3 Ways to Increase Meaningful Connection this Holiday Season

The caricature of women during the holiday season is one of a frazzled, exhausted, pressure-filled, and over-extended woman.   I’m not entirely sure how true that is anymore? I’m holding out hope that we’re getting better at picking the events that matter, saying no to credit card debt, and letting go of the belief that we have to send cards and throw a party and hide the elf every night and make homemade cookies and buy everyone a present. I’m hoping…

But even if we’re not frazzled from over-commitment, it’s far too easy to let the holidays whiz by without really sinking in to meaningful moments.

Here are three ways to help increase your sense of connection this holiday season:

1)  Initiate Meaningful Sharing. Far more important than scheduling time to be with family and friends is then making sure that real sharing happens.  I do this most often by saying, “Let’s all share one high-light from this month (or week) so far and one low-light.” (read my post about that favorite sharing question here) to ensure that everyone gets to share about the subjects of their choosing and to help keep the conversation real.

But another idea that’s especially good for groups of people not used to sharing is to put a bunch of meaningful questions in a jar and during dinner announce that tonight we’ll each draw a question to answer.  This extends the meal time and keeps everyone laughing and connecting longer.  I’m keeping a jar on my table all month-long for everyone who comes over!

It doesn't have to be fancy-- just a jar with questions begging to be answered by anyone who sits around my table this month!

It doesn’t have to be fancy– just a jar with questions begging to be answered by anyone who sits around my table this month!

Questions could include:

  • What is one thing that surprised you in a good way, an unexpected gift, that you’re grateful happened?
  • What is one thing that you’re really, really, really proud of from this last year… something that matters to you that we can celebrate with you.
  • What’s an area of your life (i.e. work, health, hobbies, relationship) that has been really energizing and fulfilling for you. What contributes to that feeling?
  • What is one thing happening in your life right now that gives you hope?
  • If you had to give the last year a name/chapter title—what might it be and why?
  • What are three unique (not the typical “God/Family/Health) things in your life that you’re really grateful for?

A little note on this before I go onto the next idea.  It’s common to feel a little weird doing this and that’s okay.  I just tell myself that making sure everyone leaves feeling seen and heard matters way more to me than whether it will feel normal, comfortable or easy on me, or anyone else.  I used to try to guess whether a certain family member would think it was stupid or whether so-and-so would actually share– I’ve been doing this long enough now to conclude that most people prefer meaningful conversation to small talk, everyone wants to be seen, and that it’s a gift to all of us to have some structure that provides permission and expectation to share.  Courage to you!

2)  Choose One Person You Miss.  Ask yourself who you miss having more regularly in your life and commit to connecting with them this month.  It could be a far-away friend whom you decide you will Skype or call with… no matter what.  It could be someone locally that you just haven’t seen enough of recently whom you call and say, “You are my priority this month.  My month won’t be complete without being with you.. so name the time and place and I’ll come to you… I want to spend time with you.”  Or, it could be an aging family member, someone you’ve drifted apart from, or maybe even somebody where there has been some tension between the two of you.  The point is to just pick one person who pops into your head and find a way to really connect.

The gift of this is that everything else on your list will feel urgent, with a time-stamp to it, but that doesn’t mean they are all things we’d list as “most important”; whereas this connection isn’t urgent at all (the reason you’ve let it slide until now) but you’re claiming it’s importance and choosing to make it urgent.  You’re deciding that it is indeed urgent to make sure that this season has a deeper connection as part of your celebration. Initiate today… and be completely committed to finding the time to catch up and affirm and love on one person you miss.

 3) Pick Presence for One Event.  In an ideal world, we’d be truly present to every single event– decorating ginger-bread houses, the kids choir concert, shopping with your mom, signing the Christmas cards– but the truth is that many “fun” things don’t capture 100% of our attention.  So let’s not claim we can do it all season, but let’s intentionally pick one that matters.  Look at your calendar and say, “For this event… I am going to soak it up!” And then really be as present as you can be: choose to find the magic, watch their faces, add music, dance and laugh, pause and breathe deep, communicate your love, receive everything available to you in those moments.

In this exercise we’re not worrying about updating our social media pages, we’re not hurrying everyone along, we’re not more focused on the logistics than the people, and we’re not quick to temper.  Quite the opposite, we are cherishing as much as we can, holding gratitude, inhaling deeply, and smiling.  When we get to January– we want to look back and remember that we were there at that event.

In choosing to do these two of these three things, we’re not really adding more time to our month– we’re simply infusing the things we’re already doing with meaning.  We are making sure that for as intentional as we are about getting through our list of tasks that we’re also making sure that we’re intentional about the outcome of those tasks.  For what’s the point of filling up the calendar if not to also fill up our hearts?

May the month hold meaning for you,

Shasta

p.s.  What are other ideas you have?  Share them here and inspire others!  What are you doing to help add meaning? To make sure you feel connected?

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My Prayer for You: Feel Love Even When Insecure

Today when I sat with what I most wanted to say to you… I felt like I just wanted to pray for you.

Just pretend I'm lighting a candle of love for you and praying that all those who listen or read these words would feel their spine strengthen as they stand in love. xoxo

Just pretend I’m lighting a candle of love for you and praying that all those who listen or read these words would feel their spine strengthen as they stand in love. xoxo

To pray for you to feel loved this month….

Particularly as we are in moments where we’re often with people but sitting in fear, insecurity, and unmet expectations which makes feeling our connection possible, but not probable if we’re showing up with more angst than love.

Perhaps it’s at family gatherings where every relationship doesn’t feel easy or fulfilling; or perhaps it’s with old friends you don’t see often and you’re tempted to wonder if the time together is worth it; or perhaps it’s at a ConnectingCircle where you’re walking into a gathering where you don’t know anyone; or at a holiday party where it feels shallow and exhausting.

An Audio Version of My Prayer:

My prayer today is for you that you might find love and meaningful connections wherever it is you go.  Whether you feel loved has less to do with who is there and more to do with how you show up.

This prayer is my gift for you: download this 4 minute mp3 and listen to it as a meditation that invites you to breathe deep in the pool of love before breathlessly showing up this season.

Listen to 4-minute prayer for you to feel love

Note: This prayer can be listened to simply by clicking the link and/or downloaded to your computer/phone by selecting the green globe icon in the lower right corner. I spoke it imagining you listening to it before getting out of the car, while you’re riding the bus, or right before you leave the house.  May it ground you and go with you, opening up possibilities of you feeling ever more connected and loved. xoxo

A Written Version of My Prayer:

To the God that is Known as Love

This beautiful woman, this daughter, this sister of mine is getting ready to be with people… and that so often can bring up all our insecurities and fears.

I want to say a prayer for her… for her peace that she might walk through any door and greet any person… while never doubting her love and strength and worth.

So let her be here in this moment, fully here, with us.

Let her heart catch up with her body that she might be present.

And not just present, but also available, ready, and willing.

 First, let me thank you for her. She is one of the beautiful hearts in this world willing to be available to love. She won’t do it perfectly all the time, but this is a woman committed to practicing it. I so thank you for that. Bless her in these moments where she’s willing to pause and ground herself.

And now I pray that she be filled with love.

May she take a deep breath and whisper “I am loved, I am loved, I am loved.”

Letting that love wash over her…. I picture her heart beating and growing bigger and bigger as it sends love out through her entire body…. Almost like a color, a color that is flooding her body—

  • Starting in that willing heart—may it be vulnerable and still safe, tender and still strong, receptive and still giving.
  • May it fill her lungs as a prayer that her every breath will choose to breath in love, and breath out fear.
  • As it washes down through her mid-section and fills her stomach may there be peace where others feel nerves.
  • As it pours down through her legs and feet, we take that as a promise that it will go with her wherever she walks.
  • As it stretches out through her arms and hands I beg that she might be Your hands in this place—quick to applaud others, and unafraid to touch.
  • I watch that love go up through her heart and into her head, flowing up through her throat where it leaves a commitment to speak words of affirmation and encouragement… may that same Love fill her mouth with courage to speak with authenticity tonight.
  • May that Love be the lens with which her eyes see… that she might dare to see people the way the Divine sees them… not the way we’re used to measuring people, but with a commitment first to look for evidence as to why they are lovable.
  • As it gushes through her ear canals, may she feel excited to listen for the voices of those around her… and may she have wisdom to hear what isn’t even said.
  • And finally as it lights up her brain… may she be filled with memories of the times that she has been given love and appreciated it… may it invoke her own inner wisdom and remind her that she is safe and she worthy…

I see her body filled with love.

Oh that this woman would deeply know that she has an abundance of it. That she can give Love even before she knows what form it will return to her.

That she will recognize that she can receive it even if, and when, it is given imperfectly by another.

May this love bless the life of this woman who is now choosing to be an agent of love in this world. Might it add joy, depth, and meaning.

As she walks through those doors—the doors where she will undoubtedly bump into humanity—may the holiness of love go before her, with her, and in her. May it trail behind her leaving a blessing around her… that whoever is with her feels their worth, that whoever connects with her feels listed to and attended to, that those who are in her presence feel hope. And may all these gifts be given to her ten-fold… help her see where she can receive, embrace, ask for, be heard, and be seen.

Because we know that prayers begging to become more loving are prayers that will always be answered, we thank you even now that we have this privilege to practice being God made real tonight.

Thank you, thank you, and amen.

p.s.  I’m leading a call this Sunday, Dec. 7 at 4:30 pm PT/7:30 ET where everyone who holds any loneliness this holiday season is welcome to come and be present… I want to honor it, speak to it, and bless you…. you are so welcome, for free.  Get info here.

Posted in Fears, Making Friends, Personal Growth/Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Grateful for My Own Life

It’s so common to look at the lives of friends (or celebrities) and wish we had their lives.  Facebook exacerbates this yearning as we constantly see the highlights of each others lives at times when our own lives are most boring (since most of us are only browsing news feed when we have a dull moment).

Feeling Jealous of Our Friends

I know I’ve felt the pang of jealousy.  Recently, in fact.  Someone I admire posted “So excited!  My retreat just sold out in 20 minutes!” and the critic in my head whined, “Why didn’t your retreat sell out? Do people not like you?” Insanity, really. My head can quickly jump in and cheer me on: “Shasta, be gentle on yourself.  It’s your first retreat!” but my heart will feel the sting of failure and jealousy will have poked her head into my day.

So when one of my dear girlfriends Krista posted on our group page (a Facebook group page that 5 of us use to stay in touch with each other in between our quarterly phone calls and annual get-togethers) her own twinges of jealousy– I understood immediately.

“The other day, when I was telling {husband} about your new book, I was saying, “sometimes I feel a tinge of envy looking at Shasta’s exciting, glamorous life…”

We can first talk about the fact that 98% of my life is hardly exciting and glamorous… but the bigger issue at hand is how easy it is for us to compare ourselves to each other.

My darling friend Krista living her dream...

My darling friend Krista living her dream…

And these are with girlfriends who go far beyond cherry Facebook posts with each other.  We have witnessed each others tears, we send texts saying, “Ugh! I am so mad right now at x,” and when we give updates to each other we share highs and lows so we are always hearing each others pain, tension, and stress, too.  So we can’t just blame Facebook. This feeling reveals that even with friends who we share deeply and intimately with– we’re still tempted to want their high points even when we know their whole life isn’t that way.

I can point to every single one of my friends and pick something from their life that I wish were mine: be it their home, their financial stability, their joys of motherhood, their beauty, or their ability to make people laugh.

Choosing Our Own Lives

When Krista bravely posted her honest twinges of envy for each of us, she also posted a recent Facebook post from Liz Gilbert (so worth reading) where Liz shared all the dreams of others that she is saying no to:

“I was thinking today about all the other paths that I did not take in life, no matter how shiny and appealing they may have looked. I’ve had the possibility of living so many different kinds of life that could have been a dream for somebody else. I never choose those lives. I’ve never lived the dreams that other people wanted for themselves — nor have I lived the dreams that other people may have wanted for me. I never had children…because that’s somebody else’s dream. I never took the opportunities that were offered to me after the success of EAT PRAY LOVE to have a TV show of my own…because that’s somebody else’s dream…. I turn down 99% of the invitations I get to attend to fancy parties and stellar gatherings…because that’s somebody else’s dream….”

And she goes on-and-on with all the lives she could have had….

Liz Gilbert "living her dream" researching her books, knowing that by picking this dream, there are others she is saying no to.

Liz Gilbert “living her dream” researching her books, knowing that by picking this dream, there are others she is saying no to.

With this post, she shared a picture of her with “greasy hair and tired eyes” researching her most recent book, saying this is me living my dream: “going down the rabbit hole of research.”

While there are plenty of us who might look at her and wish we could write best-selling novels… I’m left asking, would spending years researching a book actually be my dream? It’s too easy to want the outcomes of each other’s choices:  wealth, flexible schedules, reputation, or a big family; but not necessarily enjoy the journey that leads there or what we’d give up to choose that.

By her choosing to live this dream of having the time to write and get lost in “rabbit holes” she is living her dream which means saying no to many other valid, wonderful, and meaningful dreams that she could have chosen.

Where Our Jealousy and Our Peace Can Intertwine

Had Krista just admitted to occasionally feeling jealous that would have been impressive enough… for most of us don’t stop to acknowledge our feelings to ourselves, let alone share them vulnerably with our friends; but she look how she continued:

“The other day, when I was telling {husband} about your new book, I was saying, “sometimes I feel a tinge of envy looking at Shasta’s exciting, glamorous life…

…it would be total hell for me” because that is her dream and not mine. Getting up doing Improv is not my dream. Giving a graduation lecture is not my dream. Singing in front of people is not my dream. Those dreams belong to you girls and you do them with grace and authenticity.

With my career, I sometimes look at other doctors and think I should be publishing more or trying to advertise more. The truth is I love taking good care of my patients. As long as I know I’m doing a good job and they know it, I could care less if I’m voted “top doc in Seattle.” That is somebody else’s dream. I love having a husband to come home to and plan grocery lists and dinners and organize our lives together and share hikes and road trips. Vegas weekends and fancy dinners are somebody else’s dream. I’m not a stay at home mom – that also is somebody else’s dream. I love that you all have supported me in finding and living MY dream. xoxo

What I Love About that Exchange

So much to love about that posting, but notice these things:

  • She was honest… she brought us all together, more willing to admit where we feel jealousy as we look at each other.
  • She was self-reflective… she may like the idea of what she calls a “glamorous” life but she then uses the words total hell!–Ha!– to describe that she knows the difference between the idea of something and the actuality of it for who she is.  She then goes on to name the things she loves about her life… you can almost feel her peace returning as she reminds herself that she is, in fact, living the life she chose.
  • She affirmed… Improv comedy, singing, graduation lectures– those are amazing accomplishments of her friends and she’s acknowledging how cool they are. It’s tempting to downplay or criticize something that isn’t our dream, but she’s not saying there bad dreams… she’s wowed by them and says “you do them with grace and authenticity.”
  • She accepted… I absolutely love that she gave voice to the expectations and standards of what she thought she was supposed to want (i.e. being top doc in Seattle) and realized that she really didn’t need that (nor was willing to do the things it would take since it either would take away from things she values or wasn’t in alignment with who she is) to be happy.  It was “someone else’s dream.”
  • She inspired us… When the five of us were on our conference call yesterday, we talked about it a bit–each acknowledging how much we can want pieces of each other’s lives.  Her posting inspired us to talk about it and reflect.  One friend said, “It helped me realize that what I was jealous of wasn’t actually the thing I thought I wanted, rather it was the feeling of taking a risk and pursing a passion.  And then I realized I am doing that! I don’t need to be jealous!”

To have friends we admire means we have friends that will wow us, which means chances are high that we’ll sometimes feel less-than-wowing. To be human means we will sometimes compare and feel jealous.  To have healthy friendships means we do the ongoing work of living our dreams and cheering for theirs. To grow deeper means we sometimes talk about it.

Thank you, Krista, for sharing this post with us, your girlfriends, and for kindly giving me permission to share it with a few of mine via this blog. ;)  The good news is that if we both keep sharing our lives with each other, then we can live a wee bit vicariously through each other… I am cheering you on and love the life you’ve created!

This Thanksgiving… what would it look like for each of us to let go of one “dream” that is someone’s elses and instead choose peace and acceptance for one of ours?  And who do you sometimes feel jealous of that you could write a note to them this month and tell them you’re thankful for them, their accomplishments, and how much they wow you?

Posted in Career & Work, Difficulty & Challenges, Jealousy & Competition, Personal Growth/Spirituality, Vulnerability | Tagged , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Bring Back Pink

Last spring when we launched our “Feminism is a Team Sport” t-shirts, a girlfriend asked me if we had some in men’s sizes and styles.

“With the pink letters and hearts on it?” I asked dubiously.

I wear mine a lot, but I wasn't sold on thinking men would wear it?!?

I wear mine a lot (especially when I travel!), but I wasn’t sold on thinking men would wear it?!?

To which she replied, “Yes!  My husband and son {in college} both want one.”

I wasn’t convinced. That was five months ago.

Last week another woman wrote me and said her husband wanted one and asked me where she could get him one.

I am a strong believer that we need far more men wearing pink… but add the word “feminism” on it with a few hearts and I was doubtful.  But that’s three shirts requested.  My husband then said he’d wear one (Does it get any sexier?!). That’s now 4.  (I need a minimum of 6 shirts to place an order. If you know a man who would consider it an honor to wear pink letters with us, see the link at the end.)

Pink is a weirdly complicated color, not just for guys, but still for girls, too.

The Shame of Pink

In college I refused to wear pink.

It wasn’t some well-thought out campaign, I simply would have said that I just didn’t like the color.  But in hindsight, I didn’t like the color because it was girly and therefore a color that seemed as though it would somehow discredit me from being an ambitious woman.  It seemed to be a color for 4-year old girls who still believed in fairies and for the softer women who wore rose-patterns and flowing dresses–neither of which I identified.

Today I still hear similar sentiments.

I hear my friends tell others: “I swear I didn’t dress her in pink when she was little,” as they watch their daughters twirling and dancing in all things pink, their shoulders drooped as though they failed as mothers to keep their daughter safe from the gender-specific color.

When selling t-shirts at our GirlFriendCircles.com booth at women’s conferences, we still hear “I don’t wear pink… do you have this in another color?” in a tone that feels soaked with a feeling that suggests that far beyond the color is a meaning that still doesn’t sit easily with them.

Interestingly, one place where it seems trendy now is among men. The color is worn mostly by those who are fashion-conscious, for it’s still considered more edgy than norm. But even that trend comes with very tight parameters as to what shades and what articles are okay– a collared pink shirt in a light pink is cool, a hot pink briefcase is not; wearing pink for breast cancer is awesome, decorating his office pink is not.

To Buy It or Not to Buy It?

I used to be a part of the unspoken boycott against pink.  I understand why some are tempted to eschew it.

When I read news stories like that of Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer, whose every

In books like "Barbie: I can be a Computer Engineer" we associate pink with a girl who isn't smart enough to do her job.

In books like “Barbie: I can be a Computer Engineer” we associate pink with a girl who isn’t smart enough to do her job.

page is painted pink and accompanies a hot pink laptop to sell to girls, but whose morale of the story seems to be “Leave the hard engineering to the boys,” I feel the familiar urge to reject all things pink, as if distancing myself from the fear of not being seen as capable, strong, and competent.

When I first watched Ellen DeGeneres (and you really must watch it if you haven’t yet seen it– HILARIOUS!) satirically promote the “new” Bic pens for women in pink and purple

Ellen geniusly pokes fun at why women need their own pens in pink and purple.

Ellen ingeniously pokes fun at why women need their own pens in pink and purple.

colors, I felt mad at myself for having bought those pens, as though I had fallen into their trap. (I love signing my books in those colors!)

When I walk into a sports shop and see the “shrink it and pink it” strategy at play I feel a

I like pink but if we're cheering for our favorite team then why wouldn't we wear our team colors like the guys do?

I like pink but if we’re cheering for our favorite team then why wouldn’t we wear our team colors like the guys do?

little disillusioned because I feel like it comes with a subliminal message that we’re cuter than we are sporty and strong. While I have actually come to like wearing pink, when shirts are specially designed for women in “our” color but not dipped in blue for the men, it feels like it’s assumed that men are the real fans who wear the real colors and we’re just not as serious.

I could go on and on with examples… examples that leave me feeling like I should be resisting this pink-washing.  Pink has been used, at worse, to weaken and shame (i.e.  telling little boys that pink isn’t their color or hazing rookie baseball players by making them wear pink backpacks); but even when it’s not blatantly pejorative, it still seems to perpetuate a delicate, soft, and “light” stereotype.

Why I Wear Pink

I’ve been tempted at times to call off the pink– not wanting to associate myself with the stereotypes.  And yet… I don’t think the answer is to eliminate a color from our world as much as it is to change its meaning.

We are the ones who determine meaning. Pink, in and of itself, doesn’t scream girl.

In fact, Smithsonian.com, in an article about how this trend to associate colors with a gender, cited an industry journal in 1918 as suggesting:

“The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.”

Furthermore, in a chart printed in 1927 in Time magazine to showcase the correct gender color based upon leading U.S. department stores showed that Filene’s in Boston,  Best & Co. in New York City, Halle’s in Cleveland, and Marshall Field in Chicago, all recommended boys in pink.

So pink on its own surely can’t be girly.  We’ve made it that. And I guess the bigger issue here is why that would be a problem even if it were… why is there shame in being girly?

In college I was still trying to shape my image and it was largely influenced by what others told me colors meant.  Now as an adult, I’m determined to help be an influencer–someone who redefines the color.

I don’t think every woman needs to wear it and I hope that we get more and more color options where it’s needed; but I’d also like to believe that we’ll get more and more women proudly wearing the color: that our kick-ass computer programmers will bravely create code on hot pink laptops, that our star athletes will keep defying what we thought possible of the color, and that strong and ambitious women will produce and achieve all levels of success in any and every shade.

I want my niece and my god-daughter to see that they don’t have to one day outgrow their favorite color. And in an ideal world, where my nephew wouldn’t refuse to eat off a pink plastic plate because “it’s a girl plate.”

My hubby and I photographed both wearing pink at an event... I love that guy.

My hubby and I photographed both wearing pink at an event… I love that guy.

And to that point, perhaps more important than women embracing this color, I hope that more strong men will rise up and join us in pink.  Strong men who know that there is no color in the world that can weaken them, and in fact, that they are stronger when standing with women and modeling to little boys that colors don’t limit anyone.

Pink isn’t an insult, it’s a frickin’ gorgeous color.

And I, for one, will keep wearing it on stages and signing books in it, more often than not.

#BringBackPink.  :)

—————–

MEN’S SHIRTS (VERY LIMITED SUPPLY!)

If you know a guy who will proudly wear this shirt-- we're placing a one-time order.

If you know a guy who will proudly wear this shirt– we’re placing a one-time order.

We currently have 4 brave men who have ordered their shirt.  We need a minimum of 6 pre-orders.  Looking for at least two more!  :)

We’re extending the deadline to after the weekend.  You can order your size here.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Feminism, Mens Friendship | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

The Myth that Keeps You Lonely

You wish you had the kind of girlfriend you could just text a code word to and she’d know exactly how to respond; the friend who would say, “Let’s just hang out this weekend” and you’d want nothing more than uninterrupted time with her; the friend who hears that you’re sick and shows up with a pot of soup; the friend who seemingly never tires of listening to you rant about X (insert whatever or whoever you feel like you’re always worried about!); the friend who includes you in everything; whispers secrets to you that she tells no one else; and the one who just always seems to want to be with you the same amount of time that you want to be with her.

Friendship: What We Want & What We Get

When we’re feeling that little nagging angst of loneliness– it’s for her that we want.  It’s for the fantasy best friend that we know would be the Thelma to our Louise, the fork to our spoon, the laughter to our jokes.  She would be the finisher of our sentences, the reader of our minds, and the affirmer of our hearts.  Our time together would be effortless, easy, safe, and comfortable.

Most of us just ache for her and keep hoping we’ll bump into her one day, doing little-to-nothing to actually seek her out. As if she’s a unicorn we just have to hope we’ll one day spot!

Some of us go one step further and decide to put at least some energy toward the search– we join sites like www.GirlFriendCircles.com, sign up for workshops and classes, and attend the parties of our friends with a willingness to connect with new friends. We go out looking for her; as though we’re casting agents hosting an audition, employers ready to interview for an open position, or headhunters looking for “our types.”

But then, much to our dismay, we discover that the difference between what we want and what we get is vastly huge.

Because what we get in a new friend, 90% of the time, is a stranger that we don’t yet know as a best friend so we don’t yet love her. We get discouraged when she takes three weeks to schedule, skeptical when she seems to have other friends, doubtful when we see that our lives aren’t as similar as we had hoped, and judgmental when we see her choose differently than we would have. She’s not quite as vulnerable as we like, the conversation doesn’t go as deep as we wish, and we’re not laughing quite as much as we think we should be.

We meet a whole bunch of candidates who aren’t quite good enough to fit our BFF opening so we quietly reject them and keep looking, albeit somewhat disillusioned.

The gap between the women we’re meeting and the women we ultimately want as best friends feels far too great to close.

The Myth That Needs Busting: “I’m looking for the right person to be my BFF”

The gap is indeed discouraging between who we want as friends and what we get from the women we’re meeting.

But technically that’s only disappointing if you expected it to be otherwise.

The myth keeping most women lonely is that they think having close friends is a product of discovering the right person; when the truth is that meaningful friendship is actually a product of developing the right friendship.

And that, my GirlFriends, is good news. Because now we can recognize that a gap doesn’t mean she’s not the right one! Rather, a gap reminds us that everyone starts as a new/casual friend and some of them over time (and we won’t know which ones for quite a while!) can develop into the friendships we crave.

The Truth: Friendships Don’t Start With Frientimacy, They Are Developed

Remember my 5 Circles of Connectedness? In this visual we see how all friends have to start on the far left in the Contact Friends Circle and be developed over to the far-right via consistent time together, increased vulnerability, and broader ways of being together.

Shasta's Circles of Connectedness_updated8-31-11-01

For example, let’s use me for a moment.  If you met me today and wanted to be my BFF– you might judge me against your standards of who you want me to be as a “Commitment Friend.”  You could think such things to yourself as: “ugh, she already has her good friends… and she’s so busy… I want someone who could meet up with me tonight if I wanted… and when I see her she just doesn’t open up about her life that much… and I invited her last time and she hasn’t reciprocated yet…besides she’s x (married, without kids, too young– pick the one that doesn’t match your life)” and your brain would be tempted to rule me out.

But here’s the genius:  Basically as long as I’m friendly toward you– then I meet the standards for being your Contact Friend so there’s NO need to rule me out!  :) For I think I’m a pretty decent friend! (Do I have a witness?!  LOL!)

So you wouldn’t want to rule me out because I don’t treat you like a BFF when we’re not!

Your Take-Away:  Lower Your Standards!

In other words, don’t use the standards you’d have for a best friend for a new friend!  For a new friendship: LOWER your standards!

“Lower my standards?” I hear the panic rising in your voice!

Yes, lower your standards.  Release your expectations.  Stop trying to pick and choose so early in the game.  As long as there are no red flags (think abuse, lying, mean spirit) then be open to being surprised by who might develop into a meaningful friend.

Basically, I can let nearly anyone into my Contact Friends Circle.  If you’re not biting me or screaming at me– I accept you!  Welcome to my Circles!

By letting you in, it doesn’t mean that I think we’ll become bosom buddies, necessarily; it just means I recognize that all levels of friendship are important and acknowledges that I don’t always know which women will be the ones I grow closer to.

Open your life to more people (aka: lower your expectations/standards) and let life surprise you with who you end up developing into a deep and meaningful friendship!

Open your life to more people (aka: lower your expectations/standards) and let life surprise you with who you end up developing into a deep and meaningful friendship!

(In fact most of my current Commitment Friends weren’t necessarily the women I liked more than anyone else I knew at the time… they are merely the ones where the relationship continued to develop, for various reasons.)

From that Circle, some women I’ll run into automatically (at school, work, PTA, association gatherings) and we’ll eventually make the jump to Common Friends as we grow our friendship.  For others, I may need to initiate some time together so we can keep seeing where our friendship progresses.

The truth is that if you and I barely know each other, then you shouldn’t be trying to figure out whether I could be your Commitment Friend as much as you should be excited that we’re now Contact Friends.  And as Contact Friends– everything I named above as reasons you might rule me out are actually appropriate and healthy actions for that beginning level of friendship.  I really shouldn’t be expected to be opening up deeply with you yet, dropping everything for you, or feeling pressure to invite you out in order to keep our friendship “equal.”  You can’t judge me or guess what I’ll be like as a Committed Friend by how I treat you as a Contact Friend.  Does that make sense?  Because the truth is that I, appropriately, give different levels of myself to people based on the friendship that has been developed.

Friendship is NOT how much we think we like each other; it’s how much of a pattern two people have in practicing the positive behaviors of friendship.

Your job right now is to lower your standards: let friendly people into your life and make time for them without ruling them out because they don’t match the fantasy you have for what an eventual best friend might look like.

So stop auditioning women for the starring role of your BFF and start saying yes to people who are friendly and see where it goes.

For in the world of friendship… horses can become unicorns.  :)

I welcome your questions, concerns, and feedback!  Was this helpful?  Did I confuse you more?  Can’t wait to hear from you!

Posted in Best Friends, Circles of Connectedness, Making Friends, Types of Friends | Tagged , , , , , , | 12 Comments