort that comes from having a best friend.
2. And being understood. Part of being resilient is the ability to get back up when you’ve been knocked flat on your ass. If you’re surrounded by people who see you’ve fallen and stand there beside you, looking down, saying, Now, what the hell did you do that for? that’s when feelings of self-doubt creep in. You sure aren’t likely to keep trying if you think everyone around you thinks you’re a fool for it. But if we stumble and find a friend offering a hand to lift us up, to say, Hey, you tried something awesome, and I love you for it. Better luck next time, girl!, that’s when we find strength to move on, feeling understood and valued.
3. And let’s not overlook the free therapy. Sarah and I, we’re real talkers. We enjoy thinking through a problem with each other. We bounce ideas off one another, we challenge each other’s assumptions and conclusions, and sometimes we just tell each other It’ll all be okay. She literally said that to me last night…and I believed her, because even when I doubt myself, she hasn’t forgotten how strong I can be. And sometimes, having a best friend tell you you’re resilient is enough to make you believe it.