Fears

Making Friends When We are Wired to Assume Rejection and Danger

"She doesn't like you..."

"You'll sound stupid if you say that..."

"She's stuck-up, she thinks she's better than you..."

"Why don't people every write me back or respond to my invitations?"

"What if I share something vulnerable and she judges me?"

The negative voices in our heads are relentless.

And they are, unfortunately, a very common, even normal, human experience.

Our "Negativity Bias"

Science consistently shows that we've been wired with a bias toward negativity.  We're much quicker to asses, even expect a threat; than we are to look for opportunities.  It's a matter of survival. If an animal misses an opportunity to eat-- he can find another one; but if he misses a threat of someone trying to eat him-- then that's pretty much a done deal. We are instinctively more worried about our protection than we are about our growth and pleasures. 

These are some great examples from The Happiness Hypothesis:

  • "In marital interactions. it takes at least 5 good or constructive actions to make up for the damage done by one critical or destructive acct.
  • In financial transactions and gambles, the pleasure of gaining a certain amount of money is smaller than the pain of losing the same amount.
  • In evaluating a person's character, people estimate that it would take twenty-five acts of life-saving heroism to make up for one act of murder.
  • When preparing a meal, food is easily contaminated , but difficult to purify.

Jonathan Haidt continues by saying, 

Over and over again, psychologists find that the human mind reacts to bad things more quickly, strongly, and persistently than to equivalent good things. We can’t just will ourselves to see everything as good because our minds are wired to find and react to threats, violations, and setbacks.

How We Can Respond

Since so much of our reaction is hard-wired and instinctive, the goal isn't to never have these thoughts; but rather what we are aiming for is

  1. Greater awareness that this is, in fact, our tendency, 
  2. Better skills at then processing the information that is coming in,
  3. And, then not making decisions out of fear when we aren't actually in danger.

This reminds me of the research I shared in Frientimacy about what researchers discovered about rejection.  We ALL feel it.  No matter how emotionally healthy we are-- we all feel the pain of being left out, or even the perception of being left out. We can't not feel rejection any more than we can not feel pain when kicked in the stomach. 

What we can do is get better at identifying that pain more quickly--naming what we're feeling--and then figuring out the best strategy for how to move ourselves back to a place of peace. 

Experts in this field suggest that practices that create new thought patterns-- such as meditation, some drugs, and cognitive therapy-- can indeed help us. It is definitely worth the conscious effort of doing what we can to get ourselves out of the trap that so often leaves us feeling rejected, unlovable, or hopeless.

Responding in Friend-Making Situations

Far be it from this blog post to do the work of being able to replace all our thought patterns with loving and healthy ones, but here are a few steps we can take immediately:

  1. Catch Yourself. More Often. More Quickly. Becoming aware of this negativity bias is definitely the first step of growth.  To see where it pops up, what you say to yourself, and how it taunts you is where maturity begins.  We can can't change what we don't see. So with as much compassion as possible, let's start pointing it out "Oooh that's your fear talking..." "Oh that's your Inner Mean Girl* bullying you..." or "yep, that's me totally withdrawing because..."
  2. Show up with Curious Love! As parents watching their 3-year old have a melt-down in a public area knows-- when we see that tantrum we have several options: 1) ignore it and act like we don't see it; 2) scream louder and try to shame them into submission, or 3) get down on their level and ask a few questions. When it comes to my inner critic and fear-- I've found that the 3rd option is the only one that creates change because she usually believes that her fear is legitimate and that she's trying to protect me from something like loss, danger, or rejection. So to the best of my ability-- in that moment or later in reflection-- I try to ask questions such as a) What are you most scared of? b) Because if that were true, what would it mean? c) What are you trying to protect me from experiencing? (And to that one-- I often find myself thanking her for caring!) And that usually leads me into a conversation about what I really want and what I'm willing to do to get it.* (See * below for more info on this process because it really is more than a blog post will allow! Crying tears!)
  3. And remember this is true for others, too THEREFOR don't leave them wondering!  Therefor... let's do all we can to speak words of acceptance, safety, and affirmation louder than their inner voice, when possible. We can assume that everyone is approaching and interacting with us at some level of fear, skepticism, worry, or questioning. They are searching for clues as to whether they are safe and liked. So knowing this, we can make sure to give them as much evidence as possible that we won't bite, judge, or reject them!  We can smile, look them in the eyes, thank them for calling/coming over, show curiosity to them by asking questions, nod our head to indicate we're listening, and always end a conversation by helping answer the question we know they'll have when they leave: "Does she like me??
  • After meeting someone new: "I am so glad we met. I'm looking forward to following up with you to...."
  • After rejecting an invitation: "Oh I wish I could come, but thank you sooo much for inviting me.  I do hope you'll invite me again because I would love to do x with you." 
  • After time together: "That was lovely. Let's do it again sometime!"
  • After someone shares something vulnerable, "Oh I can understand why you would feel x, but I'm impressed with how you did y. That took a lout of courage!"

We can choose so much more kindness toward ourselves as we remember that all of us-- me, you, and even all those women who look like they never worry one iota what others think of them-- want to be liked.  We are prone to worry we're not. But oh how much we want it.

This month, I hope you practice balancing out that negativity bias in our world by showing the compassion to yourself and others that we all crave.

xoxo,

Shasta

***  This theme touches on this month's Friendship Focus in GirlFriendCircles, featuring Amy Ahlers, who is our teacher for the class "Is Your Inner Mean Girl Hijacking Your Friendships?" Join this month for FREE and you can download the class and all of our resources.  Plus, on August 23 I will be doing a live Q/A call on this subject and modeling/sharing how I bring healing to my inner critic voices. All women welcome to join us! xoxo

Why We Have to Risk Being "Inconvenient"

Why We Have to Risk Being "Inconvenient"

Yesterday, I felt discouraged.

My Pain Blocked Me

Like, really discouraged. The kind where I start to question my capabilities and my worth. My voices of fear whispered, "You're never going to make it. You're a loser. You're a failure."

While there was a big part of me that wanted to retreat and be all by myself in my misery, there was also another part of me that desperately wanted to hear other voices besides my own.

I wanted to reach out and say to my friends: I need you to remind me that I'm not the loser that I feel like I am.

Introverts & Extroverts Vs. Shy & Non-Shy

What if you're a non-shy introvert or a shy extrovert? That might sound crazy to some of you, if you confuse extroverts with people-skills or introverts with not liking people, as stereotypes are hard to break.  But for me, the first time I heard this it made complete sense as it finally explained why my husband talks to strangers more than I do, even though he'd choose a quiet night on the couch over going out with friends.

I'm a Shy Extrovert

No one is surprised to find out I'm an extrovert, but most people seem dubious to hear me

Fortunately, while we might lean slightly in opposite directions on the extrovert/introvert and shy/nonshy scales-- we both like being with each other! :)

describe myself as shy. They seem surprised to find out that I don't talk to the people sitting beside me on the plane and I hate making small talk with sales people ("just leave me alone and I'll let you know if I need help!").  I cringe going to conferences where I don't know anyone and I can easily attend the same exercise class as you for over a year and not say more than hi. I can do those things and even do them quite well... but I don't enjoy them. I actually feel insecure and shy.

My Husband is a Non-Shy Introvert

And while no one who knows my husband is surprised he's non-shy, they never seem to believe him when he identifies as an introvert.  They see him talk to everyone, quick to start conversations and slow to say good-bye, and are in awe of how engaged he is with those lucky enough to connect with him.  His people skills are in the top 1% and he genuinely loves people.  But then he has to go home and recover.  He's worn out.  He has to pace his week to make sure there isn't too much interaction.

I interviewed Sophia Dembling a few years ago about her book The Introvert’s Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World for a friendship course I was teaching and when she talked about the difference between being shy and being an introvert-- it made so much sense.

Defining the Terms: Extrovert, Introvert, Shy, Non-Shy

Put simply, an extrovert is someone who is energized by being around people; whereas an introvert can feel drained before or after interacting and need to pull away from people in order to get re-energized. Most of us fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum-- referred to often as ambiverts, meaning that while we might lean one way a bit, we can certainly resonate with aspects of the other.  This classification tends to speak to what energizes and drains us.

But the above has nothing to do with our people skills or anxiety levels when connecting and that's where the non-shy/shy spectrum comes in.  Someone who is non-shy would tend to feel confident in talking with people, unworried about their ability to keep a conversation going, interested in getting to know people around them, and if not eager to meet stranger, at least not overly nervous about it.  On the other extreme, someone who identifies as shy would typically experience anxiety, nervousness, and uncertainty in meeting and connecting with others. Again, like a bell curve, most of us fall somewhere between the two extremes.

What This Says About Our Friendships

I find this all so fascinating.  Certainly someone who is a shy introvert might have one of the biggest challenges in feeling motivated to connect with others for they feel anxious and they aren't all that energized by it (although that's not to say they don't need deep human connection or that it won't improve their health and happiness to get it!).  Or how important it might be to a non-shy introvert to give themselves permission to withdraw even though they're so interested in people.

There is much still being studied in these fields and much we still don't know, but from what I've read so far it appears that while we don't have much control over whether we're extrovert or introvert, we do seem to have the ability to become less shy.  Neuroscience is showing us that our brains can learn how to experience more calmness in our connections, to feel more accepted, and to feel more resonance with others. In some cases it's that we can learn new skills and practice new behaviors that create stronger brain pathways, or in some cases it's finding healing from traumatic relationships or experiences that still trigger our insecurities or fears.

Maybe you've often thought "I'm just not that good at relationships" or "I'm not sure I know how to be a friend." Or maybe you can even feel your frustration at everyone for not being the "right" thing to you, or the shame you feel toward yourself for seemingly not knowing how to engage.  I really want to encourage you to not give up.

The good news is that we can create new trails/bridges in our brains and stop walking the same tired ones that lead us to anxiousness, irritability, fear, or the temptation to take everything personally.

Apparently, we can ALL learn new ways of connecting.  It's called neuroplasticity-- the ability of our brain to rewire itself, which is what many of us need to do in order to create the healthier relationships we need in our lives!

Have you become less shy? What worked? Have you changed a thought pattern or habit when it comes to how you relate to others? How'd you do it? Have you ever intentionally tried to create a new neuro pathway or stopped treading on one that was no longer serving you? What advice do you have for us?


Two Ideas for Growing Your Brain for Healthier & Easier Connections:

  1. Some of you might want to sign-up for the 13-class virtual course that includes the interview with Sophia Dembling: “The Friendships You’ve Always Wanted: Learning a Better Way to Meet-Up, Build-Up, and Break-Up with Your Friends".
  2. But my favorite option is an invitation to join GirlFriendCircles.com where every single month our members receive a monthly skill or challenge to practice, a class taught by a leading expert, a worksheet for personal application, and a vibrant community for advice, encouragement, and support!  Talk about rewiring our brains for healthy connection over the long-run! It's purposely not too much that it feels overwhelming, but is enough to keep bringing your focus back to relational growth.

Our brain development is like exercise-- the more we do it and the longer we do it for-- the stronger we get.  We can't just try something once and expect a new habit to be formed. But we can see growth and change over time!  xoxo

 

 

 

Save

Feeling the Edge of My Circle of Love

The month of Christmas, for all it's wonder and festivities, can also be a season where our "edge of love" can rear its little head. I call it the "edge of love" because even the most loving, non-judgmental, and kind people among us all have a perimeter, or boundary, of who and how we love.  I love easily the people and moments in the middle of my circle of love: girls nights in front of fireplaces, snuggling with my husband, talking on the phone to my sister, getting together with family I adore.

Shasta's Circle of Love

But... certain types of settings and certain types of people (or even very specific people) don't invoke in me the same pure love. I can feel myself show up with a lack-of-love as I reach the outer edges of who and how I love.

My goal, of course, is to make that circle of love so big that I can show up in nearly every setting with absolutely anyone and feel nothing but innocent love for the people in front of me.

But I am still far from that:

  • When I'm tired or have been around a lot of people lately.... I notice the circle closing in and getting smaller.
  • When I hear certain rhetoric or politics on the news... I notice myself feeling tempted to move an entire segment of the population outside of my circle because of my judgments.
  • When I feel forgotten or neglected or uninvited to something... I notice myself closing up a bit, which also shrinks the circle.
  • When I am so focused on my to-do list that I can't sit and be with people in meaningful ways... I know that my agenda is filling up too much of my heart.
  • When I am in certain settings that don't feel obviously meaningful (i.e. school programs, parties with people I don't know well) I am tempted to believe and expect little, therefore not showing up with an open heart.
  • When I am with a certain friend who has felt more draining than fulfilling, I can feel the edge with her where I want to love her but am not feeling expansive.

Maybe you know the feeling, too.  We know we are loving people; there's no question of that.  But if we're honest, every single one of us has an edge to our circle. I invite you to close your eyes and ask yourself where you're seeing the edge of your love show up recently.

It's more important than ever this year.  Practicing loving others is for our benefit as it leads to greater peace and joy in our lives as we watch ourselves judge, worry, or fear less. But this year, with all that is going on in the news, it's not just us that needs to feel more peace and safety, but our entire world is moaning with out it. Fear shrinks and closes us; love expands and opens us.  We need a world where humanity is still showing up with open hearts.

Loving Others Can Include Boundaries. To be clear: we're talking about a circle of feeling love for someone, which isn't the same as having boundaries for what we can give or do for others.  The circle of love doesn't mean I have to seek them out and hang out with them, spend time with them out of obligation, do whatever they ask of me, or give them all my time and energy.  It does mean that we see the value every person has-- that we see them as the innocent and loved people that they are even if we don't understand them, agree with them, or if they act out of brokenness and wounds, like we do, sometimes. It means I can think about people, or see them in person, and want to only send them love and light. It means showing up able to wish every person the very best and mean it.  Even with someone with whom I need to set boundaries with or limit my time with:  I want to be able to think of them and feel love. In fact, I set the boundaries because I love them.

Loving Others Is About My Need for Healing. And when I don't--or can't-- I know it's because there is something in me that is wounded and still needs healing. And I want to see that, own it, and pray for healing in me that I could then show up with greater love for the other.

It's not their fault I have a hard time loving them, it's my invitation to become a more loving person.  It's my responsibility to:

  • Invite in all the love I can from the people and places that fill my tank up.
  • Engage in the self-care and self-love that helps me hold all the love in my tank.
  • Choose self-awareness over blame so that I have more opportunities to ask myself "Why does this really bother me? What is it triggering in me? What's this about?"
  • Practice looking at those who annoy me and silently think "I love you anyway. You deserve love in this world," while simultaneously praying "Keep healing this in me so I don't feel provoked."

Loving Others Is the Work of a Lifetime! Oh I am far from this.  It's one thing to write-up my ideals and quite another to actually reach them.  But I will say that I have seen my circle of love grow bigger over the years, and that's encouraging!  I can think back to people and situations that would have bothered me years ago where now I can stay peaceful or better able to access my joy. I can see the growth in me! That excites me!  It reminds me that whatever "edge" feels impossible right now could feel easy this time next year!

This holiday season--whether you're with your in-laws who exhaust you or reacting to the news we see in this world--if there's anything we all wish we could put on our wish list, wouldn't it be more peace, love, and joy?

My prayer: Oh that we might see our love expanded this season. Replace our judgments with a willingness to see people differently, increase our ability to see people the way God does, and keep healing in us anything that limits our love.

If my friend really liked me then she'd initiate more...

I ruffled a few feathers last week with my post about being willing to be the friend who initiates more with others than they seem to reciprocate. Several of us feel like we're making more time for our friendships than others are... So first a hearty thank you to all of you left comments and shared your feelings! My answer was in response to a girl asking how to build relationships when it seemed others didn't make the time.  But for many of you, you expressed that for you this isn't a strategy issue but rather one that actually hurts your feelings and leaves you feeling insecure.

Therefore, I want to jump off from that post to talk about the danger of taking the actions of others personally.

In my upcoming book Frientimacy I share amazing research about how painful it is for any of us to think we're being rejected. It's a very real feeling and it hurts.  I totally understand why we all feel so fearful about being seen as wanting a friendship more than someone else, or worrying about whether this is their way of saying "I don't want to be your friend." But if we take the busy-ness of others as a personal offense then we'll not only stay lonely for a long time, but we'll be miserable and sad, too.

Their Actions Hurt Our Feelings

In my first marriage I cried myself to sleep a number of nights. At the time I was convinced those hurt feelings were his fault. I was in graduate school and had to be in class by 7 am so our needs would clash when he wanted to stay up late watching some new show called The Daily Show instead of come to bed with me. (Ha! Little did I know how much I'd come to love that show year later!) I held an ideal image in my head that couples go to bed at the same time.  I wanted to talk and cuddle and connect with him. To make a long story short-- despite my invitations, my tears, and my begging-- I occasionally went to bed alone. And when I did... my heart would break.

To many others this story might not sound so bad.  He certainly wasn't an awful person for wanting to stay up and laugh. But I had gotten it in my head that he was choosing that over me.  In other words, I believed a narrative that whispered: "If he really loved me, he would see how important this is to me and come to bed with me."

We do this all the time in all our relationships, even our friendships:

  • If she really understood me then she'd know not to ask that question...
  • If she really trusted me then she'd have told me about that problem...
  • If she really appreciated me then she'd have done more to say thanks...
  • If she really valued me then she'd remember my birthday...
  • If she really cared about me then she'd have offered to help me...

And the one that hits a little closer to home from the last post:

  • If she really liked me then she'd initiate us getting together more often...

Our feelings are hurt and it makes sense that we'd be tempted to look for who is causing that pain. When we see them doing something we don't want, or not doing something we do want, then we're quick to assume they are to blame for our hurt feelings, insecurities, or anger.

It's Not About Us

But here's the truth, that's easier to see when it's someone else's narrative (hence why I shared from my marriage) and not our own: how other people act says more about them than it does about us.

And what it says about them isn't the bad that we often assume it is.

Take my ex-husband for example. I valued going to bed together early.  Nothing inherently wrong with that desire, but neither is it better than his needs and desires. Perhaps he valued decompressing after a long day, perhaps his life was draining and it needed more laughter, perhaps he needed more freedom, autonomy and independence in life, or perhaps his body cycle was just different from mine and he wasn't tired yet? All of those are just as valid as my need.

And here's what I know to my core now that I have experience more growth and maturity since those fights long ago: I don't believe for a second that he ever stayed up thinking to himself: "I hope she knows now that I don't love her." I absolutely know that was never the message he was trying to send.

Yet, I cried in bed, suffering, worrying, and shrinking because of the meaning I assigned to his actions.

Many a woman goes to bed before her partner and isn't crying and hurting over it.  I chose my suffering because of what I chose to think about someone else's actions.

The Four Agreements

In the best-selling book The Four Agreements, author Don Miguel Ruiz teaches that the Second Agreement, if we want to live lives full of joy and peace, is "Don't Take Anything Personally." He says,

"Personal importance, or taking things personally, is the maximum expression of selfishness because we make the assumption that everything is about 'me'."

In the case of a friend not calling, inviting, and reaching out-- it would be easy to take it personally:  she doesn't like me; or to blame and devalue her: "I don't need friends like that-- I deserve better!"  Our ego is convinced it either means she doesn't think we're good enough or that we don't think she's good enough.  But one way or another: someone is bad.

But no friendship will ever blossom with that fear and frustration.  The best chances we have for creating the love around us that we want is to keep putting out love and ensuring that our actions are in alignment with that desire.  We want to keep inviting and stay as warm as possible.

The Caveats

So am I saying be a stalker?  No.  :) If she is rude, ignores your invitations completely, has never once said yes, or just acts miserable when we're together-- then, you're right: move on. (It's still not about you though!)

But recognize that our tendency to assume others are trying to reject us is just our own made-up story. Most women out there want more meaning relationships in their lives and you can help show the how that's done-- most of them will thank you for it someday. (And in the meantime you get what you wanted: more time with friends!)

  • It's okay to keep inviting if she sometimes says yes and answers our invitation-- it doesn't need to be 50/50.
  • We can't expect a new-ish friend to make the same kind of time for us that she might if we were close friends.  We can keep building the relationship slowly and trust the growth.
  • If you've been friends for a while and she's not as responsive as she used to be, check in with her and see how she's doing... (she may be feeling hurt too!)... it's not stalking to keep trying to engage with those who we are in relationship with.
  • If you're trying to start friendships-- put out a net instead of a fishing line! Don't zero in on one person, but stay open to developing several friendships at once.

We're the ones well aware of how important friendship is to our life... for us to keep reaching out doesn't help them as much as it helps us.  We aren't doing them this amazing favor as much as we are gifting ourselves with the likelihood that with our efforts we will keep developing the intimacy and love with others that we crave. It is a mutual relationship if we enjoy being with them when they say yes.

I'd rather error on the side of having reached out one too many times than to have stopped one time too few? If I can not take it personally then I can go down swinging for love and friendship.

Does that make sense, in general?  I know it's easy to try to find the exception... but overall can you see that it's better to put love out there than to keep track of scores, and better to assume the best of others than take it personally? I'm not saying it's easy but I think it's worth practicing!

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

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.

A Theology of Self-Love

Thank you for letting this be a place where I process all kinds of things, even theology, as it pertains to our relationships.  I think it's important to do so since so many of us have roots in worldviews that come with the "stamp of God" on them. And those beliefs, whether we still believe them or not, impact us, which impacts our relationships with others. In a recent interview Oprah had with Jack Kornfield, a Buddhist teacher and American author, he made this observation:

"Our western culture has produced a society of epidemic loneliness and self-hatred."

Oprah & Jack Kornfield

One of my keynote talks is titled "Loneliness:  The Surprising Epidemic of the Busy & Social Woman" where I speak to what I believe is a world full of women who are scared of loneliness and therefore missing the information that loneliness offers.  It is far more prevalent than most of us dare to admit. That Jack mentions self-hatred as a sister epidemic is equally powerful, intrinsically connected, and incredibly relevant to those of us who value healthy friendships.

Most of us would recoil from the idea of self-hatred, but that doesn't necessarily make us good at self-love.

Since it's nearly impossible to connect meaningfully with others if we don't like ourselves; and because, conversely, I've found it's harder to forgive ourselves and show compassion to ourselves if we haven't practiced giving it to others-- we must talk about self-love when we talk about loving others. The two are definitely linked.

Some World-Views Resist Self-Love

Some women actually have some resistance to the idea of self-love, confusing it with vanity, arrogance, or narcissism. Whether it's gender roles, religious systems, or a false understanding of humility, many of us have been taught to love others without regard to loving ourselves.

To illustrate, in response to a status update about how excited I was to be interviewing Christine Arylo* (a friend of mine, and author of Madly in Love With Me who has been affectionately dubbed "The Queen of Self-Love") about ways we can all step into greater self-love this month of February, someone wrote this comment on my post:

"The more one who loves Christ, the more one will be drawn to be more like Him. Should that not be our goal. Also, the more we look to Christ, the more we shall distrust self."

First, it bothers me deeply to have anyone think that it's good for us to ever distrust ourselves, or imply that we shouldn't focus on loving ourselves; but you add cloaking it all in religious garb and I had a visceral reaction.

As I began framing my response, my husband wondered out loud if I shouldn't just leave it alone, reminding me that I can't go changing how everyone thinks.  I paused for a thoughtful moment, and then concluded that I, in fact, couldn't ignore it. Not this time.

Theology, or World-View, Affects Our Relationships

The former pastor in me cringes when I hear any picture of God being propagated that doesn't end up leading to greater love. Greater love for the divine, yes; but also greater love for others, for the planet, and for ourselves-- all things that Christians believe God created. In fact the Bible says "Love your neighbors as yourself!"

Self-love is actually made up of self-honor, self-respect, self-care, self-esteem, self-compassion-- and a lot of other things that my picture of God would want us all to have in vast supplies.

My picture of God, rooted in origins of Christianity, teaches that God wants us to have "life abundantly" that is filled with the "Fruits of the Spirit" which includes things like more love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.

Any belief system that doesn't line up with making me more of those things is strongly suspect. Whatever name you might possibly use to describe the "More" that is out there, I hope your picture of that which is sacred, expands your life, rather than shrinks it.

In fact, going on a little rabbit trail for a moment, the science of behavioral kinesiology highlights this truth for us in a very practical and real way.  In learning that our muscles instantly become weak when the body is exposed to harmful stimuli, psychologists and scientists have been able to test perceptions, worldviews, and spiritual beliefs with the effects those words and concepts have in our bodies.

It will come as no surprise to anyone that the emotion that weakens the body more than anything else is shame. Just think about how little energy you have when you feel safe-hatred. Only slightly more powerful than shame, is guilt, followed by apathy, grief, fear, desire, anger, pride, and then courage.

Courage calibrates at 200 on the Map of Consciousness which is the tipping point toward strength.  It is of no coincidence that emotions such as willingness, acceptance, reason, love, joy, and peace (pretty similar to the Bible's list of fruits of the spirit!) make us stronger.

Any church, picture of God, or theology that uses shame, guilt, or fear to teach or "motivate" is actually weakening our bodies, shrinking us, and literally making it less likely that we'll ever become more loving people.

And I'm pretty sure that becoming more loving should be the point of any religious system.

My Theology Affects Me

But if I spoke out every time I heard damaging theology then that in itself would be a full-time (and very exhausting!) job.  So what provoked me this time?

Because it spoke directly to a place where I have been wounded before.

Several years ago, I was doing some intentional self-growth work, trying to increase my awareness around any self-limiting beliefs I might be acting from and the one that kept popping up for me personally was, "I am not worthy." (For others of you it could be other variations such as: I am not loveable, I am not safe, or I am not powerful.)

I resisted it, not really resonating with it, and so not wanting it to be true.  My self-confident little ego voice said, "That's crazy! I know I'm worthy!"  Where would I ever have picked up such a self-defeating and silly belief?

A week later I was visiting a friend and went to her church with her.  Imagine my horror when the worship leader on stage prayed, "Oh God, we're not worthy!  We're not worthy to be your sons and daughters...."

And it hit me.  I probably had heard versions of that throughout childhood-- this picture of humanity being evil, bad, untrustworthy, and unworthy of any of God's goodness.  How could it not have affected me?

The belief that I may not be worthy not only leads to a very denying, punitive, and condemning God, but it leads to a negative self-image, as well.  Not owning my worth can be directly linked to me not charging the prices I am worth, not asking for what I need in my relationships, or not believing I am worth being taking good care of by others and my self.

But I know now that I am very worthy.  BECAUSE I am a child of God, I am worthy.  All by myself, without me doing or saying or believing anything, I am valuable, worthy, and loved. The spark of God that lives in me ensures that I am worthy.

To be clear, I believe Christianity is an incredibly expanding worldview, just not the way it's always presented...

Some Christians are so afraid that to own our worthiness we might become entitled, unappreciative, or putting ourselves as gods.  In my experience, that can't be further from the truth.  Knowing our worth helps us see the worth in others; and I for one, become more appreciative of my God who created an abundance of love and goodness for me to keep living into and aligning myself with.

Shame has No Value in Loving Relationships

I hope your story is different from mine. I hope you have felt worthy your entire life.  And I hope that you have no resistance to loving yourself well.

But if you sense hesitation, shame, or fear, I hope that you'll take the time to examine your own negative self-talk and worldviews that might be limiting your ability to shine.

Because I believe so deeply that healthy and loving people create healthy and loving friendships, it's important to me that we--this community of women who value meaningful friendships--do the work of loving ourselves.

Let's practice being a best friend to ourselves so we can be it for others.  -------------------------------

* When I first met Christine Arylo, she intimidated me with her clear sense of calling and confidence. My temptation was to pull away from her so I wouldn't feel insecure or jealous.

Self Love Party Invitation

Instead, we've become friends. And I've become far more comfortable shining my own light in this world because of her modeling. We are now both in a group of women committed to supporting each other.  It is my honor to invite you to her upcoming free live-streamed event on Feb., 13, the International Day of Self-Love.  You won't regret taking the time to make a self-love promise to yourself this year.  And your self-love will give permission to others to shine brightly that we might all treat ourselves well so we can contribute to this world in the ways we're each called to do so.

 

 

I Don't Feel x (Accepted, Connected, Loved)... What Do I Do?

Last week I shared a bit of my process for choosing my feeling words or themes each year... so this week I wanted to share how I take those words and plant them in my life. Because it's one thing to find words that resonate... it's another thing to remember that you chose them, why they matter, and what wisdom they have for your life right now.

I am a person very comfortable in the world of the "unseen"; I love talking about spirituality, ideas, and feelings. And while I think it's important to start there, and spend as much time there as you can--journaling about your word(s), making lists of how you already see that word showing up in your life, defining it in a way that excites you, and getting comfortable with owning that word--for me, the power only continues if I figure out a tangible way to take the word with me.

In other words, I can have an amazing journaling session and get excited about my word(s), only to forget them a month later, if I don't choose how to plant them.  It's akin to going on a retreat and having that "mountain top experience" that stays on the mountain if I don't intentionally figure out how to bring those ah-ha's into my day-to-day life.

Unlike goals (i.e. "Lose x pounds," or "Go to x networking events each month") that can feel all deadline-y, guilt-heavy, and task-focused; our feeling words should feel inviting, hope-full, and come with a sense of ease (i.e. "I desire to feel invigorated" and "I desire to feel supported.")

Transforming Feelings into Tangible Form

So where I get excited is in figuring out how to plant that word into my life so I keep seeing it, regularly choosing to feel the hope of it, and remembering that it's guiding me this year.

It's similar to why some people get tattoos to remember someone or to recall a significant transition in their life, others do vision boards where they can see their dreams manifested, and others make altars that center them immediately in a certain feeling.

Almost all my jewelry reminds me of something that matters to me.  Just touching it or seeing it can focus me immediately on what I believe matters.

I actually do quite a bit of my remembering with my jewelry. Here's a picture of my left hand right now....  every time I touch or see these things, they act like a "string around my finger" to remind me to not forget something that I've said is important to me.  That thumb ring has been there ever since my divorce fourteen years ago.  I remember crying as I took my wedding ring off... and my naked finger just kept serving as a reminder every time I felt for it, and it wasn't there, that I didn't feel loved.  I was living in Guatemala at the time and bought a ring to put on my thumb to remind me that I loved me and God loved me and that was enough.  That ring rarely comes off my hand-- and every time I feel it, play with it, and see it-- I think "I am loved." That belief has been cemented in my belief system in ways that fuel me far greater than I could have ever imagined.

That red string is from a retreat I went on in September where I realized that I was showing up with hesitation and fear in some areas of my life and I wanted, instead of fear, to show up with willingness.  So now, I tug on that string and whisper "I'm willing" whenever I feel fear.  I'm willing.  I'm willing... to show up and stay open even though this person hurt me.  I'm willing... to walk into this room of people even though I feel insecure.  I'm willing... to do what's in front of me even though this project feels so overwhelming. I remind myself I'm willing and my entire body changes almost instantly to match the new message my brain is giving.  (In fact, it's a spiritual truth "by beholding we become changed" that has been proven truth also by neuroscience!)

As a pastor I used to love sharing all the stories in the Bible of how people chose to remember their truths by infusing meaning into physical form.  Whether it was the Israelites miraculously crossing the Jordan River and collecting dry stones from the riverbed to pile up on the other side so that they could "tell their kids about the time that God parted the river" or the story of Jesus in the upper room with his disciples saying "When you eat this bread... remember me" which has turned into the practice of the Eucharist, or Communion, we know the power of being triggered to remember.

We do this almost automatically for much of our life when we want to remember something that has happened.  We take photos to remember events, we save a piece of hair from our child's first haircut, and we bake a family recipe to recall a person or a memory.

I'm inviting you to take your word and choose how you want to remember it this upcoming year.  Not to remember something that has happened, but to remind yourself of what is happening--what is true for you, what is already present in you, and what is also being called out of you in more ways this year.

I'm gifting this friendship bracelet to the women in my upcoming program so that they can remember their intention for the year ahead!

In fact, I think it's so important that I am including a bracelet with the word "connected" on it that will be given to all* the women who are signing up for my 21-day virtual program on friendship this month.  I picture them spending the rest of January just planting their feeling of connection, (or intimacy, acceptance, inclusion, or whatever other word resonates most deeply) as they listen to the interviews and journal for their own awareness, and then receiving that beautiful bracelet that they can wear as a reminder of the connection that they are inviting into their lives this year.  I want them to touch it and see it and remember that they are pursuing the feeling of being close to others in meaningful ways.  I want it to guide them to say yes even when it feels awkward, to initiate again because that's what it takes to build a friendship, and to hold hope that no matter their circumstances or personality or past experiences, they can experience more connection.

This year... I invite you to take the word you want to feel with you.  Infuse it into something tangible that can remind you to feel that feeling every time you see it or touch it.

We get to choose how we feel.  I don't have to feel unloved or fearful-- my ring and my red bracelet pictured above whisper to me repeatedly that I am loved and willing.  And that, I want to remember all year-long.

--------

* Just wanted to clarify that the bracelet (and the entire Gift Package valued at nearly $100) is only being given to the women who sign up by Wednesday at 10 am PT at FriendshipsWanted.com.  You're welcome to join us... I'd love nothing more than for you to pursue feeling connected all year-long!  (Or, you can buy your own piece of jewelry that says "Loved" or "Connected" here:  www.ConnectedGifts.com.)

The 4 Best Responses to a Hurting Friend

On my way to meet a girlfriend for an afternoon tea yesterday, I turned the radio on and was immediately pulled in to the last 15 minutes of an interview on Fresh Air with Allie Brosh, the author and artist of Hyperbole and a Half.  Her honest voice talking about her very real and dark journey with depression held my attention.

The Wounded Shouldn't Be Pressured Into Becoming the Encourager

Listening to an interview with Allie Brosh, the author of this book--based on her famous blog--moved me, especially when she shared about journey with depression.

And one statement has stuck with me.  When she was asked about why it had been so hard to reach out to her mother or husband for help during her journey, especially when she was struggling with thoughts of suicide, Allie's answer haunted me.  Her answer was along the lines of, "Because I knew that once I told them, I'd have to deal with their emotions, and I knew I couldn't handle that.  Seeing them get all upset, hurt, or fearful would have put me in the place of comforter; comforting them, trying to assure them that I wouldn't kill myself, etc. I was barely able to hold my own thoughts, let alone worry about receiving theirs." The result? Someone who was suicidal suffered in silence for far too long.

Her profound answer resonated with me because that is indeed what so often happens when we confess our hidden/dark/shameful thoughts to friends and family. Automatically, instead of the attention staying on the person sharing, the person who is hearing it is filtering it through their brain, basically trying to answer the question, "How does this information affect me?" 

Here are some examples:

  • She tells me she had a miscarriage and I feel guilty for having kids.
  • She tells me she's been having an affair and I feel mad at her because my own family has been hurt by these types of actions.
  • She tells me she's depressed and I feel scared or responsible for trying to fix her.
  • She tells me she's been fired and I feel worried that our planned vacation together is going to have to be cancelled.
  • She tells me she's going through a divorce and I feel scared for my own marriage.

It's not selfish or malicious as much as it's the default response we feel through much of life: "What does this mean to me and my life?" We do it with nearly every piece of information, including when we're watching the news, and are relieved when we can say, "Oh that's so sad... glad it doesn't affect me" and move on.  But when it's our friends, people we love and know, it more often than not will affect us.  It just will.  That's the truth of being in relationship: we are connected and we impact each other.

But what maturity does for us is give us the awareness to whisper to ourselves, "Don't make this about me right now... stay present for her.  I will process my feelings later."  And later you should.  So this isn't an issue about ignoring your feelings, but an issue of knowing when it's the right time and with whom you to ought to be processing them with.  (I wrote a  relevant post to this subject that gives you a visual to remind you that it's not the person whose story it is that should be turning around and becoming your comforter or counselor.)

The Four Best Responses to Keep the Attention on the Story-Teller

I know that my default is to try to fix, encourage, share my own stories, or any number of other things that are done with good intentions.  But I also know that in this moment-- it's less important that I feel like I fixed something and more important that she feel heard.  So my mantra is "Keep this about her.  Keep this about her.  Keep this about her."

So all this got me thinking about sharing the four things I try to remember to do whenever someone is sharing their pain with me:

  1. Affirm:  Depending on the situation, appropriate affirmation can be as simple as "Thank you for having the courage to share that with me," or it can be as bold as "Thank you for telling me this... I hope you know that I absolutely adore you and love you and this doesn't change that one iota."  But affirmation after vulnerability is so important-- it reminds the revealer that their honesty was heard and valued.
  2. Ask Feeling Questions:  And then this is where we so often go awry because we usually start going into problem-solving mode (i.e. "My mom had someone who was diagnosed with that and she said that x helped her."), encouragement mode (i.e. "No don't feel that way!  It's all going to be okay!), or, if we do ask questions it's often about the story and the details that really aren't that important (i.e. "When did the affair start?").  When the very best thing we can do is let her keep talking and sharing about her experience.  So favorite questions of mine, include anything that asks her to keep sharing her feelings:  What did you feel when you first found out x?  What has your experience been so far?  How has this impacted your identity?  What are you most scared of?  What has been the most surprising part?  What part of it do feel like is hardest for those around you to understand? 
  3. Validate:  To validate is to "demonstrate or support the truth or value of."  It doesn't mean you have to support their decisions, agree with their assessment, or think you'd feel the same way in a similar circumstance.  This isn't you voting; you're not saying "Yes, I think you have reason to commit suicide," or "Yes, I'm in favor of divorce." It's you demonstrating that you have heard them and that their feelings are valuable.  The goal then is hear their feelings (as opposed to the details/circumstances), tap into your own empathy with similar feelings, and try to say back to them what you heard them say.  It can as simple as, "I ache with you and for you. I'm so very sorry you're going through this." Or it can be as detailed as saying, "Your feelings are totally valid!  It makes sense that you'd feel betrayed."
  4. Ask how you can help: And then a crucial and meaningful step is to ask, "How can I best support you right now?"  If it's someone you know well, you can offer as much as you're comfortable extending: "How can I best support you right now? If you could ask for anything, what comes to mind?  Do you need tangible things like rides to the hospital or a place to stay?  Do you need me to call you regularly during this time?  I know it's hard to ask for detailed help... but I'd so appreciate you telling me what I can do that will be the most meaningful to you if you ever know it.  I want to journey this with you."

As always, I cherish hearing your feedback, your own stories, what part spoke you, or advice on this subject that you want to share with others.

Other relevant posts:

How To Respond to a Friend in Crisis

9 Principles for Responding to a Friend in an Affair

 

What Are Your Unmet Needs?

If I've observed a common thread to many relationship endings it would be women not asking for what they need from their friends. Why We Go Through Life with Unmet Needs

Sometimes we don't ask because we think it will be less genuine when they actually give it to us, as though their sincerity is linked to their thinking it up on their own.  Sometimes we don't ask because we think it's rude or intrusive or needy, as though we're ignoring the fact that relationships ought to be mutually beneficial.  Sometimes we don't ask because we don't like to think of ourselves as ever needing anything, as though we drank our own kool-aid in our attempts to convince everyone that we're amazing and never have any needs.  Sometimes we don't ask because we fear rejection or don't want to risk the other saying no, as though there would be no choice in that scenario except to take it personally.  Sometimes we don't ask because we simply don't feel worth it, as though we're not good enough or significant enough to think we deserve to have our needs met.  All of these stories have been modeled to us in different ways and we certainly each develop a lens that we then use to validate our reason repetitively.

But in addition to all these more deep-rooted belief systems we've made up in our heads, I'm finding that one of the biggest obstacles to us asking for what we need is that we often don't even know what we need.

Figuring Out What We Need

I mean, we know when we start feeling resentful or frustrated, but we aren't very practiced at pausing and saying, "What is it I need right now?"

And the answer usually isn't what we think we're mad at.  We think we're mad at the kids for not picking up their shoes, but really it's because when they do that we feel something, a meaning that we have attached to that action.  So it may be that we need some cooperation so that we feel more connected to the kids, like we're all working together; or it may be that for our sanity we actually need more order in our lives to contribute to our sense of peace. Two different needs.  Stopping to not just be mad at some action, but realizing what need isn't being met helps us better communicate and problem-solve.  Is it really a peaceful space I need which I could get by making one room off-limits to the junk of others or by hiring housekeeping help?  Or is it feeling like my family is all in it together which can be solved by articulating that need and having the family brainstorm ways that we can each contribute more? What is my need?

I didn't think the movie "How Do You Know" with Reese Witherspoon was that great, but this one scene where the psychiatrist sums up his best therapeutic advice was as good as it gets!

In my book, Friendships Don't Just Happen! I share the scene from the movie How Do You Know where Reese Witherspoon plays a character whose entire life is turned upside down when she is cut from the professional softball team that has been her entire career.  She obligingly goes to see a therapist but before the session starts she talks herself out of it, willing herself to believe she doesn't need it.  The psychiatrist, who knows nothing about the situation that his new client is struggling with, watches her walk out the door before any conversation occurs.And in what I think is the best scene in the movie, Reese sticks her head back in the doorway and basically challenges him to sum up his best therapeutic advice for life before she leaves.  Without batting an eye he responds: "Figure out what you want and learn to ask for it."

I think about that a lot.  When I get upset at someone, I try to stop and think, "What is it I really need?  Not just what action do I wish they did right now.  But what does that action represent to me?  What is it I'm craving and longing for?"

If we would do that, we'd probably realize that half of our needs come down to wanting to feel connected to the other person.  Which could then better inform our response because I dare say most of us, when frustrated or hurt, are more likely to respond in some way that will actually leave us feeling more disconnected; in other words, less likely to actually get our needs met.

We want to feel acceptance, but instead, out of our hurt we judge the other, almost guaranteeing that we won't feel accepted.  We want to feel intimacy, but instead, out of our insecurities we start trying to impress instead of share, almost guaranteeing that we won't leave the conversation feeling deeply seen.  We want to feel harmony, but instead, out of our fear for conflict, we just ignore the problem, almost guaranteeing we won't feel a safe connection to the other because we know we didn't really deal with the issue.

I mention the Nonviolent Communication Method in my chapter on forgiveness as it's a fabulous method for helping use articulate what we need in relationships.  And here I want to actually share with you their list of needs we have, with hopes that it will help you start identifying which ones you might have right now.  When we start the work of being responsible for knowing ourselves, it's helpful to have a list that allows us to try on different words:  Is it x or x that resonates more with me?  With time, we become more familiar with the options, becoming more adept at naming what we're craving.

CONNECTION acceptance affection appreciation belonging cooperation communication closeness community companionship compassion consideration consistency empathy inclusion intimacy love mutuality nurturing respect/self-respect CONNECTION continued safety security stability support to know and be known to see and be seen to understand and be understood trust warmthPHYSICAL WELL-BEING air food movement/exercise rest/sleep sexual expression safety shelter touch water HONESTY authenticity integrity presencePLAY joy humor

PEACE beauty communion ease equality harmony inspiration order

AUTONOMY choice freedom independence space spontaneity

MEANING awareness celebration of life challenge clarity competence consciousness contribution creativity discovery efficacy effectiveness growth hope learning mourning participation purpose self-expression stimulation to matter understanding

Learn to Ask For What We Need

What's super cool about seeing our needs is then we can begin to actually take responsibility for getting them met.  Once we identify the need, we can then brainstorm a list of ways-- Ways I can increase feeling x (i.e. supported)-- to get that need met in our lives from a variety of places, taking responsibility for our own need. It may be that we can then say to a friend, "I need support.  I feel like I'm adrift, feeling more alone since my break-up. Would you be willing to do _______ which would help me feel like I'm not in this world by myself?"

The fabulous things about having identified the need and brainstorming ways we can get that need met is that when we do reach out to her as one piece of the strategy, we're less likely to see her as the one causing the unmet need and more likely to see her as part of the solution to our unmet need.  It's not her fault we all have needs-- even if it's in relationship with her that we often feel the unmet need.  It's our responsibility for knowing what we need and doing something about it!

If indeed the most important advice one could give was to 1) Figure out what you want, and 2) Learn to ask for it; think how many friendships we wouldn't have to simply walk away from, blaming them when it may be that we hadn't yet taken that advice to heart.

-----------------

Related blog: How To Ask For What You Need (sample scripts)

 

 

 

Sister Giant: Three Responses to Feeling Insecure

Last week I was touched by your comments on my blog post about how insecure I was feeling about stepping out into new phases.  First, I always love comments as they remind me that someone out there is reading what I write!  But, more importantly, it's good for all of us to open up when we can about our experiences and feelings so we can each say, "me too!" Because so many of us are familiar with feeling vulnerable, I wanted to follow-up on that post and share with you a bit of encouragement.  It comes from a conversation about politics, but I assure you that each point speaks to us in any insecure spot we're sitting.

Sister Giant-- Our Call to Engage in Politics

Last weekend I attended Sister Giant--a conference designed to encourage women to run for political office as an effective way to bring about justice and care for the vulnerable in our world.  The event organizer, Marianne Williamson, is a well-known spiritual teacher who made an incredibly strong case over the weekend that the realm of politics is actually the only place where we can change legislature to actually prevent some of the causes of injustice, rather than only donating to non-profits that are set up to respond more the symptoms.  Even advocating or lobbying for change in legislature isn't always effective as there is no money or power behind hungry children, prisoners, or the impoverished.  To look at broken systems, like our prisons, and figure out how to better respond to non-violent crimes-- we need big-hearted people in office to care.

The case was well made of the difference that women can make and the need for more of us to show up in that world as candidates, or as women who will support other female candidates.

I can get behind bringing transformation to this world and I know that it is more likely to happen when women hold up our half of the sky. I felt convicted when Marianne said, "Women are indeed called to be homemakers and mothers.  What we forgot was that we are called to do it for the whole world-- to be more homemakers of this planet and mothers of all children."  Indeed we need more of us caring that there are 17,000 hungry babies dying every day.

How to Show Up When It Sucks

But just watching congress is enough to discourage the best of us!  A couple of news interviews listening to party-lines and egos and defensiveness and blame is all I can take. One of the attendees asked the question then that so many of us feel, "I can't even stand watching politics on TV as it all seems so mean-spirited and ego-based-- how would I ever survive in that world long enough to bring about any positive change?"

Marianne answered that question with three points that I think pertain to all of us who feel insecure at times, and she even started with the importance of female friendship:

  1. Develop a Positivity Team:  She quickly acknowledged how fierce the arena can be, and immediately suggested that we need to surround ourselves with positivity teams-- women who will cheer for us, hope with us, and pray for us.  That answer obviously gets my female friendship juices going!
    • If we were running for office, the jobs of whose on the positivity team are tangible-- women who would call every morning to tell our friend how amazing she is, women who would defend her in the press, women who would help pick up the kids after school, women who would remind her that whatever is said by the opponent isn't necessarily true, etc.  How fabulous does that sound?
    • I quickly thought of all of us who might not be running for office, but still need positivity teams.  Our friends are hopefully versions of that all the time, but if you're going through something big, something temporary, or something that leaves you feeling vulnerable-- maybe the best thing we can do is bequeath this title on them and make sure they know what we need the most right now. We're allowed to ask a friend, "While I'm going through this, will you call me more often and just remind me what you love about me?"  Yes, we are.
  2. Add good, rather than eliminate the bad.  There is so much research out there to support this concept now.  Whether it's emotional research that reveals it's more significant to add good moments to our lives than it is to try to eliminate stressors or medical research that supports that it's proving more effective to fight bad bacteria by adding good bacteria (i.e probiotics) than it is to just zap the bad ones gone-- the point is that we effectively deal with the bad by adding the good.
    • So in politics, her point is well made that the political climate isn't going to change until we add a bunch of good, caring, compassionate, and courageous female candidates.
    • But in our private lives that can often feel stressed out and insecure, the remedy is the same.  We can't (nor should we want to!) avoid risks, big decisions, and new opportunities just because they increase our stress and fear.  But we can add in extra moments of energy and joy when we know we're in stressful times.  What makes you happy?  What boosts your energy? What stimulates you?  What brings you laughter? Try to add some of those!
  3. And lastly, Show Up in Your Own Armor.Marianne told the inspirational story of David & Goliath.  For those of you not familiar with this Old Testament story, David, a sheep-herder discovered that none of his brothers or their comrades in the military would go fight the enemy giant.  David believed in their cause and offered to take on the giant.  The King quickly gave him all his best armor and choice of weapons, but David could barely move with all that extra weight.  He finally just said, "I'll stick with my slingshot and handful of stones." The iconic story ends with David hitting the giant with a stone between the eyes, or the place that many people call the third or inner eye.
    • Her point to women in politics was that we don't have to show up acting like everyone else; we'll be most effective when we come with who we are.  We don't have to act like the current congress.  Just because it's that way now, doesn't mean it's the only way.
    • And that hit me for all of us who feel insecure.  It reminded me of running for student body president as a college freshman.  Someone told me I couldn't win because I was a girl, a freshman, and I had no former experience in the student association.  The night before my speech, I turned those very three obstacles into the three reasons the study body should vote for me. And, I won.  I was grateful this weekend to remember that story.  It provoked me to make a list of what I consider my inadequacies to be now (i.e. no MBA) and turn them into my strengths.  How is it that I can come through this moment better and stronger for who I am, rather than for who I'm not?  I may feel a bit like David-- but Goliath can come down while I stay true to who I am.

So if you feel insecure right now-- take those three steps to heart.  I am.

And if you're thinking of running for any office-- let us know so we can support you!  :)

 

 

 

I Feel Insecure and It Shows

While describing my life to one of my closest girlfriends yesterday, the metaphor of a crab came to mind. That's a first.

Feeling like a crab...

But it captured my feelings, "I feel like a crab who has outgrown her shell but doesn't yet have a new one to protect me.  Like I'm this little naked, vulnerable, soft animal waiting for my new shell to harden."

She laughed, but understood completely.

hermit crab

I googled crabs after I hung up the phone.  Apparently some crabs wait in their outgrown shell until they find a bigger one that fits them.  That's not me.  I don't feel like I yet know what the new shell looks like or feels like. I don't feel like I'm shopping for something new, rather I feel like I'm becoming something new. But some crabs, like the Fiddler Crab simply have to be reclusive and hide until their new shell hardens.  Yes, that's me.  Soft and vulnerable waiting for my new shell to harden.

But I can't be a recluse and hide like they do.

Feeling insecure about my new projects...

My life is anything but hiding under a rock right now. In fact, I feel like I'm being called to step out of my comfort zone in ever-expanding ways--fundraising for my business, developing a book club campaign, scheduling my book tour in February, and just continuing to dream about new ways of fostering meaningful friendships among women.  Which sounds so good, but still feels scary.

Not scary because I'm uncertain about my path. No, I feel quite sure that I am meant to have stepped out of my last shell, which felt comfortable but was limiting my growth.  But scary in the way it always feels when you're somewhere you've never been, doing things you've never done.

Little voices whisper haunting questions in my ear, "What if you can't pull this off? What if you're not the right person to be doing that?  What if you fail in front of everyone?"  And my little critical voice is quick to take advantage of my insecurity as it senses that I might listen more closely now than I normally do, "Shasta, you're not even a business person, you don't know the right people, you don't have the money or the platform that this project requires."  And there I am, a little crab running around on the sand naked.  Squishy. Vulnerable.

But the reason I thought it was worth sharing my vulnerability with you today was because I've observed something else that accompanies these feelings of insecurity: comparison.

Feeling jealous, going into comparison-mode...

When I'm my healthiest, I rarely feel a need to compare myself to others.  Ingrained in me is the strong belief that we're all wired to fulfill different functions on this earth so I don't need to be jealous of someone else's path.  I know that I am the best person in the world to do my purpose and that I am not lacking anything I need to fulfill my contribution.  And that the same is true of others.  Also, having been a pastor and coach, I've seen the underbelly of a lot of lives that would appear perfect to others.  I've sat with women who others envy and seen the secrets they hold and the pain they hide.  I know that their journey is theirs and mine is mine-- no need to compare and contrast and covet.

But that's when I'm at my healthiest. When I start feeling insecure, all bets are off.

I've observed this partnership between my insecurities and comparisons of others with curiosity this time.  I've noticed that as I wonder if I have what it takes to, say, launch a book successfully, that I begin to compare myself with others who are seemingly successful at this very thing.  And as anyone who compares, my only choices at the end of that line of reasoning is to conclude that one of us is better than the other.  Neither result feels all that good.

It hit me today, again, what a huge connection there is between our own personal health and our ability to engage in healthy relationships. The more insecure we feel, the more we'll walk around trying to impress others, or worse, devalue them and try to make them feel bad about something.  I haven't gone there yet. I think just noticing this in me-- that I'm more prone to feel jealous right now-- is helping me show up with a bit more intentionality than at other times in my life.

Feeling hopeful...

This time, I'm trying to breath deeply and remind myself that it's a good thing to outgrow a shell.  And that it's normal to feel vulnerable in between the shells--in between the jobs, the relationships, and the goals we take on.  So I can be gentle with myself. I can nurture myself with more self-love and grace.  I can forgive myself generously for not knowing all the answers, having "enough" money, or being as amazing as I see everyone else being.

And I can be mindful of not letting my own insecurities bleed into my interactions with others.  I will keep cheering for them.  I will be inspired by them.  I will give to them when I can.  I will keep giving time to helping others on their journeys.  I will remember that we all feel insecure in some place-- maybe I can help someone else navigate the waters that feel new to them.  We all have something to give.

And I will remind myself that it's when I'm most vulnerable that I actually have so much to gain by having friends and people around me.  I need them.  I mustn't risk pushing them away or letting my fears bleed onto them.

My shell is soft, but that's okay.  Being a naked little squirmy thing has its advantages too.  :) I can get closer to people, feel things more freshly, move more quickly, and see the world in a different way.

Today, even without a shell, I am as I am meant to be.

 

Are We Competitors? Or, Can We Be Friends?

The moments I love the most in life are when a veil is lifted, reminding me that what I thought was true, wasn't. Just because my feelings told me one thing didn't make it so. Such was the case with Chris.

Christine Bronstein and I both had heard of each other. Numerous times. We both founded women's communities that are rooted in the SF Bay Area so it seemed we were destined to be competitors. Our names appeared simultaneously in articles and we both kept tabs on each other from a distance. Not proud of it, but I'll just come right out and admit that I was jealous of her.

In my jealousy I never wanted her failure, nor did I ever think there wasn't enough room in this city for both of us to succeed.  But, nonetheless, it still put up this silly imaginary wall.  It still triggered my insecurities. It still made me wonder if I was good enough, or if my company was a good enough concept. The belief that we were competitors left me feeling wary of her successes and slightly threatened by her legions of fans. It's nearly impossible to view someone as competition without also stepping into jealousy and judgment.

Competition, Jealousy & Judgment

The spiritual teacher side of me genuinely believes there is no real competition in this world for the things that matter.  That there is enough love, joy, and peace in this world and that as I offer it, I will receive it.  I don't have to push someone down to go up. I don't have to beat someone to feel worthy. I believe there is no one else like me in this world (or like you!) and so I trust that as we live from our authentic places that the world needs both of us doing our things differently. I can cheer for you even as I run beside you.

However, the very-real human side of me still feels threatened sometimes. In part because jealousy never feels good. I often interpret that feeling as me not being good enough or somehow feeling less-than.  And of course, when we feel attacked (even by ourselves!) we defend. We then devalue the other or inflate ourselves to try to feel better. Judgments roll off our tongue. I sometimes fall for the lie that only one of us can win this race and feel "good enough."

(Note: I'm not dissing all competition-- I appreciate what I learned on the basketball court, felt motivated by sales contests that pushed me, and still love talking trash to my sister when we play games. In fact, competition is a strength that many incorporate into their lives in ways that help them excel. Rather, what I'm speaking of is our tendency to see others as opponents when they aren't, feeling as though our self-worth is tied to specific results when it never is, or believing that we have to elbow our way through life to win something that someone else told us mattered.)

Competition is a loaded word, bringing out our desire to win and be chosen, and also stirring up our insecurities and greatest fears.

  • Some of us get married or have kids just so we don't feel "behind."
  • Some of us count money and possessions as mile markers of our success in some race we have assigned meaning.
  • As girls we've been raised to see our appearances as a way of winning attention and yielding our power, so our worth goes up and down with the scale or as we compare ourselves to those around us.
  • Some of us feel threatened if we feel our kids aren't winning their metaphoric races for popularity, achievement, perfect obedience, or any other finish line we imagine, as though it reflects on our race as mothers.
  • Some of us see our claws go up in the workplace, connecting our value to dollars earned, hours put in, and titles bestowed.
  • Some of decide we can't be friends with her because she's beautiful ("so she must be vain") or because she makes too much money ("so she must not have the same values I have") or because any other dozens of reasons we dismiss each other because we might feel threatened or risk rejection.

We all want to feel enough. I get that. I know that feeling.

But I also know it's not in winning the race that we will ever feel enough.  There will just be another race in front of you, another goal you have to reach, another win you will need in order to keep proving yourself.

There's no end until we can hold our worth right where we are today. Rather, it's in calling the race a bluff that we ironically start feeling "enough."

The Gift I Now Have

I now count Chris among my friends. And I couldn't be more proud of the work she is doing in the Bay Area for women through her network: A Band of Wives.  She practices what she preaches-- creating a culture in her community that promotes one other, lifts each other up, and helps give attention and voice to all that we're each trying to do.

Kindness begets kindness. Generosity breaks down imaginary walls of division.  Respecting each other makes us want to help the other succeed. Love overrides fear.

Owning my worth invites me to see it in others, realizing it's not something we win or bestow, rather just something we acknowledge. She has always been enough. And so have I. And seeing it in each other doesn't lessen it in either of us, it actually heightens our awareness of our own.

I'll have to blog sometime about the process, but for now, I can attest that I'd much rather have her as a friend, than as an imaginary competitor.  I shake my head to think what we might have missed out on co-creating had we stayed in the race we thought we were running.

I challenge you today to keep stepping into the personal growth of seeing your worth.  I also invite you to be someone in our GirlFriendCircles.com community that helps affirm that worth in others around you.  As we acknowledge the value of others, we will genuinely feel our own more truly and be able to help them see theirs.

A veil lifted where I can see how amazing she is without it making me feel any less so. And that is a gift I wish on everyone.

ABOW logo

For more reading on this blog about jealousy and competition, click here.

--------------------------------------------

p.s.  Registration on the "A Band of Wives" site is free and you'll be wowed by the events they host, the groups you can participate in, and the opportunities for partnering with amazing women. It's for women of all ages, as single and married women commit to being supportive "wives" to each other.  I hope to see you at some of their events.

p.s.s.  Speaking of events, if you live in the Bay Area-- I hope you'll come to Sausalito on Thursday night for an "All-Kinds-of-Love Pre-Valentines Bash" hosted by A Band of Wives. I'll be guiding everyone through speed-friending so it's a perfect first event to come to for meeting the fabulous women in that community!  It starts at 6 pm at Wellington's Wine Bar (300 Turney St.).  There are already 70+ RSVP's so come meet up with us!

 

 

 

 

 

 

What We Need Are More Women, Fewer Girls.

The contestants on Bachelor I begrudgingly watched The Bachelor last night and shuddered at how quickly girls sized each other up and put each other down. Hoping they'd feel more cool, more amazing, and more chosen in the process.  Ignorant still to the truth that we can only receive what we're willing to give.  Their immaturity served up as entertainment.

Immaturity is sometimes about age-- it simply takes some life experiences before we can have wisdom.

But the difference between a woman and girl isn't in a birth date, but in a state of mind.  I've seen young women love those around them with health and joy, and I've seen older women so practiced over the years in their victim narrative that every event is seen through the filter of perceived rejection. Maturity can go either way.

Undoubtedly, we all behave like girls at time, in different areas of our lives.

  • Maybe it's in your finances-- waiting for someone else to "fix" them, living in denial about the gap between your spending and earning, or mistakenly thinking that buying things improves your worth.
  • Or maybe it's in your romance-- falling for the myth that you need to be chosen by someone to prove your value, repeating patterns you haven't examined, or holding grievances against someone for not living up to your expectations.
  • Or maybe it's your health-- how you're sabotaging what you say is important to you, living with both too much restriction in one area only to not discipline yourself in another, or holding stress/fear around that which we cannot control.
  • Or maybe it's in your spirituality & personal growth-- in your tendency to throw out the metaphoric baby with the bath water, the judgment and cynicism you hold around belief and practices that aren't already yours, or the busy-ness you're not stepping out of to hear your own voice.

But for the purpose of this blog, I want to talk about how I see our immaturity showing up in our friendships.

We are called GIRLfriends, But We Must Still Show up as Women.

We act immature in our friendships when we feel insecure about ourselves.  Which we tend to do more often than most of us care to admit.  Here are some scenarios I repeatedly see:

Fear of Rejection: We go to a ConnectingCircle-- then feel hurt that others didn't follow up with us afterward and conclude either that they are selfish/arrogant/non-committal people OR that we are unlikable/loners/un-interesting. Notice in both cases we are holding attack thoughts toward others or toward ourselves.  We feel rejected.

Girls want others to initiate, choosing to live with the fear of rejection instead of the possibility of connection.  Women know that they have every responsibility to initiate also, choosing to do what they can and not hold the results as an affront to their ultimate worth.

Fear of Not Feeling Good About Ourselves:  With all this language around toxic relationships, we seem to be giving each other more and more permission to cut people out of our lives that don't make us feel good.  The problem with this often is that it's not always because the other person is toxic that we don't feel strong. Sometimes that voice of insecurity can reveal powerful information that indeed we have personal work we want to do. We can feel bad toward someone because they have something we want, something we're jealous about, or something that we think makes us look less than to not have it (i.e. more money, new relationship, a baby, kids she's proud of, career success).

A Girl gets off the phone feeling yucky and mistakenly assumes the other person is the problem she feels bad about herself.  A Woman asks herself how she can cheer for her friends excitement, and use that to help reveal to herself what it says about what she ultimately wants.

Fear of Judgment. On a similar note is our immediate tendency to judge others. Fast and harsh. It comes out in our decision to RSVP for a particular event-- convinced we are good judges of deciding whether we'll like the other people based on a photo! It comes out in meeting each other when we find ourselves judging their behaviors, dress, stories, etc. We have such a hard time just letting people be themselves... and by extension giving ourselves that same gift. Our ego's feel momentarily better about who we are if we can tell ourselves we're better than her.  But that's immaturity at it's height of ignorance.

A Girl judges others so that she feels better.  A Woman accepts others so that she feels better, knowing she can be powerful without devaluing another.

Growing Up.

It's time to grow up.

It's time to show up facing each other as women.  Women who deserve our utmost respect.  Women who have inherent value whether you can immediately see it or not.  Women who know that they will eventually feel about themselves whatever they feel about others.  Women who know that they don't have to be better than thou to be their best.  Women who feel hopeful when they see others succeed.  Women who trust that as they love, so will they be loved.

Unlike age that just happens to you whether you want it or not, maturity comes when invited.  It comes when you hold the possibility that there might be a better way to approach life.  It comes when you admit enough humility to recognize that just because you think something doesn't make it fact.  It comes when you know your own worth enough to not need to see everything as a reaction to you.  It comes when you say that small prayer: "Mature me. Grow me."

We are not competitors.  We are allies. (Even if any of you eventually becomes a contestant on a show where competing to win the affections of one eligible bachelor... even then you need not devalue.)

This 2012, I hope we all hold the courage to grow up.  Facing each other as humans. With dignity. The world needs more Women.

Defending the Introverts, Defining Mutuality

If I had to put money on the table next to what I thought was a primary barrier to women building new friendships, I'd put it next to a mistaken view of what mutuality means. Sure, lack of time will be listed as a more common excuse, but when a woman decides to be more proactive about fostering healthy friendships around her, the fear of unequal give-and-take can stall many budding friendships before they have a chance to get started.

Our Fear of Unequal Give-and-Take

We use language like "the ball is in her court" and "I don't want to impose" and "I invited her last time so this time I'll wait to see if she reciprocates." We justify our wait-and-see approach by reminding ourselves that we sent the last email or initiated the most recent plans, and we conclude that we're always the ones doing the inviting.   Not this time, we say. This time it's her turn.

While we may not call it a fear of rejection, we are in part acting out of that fear. We don't want to come across as desperate. We don't want to feel like we're putting ourselves out there all the time, unsure if it's wanted.  We've been told we don't need to put up with any behavior that isn't perfectly mutual. We want to feel like they like us too.  We want to feel wanted. We definitely don't want to be the ones who give more than we receive again.  So we protect our egos and wait her out.

In the meantime, our budding relationship never gets momentum so it never really happens.  And we're left complaining that no one out there seems to be interested in a mutual friendship.

Our Misunderstanding of Mutuality

On Friday evening I was sitting in a room with two friends.  Both lean toward introversion when it comes to interacting with people.  (Which means they have amazing people skills but being around people can cost them more energy than it gives them.) I was basking in the glow of how intimate those relationships felt, both of them so able to engage in deep, beautiful, meaningful conversations.  Their questions were thoughtful, their intuition spot on, and their love so genuine.

But if it had been up to either of them to get the three of us together it wasn't likely to have happened. I initiated.

As I had the week before.

And as I had the week prior to that.

The truth is that there are just many, many people out there who have so much to offer a friendship-- but initiating and scheduling may not be their forte.  That doesn't mean they don't love us or want to be with us.  And it certainly doesn't mean they don't have other meaningful ways to give to us. It just means they aren't going to assertively send out the invitation. Or if they do, it won't be as frequently as it might be for some of the rest of us.

This is not limited to introverts.  Take any self-awareness inventory and there are always types of people where scheduling and initiating will not come naturally for them. I've been studying the Enneagram which has nine types of people, and three of the types are withdrawing types, which means they tend to step back or retreat when there is stress (which any new situation can cause.) So that's at least a third of our potential friends who won't be out there trying to schedule time with us.

Even beyond personalities and types, we know that we all have different love languages.  Someone with the love language of quality time might tend to be more aware of reaching out with invitations than someone with the love language of gift giving.

Just add stress and busy-ness to any of our lives (even those of us who are extroverts, schedulers, and assertive types) and we may not reciprocate in the way you want, when you want.  But that also doesn't mean we wouldn't make great friends who will give to you in other ways!

What Does Mutual Really Mean?

As I sat there Friday evening thinking how lucky anyone would be to have these two individuals in their lives, it occurred to me how few people will get that opportunity if they only build a friendship with someone else who reaches out an equal amount.

Mutuality cannot be confined to 50/50 scheduling.  Equality doesn't mean sameness.  Being in a give-and-take relationship doesn't mean we give-and-take in the same ways.

For those of us who live with someone-- we know that having someone else divvy up the household chores doesn't mean we each vacuum half the room and cook half the meal. It means I tend to track our finances and he tends to make sure dishes don't pile up in the sink. Balance doesn't mean we split up every chore, but that we both contribute to the overall picture.

Somehow, in friendship, we have elevated the scheduling and initiating "chore" to becoming the litmus test for an equal friendship.

What we risk if we wait for equal initiations is missing the gift that introverts or non-initiators can bring to our lives.  And we risk feeling rejected if we wrongly attach that meaning to their lack of initiation.  And worst of all, we're still left without the friendships that we crave because we just sat and waited, allowing the momentum to falter.

Give. Give. Give.

I am all for balanced friendships.  I don't want you to feel used.  I want you to be in a relationship that feels mutual.

But if you are a GirlFriend who is good at initiating-- then do it. Generously. Invite her five times in a row.  Be the one who is okay calling to start the conversation. Give where you're best, knowing you will be blessed by how she gives to you in different ways. And know how lucky you are that you have the ability to give in a way that starts friendships!

And if you recognize that you're someone who struggles to initiate-- then at least be sure to tell your friends/potential friends how much you appreciate it when they do. Express your gratitude, lest they ever feel that you're not interested. Tell them what it means to you that they keep calling. Recognize that this gift they give is a necessary ingredient in the building of a friendship.

What we need is a little less judgment of each other and a little more hopeful curiosity to discover and appreciate who the other person is.

-----------------

I blogged on the perceived imbalance in give-and-take friendships for a two-part series for the Huffington Post: In Friendship, Do You Give More than You Receive? and Six Ways to Bring Balance to Your Relationships if you're interested in more reading on this subject.

Let "Best Friend" Refer to Quality, Not Quantity.

One of my neighbor friends from childhood saw my post on Facebook about my recent TV interview on women's friendship. Watching it reminded her of a time when we were kids where she had been in tears as a result of hers and my friendship. In her memory we had all been coloring at the table when I must have announced that I wanted to read out loud something I had written for school. Apparently I had written a story about my best friend. And it hadn't turned out to be her.  :(

Of course it pains me to know I caused her to go home and cry! And hearing her share that long ago memory reminded me of my own memory of uncontrollable sobbing in the third grade coat room during recess.  I still remember my best girl friend (the one I had read about!) announcing to me one day that she was now going to be best friends with Kristin instead of me.  I couldn't be consoled. Drama queen or not, I was convinced life was over.

I Want To Feel Chosen

We do eventually grow up, but the drama around feeling chosen, or not, never quite goes away, does it?

In Elizabeth Gilbert's book "Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage" she lists the losses associated with marriage for women (more likely to suffer from depression, die younger, accumulate less wealth, earn reduced pay, experience more health problems and thrive less in their careers than those who are unmarried) and points to the 50% divorce rates to basically ask the question: why is that we get so consumed with marriage when it doesn't appear to be all that good for us?

Her ponderings included the theory that we all just want to feel chosen. Picked. Wanted. Loved. A wedding allows us to publicly say "Someone thinks I'm amazing." When it comes to a wedding-- we are told that we are the one. The only one. The chosen one. And that feels good. (Even though ironically most of us would be more than happy to have a few more wives/mothers in our homes helping share the workload! LOL)

But Being Chosen Doesn't Have to Be Exclusive

I wish as a little girl I had been taught to value the importance of fostering several different friends.  That we didn't have to be exclusive to feel special. That my worth wasn't tied to one girl and who she wanted to play with at recess.  That me feeling chosen happened more when I decided to choose others.  That the term "best friend" didn't refer to a number, but to how well we treated each other.

As adults we don't want to feel any less chosen, but hopefully we now know that our chosen-ness can include others. And that more important than someone else choosing me, is my own sense of choosing myself, knowing my own worth and value. That security allows my BFF's to have other BFF's without me feeling jealous, knowing their other friendships don't make what we share any less valuable.  In fact, research shows that our friendship will be healthier and stronger if she's getting some needs met by others since we are each happiest with 3-7 people in our lives whom we'd consider "confidantes."

Because I love her-- I will want that for her. I will cheer for her when she finds new friends. Friends who have kids the ages of her kids. Or friends who know what it's like to be single again in her 50's. Or friends who can afford to go to the fancy spas with her.  Or friends who get excited about her political or spiritual passions.  Or friends who can make her laugh.  Or friends who live close enough to her to go on a spontaneous walk with her. Or friends who know first-hand how scary it is for her to be starting her own business.

Because I can't do all those things.  And that's okay.  I don't need to. Even if I could-- she's still better off with a circle of support, with more than just me waving my pom-poms for her.

Best is a quality, not a quantity.  Best says we like this-- which is not the same as saying that we have to dislike everything else in order to like this one. Best means that something, or someone, has reached a level of excellence, trust, appreciation.  It doesn't mean nothing else can. Like a mother with multiple kids,  we can hold love for several without it meaning anything less for any one of them. We are human beings capable of loving many.

To my sweet childhood friend-- please know you were at the center of some of my best childhood memories.  You were definitely a best friend.  :)

-----------------------------------

For more on how to foster the kind of friendships we all crave-- here are relevant past blogs: How to Make a BFF and Stages of a Friendship. And here's a 3 minute video that talks about the difference between our friends and our BFF's.

Healthy Friendship: How to Be the Best Friend Possible

Note from Shasta: For Friendship Month this September I’ve invited some women to guest blog for me, adding their voices and experiences to our journey.  Today I'm hosting two posts: one from a therapist highlighting four qualities of emotionally safe friendships, and the other from someone who has never written a blog but was willing to share how she's learned this in her own life. Thanks to both Lisa Brookes Kift and Kelly Cape! _____________________________

What is Emotional Safety?

by Lisa Brookes Kift

Emotional safety is the level of comfort two people feel between each other – and though I’ve written much about how couples can benefit from this, let’s take a look at how this translates to friendship and ways you can be the best friend possible.

Because emotional and relationship health are so intertwined it’s important to take stock of not only how you behave with your friends but how you feel around them.  Do you support and lift each other up?

Not everyone is clear in their understanding of what qualities make up a healthy, nurturing, supportive friendship.  This lack of clarity may be the result of never being modeled this type of relationship.  Whatever the case, it’s never too late to take stock of the people in your life – and how they experience you as well.

Emotionally safe friendships have some things in common.  These friends typically:

  • Listen well and attempt to understand where the other is coming from – rather than dismiss, appear disinterested or shift the topic back to them.
  • Offer validation and empathy when appropriate – rather than behave without compassion when sensitivity is required.
  • Respect each other and are supportive - rather than be competitive and undermining.
  • Trust each other and feel safe – rather than be unsure of whether the other is there only when it suits them.

Human beings are relational.  We are born seeking secure attachment with our primary caregivers and we continue to seek emotional safety through-out our lives, with our partners and friends.

I am very grateful to have a group of girlfriends who I feel totally at home with.  Some go back as far as kindergarten and a few I’ve made in the last five years or so.  The friendships I put the most energy into are the ones where there is a mutual felt sense of being able to truly relax, be ourselves and know that neither of us would do anything to harm the other.  It just feels safe.

It’s like being wrapped in a fuzzy, warm blanket on a cold, winter’s day.

This is a little of what emotionally safe friendships feel like to me.  Just like intimate relationships require effort to maintain, the same goes for friendships.  You get what you give.

Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT is the author of The Premarital Counseling Workbook for Couples and The Marriage Refresher Course Workbook for Couples.  She’s also the creator of The Toolbox at LisaKiftTherapy.com with tools for marriage, relationship and emotional health.  Lisa has a private practice working with individuals and couples in Larkspur, California. Twitter:@LisaKiftTherapy

------------------------------------------

What I've Learned About Becoming Emotionally Safe

by Kelly Cape

When one friendship door closes, another opens.  But, unfortunately it has to hit you on the ass first.

I didn’t truly realize this until recently.  I’ve always hated goodbyes. And I cherish having lots of friends, especially close friends.  You know what I mean: the ones who know you in-and-out, and vice versa.

So naturally I felt reluctant to end a friendship even if I wasn’t getting anything out of it.  But because I never wanted to say goodbye, I confused myself into thinking that was because it was feeding me, even if it wasn't!  Hmm... a curious ego-driven, self-fulfilling cycle indeed. Sometimes, even as the friendships were in full swing, the connections I felt seemed forced or awkward.  Meaning that for me, I wasn’t getting exactly what I wanted in the way of a reciprocal friendship but I ignored my gut and just forged ahead making more plans for the next dinner or movie.  If these gals were spending time with me then I was getting something rewarding in return, right?

Well, it wasn’t until a fall-out with two separate friends in overlapping periods of time in my life that made me rethink what friendship meant to me and forced me to have my aha moment of discovery.  This experience took me down the necessary path of self-introspection, ultimately leading me to new enlightenment and more fulfilling friendships.  And most importantly, this included the most significant friendship of all—the one with myself.

I realized that I consciously contributed in the friendships’ demise because I felt needy (hence forcing myself even with internal alarms going off—danger, danger!) and desperate to keep these friendships at almost any cost.  In turn that fear gave off negative vibes.  Additionally, I was also unwilling to listen to my heart that told me I was putting in way more than what I was getting.

And it wasn’t just about ego.  I was keeping these friendships alive at the expense of my self-esteem and value as a person and as a friend. Which wasn’t doing service to them either because when I spent time with them, I wasn’t being fully honest or authentic.  I discovered that felt more awful than pretending I was their BFF.

After a lot of journaling, grieving and healing, I have since become not only a more grounded person, but also a more genuine and present friend, which naturally brings about positive and joyful reciprocity.  I listen to me more now and let go of forcing or acting like someone I’m not just to have friends, or to be invited to a party.

And as the Universe does so profoundly, I “coincidentally” and effortlessly have forged a wonderful new friendship that is both light-hearted and meaningful at the same time.  We are our genuine, honest selves with each other and we laugh a lot together.  My friendships of the past are gone... but never forgotten.  The lessons they taught me will live on and be carried in me with each new budding friendship.

Kelly Cape, 41-years old, lives in Campbell, CA where she consistently strives for an expansive life, including learning to follow her bliss—personally and professionally.  This is her first blog. 

My Name is Shasta. I'm a Recovering People-Pleaser.

I am a recovering people-pleaser. I Am a People-Pleaser.

My mom was visiting last week and told a story about me from junior high.  One of those random snapshot memories that revealed just how strong my people-pleaser tendency was at such a young age. Apparently, I had been upset that morning so withpeanuts cartoon a tear-streaked face I insisted I couldn't go to school "because everyone expects me to be the happy one who cheers them up. And I simply can't today." My mom said it was one of those moments where she saw just how serious I was, how her heart broke to think how much pressure I felt to ensure everyone's happiness, and how she couldn't figure out where I ever got such a "silly notion." I was a natural people-pleaser.

A people-pleaser is one who gives in order to feel valuable, who gains approval by giving to others. Warning signals include: feelings of resentment, a sense of depletion, and a fear that we mustn't say no. We are scared to show up in any way other than as the giver.

I Am Recovering!

But the word recovering is definitely a part of my DNA now too.  One of the gifts of my twenties was growing from a huge personal failure of mine.  Not only did I have to accept that I could actually hurt and disappoint people that I loved, but I realized that if I waited to only show up until I was happy-- it might be several years before people saw me again!

I had to learn to show up in my messy life with my tear-streaked face.  Acknowledge that I could hurt people even when I hadn't intended to.  That I couldn't be responsible for their happiness.  That I couldn't fake my own. It was an era of disappointment that I now cherish for the clarity it brought me about me, others, and life. Needless to say, I earned every letter of the word recovering as a badge to precede people-pleaser.

What Does That Mean Though?

As with any addiction, we are trying to use a substitute to fill a hole. In people-pleasing,  we lose sight of our inherent worth and are trying to feel valuable by monitoring how others feel, rather than on what we know to be true about us.

Unlike a recovering alcoholic who chooses to never have alcohol touch her lips again... I can't pull an all-or-nothing in my healing.  To be in my form of recovery doesn't mean that I never please people.  It doesn't mean that I always say no, that I make people mad, and that I don't try to bring joy wherever I go. Which is a relief as I certainly wouldn't want to be an anti-people-pleaser!

So determining whether I'm acting out of my people-pleaser mode could be more difficult because it's less about avoiding a specific substance, and more about determining my motives. Am I saying yes so that she likes me more? Am I offering this to win her over? Am I exerting all this energy so that I feel more valuable and needed? Am I over-extending myself because I'm out of touch with how I feel and what I need?

Notice that in all those questions we ask ourselves, there is a sense that when we give we are expecting something back. We give so that we feel better about us. We kiss-up so that we receive kudos and rewards. We please so that we feel needed or valued. And to point out the obvious-- when we give with a need to receive, it's hardly a gift, as much as it is a commodity exchange (where the other person may not even know or agree to the terms!)

5 Ways Recovering from People Pleasing Actually Pleases People

There are many resources for why we are this way, how to awaken to our worth, and how to start practicing the "no."  The angle I want to take is within our relationships... a few notes of encouragement to give you hope that saying no doesn't risk you losing what you value most.

Here are five ways your friendships can be enhanced when you learn how to metaphorically say no when you need to:

1)  No relationship is healthier than the lowest common denominator of the two individuals in it.  You simply can't have two depleted people and end up with a healthy friendship. Even one depleted person who can't hold her own worth ensures that her experience of the relationship is never healthier than her own personal health. The lowest common denominator between a 3 and 9 is a 3, not a 6. You getting healthy enhances your relationships, it does not detract from them.

2)  Your friends want a mutual friendship, not a doormat/slave/depleted martyr. You might think they prefer to have you doing them favors, but they wouldn't if they saw the price tag: resentment, a sense of imbalance, fear, scorecards, feeding your low self-esteem, your exhaustion, etc.

3)  Holding the belief that we live in a universe with enough love for both of us. I've also heard it called a "win:win universe" or as Einstein said "a friendly universe." It means that we trust that when we do something loving for ourselves, it also gives love to others.  Sometimes saying no is the most loving thing we can do.  Sometimes leaving a relationship is the most loving thing we can do.  Sometimes letting someone else hit their bottom without us trying to fix them is the most loving thing for them.  We are arrogant and foolish if we think we're the best judge of what's truly best for everyone else... especially when we obviously don't even know what's best for us. We simply don't know. All we can do is try to make the most loving and compassionate choice for our health and happiness and trust that when there is love present it's ultimately good for both parties.

4)  Saying no to them gives them permission to do the same. I had a friend thank me for my no to her requested favor this week.  She said it not only increased her trust that she knew she could ask me and I'd be honest, but that it modeled for her that it was okay to evaluate her own choices, too.  Interesting that what we fear saying may be the healthiest and most loving gift of permission to them!

5)  When we show up honestly, it tells them we will accept them when they do too. When I was in 8th grade, I thought if I could make people feel better that it was the loving thing to do.  I made the mistake of thinking sadness wasn't good-- that we needed to avoid that.  We don't.  Sadness isn't bad, it's a real feeling that gives us important information.  By refusing to show up with my tear-stained face, I, in essence, was saying to my friends that it wasn't an acceptable way to feel.  Which is hardly a place of love.

As with anyone in recovery, we still know our tendencies.  Someone from AA can be sober for 30 years and still describe themselves as an alcoholic.  To face your demon doesn't mean it's gone, it only means you can see it more clearly.

My name is Shasta.  I'm a Recovering People-Pleaser.  Anyone else care to introduce yourself?  :)  Nice to meet you.

______________________________________

On a similar theme, I previously posted on Huffington Post a two-part series on Giving & Receiving: Do You Give More Than You Receive? and 6 Ways to Bring Balance To Your Relationships

Also, note that the 21-Days of Friendship Curriculum that I guide in September helps you evaluate what you should be giving and to whom.  Not all friends are equal! Be sure you know your own energy and where to best give it!

 

 

 

 

Nothing Kills a Potential Relationship Faster

Momentum.  The lack of it can kill a relationship quickly. A romantic relationship would never get off the ground if the two of you went out for a date, then ended the evening saying "That was fun... we should do it again next month."

When it comes to love, we clear our calendar for possibility. And yet for friendship it somehow seems normal to only see each other every couple of weeks or months? We schedule her several weeks out, even if for him we'd make it 2 days later. The irony being that the women you meet for friendship have a higher likelihood of actually being in your life longer than most of the men you date.

momentum

We understand momentum clearly in romance.  But why not for friendship? Is it for lack of prioritizing our female friends as important? Is it because we need the assertiveness of the testosterone to initiate? Is it because we don't know how?

Why We Lack Momentum

My guess is that it is partly due to priority and partly due to fear.

The priority part is easy to see.  We are inundated with wanting to be chosen by a romantic partner our entire lives.  We will give up almost anything for "love." We think there is someone out there who will complete us.  We are accused often of neglecting our friends once we start dating or get married.

But the other part is fear, I think.  Almost every hesitation in our lives can be linked to our fear of being rejected in some way, a fear of not being totally loved and accepted. No one wants to feel embarrassed in any way.  Therefore, we erroneously think that to have time/desire to meet you again next week might somehow communicate that I'm desperate, lonely, needy, or unimportant?

Oddly enough, if a guy were were interested enough to see us next week again-- we'd be flattered.  But we're unwilling to give that same gift to a platonic friend.  We don't want to appear more interested than they seem to be.

Interest Is Contagious

But here's the honest truth: we like people who like us.

With romantic dating, we know how to flirt and show interest.

With friend dating, we all too often show up with a reserve that says "Prove that you're interesting first."  We put up our guard until they appear valuable to us.  And if they mirror the same wait-and-watch attitude, then momentum rarely happens.  We feel judged because we're judging.

What would happen if you showed up without fear?  If your self worth weren't attached to how a stranger responded, or didn't?  If you could show up-- give love, interest, compassion and kindness before they "earned" it?  We all want the other person to be that way, but few of us are willing to be it first.  Remember the golden rule.

How You Can Contribute to Momentum

If you're in the GirlFriendCircles.com community, receiving invitations to ConnectingCircles, one easy way to contribute to momentum is simply to RSVP immediately.  You would all completely laugh if you saw how many customer service emails Maci receives from women waiting to see if anyone else is going to RSVP to an event before they do.  Imagine a bunch of women all waiting for 1-2 others to sign up before they feel safe doing so-- and it getting cancelled because none of them actually took that risk.  (And what's the real risk anyhow?  You're in a community where the only people who can see it is other women who are also signed up to meet new friends!)

The worst case scenario? You sign up and no one else can-- the event gets canceled. But that isn't a reflection on you-- except that it shows you're confident, and willing to actually put a wee bit of action behind your intention for meeting new people.

And the best case scenario is well worth the risk of the worst case, in my opinion. For what usually happens is that as soon as a local event has 1-2 women signed up... the rest of it fills up.  And now, because you started the momentum-- 5 or 6 women have the chance of starting a friendship.

This plays out true whether we're talking about ConnectingCircles or any other events.  Be the initiator!  Don't attach your ego to it.... write again, invite for a different date, follow-up.

Our friend dating doesn't have to look like our romantic dating where we schedule something every 2-3 days for several weeks... but can't we at least give 20% of that same energy and intention to people who actually have a higher probability of being in our lives a year from now?

Give the gift of momentum to one of your friendships.  What you crave is a meaningful and comfortable friendship.  Put in the momentum to get there!

How Annoying People Can Grow Me

Call the Holy Spirit your still small voice, your intuition, your wisdom, your highest self, your conscience, your place of peace, or whatever it is that guides you, but don't miss the profundity of this upcoming statement.  Marianne Williamson, in her bestseller book, A Return to Love reminds us that we are not centered on what matters if the actions of others continue to dictate how we feel and show up.

"We're not aligned with the Holy Spirit until people can behave in any way they choose to, and our inner peace isn't shaken."

That's the kind of statement that our heads can agree with, but is simply so hard to practice, isn't it?

In our day-to-day lives, it is far more tempting to fall for the deceptive thought that others determine our mood, that circumstances dictate our peace, and that the behaviors around us require our reaction.  But that would be a victim mindset, a belief that leaves us feeling as though we are at the mercy of others, dependent on their whims. It's a defeating belief to feel we can't find peace until everyone, and everything, is fixed to our liking. Which is why our peace can be so hard to come by if it relies on our bosses, our kids, our romantic partners, our colleagues, our friends, and our in-laws all being in peace first!

Hard to Hold Inner Peace

Applying that statement to my own life, asking myself "where do I sometimes give away my peace because of others?" I found a few whispered answers.

  • Moods of Others: My husband and I work in the same office in our house which can create a fabulous synergy most of the time.... but it also means that we're at risk of stepping under each others black clouds.  Sometimes when our wireless modem takes him offline, I feel the stress that he expresses.  I can't fix it and it only makes matters worse if I try to "inspire" him (apparently it feels controlling and judgmental to him? Who knew?) to react differently.  How to hold my own peace even when he feels anything but that?
  • Judging Others: I've been working consciously the last several months to resist making judgments about others... it's amazing though how automatically those thoughts seem to jump into my head during first impressions or various conversations!  Ugh!  It's far too easy for me to attach a value to the statements and choices of others.  And as I judge them, I subconsciously feel they are judging me which moves me to try to impress them rather than just see them. An inner peace is hard to hold when we're judging and feeling judged!
  • Filtering Their Stories: Our default thinking process is to run the stories of others through our filter of "how does it make me feel?"  So their stories (i.e. their achievements, their break-ups, their stories about their kids, their insecurities) somehow start making us feel something about our lives.  It's so difficult to simply let their story be their story.  I find that I can start to feel intimidated, jealous, sad, fearful, and disappointed even when we're not talking about my life!  It's one thing to enter into their feelings, it's quite another to change how I feel about myself based on something about them! How's a girl to feel peace if every conversation risks her feelings changing?

How Others Can Grow My Inner Peace

Seeing the list above (and I could name so many more!) makes me understand why some people are tempted to go be in solitude in order to connect with their spirituality. Bumping into each other invariably pushes our buttons.  This is true whether we're talking about the people we live with, or the women we're meeting at a ConnectingCircle for the first time.

It's hard to hold our own peace around others.  They either aren't living up to our expectations or desires which disappoints or angers us.  Or they exceed our expectations and standards which triggers our insecurities and fears.  Hard for every person to stand on the little line we have for them, without falling into the ditch on either side! (Not to mention the remote possibility that we're not the best judges of where to draw the line!)

Clearly, we have to learn to hold our own peace and let others do their thing.

But Marianne takes it one step further, inviting us not to just tolerate others, but to be grown by them:

To the ego, a good relationship is one in which another person basically behaves the way we want them to and never presses our buttons, never violates our comfort zones.  But if a relationship exists to support our growth, then in many ways it exists to do just those things; force us out of our limited tolerance and inability to love unconditionally.

It's a concept I'm holding to.  I've been very mindful in recent months about trying not to attach judgements and values on the decisions of others, which does result in more inner peace.  But to actually show up, across from someone who annoys me or frustrates me, and see it as a way to grow me, expand me, teach me patience and deepen my ability to love?

It reminds me that even if we spend time at a monastery, an ashram, a church, in a sacred text, or on a quiet walk in nature for our spiritual centering-- those are only the classrooms for learning.  It is in our connections with others that we are on the practice field for personal growth. All my prayers are in vain if I'm not showcasing more patience for the people I meet.

So if you're annoying, bring it on!  :)  I have lots of room to grow!