On Admiration and Companionship
getting rid of a toxic mindset

Ever since I've pulled back on online social interactions completely in the past month or so (kickstarted by the fact that I left Neocities), I've been learning a lot of things lately—lessons which I really needed to learn, especially with regards to relationships.

I've been putting my focus more on IRL relations now, since I don't really have any other options. And honestly? I feel like I've been getting along with people more. It certainly has been more fulfilling.

The main thing that I realized since then is that admiration is not the same as friendship—a misconception which can really skew our perceptions of our relationships with other people.

Strangely enough, I learned this important lesson while playing Stardew Valley out of all things (which I've sunk 200 hours in the past month or so—send help).

When I was playing the game and interacting with the villagers, I noticed something: you, as the player, don't really impress anyone. What you do on your farm isn't known by the other people in the town. You increase your friendship with people by talking to them, giving them gifts, and helping them with their requests. While I was improving my relationship with everyone in town, I began to reflect on my own life: how exactly did I befriend the people who I'm friends with today?

And then it really hit me: there was not a single person who I befriended by impressing them. Not one.

That's when I realized that from a relationship standpoint, people value companionship more than being impressed by something that you do. People want someone to relate to, someone to talk with, someone who understands them. Sure, you can impress people, but that is likely not the main reason why they'd want to be friends with you.

As an example, I admire plenty of artists and their work, but I don't know how they're like as a person. I don't consider any of them as a friend just because I love their work—it's not something that I even considered. The same really goes whenever I post my stuff online; people may like my work, sure, but that doesn't necessarily mean that there's a personal connection between me and them.

This also holds vice versa. You may be great friends with someone, but you're not impressing them with your work. That's completely besides the point, though. They're not friends with you because you impress them, they're friends with you because you both connect in a way that is fundamentally human.

This was a lesson that I really needed to learn because of my unhealthy relationship with literally every social platform, and how that was spilling over to real life. Metrics tend to measure connection through the creation of things, whether it be writing, artwork, or whatever. Output something, and you get input in return. It's very transactional, and as a result, you start thinking of IRL relationships as like that, too. You may think "if I make something, and people approve of it, then maybe it can translate to something meaningful?"

And sure, it's possible that some friendships start off as mutual admiration for each other's work. I don't deny that. But when you go out and meet people outside of the online sphere, it's completely different. You don't just show your work to people the moment you meet them and hope that'll be enough to wrangle them in. You get to know them first, talk about other unrelated things. You may relate in some ways, and in others you may completely tune out. But that's just how it is.

What can happen as a result is that you can be friends with someone who does not share any interests in terms of hobbies, or media that you consume; you can connect with each other beyond those things. You can share experiences together, talk about struggles that everyone can relate to, and can help each other in those times also.

Many of the people who I am friends with now are people who don't share very many interests with me, but we like talking about life and what we're doing, and we take interest not necessarily because we're interested in the subject per se, but because we're friends and whatever the other person finds interesting the other also takes interest. We may not understand why they're interested in that sort of stuff, but there's something deeper there that keeps friendships together than just mutual interest and admiration.

A great example of this is family. I don't share many interests with my siblings (none of them create artwork, or write, or are really interested in computers) and there are things which they're interested in that I don't find captivating. But we still enjoy each other's company.

All of this has definitely made me more open to connecting with people who I otherwise wouldn't have considered connecting with in the beginning. And the great thing is that I don't have to view my relationship with others in terms of how much they admire what I'm doing. Viewing relationships in that matter can become extremely toxic, especially when you don't get the response that you wanted.

Overall, I'm more comfortable being myself and also being content with my hobbies now, not feeling so uptight about having mutual interests with other people, or trying to impress them. Funnily enough, I've experienced times where I've shared plenty of interests with another person and we just failed to connect entirely.

This holds as reminder to not bog down relationships to unhealthy, unsustainable models, especially ones which may be pushed (intentionally or unintentionally) by external social constructs.

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