A friend, a true friend will sometimes tell you are wonderful when you are wonderful, but, much more importantly, they will always tell you when you are really not wonderful, when you are a being odious or preposterous or unreasonable. I can pinpoint the exact moment when itsjustaname provided that valuable service to me. It was when I was in the throes of an online spat with someone and gave them a bit of a kicking. I had several emails etc from an assortment of people cheering me on (it was a spat with someone possessed of many sycophants and few true friends) and from Caroline telling 'Hang on a minute, you've gone too far and you may be shooting yourself in the foot'. And it gave me pause, suddenly and very sharply, because I thought 'Wow. She really cares what other people think about me' and more importantly 'Oh god. I really care what she thinks about me'. (Of course I didn't retract what I'd said, anymore than I paused before hitting the 'send' button when thirstypixel tried to make reconsider something earlier. The other great thing about true friends is that they never say 'I told you so').
stickette and I have always performed this service for each other, though unequally (I am sure if you have met her, or even if you haven't, you can guess which of us was more in need of checks and restraints and being told to just get a bloody grip). This was no easy feat when we were adolescents and young women and much more concerned with our amour propre than we are now; when sudden criticism from close quarters was as unexpected and threatening as triggering a landmine whilst playing hopscotch. I owe some of the refinements of my nature to her. You may think my nature has as few refinements as crude oil but if you think I am abrasive and dogmatic and inclined to noxious spillage now you really wouldn't have liked me when I was younger. I have relied on friends to shape and guide me in the way that my family never could. If I am confident it is because my friends esteem me. If I'm trusting, it is because my friends are trustworthy. If I love it is because my friends are loving.