One of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn in life is to stop accommodating people. If you have to bite your tongue repeatedly, modify your behavior and just generally can’t be yourself around a person because you fear it will affect your friendship, then you may not be as close as you think you are.
A few years ago I had a close friend that never hesitated to express how much she looked up to me. She was few years younger, so it was nice to share advice with her from time to time about navigating her 20’s personally and professionally. At the time I was still doing some growing of my own so I didn’t like to think of myself as a role model, but I told her about all the mistakes I had made hoping that she’d avoid learning some of the hard lessons I did. It was important for me to show her that my life wasn’t as “perfect” as it may have appeared and it didn’t get good overnight.
What I soon started to notice was that instead of embracing everything that made her special, she instead started copying everything I did. If I told her I was thinking of going curly, she’d show up to my door days later rocking a curly afro. If I liked a pair of pumps on my Facebook page, she’d strut into the club with them on her feet. It even got to the point where she started comparing our relationships. Even if I didn’t hear from her for weeks, she never missed a holiday to call and compare notes, breaking down all the gifts her boyfriend got her before asking me what mine got me. She never asked how I was doing or if I wanted to hang out, she just wanted to see who was ahead in the game of life.
When I complained about how annoyed I was to friends and family they would all predictably reply, “Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.” Only I wasn’t flattered, I was annoyed. As much as I enjoyed her company it was getting to the point where I couldn’t talk about what hairstyle I wanted or what trips my man I and I were planning because I knew no sooner she was out of my sight she’s be at the beauty supply looking for a brand I mentioned or at the travel agent trying to book a flight before I did. For a long time I tried to deal and I rationalized it by saying, “She’s a good friend, she’s just not an independent thinker. I just won’t mention my plans.” But as I got older I realized, in a real friendship, you shouldn’t have to do that.
I realize that when it comes to style you can only be so much an individual; there’s more than one of it on the rack for reason. It’s one thing if the girl walking down the street is rocking your same graphic tee, but no one wants to roll out with their best friend looking like the Doublemint twins. I get it: Some people just aren’t independent thinkers. And others just don’t have the courage to take a chance doing what they want to do because they’re too worried others won’t approve. But you’re not going to get someone’s else’s life because you shop at the same store.
I think in a way we all imitate someone whether we buy a certain lip color Rihanna was rocking or we want that body con dress that was clinging to Jennifer Hudson. But it’s important for you to remember that nobody can do you like you. Rihanna’s lip color may look a mess on you and the body con may not fit you as well as it does J-Hud.
When it comes to a copy, paste friend you can face the issue several different ways. You could try biting your tongue and not sharing your intentions. You could try talking to her. You can ever try pointing things that suit her better. But I don’t know how to give someone high self-esteem. When you all figure out the answer to that, please let me know. In the meantime, life is too short to spend it irritated annoyed over trivial things, so either get some new shoes or get a new friend.
Toya Sharee is a community health educator and parenting education coordinator who has a passion for helping young women build their self-esteem and make well-informed choices about their sexual health. She also advocates for women’s reproductive rights and blogs about everything from beauty to love and relationships. Follow her on Twitter @TheTrueTSharee or visit her blog, Bullets and Blessings.