Feminism is a Team Sport

Something magical happens in when women gather in circle.

Many of my best ideas over the years have happened in connection with others; when I get to hear myself think out loud, when they say something that resonates, when their brainstorms inspire, and when I feel the energy of validation.

Such was the case last January as I spent a retreat day with one of my mastermind groups, a group that has been meeting monthly for almost three years now.  We began this year by sharing some of the promptings we were each feeling in our hearts for where we were feeling called and led in the year ahead.  I was speaking to my conviction that I want to be a part of women trusting each other again, cheering for each other more, and working alongside each other as we step into our own personal power.

Wearing on the outside the hope I have on the inside!

Wearing on the outside the hope I have on the inside!

While processing out loud, I said something along the lines of: “we need to realize that feminism is a team sport, not something we each do alone.” And Kimberly, sitting across the Circle from me, said, “You need to put that on a t-shirt.”

And so I did.  :)

Feminism Needn’t Be Scary

Here’s why:

Several years ago I wrote an article for the Huffington Post that they titled, “Feminism: How I Finally Came Out as an Advocate for Women” where I shared a bit of my struggle over the word feminism, specifically; and my own ignorance with the movement, more generally. It wasn’t that I hadn’t wanted to be an advocate for women, it was more that I had been avoiding being an advocate for feminism– I saw them as two separate things.  I mistakenly thought you could be for one without being for the other.

Many women still shy away from the word, wondering if we still have need of it.  This word has been used to help us win the right to vote, to fight for reproductive and sexual rights, to make a path for women to work outside the home in any profession of their choosing, and to give us permission to make our own life choices around marriage and motherhood, among many other things.  We appreciate the fruits of movements-past, but so badly want to believe that we have arrived.

Deborah Spar, president of Barnard College and author of Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection, said this when I went to hear her speak last year:

“Feminism was meant to remove a fixed set of expectations; instead, we now interpret it as a route to personal perfection. Because we feel we can do anything, we feel we have to do everything.”

Now we may not have the same laws that keep us down, but our chains of who we think we’re supposed to be can feel just as heavy.

In my travels and connections I see just how exhausted, weary, guilt-ridden, fearful, unhappy, and lonely women are, and I am convinced that the call to feminism is still relevant. And needed. It may just need to look a little different from the image seared in my memory of seeing women burning bra’s in front the capital.

If I could pick a new image for feminism, it would be women sitting in circles, supporting each other.

Feminism Together

Because it’s only when we’re in tribe, connected to each other, sitting shoulder-

feminism is a team sport

With 6 of the 10 amazing women who are part of my monthly women’s group.

to-shoulder, face-to-face, in relationship with others that we can practice embodying the equality that we long for.

What we crave is each others acceptance. Why can’t we give that fully and easily?

What we long for is for someone to tell us that we’re doing enough, we’re okay, we’re good moms and wives and daughters even if we can always think of more we could do, and that we’re making a difference. Why must we keep competing as though only a few of us deserve to hear those words?

We need each other to help us hear our own worth. We can do that!

We need to stop feel judged, and instead feel cheered on.  What a difference that would make in this world!

It’s only in relationship to each other that we practice offering love even when we risk rejection; and just as importantly, practicing the receiving of gifts and time without feeling like our lack reflects poorly on us. No, we can’t do everything. Yes, we need help. Thank you.

These power house  women live with vulnerability, courage, and conviction; modeling for me the actions I am committed to keep practicing.

These power house women live with vulnerability, courage, and conviction; modeling for me the actions I am committed to keep practicing.

It’s with my friends that I practice shining my biggest and best self, speaking of my strengths and owning my accomplishments so that I feel more comfortable doing that in a world that isn’t as practiced yet.  And it’s where I want them practicing for themselves, as well.

Only in relationship do we learn the coveted skills of saying “yes” when scared, and “no” when tired.  It’s with each other that we should be able to practice those hard words so that we are more at ease speaking our truth in other crowds.

Who we want to be, must be, need to be– requires us practicing those skills in relationship. We don’t become more confident, loving, patient, and empathetic in a vacuum; we do it in connection with each other.

Feminism now is inviting all of us to love ourselves, our bodies, and each other, just as we are. That’s not to say that the external circumstances are equal, for they aren’t.  But just as significant, is us feeling our worth on the inside and reflecting that to each other.

Feminism Practiced

I believe so much in being in circle with other women that I have committed to it as a regular practice in my life.  In addition to my friends and social life, I belong to three “mastermind” groups.  Two of them are weekly, via Skype and telephone; the other is a monthly in-person gathering.  Each of them functions differently, but behind every one of them is a circle of women cheering each other on.

I want you to be in circle with women who see your value, your worth, and your joy.  I want you to keep practicing being a woman who cheers others on, judges less, and loves more.

Leave a comment before 7/23 and be entered to win a free Power Pal Pak mentioned below!  What is one action you can take that moves you into more intentional and meaningful connection or away from competition and judgment?

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Three Resources for Cheering Each Other On!

  1. Buy the T-shirt in our store:  I’ve been gifting these to some of the women
    You can get this t-shirt at www.ConnectedGifts.com

    You can get this t-shirt at www.ConnectedGifts.com

    who have been supporting me saying, “Thanks for being on my team!” Wear yours and spread the love!

  2. Join a MasterMind: If you’re an entrepreneur, I highly recommended Savor The Success for their Success Circles*.  They match 4 women up into a group, set up the structure, and help make sure that your group is checking in online every Monday & Friday, in addition to talking via video or phone every week. It’s $149 a month for 3 months, but they do all the work for you of putting your group together and keeping it running (plus, you get a lot of other benefits!) Note: Their deadline for the next cycle is in 2 days!
  3. Start Your Own Group:  I recently met Kelly Pietrangeli online and am a new fan of her Power Pal Pak*– this is a fun resource that gives you the how-to for putting your own small group of 2-4 women together in a way that helps you each look at all the areas of your life.  It is chalk-full of worksheets to do together, suggested structure for your phone calls or get-togethers, and helps you think through best way to support each other’s goals. I love her style and think it’s a great resource for $30! (Or be entered to win one by leaving a comment on this blog post!)

* I am listing these resources because I believe in them and the women who lead them.  I want to lift up the work of others and make sure you know of great resources.  Just wanted to make sure you knew that I am not receiving any compensation for cheering them on.  I can’t always spotlight everyone I love, but I want to try, when I can!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Career & Work, Feminism, Jealousy & Competition, Judging Others | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

How GirlFriend Circles Saved My Soul

Note from Shasta:  I would love for you to meet Kathleen Kinney, a teacher in Kent, WA, outside Seattle. I first met her when she approached me at an event in Seattle in early June where I was speaking, and with two women in tow, announced to me, “The three of us are friends because of GirlFriend Circles!” My heart melted; these are the moments I live for. 

This is Kathleen, her membership profile picture that pops up whenever she writes her notes to new members!  :)

This is Kathleen, her membership profile picture that pops up whenever she writes her notes to new members!

I asked her if she’d be willing to share a bit about how she came to joinGirlFriendCircles.com, and more importantly, some of the tips she does that makes such a difference to her success.  She truly is source of light in the Seattle area as she seeks to make others feel better about connecting.  I hope as you read her story that you’ll be inspired to RSVP to a Circle, reach out to other women on the site, or even become an Ambassador– all actions that will not only make a difference in your life, but could also bring joy to others!

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By Kathleen Kinney

GirlFriend Circles saved my soul.

In the last couple years many of my BFF’s moved away leaving a huge void in my life and soul. Around the same time, More magazine ran an article on the importance of friendships on women’s health, and mentioned GirlFriend Circle (GFC) as a place to meet woman in my area. It would be a couple of years later before I actually signed but, eventually I really felt the need to become a member and establish girlfriends.

This is what my profile says:

My friends have moved away…and my son is past the play group stage. I am looking for a few friends that like a bit of adventure without kids. It is time I find some girlfriends that are outside of my mom role. It would be nice to have a stimulating conversation, and enjoy some outings with a friend once or twice a month. I enjoy walking almost everyday!

At first, I was discouraged because there were so few women signed up on the GFC site in my area. But, this last winter I decided to check out GFC to see if the site had gained in popularity. Am I ever so happy I did!! First, I noticed that a woman named Cindy, consistently offered a calendar circle outing. I took a deep breath, and plunged!! Our first outing together was the Seattle Art Museum. Next, another museum outing. So begins my relationship with connecting to other woman.

After attending a few GFC gatherings I was encouraged to become an Ambassador. I thought, “What could I possibly offer GFC?” The answer was really simple, love. Love for friendship, connectedness and most of all companionship!!

So begins a second phase of my journey with GFC. Ambassador. Hmm, what does that really mean? It is not complicated, really. It is about building connections and

I was honored to meet these three women last month in Seattle when I was visiting.  Starting on the far left: Julie opened her home to our gathering, Kathleen is the author of this story; and on my right is Cindy, the woman who kept hosting events in the Seattle area helping give women activities to do together!  Thanks to all three of you for the joy you're bringing to that area!

I was honored to meet these three women last month in Seattle when I was visiting. Starting on the far left: Julie opened her home to our gathering, Kathleen is the author of this story; and on my right is Cindy, the woman who kept hosting events in the Seattle area helping give women activities to do together! Thanks to all three of you for the joy you’re bringing to that area!

relationships with other woman!! What does this look like? When a member RSVP’s to an event, I almost always send them a private message thanking them for joining the event with an expression of enthusiasm. If they cancel, I thank them for contacting me, give an appropriate response, AND tell them I will miss them at the event (if they have attended before). If I have not previously met them. I usually say, “I look forward to meeting you in the near future.” If a member is a “no-show” I message them, tell them I missed meeting them or seeing their beautiful face and inquire if everything is okay. Really, my goals is about building CONNECTIONS and RELATIONSHIPS.

Quite frankly, some woman are scared of building relationships because they have been emotionally wounded. Sometimes, all it takes is a little effort to reach out to a gal and say “Welcome. I am so glad you are part of GFC.”   In my life experiences, some woman have been deeply wounded and need TRUST, encouragement, love and acceptance. I LOVE that Shasta asks woman to say, “Thank you for sharing.” Not all woman want advice or judgment, they just need an empathic friend!!

Nothing makes me happier than women becoming friends!

Nothing makes me happier than women becoming friends!

What has GFC done for me? For the first time in my life, I have been called an athlete. I am training for a bike event with a group of women from GirlFriendCircles.com! I NEVER saw myself doing this 6 months ago, and have realized that it is FUN!! I have a circle of GirlFriends’s that are gold!! What makes them gold? COMMITMENT and TRUST!! They truly are my touchstones in what can seem like a crazy world!! For the first time in my life, I can honestly say, I am so proud to be a woman! I am strength. I am a friend. I am committed. I need woman. GFC saved my soul.

Kathleen– we’re honored to have you in our community, but want to assure you that women like you ARE the soul of GFC– so really you saved yourself.  :) 

And Cindy– if you hadn’t been faithfully posting events– she wouldn’t have had anything to RSVP to attend– you are a hero to us!  Thank you!!!!

 

Posted in GFC Member Stories, Guest Blogs, Making Friends, Practical Ideas | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

6 Suggestions for How to Email a Friend When Drifting Apart

I receive quite a few of emails and comments from women who are left wondering what went wrong in one of their friendships when their friend stops responding or somehow indicates that the friendship is over, without explanation.  Their desire seems to genuinely be one of seeking a better understanding of why the friendship drifted apart; with a secondary desire often stated of seeking “closure.”

We've all wanted to write those emails... here are some do's and don'ts while you're crafting that note to your friend.

We’ve all wanted to write those emails… here are 6 things to do while you’re thoughtfully crafting that note to your friend.

One such woman wrote me this week asking me to give her feedback on an email she had drafted up to send to a friend of hers.  In the spirit of helping us all learn from each other, I asked her if I could share it here, including my comments back to her.

But before we go there, I want to highlight a few steps I think should be taken before we get to the “email her our thoughts.”

Before Emailing Her Our Feelings and Concern

Here are four questions to ask before moving forward with your email:

  1. What type of friendship did you two share? Honestly.  Look at the 5 Circles of Connectedness and objectively identify what kind of relationship you two created, not just whether she was your closest friend or not.  This is important because it helps us know how much effort, how vulnerable, and how significant this loss might be to each of you.  If you were Commitment Friends– then, in my opinion, it’s worth all attempts to heal the friendship; if it’s a Common Friend, then it may be worth reaching out if we sense a rift or drift but we do so understanding that while this friendship was important to us– we don’t have the practice yet in our friendship of dealing with conflict and high emotions so we need to be mindful of not putting more on it than it can hold.
  2. Did any circumstances change around your friendship? If the friendship was held together by one primary way of being together (i.e. work, school, kids at same school, church, families on the same block) then it’s possible that you were Common Friends instead of Commitment Friends and when that structure ended, you two don’t have practice in maintaining the friendship in new ways, yet. When these relationships start drifting, it rarely is anything personal and usually is simply two people who aren’t practiced at being friends with new circumstances. Any attempts to reach out should avoid blame and drama, and instead focus on “Miss you!  When can we get together?”
  3. Is email the best way forward? Depending on how you two usually interact, how long the friendship has been developed, and how practiced you two are at in handling each others feelings, will dictate whether email is the route to go. But the goal of this email shouldn’t be to solve everything or to vomit our every feeling and thought on her.  Our goal should be to start the conversation on email, with hopes that it leads to a preferred method of validating, brainstorming, and sharing feelings.  If we want a response from her, then short and kind is the best invitation to dialogue.
  4. What is your honest and ideal goal for this email?  This is important… because if reconciliation is the goal, then now isn’t the time to overwhelm her with drama, feelings, or blame.  If closure is the goal (hopefully that means you’ve already tried reconciliation already), then end well with thanks and apologies, as needed.

1st Draft of Email

Huge thanks to the woman who agreed to let me use her email as an example we could all learn from:

Hi,

I have gone back and forth for a long time now on whether or not to write you, and have finally decided to for some sort of closure for myself. It is clear to me that for whatever reason, you have chosen to end our friendship. I’m choosing to write to you in particular, because I feel like there had been some periods of time over the last couple years since we first met that we’d been pretty close. I know that had been much less so over the past year or so, but I (maybe naively) attributed that to the normal ebb and flow of friendships. It really saddened me to lose your friendship over the last couple of months without any explanation. If there was something specific I did, or even more so, something that was more of an ongoing pattern that ’caused frustration so much so that it made you not want to make room or time for me in your life anymore, it would have meant so much to me if you had been able to communicated that to me, even though that is hard, and letting something fade is so much easier. There are a lot of parts of who I am, specially in regards to social stuff, my sense of myself and my communication that could be improved upon (because I’ve let past baggage and experiences influence me), and I’m not trying to claim otherwise. Those are areas of myself and my life that I care a lot about continuing to work on and grow for the better. I’m not expecting or needing a response to this message, but it felt important to me to acknowledge what happened.

I hope things are going well for you.

6 Suggestions to Improving the 1st Draft

Without knowing any other context or back story that would help us each know what is most appropriate in our given circumstances, here is a summary of some of my feedback on the above email.

  • DO be positive in your Opening and Closing: This is where we set the tone. I always start and end with what I want for us in a way that affirms her and our friendship. Perhaps, “I miss you….I’ve been tempted to not tell you that because I’ve wondered if you thought our friendship had run its course, but the truth is that I really treasure our friendship so wanted to reach out to you to see if, at minimum, we could at least have a conversation about what happened?” since in this case her read is that the other woman views the friendship as over.  Otherwise, it would be more of an, “I miss you and would love to get together, but wanted to check in with you to see if everything was okay between the two of us, from your perspective?” And then I’d personally warm up the ending too, reiterating her value and my appreciation of our friendship.
  • DO Ask for your ideal: she says: “I’m not expecting or needing a response to this message..”  Is that true?  I’d tend to leave that out, hoping that it DOES create dialogue and that she is willing to engage?  I don’t know the circumstances but I’d even be inclined to say “I’m hoping to hear from you so that…”
  • DO Share honestly, but error on under-sharing. I applaud her for naming her feeling and expressing her sadness.  It’s important to talk about what we experienced, but we don’t have to explain it and give examples that risk placing blame.  She shared her perspective and confusion without getting overly-dramatic.
  • DO Avoid blame at this point in the game. She has one sentence “If there was something I did…  that it made you not want to make room or time for me in your life anymore, it would have meant so much to me if you had been able to communicated that to me, even though that is hard, and letting something fade is so much easier,” that I’d change to take out the blame of what could have been done and keep the focus on what can still be done: “If there was something I did… I very sincerely want to know what it was as it was never my intention to hurt you.”
  • DO Own what you can and be the first to apologize.  Whether the goal is closure or reconciliation, make sure you own anything that you’re not proud of…..  stronger for you to mention them than put all of that on her to do so. She does acknowledge her own baggage and desire to grow which would communicate to me that she is sincere, and capable of hearing why I pulled away. But she neglected to apologize.
  • DO Format for ease. And finally— I’d break it up so it’s not one big paragraph but actually flows in shorter pieces so it’s easier for her to take in…  Again, focusing on short and sweet, viewing it as the beginning of what you hope will be a two-way conversation.

Hope this helps you craft your emails… and I hope even more that the spirit with which you send them cares far more about communicating from a loving place than writing from the belief that you’ll feel better if you vomit on her.  No matter how hurt and disappointed you are– she is a woman who deserves to be treated with utmost respect and love.  Model to her how you hope the conversation can go….

xoxo,

Shasta

 

Posted in Break Ups, Difficulty & Challenges, How To? | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Quiz: Am I a Good Friend?

Apparently Everything Can Be Blamed on Your Friends

It’s all the rage right now to be asking whether your friends are good enough to be friends with you.  Blogger after blogger seems obsessed with encouraging you to do a spring cleaning of your friends as if it’s their fault for why you can’t lose weight, earn more money, or become more enlightened. “You don’t have the right friends!” they cry out from their self-help havens.

This whole concept that we are the sum of who we hang out with has been dumbed-down and grossly abused so much that we’re starting to believe that all we need to do is hang out with beautiful, skinny, wealthy, and successful people and we, too, will start to look and act like them. And so it’s one more lie out there encouraging already-disconnected and far-too-lonely-of-women to end relationships with hopes that if they could just find Ms. Perfect to befriend us, then we, too, can become more like her.

My dear, dear friends– I know it’s tempting to have someone to blame for the parts of your life that you don’t like, but let me gently suggest that while we are certainly impacted by our friends, they are not the reason you are not as happy as you want to be. And there is a better question to ask than: “Are my friends bad for me?”

How Our Friendships Do Impact Us

Our friendships do certainly influence us, and we know that behaviors, mindsets, and outlooks are “contagious” in a sense.  We are more likely to be similar to our friends (i.e. smoke if they do, be fashion-conscious if they are, wear plus-sizes if they do, talk about spirituality if they do, work long hours if they do) than vastly different, but that’s not the same as saying you will become like them, against your will.

I’m all for joining a weight-loss community when that’s your goal, attending church with other like-minded people when you want to grow more aware, or participating in a mastermind group when you want to increase your business-savvy-mindedness.  I cheer for you as you add friends into your life who can help you think bigger thoughts, expose you to new resources, and who can empathize with your experience.

But to seek more Common Friends to inspire one part of your life is a far-different invitation than to “get rid” of friends you’ve loved simply because they aren’t everything you want to become.

This isn’t about not ending painful relationships or not seeking out support in areas of our lives that we feel called to pay attention to… I’m all for both of those.  But to suggest to you that you need to end relationships with people you love because they aren’t perfect or because you might not succeed if they have bad habits is just plan ol’ fear-mongering. Who among us doesn’t have a bad habit?  Who among us has all-desirable traits without any un-desirable traits?  And who says that they will pull us down… why can’t we lift them up? And can we focus on our growth rather than keep pointing a finger at everyone else?

Instead Evaluate What Kind of Friend You Are

So pause for a moment from fretting over whether your friends are lifting you up, and instead ask, “Am I the best and healthiest friend I can be?”

How would you rate yourself 1-5 on the following statements?  Look for evidence in your relationships to see how you show up. (You might want to take this quiz a few times– thinking of a different specific friend each time if you feel like you show up differently in different relationships.)

Are the following statements never true (score a 1) or always true (score 5), or somewhere in between?

  1. _____  My friends leave time with me feeling better about themselves and their lives.
  2. _____ I listen attentively to my friends, showing deep interest by asking follow-up questions to their sharing before sharing my own stories.
  3. _____I especially make sure to ask them questions and show interest about the parts of their lives that we don’t have in common (marriage, kids, jobs) to make sure that they never feel like I don’t care about those areas.
  4. _____ I affirm my friends, validating them on a wide variety of things such as the decisions they make, the roles they play (i.e. wife/mother/daughter), and how they go about doing things.
  5. _____ I want my friends to be as supported as possible, surrounded by a strong circle of love so I support them making other friends and I speak highly of the people they love.
  6. _____ I make it a point to reflect back to my friends their own truth rather than put my preferences on them; I do this by repeating back to them what I hear them saying, and making a point to tell them when I hear their voice sound more peaceful, and when I see their eyes light up when they’re talking about something.
  7. _____ I am truly a cheerleader for my friends– they would say that I believe in them, encourage them, and find joy in their success.
  8. _____ I initiate with my friends… showing them how much I value them by setting aside precious time for them, thinking up ways to be with them, and reaching out.
  9. _____ I follow-up with my friends when they tell me about upcoming dates such as their father’s surgery, their kids first day of school, or a big speaking appointment they have– I text, call, or email to let them know I’m thinking of them.
  10. _____ I stay in touch with my friends… they receive texts, comments on their Facebook posts, or phone calls from me in between our quality time spent together.  They feel like I know what’s going on in their lives.
  11. _____ I practice vulnerability with my close friends, choosing to let them see me when I don’t have it all figured out, sharing with them my fears when I’m processing, and am willing to let them see me as I am, without trying to impress them.
  12. _____ I let my friends shine.  I don’t respond with insecurity when my friends succeed or get something I want.  I want them happy and successful so I never try to one-up with my own story, devalue what she has, or begrudge her for her joy.
  13. _____ I try to serve my friends sometimes whether it’s offering to help pack boxes, baking something to drop off, or offering to help her with a big event.

Add up your score.  Anything over 50 and I’d say you’re doing pretty awesome at loving your friends with kindness, generosity, and attention.  Anything less than that and it might behoove you to pick one or two of the lowest scores and see what you can do to possibly become a better friend; which really means becoming a better person, overall!

And instead of focusing so much on whether everyone else is good enough for us, let’s focus on making sure we’re good enough for them!

Trusting all along the way, that as we become healthier and more loving, that we’ll be the contagious ones in this world  bringing others up, rather than living with fear that they could bring us down.

Which one of the 13 are you going to work on?  How?  Please share if you’re willing!

Posted in How To?, Maintaining Friends, Personal Growth/Spirituality, Qualities of Friendship | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

We’re giving the wrong advice for “toxic” friendships!

When my Google alerts brought a recent Today Show article to my attention with the headline: Here’s Another Good Reason Women Should Dump a Toxic Friend, I groaned, and then clicked. In short, the article highlights research showing that “as the amount of negativity in relationships increased, risk of hypertension [in women] also increased.”

two young girls in a fight

When we were kids we were told to “work it out,” but now the advice is simply to dump anyone who annoys you….

I do not argue against the research at all.  I know whole-heartedly that bad relationships contribute to an increase in risk of high blood pressure in women and can leave serious damage on our bodies.  In fact, we know that to be true of anything that is causing us stress.  I am a very big fan of healthy friendships.

But what I want to speak out against is the advice we dole out alongside this research.

When we plaster a headline that gives the directive to dump a friend on an article about how stressful relationships are hurting us, I am left asking, “Why does no one ever suggest figuring out how we can make this relationship less stressful?”

 

The Traditional Advice for Toxic Friends

For long time followers of this blog, you’ll know that I am not a big fan of this trend in labeling each other toxic; nor the common advice that is given that seems to always be fraught with urgent and simplistic commands such as: “Kick her to the curb,” “Dump her,” “Detox from her,” or “End it now!”

And seriously this stuff is on the rise.  It seems we live in a world where the advice is that you’re healthiest or most mature when you simply eliminate all non-perfect people from your life. (But look at the most amazing people in the world– Jesus, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Jr., or Gandhi– thank God they didn’t hear this advice and instead chose to actually engage with and work alongside unhealthy people!)

It’d be one thing if we all had a plethora of amazing relationships, lived in meaningful community, and all felt tons of love in our lives– then, by all means, I suppose you could get rid of the excess when it wasn’t fun and joy-full.  But this advice is being given to an incredibly lonely world of women who are starving for meaningful friendships.  And we’re neglecting to not only tell you that meaningful friendships come with some stress, but we’re also not mentioning that the other way to eliminate unhealthy relationships is to show up differently and make them healthier!

An Alternative Approach to Toxic Friendships

I’ve mused about this before when inviting us to own that we are strong enough to be around unhealthy people, taught that it’s not necessarily a person who is unhealthy, but an unhealthy pattern that has been developed in the relationship, and shown how I think we can decrease the expectations in unhealthy friendships as opposed to an all-or-nothing approach, but every time I see another expert using the fear of toxicity to encourage women to push each other away, I feel ever more convicted to be, what sometimes feels like, a lone voice continuing to offer a different perspective.

There are definite times when we must end our stressful relationships, or establish strong boundaries around them, so I’m not speaking out against giving women permission to break-up. What I am speaking out against is the popular tendency to make that ending as our first step, rather than as a last step. In most cases, we’re at our personal “last straw” before we’ve ever even tried to improve it!

Step In Before Stepping Out

No one wants a stressful relationship in their life.  I get that.

But neither can we just go cutting out every relationship when it gets stressful!  Friction, disappointment, insecurity, guilt, jealousy, and crisis are a part of life (don’t even get me started on how tired I am of this trend to “be happy all the time!”) so therefore they are a part of relationships.

Rather than be shocked when our friendships aren’t all laughter, cotton candy, and photo-perfect events, what would happen if we actually expected her to annoy us or disappoint us from time to time?  And then, more important than trying to avoid angst, we focus instead on figuring out how we want to respond to it when it does come up?

My invitation to anyone struggling in a friendship that has mattered to you is to make it a practice to step closer to that person, before stepping away.

In other words, acknowledge that some friendships get stronger after talking something through, and choose to play the odds that it could happen to this friendship. It might not, but it could.

I view my friendships as investments– sacred containers where I have stored up time, energy, love, memories, and vulnerability.  Anyone who has started a business, or made an investment of some sort, knows that there will be times when it would definitely be the easy thing to just close up shop or walk away.  But you only do so after you feel you have done everything you could do to make it work.  We understandably want the investment to pay off.  I want that for your friendships, too!

It takes a long time to foster a friendship.  It doesn’t happen overnight or easily.  So when the inevitable disappointments and frustrations show up, I have a commitment to put in as much energy in the saving of these relationships as I feel I have put in to the development of these relationships.  So for a new friend, someone on the Left-Side, someone I haven’t invested a ton of time and energy with, I probably won’t extend a ton of energy into saving what may barely be built.  But with long-time friends, or intimate and close friends, I am willing to step up, lean in, show up, and give it my all to see if we can find a place of mutual love again.

Awkward?  Probably.  Stressful? Indeed.  Unsure how to do it? Likely.

But it’s also courageous, life-building, love-practicing, and emotionally deepening for us to figure it out.  This is where we get to practice being the loving people that we are!  This is where we either make a more beautiful relationship or grow because we tried!

Anytime there is a fight, an unmet need, a slow-boiling frustration, and repeated judgment in one of our friendships, we have the sacred opportunity to try to fix it, repair it, enhance it, and grow it before we end it.

So if I were the expert on the Today Show giving application to the research, I’d be quick to say, “This is awesome that we have this research that reminds us how damaging our stressful relationships can be on our bodies.  Hopefully that incentivizes us to practice our relational skills to see if we can make these relationships not only less stressful, but also more life-giving. Staying in relationships without establishing boundaries, stating our needs, or sharing with honesty isn’t serving anyone.”

When did trying to fix something that is broken turn into such rebellious advice?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in "Toxic" Friends, Break Ups, Difficulty & Challenges, Personal Growth/Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 27 Comments