Have you ever had a friend in your life that you loved spending time with and loved talking to, but alternately did not feel that you could truly trust? A ‘friend’ that you spend time with that, instead of making you feel great, your self-esteem takes a hit each minute you are in their presence? A special artist colleague you share ideas with, who says they’ll never work and turns around and uses the same ideas they criticized? Sounds like you might have a frenemy.
How do you know when someone is a frenemy?
Frenemy, (spelled alternately frienemy) is defined as enemy pretending to be a friend or someone who really is a friend but is also a rival. The term is used to describe personal, geopolitical, and commercial relationships both among individuals and groups or institutions.
Personally, I don’t believe in the idea of frenemies. I believe that people are primarily encouraging or discouraging forces in one’s life; friend or enemy. It has become quite the trend to think of a friend or two in one’s entourage as a frenemy (just watch reruns of Gossip Girl or Work of Art: The Next Great Artist). Eventhough the phrase has been around for a while, it seems as if the idea of having a friend that doubles as an enemy really has taken off in the past few years and is even seen as acceptable. But truly it is difficult for a friend and enemy to exist in the same space. There are a few who do believe it is possible though.
Some might argue that having a friend who isn’t afraid to critique and criticize might make you a stronger person able to defend your ideas, but when that’s all your ‘friend’ does it knocks any relationship off balance and tips the scales more toward the negative.
Friendships already require lots of work. Why have friends that make you feel bad too?
It is true. To be a good friend is a job; usually one worth having. But when the negative and positive aspects to a friendship aren’t balanced you might feel that having certain folks as friends is more work than it is worth.
As an artist, surrounding yourself with those who will encourage and positively influence you is a must. It is even more important because the positive or negative feelings influence you and how you work. It is great to have someone in your life who challenges you to try new media, take an idea to another level, or open your own studio, but when the ‘challenges’ tip the scales more toward the negative then maybe a reassessment is in order:
Maybe you have to choose. I am not saying that you have to, but an article about the cause of frenemy type relationships I read recently points the finger at a lack of space between professional and personal lives. Maybe you have a friend that you share a studio with, live with, and hang out with. Maybe a little space and separation is in order. If you are living and working with someone, hang out with another group of friends when you leave the studio. Hanging out and working together? Perhaps change your living situation. The fact remains; changes might need to be made to salvage the work relationship or the friendship. Sometimes spending 30 hours a day together just doesn’t work.
Know the difference. Know the difference between someone that is purposely hurting you and someone who is simply a clueless bumbling idiot when it comes to their interactions with others. If your friend is of the bumbling idiot persuasion tell them how you feel. Hopefully that will nip things in the bud.
Understand what and who affects you and how. Went to dinner and a movie with Chip and now you feel like crap. Either you have food poisoning or Chip might be a little toxic. If conversation usually hovers around the energy vampire level (that is sucking all of the good energy and light out of a room) every time you are together then don’t ignore the obvious: Chip makes you feel a little queasy. Pay close attention to how you feel when in the company of others. Why spend time with people who make you feel not so great? Life is too short.
Accept challenges, not disrespect. If someone is challenging you do become a better artist and or person don’t confuse the fear of change with actual straight up ugly toxicity. When a person you hang out with is not respectful of you, and your ideas and feelings it is obvious, you will feel it.
Know when it is time to kick someone to the curb. I know it sounds harsh, but the simplified version of the story is: This person is negative. They make you feel bad. You need to leave them in the dust. The end. If you’ve already made attempts to express your feelings and work on a friendship and they’ve been ignored, you might have to move on. The end (again). Your call.
I'm Just the Messenger...
Listen, I am not telling you to dump all of your friends. With every friendship there are ups and downs; nobody is perfect.
I am just saying be observant of how those you spend the most time with affect your being and your spirit. Keep those who encourage you, love you, help you to grow, support you, and help you to expand your horizons close by. You might notice a difference in the way you feel and the artwork you produce.