Friendship

How Do You Get Lucky In Love and Friendship?

"How do you get lucky in love?" a gruff voice asked from behind me. I was standing at a teller window at the bank so it seemed an unlikely place for someone to be asking for relational advice. And yet he repeated his question even more loudly. You could see several of us looking around somewhat awkwardly, trying to figure out if he was serious and sane. He was waving a magazine and gestured toward it as he made eye contact with the teller closest to him.  He asked a third time, with a mix of irony and laughter: "Seriously I've been married three times and would love to know how one goes about getting lucky in love?"

The tone lightened up a bit as we could tell he had just seen a headline on a magazine that had been innocently lying in the bank lobby that must have triggered his friendly zeal. But he kept his gaze on the young teller, presumably awaiting an answer.  The teller couldn't have been more than young twenties and after laughing nervously, finally said, "I guess you just haven't yet found the right person."

I nearly choked.

How DO You Get Lucky In Love?

Seriously?!?! There's a guy waving a magazine in the bank lobby telling everyone who is standing within earshot that he's been married three times and the best we can do is assume he hasn't met the right women?

I forgive the teller.  He was young and idealistic. But it's a view that far too many of us still hold.  And when it comes to friendship-- it's no different.  We assume that if the relationship isn't working that it's their problem.  Or if not their problem, then at least that who they are doesn't match up with who we are.  We shrug our shoulders and cheer ourselves up with the words of the teller:  I guess we just haven't yet met the person who could be our best friend.

Like a needle in a haystack we think we need to keep looking for that specific and rare person who can love us and whom we can love back.  Now don't get me wrong-- I've been accused of being the biggest romantic who believes in soul mates and love and chemistry and deep connections-- the whole big love enchilada.  But, and this is a serious but, love isn't something we go around discovering in people, something that they either have for us or don't.  No, love in all forms, is something we can develop with people.

That man in the bank... I'll bet all three times he married he believed he was in love.  He had "discovered" love. But it's more than simply finding someone you love, it's choosing to practice the actions that develop that love, that matter most.

What Friendship Is and Isn't

I notoriously say in front of nearly every crowd I speak to, "Friendship isn't about how much you like each other; but rather it's about how much you practice the behaviors that make up friendship."

frientimacy_quote_1

In other words:  I can meet someone instantly and like them and talk for hours with them and want to be best friends with them, and they with me. But that is not a friendship.  If we never see each other again then we were merely two people who had a great evening together and were friendly with each other, but that is not friendship.  There is a VAST difference between the people we're friendly with and the people we develop a friendship with.

What makes a friend is less about how much we like them instantly or even how much we like them over the long haul.  We aren't all closest to the people we actually love and admire the most. No, we're closest to the ones with whom we're willing to practice the actions that make up a friendship.

In my new book Frientimacy: How to Deepen Friendships for Lifelong Health and Happiness, I am thrilled to be teaching the three actions that make up a friendship.  For far too long we have left love to luck and chance, bumping into each other and hoping for the best.  It's time to actually understand what intimacy is, what actions lead to it, and how much power we have in actually leading every relationship in our lives toward greater love.

What I wish I could've said to the man at the bank was, "That's awesome that you haven't given up on still wanting more love in your life.  And the good news is it's not like playing the lottery where you have to get married for several years before finding out if she is the one or not.  You can take responsibility to develop the relationships that indeed leaving you feeling lucky in love."

We all need more love in our lives.  We don't have to leave it to chance.

xoxo

Expectation Hangovers in Friendships

When I saw that my friend Christine Hassler was celebrating the launch of her new book with a book party in NYC when I happened to be in town for another event, I quickly signed up to be there, one more woman celebrating the completion of such a huge goal in her life. While I went to support her and cheer her on, it hit me as I was sitting there listening to her workshop on dealing with disappointment that I actually need her book!  Ha! I left there excited to read Expectation Hangover: Overcoming Disappointment in Work, Love, and Life.

Huge congrats to Christine Hassler on the release of her newest book:  Expectation Hangover!

This season of my life feels full of unmet expectations, unattainable hopes, and discouraging responses. I try to cheer myself up with thoughts like "Now Shasta, you know grief and and crisis and this is no where close to that," and  "Seriously, your life is good, stop feeling discouraged. Focus on all that you have!" Sometimes those little talks give me the perspective I need, but often they just leave me feeling guilty that I even felt bad to begin with. The truth is that with many unmet expectations comes a bit of loss, which naturally leads to sadness.

And it got me to thinking about how often we have expectation hangovers in our friendships, too.

Unmet Expectations in Friendship

I know I've felt them before, and I've heard from many of you that you, too, know the feeling of wanting those friendships to be easier, faster, or more meaningful.

  • After a great time together, you hope she'll reach out and she doesn't.
  • You wrote her an email and she didn't write back.
  • You went to a ConnectingCircle hoping to make new friends and there was no one you really clicked with.
  • You've known her for months now, but it never feels like your friendship is progressing deeper.
  • She said something that felt judgmental when you really just hoped for an evening where you felt supported.
  • You leave a dinner party and think it was a waste to go since there was no deep conversation that happened.
  • You hang out with a friend but she doesn't ask you about your life.
  • You were moving and hoped your friend would offer to help pack boxes but she was too busy to notice.
  • You keep trying to be friendly to everyone you meet but never quite feel like you're making real friends.

You know the feeling.  Sometimes we don't even think we have "high expectations" but in the aftermath of an experience, we feel weary, depressed, and more discouraged than if we hadn't even tried.

Transform the Hangovers

Far be it from me to try to teach in a blog post what took Christine an entire book to teach (she does a fabulous job of helping readers not just want to "get-over" these disappointments but to transform their lives through processing them on a spiritual, emotional, mental, and behavioral level) but I asked her if I could at least share an excerpt from her book with you that might be of value in your friendships:

Excerpt from Christine: Don't Go to a Chinese Restaurant Looking for Nachos! 

"If you were craving nachos, would you go to a Chinese restaurant? No! Because you know that in a Chinese restaurant, they don’t serve nachos. In fact, they probably wouldn’t even have the ingredients to make them. If you really wanted nachos, you would go somewhere where they serve them, right?

Most of the time, we know what we are craving when we reach out to someone else. If someone in your life has consistently reacted and responded in a way that has not satisfied your needs, chances are they do not have the ingredients to do so. Continuing to go to that person, hoping that someday what you are hungry for appears on their menu, is like continuing to walk into a Chinese restaurant when you want nachos. You may get fed, but not with what you truly wanted to eat. And now the only leftover you have is an Expectation Hangover.

We cannot change people. I repeat: we cannot change people. This can be especially challenging when you really want a significant person in your life, such as a parent or romantic partner, or best friend to be able to satisfy your cravings. However, sometimes they just don’t have the ingredients to do so. Other people are not wrong if they don’t live up to your expectations; they are who they are. Accept what they do have to offer you.

Think of some of your common “cravings” that involve being supported by others: someone to just listen; an objective resource for feedback; someone to laugh with; someone you feel safe to be vulnerable with; a person who will offer time and physical assistance when you need help with a move or project; or someone who is encouraging. Now consider which people you go to for those things but who you come away from with an Expectation Hangover. Make a commitment to yourself that you will stop going to them when you have a craving for something they cannot dish out. Love and accept them for who they are; they are doing the best they can. Consider the people who do match up with some of your cravings — there may be a lot of cooks in your kitchen that you might not have been aware of because you were hanging on to expectations of others. Being conscious and proactive regarding our expectations of others is how we get desires and needs met in healthy and expectation-free ways.

It is true that we can be catalysts for another person’s change, but in most cases in order to be that catalyst, we have to be totally unattached to being it. Working and endlessly hoping to change someone else will not only lead to an Expectation Hangover, but it will also distract you from doing your own work. Often it is detachment, acceptance, and honoring our own truth that inspire others to find the truth within themselves.

Now think about who you go to when you are craving support, encouragement, guidance, unbiased advice, loving feedback, or acknowledgment. Do you go to people who are consistently able to dish out what you are hungry for? Or do you find yourself going to people who do not have what you need on their menu and then find yourself consistently discouraged and disappointed?"

I believe entirely that many more friendships could be fulfilling if we saw them for who they are, rather than wishing they would be someone different.  May you love your friendships for what they are, while continuing to be on the hunt for the "restaurant" that serves the best nachos in town!

xoxo,

Shasta

p.s.  Christine is still traveling to LA, Chicago, Austin and Dallas for the rest of her book tour. Use the code CHRISTINEFRIEND to save $10! You get a whole 2-hour workshop-- super good!

p.s.s. I LOVED all the interaction on the post last week!  Makes me happy to connect with you.  Share with us an expectation hangover you're going through, or what's helped you transform disappointment into learning-- and I'll come comment as much as I can! xoxo

The Power of Witnessing Each Other

Yesterday I just sat and listened to her talk about me even though my impulse was to interrupt.

I Panicked.

If you're keeping track, not that I expect you to, but if you were, then you'd notice that it's been two weeks since I've posted a blog. That's partly due to the fact that I am working on my book proposal for my next book so my writing time has been directed toward that consuming endeavor.

And for those of you who haven't written one before, it's basically a 60 page document about my book idea that my agent will use to sell the book. In it I have to outline all my chapters, put together my promotional plan, write two sample chapters, and try to convince whoever is reading it that I'm worth their risk. Once it sells, then I'll write it. And if all goes well, the book will be available in like 2 years! Crazy process, huh?

But it's been really rewarding to outline my idea and give it life. To see my message being given words is exciting!

Until two nights ago.  Then it wasn't so much fun anymore.  Just when I thought I was 80% done, I wondered if I needed to start over. :(

The creative process, being what it is, made me start questioning the whole enchilada!  Who's going to read this, anyway? I mean, really.. who specifically is going to be drawn to this book?  What ache is going to cause them to walk into a bookstore and buy this book? What are they feeling--when they open my book to the first page--that I need to be able to articulate? Basically, though I'm embarrassed to admit it, I felt like I knew the answer, but didn't know what the question was. (Are you willing to help me brainstorm? Here is a 10-question survey where I'd love to hear your opinion!)

Anyone who spent any time with me in the last 2 days was subjected to me quizzing them, begging them to give me the answers that were alluding me. What would make you buy this book, I inquired? Do you like this title or this title? Is this idea worth fleshing out? (Funny how scared we can get even when we know to our core that this is the message I am meant to be giving!)

They Witnessed.

Fortunately, as fate would have it, yesterday was a full scheduled day of engaging with wonderful people.  The morning began with conversations with women from my masterminding groups who helped think through felt needs and title ideas, and the day ended with a 5-hour dinner with an amazing couple whom my husband and I adore, who both communicated such an excitement to read this book that it made me want to come home and write the whole thing at once!

Thank you Jaime for seeing me...

And tucked in the middle of my day was meeting a friend I hadn't seen in a few months for tea.  As I was expressing my concerns to her, she started saying, "I loved how you talked about it when you gave that one talk wearing that sequined dress..."

My eyes narrowed.  "In Seattle? But you weren't there!"

To which she replied, "Oh I watch all your videos." WHAT?!  Seriously? Wow. I felt seen.

And then she began to go into detail describing what she liked about it, how she felt like I put my audience at ease, and how the message is indeed in me... This is where I was tempted to interrupt.

My impulse was to say thanks, or change the subject, or brush it off.  I mean, isn't it kind of weird to just sit there and take it all that goodness for too long?  I don't want to look like a dry desert starving for any drop of water! I value humility.

But a voice of wisdom whispered in me: "You need to hear this.  It's important to hear how people experience you and see you.  What you feel from the stage and what they feel from the audience is vastly different.  You have a woman in front of you willing to hold up a mirror-- look at it Shasta."

So I looked.  I listened intently.  Not from a place of arrogance (isn't that what we're all so afraid of that makes us err on the side of false humility?), but from a place of inquiry and appreciation.

I soaked in how she experienced me and I thought, "I want to bottle this up and write this opening chapter for her... to match what she sees."

The Power of Witnessing

I think our default, especially as women, is to give advice to each other.  Whatever problem someone has we think, "What would I do?" and then we offer up any ideas that come to us.  If we lack solutions, then we go to, "When have I felt this way?" and we offer up a story about how we know what they're feeling.

Advice and Relating are kind of our default modes.  But notice how both approaches turn the focus on us and how we feel, instead of keeping it on them and how they feel?

What my girlfriend Jaime did for me yesterday was hold the attention on me. She witnessed me.  She showed me that she saw me and reminded me that she liked who she saw.

She asked me questions to help me think about it differently: "Pretend you're giving your first interview on this book and they ask you why you wrote this one-- what will you say?"

She reflected back to me where I am strong and beautiful.  She spoke of my essence--that which she experiences about me, those things that I am without having to do or be them, because I just am those things.  She saw me and she wasn't scared to tell me.

And, while I credit her with offering up the gift of validating a friend; I realize that just as important was me be willing to receive it.  If you're anything like me, it can be far more comfortable to give it, than to take it.

But what she said grounded me in who I am and what I have to offer.  And my next book will be the better for me not having interrupted the gift of her witnessing.

May everyone be the kind of friend who witnesses their friends verbally and reminds them of their essence.

Would love to hear if you feel like you get enough of this in your relationships? Do you find it easy to give to others?  Do you wish others gave it to you more often?

 

The Problem: My Friend Doesn't Ask Me About My Life!

"It's their fault for not asking me about my life..."

I have this strong memory of being at a cafe a couple of years ago with 4 of my close friends.  In an attempt to invite us all into more sharing and connection, I said, "Let's go around the circle and say one thing that feeds us in our group friendship (i.e what we currently like and appreciate), and one thing we want more of from the group (i.e what need we have that isn't being met or how others could support us more meaningfully.)

The question was popular and everyone shared really beautiful things-- affirming each other for how their lives were enhanced by our friendships, and bravely sharing how it could be even better.  It was super touching to hear each person share what would feel good to receive from the group, ranging from understanding for always talking about the same problem in one life to asking for more encouragement as another struggled with her marriage.

I was thinking ahead to what I would share and decided to be truly honest and share that would feel good to me would be to have them initiate asking about my life a little more... I felt that I often I did that for them, but didn't always feel like they asked about me as frequently.

Does your friend talk too much? Maybe it's your responsibility to talk more?

The whole afternoon ended up being hugely ironic in that right before my turn everyone got distracted and the conversation ended up veering in another direction.

I felt hurt, but was certain that surely, at some point, one of them would realize that I hadn't yet had my turn.  I kept waiting for one of them to ask me to share.

No one did.... and in the car on the way home I licked my wounds.  I remember feeling pity for myself, frustration toward them, and disappointment in how the relationships clearly weren't that fulfilling and mutual.

In transparency to what I felt back then, I blamed them. They were clearly selfish, caught up in their own lives, and unable to fulfill my needs.

But in the middle of my pity-party where I was certain that I was the amazing friend and they were the problem... clarity hit me.

"It's my responsibility to share what I want to share..."

I'm always grateful when my voice of wisdom can still be heard over my ego... I've done my very best in recent years to give her as much permission and practice in speaking loudly to me.  So while in that car, I remember trying to hear her above the whining of the little girl stomping her foot in my head...which required stopping my defensiveness and blame long enough to listen:

"Shasta... you know they love you and care about your life.  No one is maliciously trying to ignore you.  You're making this way bigger than it needs to be. They would feel horrible if they knew they hurt you. 

Besides, you could have handled it differently, too.  You could have said, "Hey before we talk about x, let's finish our sharing first," or "Before we go, I wanted to make sure I was able to tell you guys about what you mean to me..." And deep inside you know that they would have loved to have heard you and then you'd be driving home feeling grateful for the friends in your life instead of licking imaginary wounds.

Not imaginary because they don't count... your need to be in friendships where you feel heard is super important and I'm so glad you can articulate that.  But it's your job to ask for what you need.  And honestly, to have the chance to share about your life doesn't require them to ask about it, it only requires that they receive it when you decide to share."

By the time I got home I knew that I could have handled that in a way that would have easily benefited all of us far more than me sitting there quietly as though I were testing them.

Friendship doesn't mean we don't disappoint each other sometimes... it means we're in relationships where we can trust each other to speak their needs-- and I hadn't done that.

Speaking Up

While in a fantasy world someone might just guess what's important to us to share, in the real world, the chances of someone asking all the right questions are pretty slim.

As a pastor I remember one woman accusing the church of being shallow after she had attended that prior weekend without anyone finding out that she had been dying inside from the knowledge that she had suffered a miscarriage the week before.  My heart broke that she hadn't received the support she craved. And I also knew that she could have shown up in a way that ensured she got what she needed.

It's nearly impossible to know what's going on in each others lives unless we volunteer it.  It's not the job of our friends to ask us about work, our marriages, our families, our holiday plans, and make their way down the list... only to have us then feel hurt that they neglected to ask about our health.  You get the idea.  If we have something that needs to be shared... then we need to share it.

Likewise, if we have a friend who calls us and then just talks and talks and then has to go; maybe we can take that as permission to call her and share our lives with her?

Or, if a friend has a habit of going on-and-on about her life, we can certainly experiment with saying, "I always love how freely you're able to share... I need to learn from you because I always feel like I get home without sharing much..." Or, "Hey before we're done with dinner, I wanted to be sure to tell you about what happened at work this last week."

We can offer up our lives.  It makes it no less sincere; nor means they care any less.

Less important than being asked something is whether we're all sharing-- whether that happens is as much my job as theirs.  I don't need to be asked in order to share.  I need to practice offering myself up, being willing to take the space, being willing to be vulnerable-- whether it's initiated by me or them.

Now when I sit in circle with women, I take responsibility to share more.  While I'm still a fan of women being more aware of asking questions and showing interest in each other, rather than filling the space themselves, I also know that most of them don't do it maliciously.

I know that our collective friendship depends upon it-- the relationship will start feeling lop-sided if I don't speak up and own part of the space.

I know that it's my job to reveal, not their job to guess.

I know that vulnerability isn't as dependent as much on the question being asked, as it is on the answer that is shared.

If you have relationships where you feel like you're always the one doing most of the listening and question-asking, I challenge you today to consider how you've contributed to that imbalance and what you can do to show up in a way that builds the relationship and better supports you.

That's not to say that they don't have more to learn or that they couldn't do it differently; but we can't control them, we can only change how we show up.

 

 

Feminism is a Friendship Issue

Last night three of us sat in the beautiful living room of my friend's brand new condo. It was gorgeous. We toasted her buying her own home (in the Bay Area that is a HUGE feat!), and indirectly toasted the business she started several years ago that has given her such financial opportunities.  She is nothing short of amazing as she builds her empire, hires employees, travels the world, and fills her life up with the experiences that matter most to her. Not being married....

And yet she shared how exhausting it is to feel like others assume she's done something wrong to still be single. Their statements, their questions, their looks of pity, their advice... it can all feel isolating and condemning.

She'll be the first to say that she so looks forward to being in a relationship that feels healthy, fun, and meaningful so it's not that she prefers being single. But she prefers being single to being in a relationship that is empty of the things she values; she's unwilling to get married to just be married.

She doesn't need our advice to try online dating; she doesn't need us trying to encourage her by reminding her the perks of being single; she doesn't need us to tell her that she just needs to get more comfortable being by herself.

What she needs are women who will just let her tell her own story and experience, women who are able to hold both the truth that there are parts that can "suck" about be single and the hope with her that it will still happen; all without implying that there is something wrong with her or that she's not doing life right.

I'm not single, and yet I know the feeling.

Not having kids....

At my most recent speaking engagement I must have fielded the question, "Do you have kids?" at least seventy times in that one day.  For the first 50 responses I kept whispering to myself, "They're just trying to connect with me.  They're just trying to find common ground on the area of life that matters most to them.  Don't read anything else into it."

But by mid-afternoon, I was exhausted.  I was weary of feeling like they wanted me to have kids as though I'd have more credibility to them if I did.  My insecurities were starting to flare up and the fear of "not being enough" was lodging itself in my chest. The voice of shame began to whisper: "You're not a real woman unless you're a mom.  They think you can't relate.  They will trust you more if your life looks just like theirs."

I felt judged and dismissed; but I didn't want to adopt that story because I don't think anyone was trying to judge me.  So I've spent the last week processing those fears with close girlfriends, journaling, talking with my husband, and coaxing my voice of wisdom to speak louder than my voice of fear.

The irony here is that the third friend I was with last night is married and a mom.  But she too knew the feeling we were describing.

Not having enough kids...

She has an only child and fields similar-feeling questions all the time about whether she's going to have another, when, and why it's the best thing to do for x, y, and z reasons.

Without knowing her circumstances, her heart, her body, or the details of her life-- she feels like other women presume there is a "correct" path that should be followed.  Like me feeling dismissed with statements like, "well of course you can do that because you don't have kids," she feels that way because "she only has one and that's easy!"

I've also heard women who have more than the presumed 2-3 kids talk about feeling judged, too.

And let's not sidestep that everything I've seen on feminism lately has more to do with how much a women "leans in" or "reclines" in her career once she has a family so we know that there is massive insecurities getting flared up in that arena as everyone struggles with trying to do it all right.

And, of course we all know, that you can be married, with the 2.5 kids, surrounded by the proverbial white picket fence, and still incur the feelings of not be enough, competing with other moms, and feeling as though no one understands just how unique or difficult our personal experience is-- whether we have twins, an adopted child, a special needs baby, a difficult teenager, or a an adult child that lives at home-- the list goes on and on of things that quickly push us to feel like something is wrong with our lives.

Feminism must start in our friendships and spread out...

Last week, a friend and I sat in the audience to listen to Debora Spar, author of Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection, who spoke about how she believes we've lost sight of the original goal of feminism being to liberate women.  The data she shared made a convincing case that not only have the numbers not really budged beyond the "token 1-2 women" in the upper echelons of most industries, but that more discouraging is the fact that we're not yet acting like liberated women on the inside, either.  Our body image hasn't improved in the last number of decades, we're exhausted and weary, we are more educated and yet feel more incompetent, we never feel like we're doing enough, we feel guilty for not making homemade Halloween costumes, and we're not reporting higher levels of happiness.

Last night, sipping tea, I looked at these two dear friends of mine and thought, "How is it that we are all strong, self-aware, healthy, vibrant, happy, spiritually-engaged, and pursuing our dreams, and yet still enslaved by this idea that we're not really a woman until/unless we do x?"

And while I believe there are some serious systemic issues that need to be addressed to help level the playing field, I also think women are doing a lot of this to ourselves and each other.  It's women who are editors of the magazines featuring photo-shopped women, it's women looking down on other women for making different life choices, it's women who are forgetting that every time they judge someone else that it heightens their own insecurity.

Insecurity about our lives leads to judgment of others. We all want validation that we're doing the best we can and that it's enough. And if someone makes a different choice than we do then we are tempted to believe that one of us made the wrong choice.  And we don't want it to be us, so it must be them.

And that is a faulty paradigm.  We aren't competitors, we're sisters. Truly connected; our fate is shared in so many ways as a rising tide lifts all boats.  While we're out there campaigning for equal pay and corner offices, we also have to do the work of making sure we're not like prisoners who no longer live behind bars but still don't know how to enjoy freedom.

The part of feminism I care about most is how we feel about ourselves.  And that is shaped by the relationship we have with ourselves (finding our own peace in our choices and being centered in our own worth), the relationship we have with what I call God (understanding why we're on this planet, our calling, our value, what makes us special), and the relationship we have with those around us (practicing the shining of our light and seeing how special everyone else is, too).

Last night, the three of us women, whose lives don't mirror each others at all, shared our hearts, spoke our truth, and validated each other in meaningful ways.  We promise to cheer for each other, even when one of us has something the other seemingly wants.  We promise to not take it personally when someone makes a choice different from ours. We promise to ask questions and listen to each others stories as if we're each a traveler who has visited countries that we won't be seeing; instead of trying subtly convince each other to follow the same path we did.  And we promise to do the personal work in our own lives to show up with as much vulnerability, honesty, courage, and love, as we possibly can.

We practiced feminism-- liberating each other to live the best life we each created.

And the more we do that with each other, the more we can do that with the women we have yet to meet.

Feminism is in trouble the more disconnected women get from ourselves and each other.

Top 10 Most Popular Friendship Articles of 2013

For all of you who joined us half-way through the year, missed a post here-or-there, or just want to re-read some of the goodies to see if they speak to you where you are now,  here are the most read, popular blog posts from the last year: 1.   Is "Get Rid of Negative People in My Life" Good Advice?

This post beat out the second place by 3 times!  Fortunately, it seems we are feeling a little conflicted with how much we keep hearing that we need to surround ourselves only with positive people.

2. How To Respond to a Friend in Crisis

The diagram in this post has served me over the year as such an incredibly helpful visual-aid for understanding how to help those in crisis without putting them in the place of having to comfort us, even though they're pain undoubtedly impacts us.

3.  Five Questions to Ask Before Ending a Friendship

If we're starting to entertain the idea of our friend being toxic or our friendships with someone feeling unhealthy, it's often because we haven't yet articulated our expectations and needs.  This post provides a thoughtful approach for making sure we've done our part to contribute to the possibility of a healthy relationship before ending it.

4.  Making New Friends in a New City

Christy Mims wrote this guest post about moving to a new city and having to start all over as she made new friends.  Most of us know that experience!  She shares candidly her feelings and the actions she took to develop the friendships that matter to her.

5.  What Do I Do With My Toxic Friend?

The concept I share in this post could save many a friendship from ending!  It's super important to clarify the 3 different entities in every relationship: her, me, and us; and step back to see if we can shift the friendship by focusing on the 2 entities we actually have some control over.

6.  Friendship Break-Ups 4: Letting Go or Holding On

Most of our friendships will end with us "drifting" apart from each other as life circumstances change.  This post helps ensure that we're not a victim to that process, but rather being women who choose to courageously and intentionally make choices about which friendships to be at peace with letting go, and which ones to invest the energy needed to survive the transition.

7.  This Friendship Is Going Negative: What Do I Do?

In this post I offer up two different frameworks for helping assess our friendships:  the 5 Circles of Connectedness and the definition of friendship.  Both tools can help us articulate what is wrong in the friendship, and based on what type of friends she is, can help us decide what approach might best serve our friendship.

8.  Reflections on My Katie Couric Interview

A highlight in 2013 was definitely being invited to appear on Katie Couric's afternoon talk show.  While filming it, I just kept thinking about all these comments I wanted to make as I listened to Katie and the other guests talk about their friendships.  But since they didn't ask me to comment on everyone else... I share those thoughts on my blog instead.  :)

9. Christmas Card Conundrums: Send They? Why?  How Many? To Whom?

We're past the season now for sending out our annual holiday cards, but bookmark this one for next December!  We're all trying to find that sweet spot between letting friends know we're thinking of them while not adding to our own exhaustion, guilt, or stress.

10.  Many Introverts are "Coming Out"

Reflecting back over an interview I did with Sophia Dembling, author of "The Introvert's Way," I am encouraged with all the press, validation, and visibility that introverts are getting.  We must keep seeking to understand how we (and our friends) are wired energetically.

** And I always pick out a bonus post to add to the list-- a post that may not have made the top ten, but that I personally think is important.  This one actually may have been one of the most "liked" post on Facebook and I think contains helpful sample scripts for learning How to Ask for What You Need in Your Relationships.

 

Want more popular articles?

Top Ten Most Popular Friendship Articles of 2012

Top Ten Most Popular Friendship Articles of 2011

A Round-Up of Books to Help Your Friendships

A couple of years ago when my agent was pitching my book to publishers, a common response was, "Oh we love Shasta's writing, her platform, and her message, but unfortunately women just don't buy books on friendship." The message we heard repeatedly: women will buy armloads of cookbooks, weight loss books, romance, and parenting... but when it comes to our friendships we think we know what there is to know.  (Either that or we don't care what we don't know?!)  And yet, for all that we want our friendships to just happen automatically, stay easy, and never leave us unsure of how to respond-- chances are high that at any given time, most of us will wish we had a few more meaningful friendships in our lives and wee bit less drama, angst, or uncertainty in the ones we do have.

Furthermore, few things are showing up in our lives as having as much impact on our happiness and health as our friendships are proving to have.  To be clear, all healthy relationships boost our health, but experts acknowledge that our relationships with our kids and spouses are often associated with much of our stress, responsibility, and fear; whereas our friendships can hold the positivity, support, and joy with a little less of the stress and responsibility. So it's that feeling of being connected and engaging in love that boosts our immune system, heals our bodies after surgery, and promotes trust and wellbeing in our lives.  This is no small area of life to leave to chance.

So because most of us want more meaningful relationships AND because few of us have been well-educated on the subject--I decided to offer a little school on friendship this month.  (Did you know it's International Women's Friendship Month! Yes it is!)  And this little Friendship University is opening with an impressive faculty of 13 leading experts (and I plan to keep adding more!) on friendship so that you can have all these psychologists, authors, and experts right at your finger tips!  I'm calling it: The Friendships You've Always Wanted Learning a Better Way to Meet-up, Build-up, and Break-up with Your Friends.  (details at the end to join us! Classes start Monday!)

Here are some of the authors whose books have contributed much to the growing awareness around just how important it is that we courageously keep making new friends, even as adults.

Rachel Bertsche, author of MWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend

  Ori Brafman, co-author of Click: The Forces Behind How We Fully Engage with People, Work, and Everything We Do

Dr. Andrea Bonior, author of The Friendship Fix: The Complete Guide to Choosing, Losing, and Keeping Up with Your Friends

 

Carlin Flora, author of Friendfluence: The Surprising Ways Friends Make Us Who We Are

Dr. Paul Dobransky, author of The Power of Female Friendship: How Your Circle of Friends Shapes Your Life

Porter Gale, author of Your Network Is Your Net Worth: Unlock the Hidden Power of Connections for Wealth, Success, and Happiness in the Digital Age

 

Dr. Geoffrey L. Grief, author of Buddy System: Understanding Male Friendships

Sophia Dembling, author of The Introvert's Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World

Dr. Jan Yager, author of When Friendship Hurts: How to Deal with Friends Who Betray, Abandon, or Wound You

 

Dr. Jan Yager, author of Friendshifts: The Power of Friendship and How It Shapes Our Lives

Diane Gage Lofgren & Margaret Bhola of Women I Want to Grow Old With: Grow Old Together with Courage, Health, and Attitude! (Volume 1)

Christine Arylo, author of Madly in Love with ME: The Daring Adventure of Becoming Your Own Best Friend

 

And the best news?  If you don't have 100+ hours to read all of them, over $200 to buy all of them, or an entire empty shelf to hold all of them, then sign up today to access an hour-long interview with each author condensing their best information in our program starting this Monday!  Or, commit to picking one book that you read through this month and put into practice in your life.

But whether it's buy a book or join "The Friendships You've Always Wanted" program where we will deliver interviews to your inbox 4 days a week-- do something this Friendship Month to invest in growing your friendship wisdom.  Because as much as we want it to, friendships don't just happen!  :)

To our growing friendships,

Shasta Nelson, author of Friendships Don't Just Happen!: The Guide to Creating a Meaningful Circle of GirlFriends

p.s.  Here's another blog I wrote where I featured fabulous friendship books-- some books make both lists!

Friendships, Stress, and Hormones

This is a blog post I have been so looking forward to writing for the last two months!  Women lean in every time I share pieces of this content around a dinner table, in a workshop on friendship, or at a mastermind group.  It's not only crucial information for our lives, but it speaks so directly to the power of friendship that, even though I heard it first in a business context, I knew I had to share it with my blog community. Simon Sinek's Explanation of 4 Hormones You Need to Understand

I was happy to buy Simon Sinek's first book, but it's his second one that covers the content in this blog that I'm eagerly anticipating!!  :)

In early May, I attended Rock the World 2013-- a women's business conference in NYC--where Simon Sinek was one of the keynote speakers.  Simon is the author of Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action (2009) and a motivational speaker whose TED talk is in the top 10 most-viewed ever!  But what he shared with us in May was some of the content of his next book coming out later this year.

Sinek relied on human biology to illustrate what motivates behavior, saying basically that our actions boil down to the good feelings we get from four key chemicals in our body: dopamine, endorphins, oxytocin, and serotonin.  When we trigger any of these chemicals in our bodies, we get a shot of something euphoric whether it's extra energy, joy, calm, or pride.   Here's how we receive those good feelings:

  1. Dopamine is the result of accomplishing goals, it's designed to help us find what we're looking for. Every time we see a finish line, cross something off our to-do list, or see movement toward our goals-- we get that shot of dopamine!
  2. Endorphins mask our physical pain and help us keep pushing ourselves to where we need to be. For most of us who live more sedentary and safe lives, our most common form of endorphins come from exercise. If you've ever had a "runner's high"-- you know this feeling.
  3. Oxytocin is one I talk about a lot in connection with our friendships as it reinforces bonds, builds trust, and relieves stress.  We get this from touch, meaningful conversation, breast-feeding, and when we see/experience acts of human generosity.
  4. Serotonin happens in moments of pride, recognition, and status. When we receive our diploma on stage, say "I do" in front of friends and family, or are the recipients of a meaningful award-- we get that shot of serotonin that boosts our joy.

Now, what I thought was super fascinating is that the first two chemicals you can get all by yourself.  You need no one else present to get your dopamine from crossing something off your to-do list or to exercise and feel the endorphins.  Sinek called these "selfish" hormones.

The latter two--oxytocin and serotonin-- are "unselfish" chemicals since we need someone else present in order to receive the rewards that our body wants to give us.  He gave the example of someone who could just receive an email telling them that enough credits had been accomplished and the bill paid so therefore they earned their diploma-- and that person would have most certainly received a shot of dopamine for reaching their goal.  But it's when that person dons their cap and gown and walks in front of everyone that the serotonin is released.  We need an "audience"-- someone to cheer for us or witness our success-- to give us that sense of pride and recognition.  And the best part of these unselfish chemicals?  BOTH people get the shot.  Not just the graduate on stage, but also the teachers who taught that student, the family that supported them, and their friends who did it with them.  Oxytocin and serotonin need others present to initiate them, but they also benefit all parties.

Warning: We're Not Getting Enough...

He connected these four chemicals to how leaders and businesses can better understand how we're wired to help create more healthy workplaces; I heard the whole thing through the lens of friendship. While all four chemicals have their "addictive" qualities to them, Sinek warned that they are only dangerous when they are out of balance. And I agree with him that we live in a culture that is focusing way more on the selfish chemicals than the unselfish chemicals.  We think it's easier to become workaholics to get more dopamine than it is to go hang out with friends to feel the oxytocin.  (And how much more so when we don't yet have the close friends we find meaningful!)

Furthermore, two other chemicals-- testosterone and cortisol-- are INHIBITORS of oxytocin.  In other words, when we feel stress or anxiety which results in cortisol shooting through our bodies, it prevents us from receiving the benefits of oxytocin which includes feelings of trust, safety, and empathy. We cannot build relationships of trust when we are in survival mode!  That has far-reaching implications, to say the least. So the more stress you have in your life, the harder it is for you to experience the rewards of trust, generosity, love, and bonding with others.  One short-circuits the other.

So here's my plea to the 22,000 women who subscribe to my blog-- please, please, please make sure you're intentionally adding oxytocin moments to your life!  Make sure you're not on an unbalanced chemical loop where you just go after accomplishment and exercise to boost you.  It's the selfless chemicals of oxytocin and serotonin that decrease your anxiety, turn your immune system on, facilitate feelings of trust, and basically make this world a better place where we can show generosity and love to one another!

I find it awesome that our bodies reward us to take care of each other!!!  And who better to be shining givers and recipients of this than all of us who are committed to growing healthy and meaningful relationships in this world!

Virtual hugs!

 

 

What is our Response-ability in Relationship?

While I'm in Cuba with a GirlFriendCircles.com travel circle, I'm posting this thoughtful guest blog from Susan Strasburger, an integrative counselor who works with individuals (and couples) who struggle with self-criticism, are in the midst of transition, or feel stuck in a decision process.  I requested permission to re-port this article of hers since it speaks so beautifully to what we've been talking about the last few weeks on this blog about dealing with negative friendships.

Thanks Susan for sharing your wisdom with us as we seek to grow more loving, healthy, and responsive!

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

Two women were discussing recent experiences with their ex-partners: One had wanted her partner to be able to see that she had “turned a corner” in relationship to him, and felt frustrated that he engaged with her as if she hadn’t changed. The other woman was confused by her partner’s actions, and “wished he’d been more overt about telling me his perspective had changed.” Their combined question became:

Questioner: What is our responsibility in a relationship to get a friend or partner up to date on specifically how our perspective has changed?

Susan: The answers to this are actually embedded in the question. If there are “specific” changes about ourselves that we want our friends to know, it’s our responsibility to tell them (unless you have friends who can read your mind). And/but… if we are noticing something different about our friend, and they haven’t spoken to us directly, it’s also our responsibility to tell them our experience and ask to understand what’s going on for them.

At this point, you may be saying, “Wait, wait! You mean, either way, it’s my responsibility?!” Yup! Hopefully you won’t see this as a burden, though, if you’re willing to re-frame what “responsibility” means. The ability to be responsive, rather than reactive, is a cornerstone to our well-being, in any relationship. We want to make conscious choices about how we speak and act, rather than defaulting to defensive or accusatory behaviors. Having this intention means taking responsibility for the quality of our relationships. Of course, we get to feel disappointed if the other person isn’t taking as much responsibility as you would ideally like them to take. All we can do is keep modeling what it is we want, make requests of the other person, and see what unfolds.

Questioner: I really love the wisdom in your response. I find the connection between “responsibility” and “response” evocative, and sense that hearing a little more about this would be very helpful to me!

Susan: Ok, stick with me for a minute, while I dip into semantics: Dictionaries attribute many meanings to the term “responsibility.” I’m choosing: “the act of being answerable or accountable, as for something within one’s power, control or management” rather than other definitions that include words such as “blame” or “moral obligation.”

With this definition, we no longer default to: “You’re responsible for my heartache!” We may feel that phrase, and even want to say it! Yet that would be what I call “reactive” behavior.

Being “responsive” requires us to stretch beyond blame, shame-turned-inward, or just leaving without communication. We know that the other person stimulated something in us that we call “heartache” – perhaps we didn’t feel seen, respected, or loved in the ways we were hoping for. If we’re being “responsive,” we’ll find within us what is most self-caring to do next. That is, we claim responsibility for what we do with our feelings of heartache. It might still be to leave, yet first tell the other person “I’m feeling too overwhelmed to speak right now, I need a little space, and I’ll come back when I’m ready to talk.” Or it might be to engage with the person, knowing we’re “accountable” for what’s “within [my] power” which includes the words and actions I choose. This route of course takes skill, compassion and a lot of practice!

Are we then responsible for the outcome of that conversation? Ahh, semantics again: we’re responsible to each other, but not “for” each other. Perhaps another blog post?!  :)

This Friendship Is Going Negative: What Do I Do?

So my last blog post obviously hit a nerve. It is now the #1 post of the last 3 months, beating out popular posts--such as Reflections on my Katie Couric Interview and What Do I Do with My Toxic Friend?-- two posts that have been up for months.  We are apparently very interested in this subject of how to respond to the negative people in our lives!

Two Different Frameworks for Evaluating the 'Negative' People in Our Lives

So, as promised, I am going to share with you two frameworks of how to deal with the friendships that feel negative in our lives. This is a long blog, but I really wanted to cover at least two different paradigms and examples... hope it's helpful!

While we feel so much more mature than we were as children, the truth is that we still get on each others nerves.  Now we use language like toxic, negative, and un-healthy to label each other. *photo from irisclasson.com*

Just so we're clear-- I'm not writing about criminals, drug abusers, mental issues, or those who are willfully hurting us; but rather the vast majority of women that we've called friends at one time or another but now tend to use words such as toxic, negative, or selfish to describe them.  While we can all point out that there will always be a very clear "black and white" to the two extremes of who we can each have in our lives at different times, my desire here is to challenge us to look at what Kathy, in her comments on the previous post called, the "gray area."  The gray area being people who may not be un-safe to us, but certainly may be annoying, depressed, insecure, self-obsessed, distracted, or negligent.

1.  FRAMEWORK 1: Know the Different Types of Relationships So You Create Appropriate Expectations

I don't have room here to cover the entire 5 Circles of Connectedness which highlight the 5 different types of friendships, but basically our most casual of friendships are on the far Left-Side (Contact Friends) and the most intimate and consistent of our friendships are on the far Right-Side (Commitment Friends). I cover this in the most depth in my book but a quick overview can be found on this blog.

5 types of friends image

What's helpful about understanding the various types of friends is that when we do an honest assessment of whether our friend is truly a Committed Friend (someone we've built up meaningful history with over a long period of time, they are active in many areas of our lives, we are as transparent as possible with them) or perhaps is a Common Friend (maybe someone we've only known for a couple of months, someone we are only close to in one area of our life, etc.) it helps us answer the question: Do I have unrealistic expectations on this friendship?

I've observed many women not having a strong Right-Side of close friendships who then place those needs onto friendships on the Left-Side.  In other words, just because she's one of your closest friends doesn't mean you've developed the friendship that warrants the expectations and demands.  A good question to ask: "Am I blaming her for x because I want her to be a Committed Friend but in reality we are still Common Friends?"

Furthermore, it helps me see my commitment to the relationship.  If she's in a dark and needy space and she's my Committed Friend then I am truly committed to going through that phase with her even if she doesn't act healthy, positive, and supportive for a long season.  I can do this because we have a history together that reminds me that this isn't who she is permanently and I know that this is the call to relationships-- to be there for each other, even when it comes with some drama and emotion.  But if she's a Contact or Common Friend acting this way then a)  it may seem more like a red flag because we don't have enough history for me to accurately assess how she's acting now from how I know she's capable of acting, and b) we, quite frankly, don't have the same obligation/commitment to each other to be there for each other in the same ways.

Being clear what type of friendship the two of you have developed helps you better see how invested you are in this relationship and what expectations are fair. What you are willing to give, or put up with, in a Committed Friend might be different from what you are willing to do for a Common Friend.

For me, if whining and complaining is the grievance, for a Committed Friend it would be completely appropriate (though maybe not enjoyable or energizing-- so I need to make sure I'm getting enough of that in other close relationships during this season) for them to call me any time of night or day and sound like a crazy person sobbing and saying irrational things.  But while that would not be acceptable behavior for any friend of mine on the Left-Side, I would be willing to give them the space to monopolize the conversation during a scheduled lunch get-together and I'd give them a pass on complaining... for a time.

Does that differentiation make sense? It means we don't have to cut everyone out of our lives when they are needy and depressed and hurting, but neither does it mean that we're expected to put up with everything from everyone.

2.  FRAMEWORK 2: Know the Definition of Friendship so You Can Repair and Assess

This evaluation method also helps us decide which relationships to move along the Continuum so that you are choosing to nurture the friendships that are healthiest, minimizing the chances of having high-drama and unhealthy behaviors in your Right-Side friendships.

The definition of friendship, put out by Dr. Paul Dobransky, that I highlight in my book on pages 128 & 129 is  that friendship is "consistent, mutual, shared positive experience."  He says that when a friendship is failing it is because one of these four required qualities is missing.  I have almost an entire chapter devoted to each of those concepts but basically a friendship needs to have repeated time together, be seen by both as a friendship, include increased vulnerability, and ultimately add more joy than stress to your life.

For our purposes here, how this definition helps me is to realize at least two things:

1) These are not simply qualities that she possesses or not, but they are behaviors that we together have either developed or not. Here, we are evaluating the friendship-- the pattern and dynamic between the two of us-- not the person.  We're recognizing that something doesn't feel good between us-- but that's not the same as saying that every relationship this person has in their life is identical to our experience.  While we may find that they do something annoying, it's also possible that had we been more honest up front or set different expectations, that this dynamic wouldn't have been created. We hold for that possibility by assessing the interaction, not the individual. Which means it's possible we could do something different and shift the experience of the relationship.

2) It also informs me that if there are relationships that don't meet those requirements then it doesn't necessarily mean that I can't have those people in my life, rather it just means I don't want them to be on my Right-Side.

How These Frameworks Inform My Response

Knowing these two frameworks (both in greater detail in my book) helps us:

  1. Assess the current relationship experience-- what type of friend is this and which of the 4 qualities are most lacking?
  2. Figure out what needs be repaired so we can show up differently to see if that helps.
  3. Identify the investment/depth of the relationship so we can decide if it's worth an honest conversation (confrontation though awkward can be the best gift we learn to give to friends on our Right-Side where we should be willing to try "everything" before letting the friendship just dissolve.
  4. Decide if we can just move these relationships to the Left-Side (see them less often, confide in them less, have fewer expectations) rather than cut them out of our lives.

That's all I have time for today (You'd think I was writing an entirely new book with as much as I have to say! Ha!) but I'll keep writing on this-- next time I'll share 5 questions you should ask before ending a friendship.

Have a great weekend!

Are these helpful? What jumped out at you? How have you seen these concepts play out in your life? How could these have helped your past relationships? I love hearing your feedback so it's more of a conversation.  Jump in!  :)

 

 

Help Me Blaze the Important Trails of Friendship!

Yesterday I received an email of congrats from an entrepreneurial friend of mine after she saw my name on a press release announcing that I was a finalist for a Trailblazer of the Year Award.  I quickly clicked on the link she had sent and was momentarily stunned... Trailblazing? Really?  I wrote her back and said, "Thank you!" And, "hmm... I wonder how I ended up in that category?"

Trailblazer? Really?

The title of "Trailblazing" is definitely a word I hadn't yet used to describe myself.

Her return email then landed in my inbox:

"Don’t underestimate yourself Shasta!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!    YOU are doing such IMPORTANT work ----- don't you realize you are-   Reinstating the Role of Friendship in Life? Giving friendship a Facelift? Uplifting the Spirit with New Friends? It’s because of these reasons that you are a Trailblazer!!!! Accept it  and write about how you think you are trailblazing for your next blog – this is important!!"

And then I just smiled.  Smiled with the appreciation of having friends in my life who believe in me and help me see myself in new ways. So this blog is my way of accepting the challenge of a friend.  This is for me to own what I want to do in this world, but it's also me inviting you to blaze the trail with me!  :)

Let's blaze this trail of friendship together! We need a world of women feeling connected, supported, known, and loved!

The funny thing is that I know I am definitely on a mission. I wouldn't deny that!  But sometimes we just don't use words like "Trailblazing!" to describe ourselves!  But when I started GirlFriendCircles.com nearly 4 years ago I'd get blank stares from people when I'd describe my business.  And magazines would respond with "Oh we did a story on friendship 8 months ago," as though that meant they didn't need to cover it again this year!  And women would say stupid things like, "Who would be so desperate as to pay for friends?" as though paying for coffee, water, and manicures were of more value to them.  Even now when I try to pitch friendship as the very real health story that it is, editors and producers would rather give you a story about a new technique for stomach crunches even though friendship is far more important to your health!

So when I remember what it was like back then and compare it to now.... while I wouldn't have used the word "trailblazing," that was very much what I have done for the last number of years.

And just to further laugh at myself... I do have a theory that friendship can save the world. (See my 3 min video here.) What kind of a silly girl goes making lofty claims about "saving the world" without thinking she wouldn't be blazing a trail along the way!? Ha! Shows just how much we can do without seeing it through the eyes of others!

What Our Trailblazing May Feel Like...

This experience reminds me of the recent Dove commercial that highlights how we  see our appearance differently than others.  I think the same can be true of our accomplishments, roles, identities, and goals.  Certainly it makes sense that we might focus more on our wrinkles, wide foreheads, and big noses than anyone ever looking at us sees.  But similarly, we see much more of the un-glamorous and non-wowing parts of our  lives than others see. (Which is a good thing because while I'm absolutely okay with you knowing how many days I go un-showered, it's still better that you don't have to see it!)

The truth is that when I think of my life, I just see a girl behind her computer, in yoga pants, with stringy hair, typing emails furiously, scheduling phone calls, and just checking things off my to-do list.  It's not really the same image that comes to mind when I think "TRAILBLAZER!" LOL!

But just because the vast majority of my life moments feel mundane doesn't mean I'm not creating partnerships, pitching stories, creating content, and slowly making the trail one foot longer.

To that end, I started www.GirlFriendCircles.com to help introduce women to each other, wrote a book to help inspire and teach women how to foster friendships into more meaningful relationships, and filled up calendars with speaking appointments, workshops, interviews, and events where I can engage with women on such important friendship-related subjects such as forgiveness, personal growth, physical health, self-esteem, and joy.

This idea is necessary because we are moving every 5 years, changing jobs every 4.4 years, living far from our family, going through our life stages at vastly different ages, and divorcing more frequently than previous generations-- every single one of those changes can uproot our support systems leaving people feeling incredibly vulnerable.  We need new ways of connecting with other human beings with more ease and less fear, while also having the permission and know-how to transform those friendships into deep, fulfilling, and meaningful relationships.

So as I'm expanding into a new word, here's hoping you'll blaze trails with me!  I don't expect any of you to run a media campaign in your community for new friendships, but you can RSVP for a ConnectingCircle or sign-up to be a local Ambassador!  You may not see that as anything hugely glamorous.  In fact, it may even feel awkward, discouraging, and scary!  But that doesn't mean it's not HUGELY important!

Why We Have to Blaze Friendship Trails

We have to remember why we are doing what we do.

Yes, most of being a mom feels more like being a chauffeur, ATM, and chef; but to actually stop and feel the awesomeness of the role-- a life-giver, educator-of-the-next-generation, and the person who will teach real love to another human.  Wow.

Similarly, starting a friendship doesn't always feel that amazing.  We often carry fear wondering if the other person will like us, frustration with how hard it is to get something scheduled, and then un-fulfilled when an evening talking to strangers doesn't feel like talking to our best friends, yet.  It doesn't always feel amazing.

But when you realize it's our relationships that serve as gymnasiums for our souls, giving us the place to practice the skills this world desperately needs: forgiveness when hurt, compassion when tired, cheering when jealous, and supporting even when not understanding-- then we sit with just a bit of the sacredness of this relationship.  For, if we can't practice these skills with people around us who we, at one point, chose to care about, then we have little chance of being able to show up with these skills when we're talking about people who live on the other side of the world, who worship a different version of God, or who vote for a different president.

I'd say there are few things more important than having safe relationships where we can practice being the powerful, big, loving people who this world needs us to be.

Furthermore, we live in a world where increased loneliness is literally poisoning our bodies. Stress is the number one cause of most disease and death and a sense of disconnection is heightening our sense of being "separate."  The less we feel supported by a tribe of people, the more at risk we are of sickness, acting out of insecurity, and behaving in less compassionate ways.

A plethora of research shows that when we have friends we feel like the obstacles in our lives are smaller, that we heal from surgery faster, that we recover from breast cancer at higher rates, that our immune systems are stronger, and that we have more energy to do our life missions. Wow.

I sincerely believe that the more connected everyone is to a group of friends-- the better off this entire world will be.

So to all the trails we have already blazed, and to the many, many more that we will keep making... Thanks to Rock the World for the honor of the nomination, thanks to my friend Shamini for pushing me to sit with the label, and thanks to all of you women who are on the trail with me! xoxo

Today is National Reconciliation Day!

Oh I wish this holiday had been on my radar last week so I could have given you plenty of notice to start thinking about what action you wanted to take today toward reconciliation! Watch the 30 minute HuffPo Live panel regarding Reconciliation by clicking on the link to the left.  (Featuring: Alvin, going through a divorce, Amy Alkon, the Advice Goddess, and me-- all sharing our experiences and wisdom.

But, alas, it was only when HuffPost Live contacted me and asked if I'd be on a live panel this afternoon on the topic of reconciliation that I was made aware that there was such a day.  Apparently Ann Landers decided back in 1989 that every April 2 should be celebrated with everyone picking up the phone to call with whom we may have had a falling out with, hence it's become the Day of Reconciliation.

I was honored to share on the panel, but here is a more comprehensive post about what reconciliation can look like.

The Two Types of Break-Ups

First, there are two types of fall-outs that I speak to: Rifts and Drifts.

Rifts are when something happens to undermine the relationship; whereas, Drifts are when nothing specific happens to the relationship yet we find ourselves slowly drifting apart.

You undoubtedly have experience with both.  Reconciliation is possible and necessary with both, but they may look quite different.

Reconciling Rifts & Drifts

Let's start with defining reconciliation.  Reconciliation can mean reestablishing the close relationship, but it also means simply the ability to find resolution, or acceptance. In other words, when we speak of reconciliation, it doesn't automatically mean that the goal should be intimacy, trust, and connection with the person we felt hurt by.  Certainly, to come to peace, to forgive the other person, might mean that we'd be open to that re-engagement someday if growth had occurred on both sides.  But more often than not, forgiveness might just mean finding our own peace, reconciling what is real with our expectations of what we want.  The discrepancy between those two causes unmeasured angst.

In my book, knowing whether we're dealing with a Drift or Rift helps me know what path of reconciliation to seek.

Drifts....

If there is Drift in a relationship, the invitation is for us to not only recognize it is happening, but also to check with ourselves about whether we want it to happen.

In one of my recent Drifts, I knew that it was only busy-ness and distraction that was putting distance between us.  In my gut, I knew I wanted this friendship to last.  I didn't need to know whether I needed it as often or as deeply in my life as we had co-created before, but I was clear when I checked-in with myself that I didn't want to lose the friendship. So in this relationship, I wrote her a note and said,

"I miss you! I know we've both been so busy, and I'm so sorry that on my end I've not been as present or available. I know relationships ebb-and-flow, but I definitely don't want to let us get too far from each other since you mean so much to me!  Any chance you're up for scheduling a catch-up call next week?  I'm flexible Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday evening, do you have an hour anytime in there you'd be willing to give me?"

Reconciliation in this case was reaching out with a sorry I've neglected the relationship (it doesn't matter if she has, too, our apology is still true) and a stated desire to re-engage. She was honored and grateful.  Neither of us had meant anything malicious and neither had wanted to put any pressure on the other. But we all like to know that the other misses us and naming it helps us both take it less personally. (Because if you ignore it here, this is where we're more likely to get our feeling hurts with unmet expectations that can then turn into a Rift, all because we didn't address the Drift.)

To contrast it, another Drift in the last couple of years was a relationship where I checked-in with myself and realized that reconciliation actually meant being okay with letting the relationship take a backseat.  I was at peace with it happening because I sensed that both of us were going different directions, our energies pulling us into other relationships and experiences.  To try to re-engage here would have been simply out of guilt, the voice of "you should..."

In some cases of Drifting, it's possible that the two of you simply call less and less and it slowly dissipates.  That's okay, but if possible, I'd still prefer  a little communication if possible, out of respect for what we've shared.  Obviously every situation is different, and is largely determined by whether we sense both people are at peace or if we feel she is still pursuing while we're retreating.  But in my case, in response to her reaching out to me via email to set up a time for dinner, I wrote,

"Thank you so much for thinking of me!  You are someone whose relationship has meant so much to me over the years.  Let's definitely get a dinner on the calendar, and hopefully we can make that happen every couple of months even though I know we're both so busy! I hope that no matter how much time and distance ever separates us, that we can always call each other a friend.  I so admire you."

Reconciliation in this case was two-fold: me being at peace with letting the relationship be something other than "all-or-nothing," and making sure I communicated to her how much I admired her.  My goal is to leave relationships with people feeling better about themselves for having known me.

Rifts...

Rifts, can be a bit trickier, in that our hearts have likely been more bruised and our expectations more unmet.  Her disappointing actions have left us frustrated and questioning the friendship, which is almost impossible to do with out us feeling both defensive and judgmental.  Those two feelings make it hard for us to even want to reconcile.

The second-to-last chapter of my book highlights healthy options for responding to the five friendship threats, but for these purposes today, let me just get on my soapbox for a moment and say this:

GirlFriends--as a rule of thumb, treat your friendships that experience frustration and disappointment with the same courtesy you give to your romantic relationships: consider a mature conversation.

I've yet to hear of the dating break-up where someone disappointed you and you just cut off contact without ever having a single conversation about it! No! We may dislike confrontation, but we step up to it for romance.  We say, "We need to talk..." and then we tell them what we need, how they hurt us, what's okay, what isn't, what we hope for, etc.  Sometimes it turns into this awesome conversation where we both feel heard and we can move into a more meaningful and trusting relationship.  But even the times it leads to a fight, we always expect a follow-up conversation, knowing we need to either make-up or at least facilitate as healthy closure as possible. Sometimes we break-up, make-up, and break-up again.  We give them multiple chances, because we "love him" (or her), or because we know "he's trying...", or because we've "invested so much already."  All valid excuses we should be giving to our girlfriends!

So off my soapbox, while I know full re-engagement of the relationship, recovering from whatever caused the Drift, isn't always possible, I am an advocate of at least trying before a friendship break-up.  Too many of us walk away, unwilling to try again, claiming the other person isn't healthy, doesn't know how to be a friend, or  can never be trusted again.  All of which may not necessarily be true.  As any of us who have been a long-term relationship can attest, we will hurt each other, and that doesn't mean we can't also still love each other well.

Your Invitation:

Since you're getting this blog post so late in the evening on this Reconciliation holiday you may think you're off the hook from having to reconcile with someone?  No way!  In fact, they say the best way to let yourself off the hook is to forgive, to come to peace, to accept, or to resolve.  Who can you reach out to tonight or tomorrow as your way of stepping into a holiday that we should really be practicing 365 days a year?

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More relevant posts:

  1. Friendship Break-Ups 1: A Drift or a Rift  (Defining both, and going into more detail about causes for Drifts.)
  2. Friendship Break-Ups 2: Saving a Drift, Avoiding a Rift (3 steps to help prevent our Drifts from becoming Rifts)
  3. Friendship Break-Ups 3: Was She Really a Friend, Anyway? (Speaking to when we get our feelings hurt because a friend wasn't there for us...)
  4. Friendship Break-Ups 4: Letting Go or Holding On? (How to decide if the friendship is worth pursuing.)

 

 

 

 

An Interview with a GirlFriendCircles.com Ambassador!

With thousands of new members joining GirlFriendCircles.com in the last few weeks from across the U.S. and Canada it reminds me how many women know the value of new friends and are willing to do something about it. For some of you, just signing up and trying to muster up the courage to post your photo, complete your profile, or RSVP to an event will be all you can do to prove to yourself that friendships matter to you. And that's okay!  We all take the steps we can!

But for some of you, you may feel as though you have a bit more in you to move you forward in your friendship journey.  This is an interview with Kathy Lombardo, a GirlFriendCircles.com Ambassador, who I was lucky enough to meet at my Chicago Book Party last month!  She lives 30 miles outside of Chicago in Darien, IL and knows what it's like to feel discouraged at the lack of stuff going on in her area. But her willingness to respond with hope has made all the difference!  She's a 46 year-old Neonatal RN who decided to not only make her own friendships happen, but to also help make it happen for others! You don't have to become an Ambassador to be inspired by her story and see ways you can make friendships happen for you!

Meet Kathy Lombardo, a GirlFriendCircles.com Ambassador, whom I was lucky enough to meet in Chicago last month!

Here's my interview with her:

Shasta:  When you first joined GirlFriendCircles.com, you were undoubtedly hoping for tons of new friendships in your area, but since you live 30 miles outside of Chicago, we weren't that robust in your area, right?  So what did you feel and how did you respond?

Kathy: Yes, when I first joined GirlFriendCircles.com last Spring after hearing you interviewed, the web site told me that there were not enough people in my area to match me with. I was disappointed because I had been so excited to find an avenue for meeting other women who I thought may have a similar desire for the kind of friendship I was yearning for. I was also surprised because I did live close to one of the largest cities in the country. Thus…I got off the computer that day dejected.

Eventually, you decided to take matters into your own hands and become an Ambassador for GirlFriendCircles.com in your area!  What prompted that?  Was it a hard decision?

I do not remember what prompted me to take matters into my own hands but I know that I had chosen to continue to receive your blog and various e-mails. In fact,I ended up using one of your blogs about how you wanted people to feel in your presence as a template for the vows I used in a marriage-to-myself ceremony last Fall. Then I think I must have read something about becoming an Ambassador in one of your e-mails? Regardless of the prompt though, I remember that it was about 6 months after I had first logged on to GFC that I decided to get back on and “make this work” for me. I decided that instead of dejectedly giving up on my dream,  I was instead going to do whatever I could to make it a reality. If I was going to go down; I was at least going to go down fighting! This made my decision to become an Ambassador a no-brainer. In fact I was eager to do so, believing it would lead me down the path to what I was looking for, or I'd at least die trying……lol! After reading your book, I realized I was doing exactly what the heart of your message is, “creating a meaningful circle of girlfriends”. As you say, “friendships don’t just happen” and I clearly realized this and was going to go from wishing for it to intentional action to create it.

That's amazing Kathy. How glad so many of us are that you decided to come back and give it another shot! So, after you then signed up to help be this catalyst for friendship, what are some of the first things you did?

After I signed up I spent time navigating my way around the GFC website, which I hadn’t really done when I first went on. I created a profile with a picture and went in search of friends. I had not seen this feature previously because I don’t think I really understood how GFC worked. I then went about “friending” many women in the city and in the suburbs. I also found the Calendar and created an event. The first event I created was to a book launch party in the city last November, which I was helping out with. Four or five women signed up to go and only one was able to make it but I did meet her that night, and brought back the book for another. It was a small start but it was a start and I was very hopeful!

When did you first sense that things were changing?  What signs did you start to see that gave you hope?

I think I first sensed that things were changing when I decided to take action. There was an immediate shift in me, which translated into a shift in my circumstances. “Friending” women on my own, putting my work zip code as well as my home zip code, finding the Calendar, and creating events is when the hope really kicked into gear! I saw that there was more much for to this than actually just waiting to be matched.

Having been an Ambassador now for 6 months (is that right?), what would you say have been the pay-offs or benefits for you?

Yes, about 6 months, maybe less. The benefits have been tremendous! Just making the decision was a huge benefit. But then deciding to put my all into it is what has given me the biggest rewards. I took it very seriously and put up events as suggested and went to events and ConnectingCircles as much as possible, asked questions of Maci, became a book circle leader, signed up with Big Tent with other Ambassadors, posted questions and answered them in the forum, put up fliers, followed-up with people, and continued to do all of that over and over.

Wow.  I am so touched how seriously you took this.  Thank you so very much. You really dove in, far more than most people are willing to. But, that's everything you gave.  Can you tell me what you received from doing that?

OK...let me try this again.....personal benefits to me? A sense of hope. Feeling good about putting action and intention into something that is important to me. Seeing the truth that the things most precious to me in life take not just desire but intention, action, and commitment. I have learned that the more intention, action, and commitment I put into something the greater the reward will be. I have learned that I am able to co-create the things in life I have longed for. I have learned that giving up does not serve me. I have learned that the status quo, while safe, does not serve me. I have learned to let go of what does not serve me or bring me happiness and that the only way to have the life that I truly desire is to let go of my fear, be willing to risk rejection and disappointment, put myself out there, and be patient!

Beautiful.  Love it!  And now the flip-side.  To be fair and honest, what has been the hardest, or most disappointing part?

Hard? Nothing! Honestly, nothing has been hard. It has been sheer joy for me to be so involved. Being an Ambassador could practically be the job description for who I am as a person. It suits me, it lends itself to the gifts God put me here to share with the world, and it is completely me! It comes naturally to me and I am good at it…not to be a braggart, just to speak the raw truth of it. This is who I am. As you describe in your book, I am a 100% initiator and bringer together of people!

I think the most disappointing part has been something that you actually spoke about in your book. I appreciated reading in Chapter 6 you saying, “I cringe when I hear that….several women cancelled their attendance at a ConnectingCircle the day before-or worse, someone simply didn’t show up.”  I absolutely lean in the direction of naivety and thinking that everyone has the same jolly, happy, this-is-so-fun, let’s-do-this attitude as I do. But the truth is that even people who take the time to sign up for GFC have different levels of desire and commitment. And all I can really worry about is to continue my own level of desire and commitment, knowing it will lead me to who and where I am supposed to be. I also appreciated reading you say that, “The girl who showed up may feel embarrassed or frustrated, but she has proven to herself that she is willing to be present for something that she says is important in her life. I believe that energy will serve her.” These sentences touched my heart because that is a principle I think I have spent my life standing on even if not everyone else who has been in my life has.

What has been one of your best memories as an Ambassador so far?

Well…that is an easy one! It is at your book launch party when I asked you a question and one of the women I was with told you I was an Ambassador.  Then after telling you my name you said, “Oh yes, I know you. Maci told me I HAVE to meet you and that she thinks you are great and so wished she could have come here just to meet you!” I felt like a mini-celebrity! It was awesome to see that all the effort I had been putting in was really, really paying off….  I was with a large group of women I had met through GFC, was meeting you, was being sought after by other women there, and got to meet a woman who was there that night as the result of a flier I had put up in a Caribou coffee months previously and many, many miles away! It was an amazing night!

Look at all the friendships Kathy has helped make happen! It made me SO happy to see the love and joy among these women!

Well that was a highlight for me, too!  What a difference you've made Kathy.  It's amazing how one woman can just start reaching out, and how much others will respond to that!  What a difference you've made!  Okay, last questions, if you were to give advice to others who might be willing to be Ambassadors in their areas, what would you like to tell them?

Like Nike says, “Just do it”, or more specifically, DO IT! It has been worth every moment of effort I have put into it and has changed my life in so many ways! It is not really “hard” and the rewards far surpass any time and effort that it may take. I would also definitively say that patience is required, as is tenacity. It didn’t happen overnight and it didn’t happen with the first event I created. In fact, the first 3 events I created were attended by either only one other person or no one at all. But I was patient and tenacious and would not give up!! And look, I am now being interviewed by YOU!!!  :)

Oh how grateful so many of us are that you didn't give up.  Thank you for continuing to post events, for not taking it personally when people didn't RSVP, and for continuing to reach out and introduce women to each other. I'm so very thankful for you!

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If you're interested in possibly being an Ambassador for Friendship in your area, go here. But whether you sign-up or not, I hope you got lots of good ideas from Kathy's story and that it gives you the courage necessary to go post an event on the GirlFriendCircles.com calendar in your area and maybe send out a few "Let's Connect" requests to introduce yourself to other women nearby!  Make your friendships happen!

 

 

Making New Friends in a New City, by Christie Mims

Note from Shasta: I've been writing so many guest blogs to celebrate my new book "Friendships Don't Just Happen!" that I decided I may need to have a few women guest blog for me until I have more words to share!  :)  Soon, I'm goingto start blogging about any questions you have as you read the book, concepts you wish I would unpack more, or anything you wished I would have highlighted-- post those questions on our Facebook page and I'll answer them here! For now, this is Christie Mims-- a brand new mover-and-shaker here in the San Francisco area. (Her bio is at the end.) Christie Mims

 

Making New Friends in a New City, by Christie Mims

I like to think of myself as a fairly cool person who is easy to get to know. I shower regularly, I smile often, I like dogs (I distrust people who don’t like dogs), and I have a passionate love for 1981 (3?) killer movie: “Staying Alive.” There may have only been about five actual pages of dialogue, but boy do the large hair and hand gestures make up for it. John Travolta, you have my endless thanks.

I also love my friends.  Friendship, for a long time, has been one of my most important life values. My friends are like my family. They are my sanity, and the people who give me joy. I try to write, reach out, communicate, drink, and play with my friends as often as possible. And even when they are scattered all over the world,

I will travel to see them when I can. They matter to me.

So, when I decided on a bit of a whim to uproot my revolutionary Career Coaching business from DC to San Francisco, I thought I would be fine.  My business is global, so it would be easy, right?

Sure, a lot of my friends were in DC, “but - I’ve got friends all over the world!” I thought to myself jauntily as I packed up my car, fresh from a trip to Germany to see some of said friends.

“I’ll be fine!” I said as I drove across country with my mom “I’ve got two amazing friends already in SF, plus all the people I’m sure I’ll meet. It’ll be great!”

“I’m good at staying in touch over email!” I said as I unpacked my stuff, alone in my new apartment for the first time.

“I’ll hang out with my friends here all the time!” I thought, as I sat around wondering what to do with myself...knowing that one of my friends was a new mom, and the other was deep in the throes of an all-consuming start-up.

Making New Friends isn't as Easy as it Sounds

And then it hit me.

I was alone in a new city, far from home and in an inconvenient time zone.  When I was lonely at night in my new home, my east coast friends were fast asleep (to say nothing of the Europeans).  And my friends here, while AMAZING, are pretty busy and not that close to me in terms of location. The bay area is bigger than I realized (I’m really terrible with geography...I blame the US school system. Also, who needs algebra? Really?).

The truth is that it was awful.

Weekends were the worst - I had full days stretching in front of me with nothing but time, and no one to share that time with.  And, I was also working hard on my business, stretching out of my comfort zone, building up my visibility in San Francisco, and learning about the city and the culture.  It was exhausting, and at the end of the day, I just wanted to be with someone who knew me. Who would come over for a glass of wine and watch bad tv and talk about boys or shoes.

I was lonely.

I was sad.

And I felt so lost.

But I Made My Friendships Happen!

So I did what I know how to do.  I networked (I’m from DC, it’s what we do). At events with women.  Hoping that maybe I would meet someone cool, and at minimum I would make business connections.  I reached out.  I introduced myself awkwardly and invited people to lunch or coffee.

I stalked some people over email if I thought we would hit it off.

I signed myself up for Shasta’s Friendship Accelerator (Note from Shasta: see below for description of these workshops!), hoping that I would at least kill some time on a lonely Saturday, and thinking it would probably teach me something interesting. I told myself I needed to smile a lot and enjoy the city that I chose.

And I kept doing it.

It was not easy.  Most of the time, especially in the beginning, it wasn’t even particularly fun.

But I was open to it.  And cognizant of the fact that friendship has to start somewhere - and I needed to keep pushing myself out there so I would go from random coffees to full on friends.  Friendship, as Shasta sagely says, is based on consistency and intimacy.  You need to have both to have close friends.

So I threw myself into weekly dinners with my accelerator group.

I set up regular card nights with old and new friends (trying to integrate groups!).

I asked friends to introduce me to their friends in the area.

I joined new meetups and  organizations such as A Band of Wives (abusing google search in my attempts to find all possibilities).

And I kept going back.

I’ve been in the Bay Area now for roughly four months.  My social life, which felt a little like a broken puzzle when I first arrived, is now starting to snap into focus.

I’ve got friends, and plans, and some consistency with the friends and plans in my life. It matters. I remember when I had a week in the fall where I spent time with old and new friends almost every night, and at the end of it I felt like a new person.  It honestly impacted my health, and made making friends here an even bigger priority in my life.

I feel like I finally made it...and I’m so grateful to be building a life.

I know how difficult it is to just land, so, if you are new to the city - shoot me an email, I’m happy to have a glass of wine and say hello!  And if you are in another city, spend some time to get out there and connect with interesting new people.  Most importantly don’t give up - you’ll get there.  I did (and if I did, anyone can do it. I mean, I love Stayin’ Alive, so that is one strike against me :))!

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About Christie:  Christie holds a BA from the University of Virginia, a MA from the University of Kent, Brussels School of International Studies, and is a certified mediator and certified professional coach. Feeling stuck in your job and want free concrete ways to get UNstuck? Get Christie’s free kit here at The Revolutionary Club! And see what else she’s doing that is unprecedented over here!

About Friendship Accelerators: I (Shasta) facilitate Friendship Accelerators which are small groups of  women that I've matched for potential friendship who commit to attend seven hours of a friendship-workshop and group-bonding day, followed by 4 weekly get-togethers as a group. In one month, these groups experience more bonding than what most of us can do over a year with women we've met. They've been fabulously successful with the majority of women saying the value of the workshop alone was worth it, but how thrilled they are that nearly 80% of the groups are still meeting months after their commitment ended!  This is by far the most effective way I've yet seen to introduce women to each other and give them the best chance ever to foster local friendships that matter. I'm considering possible Accelerators in San Francisco, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and Seattle the coming months-- but will decide bases on where I have the most interest so sign up here to indicate your interest in being notified if I host a Friendship Accelerator near you!

 

Celebrating All Love, Not Just the Romantic Kind!

I am a big fan of romantic love.  A very big fan. And I'm all for having a day where we can celebrate those loving feelings. But... every Valentines I find myself worrying more about all the women who are so obsessed about being chosen by some dream man (or woman, as the case may be) that they forget that love comes from so many other places!  Today isn't just about whether we are "in love," but rather about whether we are living loving lives.  What a huge difference!

Anne Lamott (a popular author who writes spiritual memoirs such as her latest, Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers) wrote this on her Facebook page this last week:

"I would estimate that approximately 17% of people enjoy Valentine's day. Mostly, women will be given boxes of chocolates that they don't want and can't resist, and will be really mad at themselves for inhaling. Many people will be filled with resentment, anxiety, and guilt at having forgotten, or having shown up late, or having accidentally been having affairs with other people. Many people will feel a sheet-metal sense of loneliness and rejection. They will be comparing their insides with other people's outsides, especially those happy valentines actors in advertisements and commercials. Most of the day, except for the lucky few, will be a nightmare."

That's a pretty depressing view.  And I so hope the number is higher than 17% of people who step into today with joy, contentment, and gratitude.  But it illustrates my point that for many, today has the potential to be depressing or disappointing.

Lamott is calling for an Occupy Valentines Day where women focus today on radical self-care instead of looking for external validation.  That is certainly in alignment with my friend Christine Arylo, the Queen of Self-Love and author of Madly in Love with ME: The Daring Adventure of Becoming Your Own Best Friend who has declared every Feb. 13 as the International Day of Self-Love.  The message that I am so glad is entering our consciousness is the reminder that love has to start with us.

Let's Choose All Love Today!

I invite all of us to decide today that we are going to choose to remember that we are loved. That means recognizing that whether we are in a romantic relationship or not, that we are valuable, worthy, loveable, and amazing.  We are no less so, no matter what our relationship status.  That means that we're going to pry our little fingers open and let go of any set expectation of what someone has to do for us today to make us feel good.  We can choose to feel loved all by ourselves.  Yes, we can.

Choosing to celebrate our own worthiness can take on many different forms. Whether it's planning this evening to be filled with the things that bring us personal joy, scheduling some 30 minutes of self-care that we give ourselves, or setting aside time to journal and ground ourselves in what we know is lovingly true about us, we can decide if we want to choose love or fear today.

Choosing love is an inside job.

Proof of that is that we have all been in relationship before and still not felt like we were "enough."  A relationship doesn't mean we're in anymore loved or able to receive love any easier.  So let's not fall for the delusion that we need someone else before we can feel it.

And then, after accepting our own personal love, let's also commit to reach out to others we love.  So for some of us it may include a romantic partner, but for all of us it also includes family members, co-workers, and friends.  It means showing up in ways that remind others that they are loved.  Let's make sure our very presence invites others to feel good about themselves.

This can include such things as:

  • Leaving a voice mail for a girlfriend telling her 5 things we love about her.
  • Taking 2 minutes to write an email (or send an e-card) to any of our friends who have recently gone through a break-up or divorce and reminding them,"Just in case you are tempted to doubt your amazing-ness today-- I just wanted to jump in your inbox and tell you how absolutely love-able, wonderful, and beautiful you are. You are so loved and thought of on this Valentines Day!"
  • Calling your parents and thanking them for showing you so much love over the years.
  • Scheduling an impromptu Valentines happy hour at your apartment after work and inviting anyone you think of or see throughout the day!
  • Give hugs everywhere you go.  Few of us get too much healthy and loving touch in our lives.
  • And commit to just really listen and see people tomorrow.  Everyone you encounter in meetings, during sales calls, and in the break room is fighting their own battles-- be sure they know you saw them and valued them.

There is a very real spiritual truth and it is that love goes every direction; meaning that it's impossible for you to give love and have any less of it yourself.  As we give, we receive.  As we hug, we get hugged. As we smile at others, we feel happier.  As we remind others of their inherent worth, we remember our own.

Today, let's be a community of women that loves.  May we exude the love we crave.  May we be the love this world needs.

With love and hope,

Shasta

p.s.  Want to buy a gift for a girlfriend, sister, or mother? Send a note telling them you just purchased "Friendships Don't Just Happen!" and are having it sent to them as a thank you for how much love they have shown you over the years!

p.s.s.  Just went through a recent break-up or feeling bad about being alone this year? My friend, Ellen Smoak of Break-ups are a Bitch has begun a free 1-month Cupid's Roast filled with interviews with all kinds of sex, dating, relationship, and love coaches to help inspire and heal you.  (I'll be featured toward the end!)

 

"Friendships Don't Just Happen!" is Available for Purchase!

Happy February 5! Book Tour: Hey GirlFriends! I decided on my way to LA to record a short video for you, my community. If you can't join me for one of my book readings in LA, NYC, or CHI this week then I read a bit to you in this video.  :)

Buy on Amazon: Today is the BEST day to buy your copy of the book on Amazon Buy a copy today and send your receipt dated 2/5/13 to Maci at Service@GirlFriendCircles.com and she'll send you for FREE the brand-spankin' new 21 Day Workbook that I wrote to go along with the book.

In my opinion, this book would make for an incredible Valentines Day gift to a few girlfriends where you could send a note that says, "Thanks for helping make our friendship happen!  Love you!"It's also great for our mothers, daughters, sisters, and aunts-- so help spread the friendship love and buy a couple gift books, too!

Post a Photo to Win! When your book arrives, don't forget to take a picture to post it on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, or LinkedIn to win an iPad!  Contest rules here.

Help Spread the Word: And last, but not least, if you can post this on Facebook, too then I'd be ever grateful:

Finally Shasta Nelson's book, "Friendships Don't Just Happen!" comes out today!  I just ordered my copy.  Can't wait to read it.  Great gift idea: http://tinyurl.com/ShastasFriendshipBook

To all the friendships we're making happen in our lives and others,

Thank you!!!!

Shasta

p.s.  Here's the Amazon link one more time: http://tinyurl.com/ShastasFriendshipBook.

The Impact of Self-Esteem on Friendship

When it comes to self-esteem and friendship, there is no end to the correlations that are so frequently made.  People with more friends have higher self-esteem, and people with high self-esteem seem to have an easier time making friends-- the two results almost creating this self-sustaining cycle that can keep feeding itself.  If you're already in the cycle, that is. But what if you're not in that supportive cycle?  You may have a hard time making friends and struggle with a low self-esteem.  Then it's a catch-22 because while making friends will increase your self-esteem, it's harder to make them without having it first.  So do you try to make friends to feel better about yourself or try to increase your self-esteem before making friends?  A classic chicken-or-egg first kind of question.

My answer? Both.

Increasing My Self-Esteem

Self-esteem comes from having a strong belief in who we are and what we can do.  So certainly believing in oneself to make friends and then accomplishing that goal comes from, and results in, one feeling an increase in self-esteem.  But several steps before self-esteem comes such things as self- awareness, self-trust, and self-care.

If we didn't do the deeper work then our self-esteem rises and falls with every life change. Exhausting and not sustainable. We don't want to feel good about who we are when we make a friend, and then feel bad about who we are when we lose a friend.  Same with any life circumstance-- we don't want how we feel about ourselves to look like a roller coaster that is based on what job we have, our current weight, or our relationship status.

Nothing circumstantial has the power to do the deep and sustaining work of fostering what you're actually creating: love.  Self-love.

My friend Christine Arylo, author of Madly in Love with ME: The Daring Adventure of Becoming Your Own Best Friend, is dubbed the Queen of Self-Love. A word we don't use all that much, and yet she makes the convincing case that it's the tree trunk out of which everything else must grow:

"Each of these aspects of self-love relates to and supports the others, just as the branches of a tree rely on each other to grow, be healthy, and keep the tree balanced and strong. When you practice self-care, you increase your self-compassion. When you build your self-awareness, you increase your self-esteem. When you improve your self-esteem, you more fully feel your self-worth. When you practice self-trust, you base decisions on self-respect. When you take actions that reflect a deep self-respect, you honor yourself. When you express yourself fully, you increase your self-pleasure. And when you exude self-compassion, you create self-acceptance. Each branch supports the other branches, and as one grows, so do the others."

Her first suggested step for building your self-esteem?  Increase your self-awareness.  Get to know yourself.  It's hard to love who you don't know.  :)  Past all the titles, images, and pretenses.  Deeper than what others say about you or who you wish you are-- explore and get to know you.  (You can see why self-compassion and self-forgiveness need to be intertwined in the process!)

Increasing My Friendships

While we need to be our own best friend before we can truly be in healthy friendships and feel confident in our friend-making process, it doesn't mean we sit in a cave until then.  We can't lock ourselves in isolation, because no one grows more loving in a loveless vacuum.  Our self-esteem, belief in ourselves and our abilities, doesn't grow without practice.  So while we're having honest conversations with ourselves, understanding who we are and aren't, and seeking to embrace how we're wired-- we're also observing how our thoughts, actions, and decisions are affecting our relationships.

One study came out this year that gives us a little guidance about how to engage in meaningful and healthy ways even when our self-esteem isn't quite yet where we want it to be.  The study tracked high self-esteem and low self-esteem individuals engaging in Facebook to see if perhaps that forum was a safer place for low self-esteem individuals to interact without fear of awkward social situations.

The study results showed that:

  1. Low self-esteem individuals were more likely to post negative status updates than high self-esteem individuals.  (And get less of a response to them compared to when a high self-esteem individual posted an occasional negative update.)
  2. And, that others who read the status updates of low self-esteem individuals ended up liking them less as they were perceived as sad, negative, angry, or pessimistic.

So while the low self-esteem updaters may, in fact, feel safer on Facebook; their honest revelations are backfiring if their goal is to be more likable and build friendships.  Other studies have shown that Facebook causes more stress for those with low self-esteem as they also see what everyone else is doing and can frequently feel worse about their own life.

From this, a word of encouragement to those who feel that their self-esteem journey is closer to the starting line than the finish line: practice engaging, but stay positive.

In other words, you may not yet have the self-esteem to be making friends, but you can start with being friendly.  Being friendly is a choice-- it's a choice to be affirming of others, warm, and hopeful.  As you give that gift to others, you'll find you also give it more to yourself.  And your cycle of self-esteem and relationships can start-- your friendliness and your growing self-love-- will both get healthier together.

The end result hopefully being a woman who genuinely loves herself and others well, products of a strong self-esteem.

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  Christine's book, Madly in Love with ME: The Daring Adventure of Becoming Your Own Best Friend, walks readers through a very fun and engaging journey filled with exercises and tips to build a very healthy self-love tree! I highly recommend it.  Plus she's going on tour across the country in 2013!

 

 

 

The Power of Female Stories

There is the passing along of information.  And then there's the telling of stories. Both methods can both convey words, details, and content; but one has more power to bond us in our humanity, help us feel seen, and move us closer to hearing our own truth. Stories are powerful.

Stories of Female Connection

I was reminded of that today as I read through the essays that have been compiled in the Nothing But the Truth So Help Me God: 51 Women Reveal the Power of Positive Female Connection anthology. Fifty-one women opened up and let us in.

anthology

  • I was moved by Laura Fenamore's essay as she described her journey with Overeaters Anonymous. I've never struggled with food in the same way or released 100 pounds like she did, but I know the feeling of being ashamed of your body.
  • I felt my heart in my throat as I read Aspen Baker's story about her abortion.  I've never had to face that decision, but as she described how many abortion stories she has (different ways of telling the one story) I nodded knowingly about how many different ways I can tell my divorce story-- all true, just each with a different focus. And as she shared the judgment she faces in the telling, I again nodded in affirmation.
  • When Amie Penwell described her life going from idyllic childhood with two parents to a separation that followed with her father's too-soon death and her mother taking her from one spiritual commune to another, my heart ached for her, wishing I had known her and befriended her when we were young.  I don't know what it feels like to go to six schools in two years.  But I know the feeling she described when she finally found another "wounded warrior" to call a friend.
  • Mickey Nelson's essay opens with the reading she shared at her 28-year old sister's memorial.  How grateful I am that I haven't had to suffer the loss of a sibling, but I know grief.  I resonated with her as she talks honestly about the parts of sadness that time doesn't heal.

I could go on-and-on.  I know only a small handful of the women who contributed to the essays on these pages, and yet after their vulnerability-- I feel close to them.  I saw them.

And, I saw me. Not always in the details, but in the feelings that connect us as humans.

Sharing Our Own Stories

I was reminded how easy it is to put up walls between us assuming no one else knows our pain and our stories. And while our stories may take on very different forms; what was ever clear was that there is more that connects us than we might ever guess.  We all know what it feels like to be lonely, scared, confused, sad, and mad.

I'm struck though how much of our conversations with each other are based upon information:  where do you work? where do you live? are you married? do you have kids? how long have you lived here? did you see the Giants game last night? We ask such informational questions that can leave us with an answer, but not necessarily with greater connection.

Whereas stories (i.e. what drew you to your job? why did you move here? Why is this important to you?) help us connect.  Our empathy--the ability to identify with and understand the feelings of others-- has far greater chances of being tapped when someone shares their experience rather than simply relaying information.

Today, I encourage all of us to ask questions that invite stories.

And choose in some moments to share more than just the information.

If we want people to like us and feel close to us-- we have a far greater chance of that when we're willing to see and be seen. Those moments where we don't just tell each other the canned answers, but risk adding a feeling into the sentence, a moment of vulnerability into the life of another human. Let's tell stories!  Like the women of old who sat around the campfires and passed along their traditions.  Let's show up around metaphoric campfires and really talk, connect, and share.

Congratulations to Christine Bronstein who dreamed and birthed this anthology into existence. In a day and age where much focus is given to the drama of jealousy, competition, and cattiness that can occur between women-- we'd all be blessed for reading some positive stories.  For by beholding, we become changed.  Buy the book here on Amazon TODAY.

 

 

 

 

Vagina Monologues, Violence & Friendship

I just returned from participating in a One Billion Rising Pop-Up Video Shoot sharing why I rise against violence for women.

You watch this 3-minute video and tell me how we could do anything but choose to rise.

Let's rise together.  One billion of us between now and February 14, 2013, which is the 15th Anniversary of V-Day.

We are collectively going on strike against violence done to women. We are participating in a revolution.

The One Billion Rising campaign  is "inviting ONE BILLION women and those who love them to WALK OUT, DANCE, RISE UP, and DEMAND an end to this violence. ONE BILLION RISING will move the earth, activating women and men across every country. V-Day wants the world to see our collective strength, our numbers, our solidarity across borders."

Below I am re-posting a blog that articulates why I will keep rising.

I hope you'll rise with us.  Be a part of the one billion of us who will rise up together, for our sake, for theirs, and for the world.

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This blog was written February 18, 2010. Still feels ever current.

Vagina Monologues, Violence & Friendship

Last night I attended an interview with Eve Ensler*, made famous as the playwright of the Vagina Monologues. She has released a new book called "I Am An Emotional Creature" which chronicles the struggle of girls to overcome the obstacles, threats and pressures that can rob them of their originality and power.

When asked what she felt was the biggest problem facing the world today, her response was "violence against women."

Women as Victims I doubt I would have answered the same question in the same way, and yet her case was nevertheless compelling and thought-provoking. Her point was that as long as we have a patriarchal system, we will have power taken from women that could be put toward different causes. That violence is damaging the very lives that could hold the solution to so many other needs. Imagine what you would do with all the energy in your life if you didn't have to focus it on overcoming something that wounded you.

It's obvious to see it play out in the Congo and Pakistan where sex-trafficking, rape and genital mutilation aren't punished. But even in our own country, our statistics still suggest that one in every three women face rape, abuse or molestation before they turn 18.

And to bring it even closer to home, she would expand the word "violence" to include any oppression that women face which includes spending much of our lives trying to become "more" girl in being skinnier, prettier and sweeter; and yet also trying so hard to be "less" girl where we're told to not run like a girl, throw like a girl, cry like a girl or be emotional like a girl. It is hard to know how to show up at our best.

Women as Offenders While we are certainly still a patriarchal world, it struck me that often the worst judgment of what it means to be a woman, comes from our own gender. I don't want to understate the trauma done by men around the world to women in any way whatsoever, but I simply want to point out that we ourselves are not always known for being the most uplifting of one another. Much of my greatest criticism in life has come from other women as they placed judgments on me for not living up to their expectations or values. The famous battles are between the stay-at-home moms and the career women or those who are domestic versus those who shun domesticity for a different role, but even when it comes to beauty, fashion and what shoes one wears, I have witnessed women dis-empower each other.

Furthermore, I've seen us not always give the same gift to men that we demand for ourselves. We want the right to choose to be home or work, but we still expect them to be "providers." We want the right to not have to cook all the meals, but we still think a "real man" should know how to fix the car. We know the long-term effects of being hit, but we have been known to downplay the damage we inflict on them with emotional control and manipulation. It's complicated isn't it?

Women as Friends I cannot listen to anything without filtering it through my lens of how much I believe in the power of friendships, community and belonging. And in that vein it struck me what a powerful tool our friendships can be. Certainly, they are a support place for us as we process our own wounds and they are also a source of empowerment as they remind us of our value and worth.

But importantly, they also provide us a container with which we can practice encouraging women who make different decisions than we do. We can engage in cheering for people whose authentic voices sound different from ours. I can love my friend who is on strike against cosmetics because of what she thinks it represents and I can love my friend who spends her every paycheck on getting her nails manicured. I can love them both and in a small way I am helping two women become more of themselves. I don't have to judge, devalue or in any way belittle them.

They may still face judgment, violence and discrimination in this world, but not from me. And that's no small gift. As I practice empowering the people I love (which sounds easy but can be difficult) then I become more adept in the occasions of life where I am called upon to empower even those I don't know, don't agree with or don't admire. My friendships are the places where I practice being the kind of person I want to offer to this world.

Indeed I agree with Ensler that the more we protect each other against violence, the more positive and vibrant energy we will have to participate in the creating of good. And the more we empower women, the more our world is capable of creating that good together. And that gives me hope.

* I attended this interview because I saw that one of our GirlFriendCircles.com members, France K., had posted it on the GirlFriendCircles calendar! Thank you for putting it out there!

Update 10/01/2012: This was my belief then... now you can see it on my homepage in my "I Have a Theory that Friendship Can Save The World" video.

 

I Have This Theory that Friendship Can Save the World

This is my manifesto for doing what I do.  I believe that beyond the joy and health that friendships bring us personally, they also give us the place to practice being the people who this world needs.

I share this today, on 9/11 for two reasons: First, it is the anniversary of the day eleven years ago when we saw what happens when people judge and fear others. In response to that terrorism, we also saw what happens when love and generosity step in.

And second, today is my birthday. I joyfully launch the message that I'm committed to sharing in the year ahead.

I have this theory that friendship can save the world.

And by friendship, I mean relationships where we are committed to practicing the best version of ourselves, while simultaneously choosing to abandon pretense, posturing, and insecurity to risk revealing our shadow side, too.

I have this theory that friendship can save the world.

And by save, I mean bring greater happiness, less stress, healthier hearts and bodies, an increased sense of personal worthiness, less rejection, and fewer actions initiated by fear.

I believe that our friendships are gymnasiums for our souls.  Gymnasiums where we can practice being the people this world needs: building up our muscle for compassion, increasing our endurance for giving, and stretching our ability to see the best in each other.

*   So we can practice cheering for people even when we’re jealous.

*   So we can practice listening even when we think we’re right.

*   So we can practice empathy even when we’re tempted to judge.

*   So we can practice serving even when we’re busy.

*   So we can practice saying “I forgive you” even when we’re disappointed.

All of these are skills this world desperately needs.

I have this theory that friendship can save the world.

And by the world, I mean that if we don't do these things in relationships with people we love, then what hope do we have of doing them with people who live on the other side of the world from us? Who have different religions or political views? Whose values and beliefs differ from our own?

I have this theory that friendship can save the world.

Less splintering, less judgment, less criticism, less loneliness, less fear, less pulling away, less war.

I have this theory that friendship can save the world.

More smiles, more acceptance, more love, more hope, more applause, more joy, more positivity, more belonging.

I have this theory that friendship can save the world.

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I hope you'll post this blog and video today to your Facebook page to help remind us how important our friendships are! 

And to that point, today the web site for my book goes live: www.ShastaNelson.com. YAY!  Thank you blog readers for your cheering along the way-- it means a lot!