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The Top 10 Things Diverse Friendships Taught Me

Updated: Aug 27, 2021



Hi! My name is Anne-Marie. I am an artist, adventurer, and zealous lover of life. I haven’t always been this way. I grew up in what could be considered a “sheltered Christian household.” I never went to public school, having been enrolled in private school for my entire education. I learned from a very young age the art of “fitting in” was my best option for survival. Adapting to what to wear, what to like, and how to act were a few things I did in order to be accepted. Because I went to a school where everyone wore the same uniforms, had the same haircuts, and was encouraged to act with the same mannerisms, I developed an aversion to all things “uncool” as a byproduct without even noticing.


After graduating, I have tried to stay within the boundaries of the “cool zone” while also trying to develop my own individuality. It’s been a fun little dance I’ve been doing for years, all the while admiring others who seem to be living life more authentically than I am. I had a very strict set of rules and boundaries ingrained in me and held others to those standards. I realize now how judgmental I had been in high school and I still struggle with it now. If you didn’t fit within my boundaries of being a “good holy person” or a “cool girl”, I had no respect for you. Honestly, I wasn’t afraid of letting others know this either, whether with my body language or vocalizing how I felt. I can look back and see the many friendships I ruined because of this mentality and my own insecurities. It wasn’t until I started to travel and grow in my knowledge of the world that I started to realize the nuances and complexity we all hold each day as humans. People cannot be placed in categories of “good” or “bad”, “cool” or “uncool”. We are dynamic beings who make mistakes, laugh, tell stories, and live life one day at a time. Let me share with you what I have learned from allowing more diversity into my friendships and, subsequently, my life.


It wasn’t until I started to travel and grow in my knowledge of the world that I started to realize the nuances and complexity we all hold each day as humans.

#1 “Change, Change, Change” in Perspective

I would be remiss to not include the shift in my perspective when I realized not everyone thinks the same way as I do. I learned that when you allow yourself to have friends from different countries and backgrounds, your perspective starts to shift and your eyes open to the beauty, suffering, and community of others. Before, when I would encounter different people, I would see what they were wearing or how they were acting and maybe admire certain qualities in them. Now, I slowly get to know them and open myself to their background and their journey to who they are today. There is something so special about learning other’s past experiences and how they have grown from them, especially when their experiences have been completely different from your own. For instance, I’ll never forget the time I sat around a campfire sharing stories with strangers who were entrusting me with their secrets. You simply cannot look at a beautiful, living, breathing person sharing themselves and not want to learn and understand more.



There is something so special about learning other’s past experiences and how they have grown from them, especially when their experiences have been completely different from your own.

#2 In Learning About Others I Learned More About Me

The second is personal growth. In encountering a new person your viewpoints can be challenged especially as you grow closer. I have learned that having conversations with people from different backgrounds has shown me what issues are important to me, but I have also learned how someone else can come to an entirely different conclusion. I find most people have good intentions even if they hold an entirely opposite viewpoint than you. It has forced me to really look at what I believe, and the reasons why I believe that way. In return, it has taught me more about myself and what I truly hold dear. If I continued to only befriend others with the same exact belief system as myself, I would have never been challenged to really look at my stance on life. This ultimately promoted growth in the long run. There is beauty to what we hold close, but it's even more beautiful to be steadfast while still holding respect for someone else who disagrees with you. My growth was evident when I was able to talk about controversial subjects and differences of opinion and explore those ideas freely with others.


#3 Empathy over Judgment

It was only after meeting the most interesting people while traveling that I started to open my eyes and soften my heart to others. My empathy has grown tremendously through finding friendships with people from different walks of life and listening to their stories. When you find the beauty in someone and learn what they have been through, your heart grows a bit bigger for that person, as well as for a random stranger walking down the street. You learn to have greater empathy because you were able to see their struggles and how they were able to overcome them to get to where they are today. Empathy is a word that has become carelessly tossed around these days. When you surround yourself with people who have similar backgrounds and shared experiences, it can become quite validating, but it can also be harmful to yourself in the long run. You will never be challenged emotionally or physically. I feel like I have learned about true empathy and what it looks like on a daily basis because of my variety of friends. The stark contrast to my judgmental youth is astounding at times.


When you surround yourself with people who have similar backgrounds and shared experiences, it can become quite validating, but it can also be harmful to yourself in the long run.

#4 Communication Makes the World Go Round

Something I am constantly trying to work on is my communication skills. When you have diverse friendships, you are forced to communicate in many different ways. I have benefited greatly from having to learn how to communicate with different types of people.



#5 Openness

I have found myself walking around with a greater sense of openness. Coming from such a judgmental background, I would love to place people in “boxes”. I have found more recently that I walk around with a sense of expectancy rather than judgment. Instead of assuming someone is full of themselves, for instance, I have grown to expect they have more to offer than whatever my initial judgments had been. I understand better that people have more than one facet, so I almost expect depth and nuance from the gate. Most people have much more going on than what they allow the world to see, so I end up being more open to surprises. I have been able to be less judgmental though, sometimes in self-reflection, I feel like I still have so much to learn.





#6 Graciousness

It is possible to be gentle in the judgment of others, and in turn, learn to be more gracious with yourself. I learned not to hold others to such a strict standard, but I still struggle with that same standard myself. “It’s okay that they are not perfect, but I must be.” Over time, I realized this double standard and began to be more patient and gracious to myself. The more breathing room I gave to myself, the more I grew for the better.



#7 How to fail

Growing up, I never allowed room for failure and as an adult, I still don't like the idea of it. Having diverse friends has taught me there is less black and white in life. Life is messy and can be hard to navigate on most days. Gaining a wider viewpoint on life has enabled me to give myself more room to fail. I have allowed for more time to figure things out, for the process to be a process, and for life to maintain a degree of messiness. Everyone should leave themselves room for growth. Failure is part of the process and, it is a skill to be learned.


Gaining a wider viewpoint on life has enabled me to give myself more room to fail.



#8 How to Get Up and Show Up Better

I have learned to be a better friend by learning how to show up better. I used to be afraid of showing up at all in fear that I would do something wrong. This is the same fear-based mindset, previously mentioned, that I struggled with for years. No room for failure meant no room to try because there was no guarantee I would get it right on the first go. Thankfully in learning more grace with myself it has made more room for me to show up better for others. Now I know that showing up at all is the biggest part of friendship. If you take the time to show up, you will eventually learn the best ways of being a friend, it just takes time and a willingness to adjust.


#9 Authenticity

Growing up, I learned which version of myself would be most welcome in different friend groups. But as my friend groups started to broaden, it became harder and harder to pretend or to bring different traits of my personality forward for the pleasure of the group. There was no longer one character that would appease every crowd, group, or friend. So I had to adapt to showing up as myself and figuring out the rest. It’s much more fruitful to use your energy trying to be authentic, than worrying about how to pretend or be perfect for different scenarios. You have to become honest with yourself and others. What’s the point in having all these friendships if no one really knows the authentic YOU?


It’s much more fruitful to use your energy trying to be authentic, than worrying about how to pretend or be perfect for different scenarios.



#10 Confidence

Lastly, I have learned to have greater confidence. When you start to lead with openness, empathy, and compassion, you start attracting others who do the same. In this whole process of holding space for others and yourself to make mistakes and to grow, you look less harshly at your own shortcomings. The contrast in my mental well-being is staggering. When you allow yourself to listen to the troubles of a person, you learn something. Maybe they aren’t as arrogant as you previously thought. You start to look at strangers less like strangers and more like friends you haven’t met yet. It’s humbling to have all kinds of friends in your life. It’s beautiful and sometimes messy, but above all, it’s worth it. The work is worth getting to know someone new, saying hi in an elevator, and having a drink with someone that previously intimidated you somehow. So get uncomfortable once in a while and you might just meet a better version of yourself on the other side.


*Photo credit to Megan Cable and Victoria Roux


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