The Good

Happiness is……..friendship.

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I’ll be the first to admit that I have formed a variety of different friendships over the years. Some people form friendships at an early age and manage to sustain those friendships for life; I’m almost envious of those people and the core stability that this capacity demonstrates in their character. As this is something I have failed to do, I’ve subsequently often wondered if there was something inherently wrong with my ability to form and maintain relationships. However, if I truly reflect, I think those transitions were simply my way of experimenting with my own sense of self. It has taken me an extremely long time to accept myself – faults and all – and therefore, this has informed my ability to accept others as they are, and work at rather than dispose of friendships. It’s interesting that the way we treat others is ALWAYS a reflection of how we perceive and value ourselves.

For as long as I can remember, having one true friend was my life’s ambition. I simply wanted just one other to truly understand, validate and accept me and my imperfections unconditionally. In some ways, that desire continues to live on within me and perhaps in all of us, if we engage with some genuine introspection. These types of relationships have enormous potential to inform our self- concept; it is no coincidence that the power of therapy, and its ability to inform recovery lies in the trusting and secure relationship one builds with their therapist. I suppose, in some ways, this is what informed my work in the area as I wanted to spend my life providing that for others. Perhaps I never felt understood as a child and perhaps, I didn’t really understand myself and so yearned for that to be mirrored by another person, just so I could internalise their perception of me.

I truly believe that the relationships we build are a mirror of our own self- worth – as was so wisely articulated in ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’, ‘…we accept the love we think we deserve’. This brings me nicely to how much happiness my current friendships bring me, and I believe that this is because I have finally sought the love I know I deserve – love that comes in the form of authentic and genuine friendships. Connections have healing power – they provide you with a source of belonging, anchor you when you feel lost and provide you with a form of understanding that we often lack in the darker moments; as I have learnt in the field of mental health, they are one of the, if not the biggest protective factor against mental illness.

My friendships in Melbourne are the most special I have ever had and I met them at the tender age of 29; when I finally started to explore who I really was. They have taught me that I’m still loveable, even when I make mistakes. They have taught me that it is possible for conflict to be a communication rather than a defensive confrontation, and that I have worth and value beyond that which I can often see in myself. Most of all, they have taught me that time and distance are no measure of the quality of a connection, because even in their absence, I have never felt lonely. Five years from meeting – movement between Israel, London, Greece and back to Melbourne, broken relationships, family loss, job changes, degrees earnt, huge decisions, babies born, and we can still sit around a table and laugh, feel loved and understood – almost like no change or time has passed at all. In each of my fabulous friends, I see a part of me and this makes our friendship, and even more so, my relationship with myself, even more compassionate.

This week therefore, happiness is…. friendship and the richness that it brings to our lives. My friends have taught me so much about myself and the meaning of relationships – this meaning hasn’t always been felt positively and it has often come in the form of a lesson but nevertheless, they have made me the person I am today and I am forever grateful for them. Yet, most significantly, I don’t think I would have these relationships if I hadn’t have made peace with the most important relationship in my life, and that is my relationship with myself. Only then, was I able to flourish amongst others ❤

Natalie Rutstein Profile

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