International Women's Friendship Month

Throwing Myself a Birthday Party of Gratitude!

My birthday was last week and I lived it up this year with a retreat-day (complete with a massage, soaking in a rooftop infinity hot tub, and journaling), an afternoon of shopping with my husband, 3 days of play, America's Cup races, and yummy food with my parents who came into town, and on the actual day of my birthday I threw myself a little birthday party with some of my girlfriends. One or two people made comments like "You shouldn't have to throw your party!" but I smiled and said, "That's what I want to do!"  And indeed it's exactly what I wanted to do.  Why leave it to chance? Why risk it not being fulfilling in the ways that only I could possibly know I need? Why not create the evening I most wanted to experience?  Besides, life has been full with so many different events and groups the last couple of years that so many of my friends hear me talk about each other but haven't actually had the privilege of meeting each other. I could think of nothing I wanted more than to be surrounded by some of my friends and showing them off to each other, possibly even launching a few new friendships among them!

We live in a world where there is only a 50% chance that any two of our closest friends know each other! It's so easy to meet people from here-and-there, giving us the feeling, at times, of having lots of friends but not really having a "group" of friends.  I've realized recently that I have several amazing groups of friends, but that my worlds hadn't collided in a little while.  It was time! A birthday is a fabulous excuse to bring the people we love together! (And with my birthday being on 9/11 I feel an ever greater joy and honor to spend that evening celebrating life and friendships!)

So I made my dream list of local friends. They were quite varied: one has been a friend for the entire 8+ years I've lived in San Francisco and another I just met in May; one was in her early 30's and another in her early 60's, one came in fierce stilettos & fashion garb and another one was make-up free and walking around in her socks; one is traveling around the world on a mission with her life-changing book and another one who isn't quite sure what she'll be doing next; one who has created and celebrates her financial abundance and another who isn't exactly sure how to pay next month's rent; half are mothers, half are not; one has been married over twenty years, another is happily single... And those are just some of the differences between those who could come!

The night was SO very special. I kept the planning easy (tacos!) so that hosting was a breeze.  I wasn't there to impress anyone with my party throwing skills as much as I was there to make sure everyone felt loved!  I don't think anyone who came knew more than 2 other people, some didn't know anyone but me.  But by the end of the evening, I couldn't have been more blessed by the loved felt in the room.  Email addresses were being exchanged, photos texted to each other, and I just sat their gleaming in pride at how amazing my friends are!

That's me in the white tank--the little black lines read love...love...love...:)-- surrounded by some of the women I'm lucky enough to call friends.  Call me a grateful birthday girl!

In fact, one might think that to sit in a room with amazing women who are showing up in this world in such big, beautiful, authentic, and deep ways might be intimidating.  But on the contrary.  As I went around the circle describing each friend to the others I kept hearing myself use words such as "truth speaker," "strong," "independent," "a fierce protector of causes and people," "living out her mission," and "generous." Those words kept coming up over-and-over, and I slowly realized that even while we all couldn't be more different from each other, in other ways we lived out the truism that "You are the sum of your friends."

These ladies have rubbed off on me... been contagious in their courage.  I've not only been more inspired to be those things I admire because of watching them be those things, but it has given me permission to be those things without fear of failure, judgment, or jealousy.  We see each other all doing our best to be the blessing in this world we feel called to be and we cheer each other on. They give me confidence.

My take-aways for you:

1) Throw your own party! I am proud of myself for planning the party I most wanted.  And I ended the night with satisfaction that I was surrounded by the women I wanted around me and that I could run the party how ever I wanted! (complete with sharing questions and stories about each woman!)

2)  Show your gratitude!  I actually named mine a Girlfriend Gratitude Birthday Party, went around the room and bragged on each women in front of everyone, and sent them each home with a card telling them what I admire about them.  (You can get more ideas from my book on page 134-135.)

3) Don't be afraid to collide your circles! I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I felt a small pang of worry the afternoon of the party wondering if my circles of friends  were just too different from each other to really connect, but deep in my heart I knew they'd all rally and fall in love with each other, just as I had.  And it was magical!  Now I feel more joy knowing that many of my friends have met each other.  (And it makes me want to throw myself a monthly birthday party just to do it all again!)

The season of thanks is coming!  So you don't need a birthday to plan your own little soiree.  Just pick a date in early November for a Girlfriend Gratitude Party of your own, make a list of girlfriends and start inviting!  :)

 

 

The Friendships You've Always Wanted: Selecting the Friendship Faculty

So what a very interesting experience I've had in the last three weeks as I was interviewing the leading relationship experts in the country! No surprise that even I had a lot to learn! The Back Story....The Vision

It started because I had this almost-vision-like picture of hundreds of women all committing to focus on their friendships in the same month.  At first I dismissed it as a silly and fluffy and over-dramatic idea... but it kept feeling important.  It reminded me of being a pastor when we'd gather everyone for prayer-meeting. Even without understanding how prayer really works, there is something powerful about everyone doing it together, in purpose, in solidarity.  There is just a different energy that everyone feels in those moments that is very different from the experience of praying alone.  So anyway, I began to listen to that voice and ended up committing to invite all the women I know to join me for one-month of focused attention, hope, and learning in the area of our friendships.

Then... as I looked at my calendar to see which month I should aim for... International Women's Friendship Month jumped out at me and I just knew it was meant to be.

So then I had the vision and a date.  But because I'm what StrengthsFinder calls a Maximizer-- someone who takes something good and wants to make it excellent (trust me, it can feel like a curse at times!)--I started to brainstorm a gazillion inspirational ideas that convinced me I wanted to offer not just my own voice to this month, but I wanted to collaborate, invite, include, and connect with other experts. I made my dream list....

The Doubts and Insecurities

But I'd be lying if I didn't admit to sometimes being jealous of some of these experts--for their big book deal, their opportunities, their contacts, their credentials, their research, their niche, their angle, etc.

Here I am with the wealth of books I selected to feature in this month's "The Friendships You've Always Wanted!" friendship course!

And on the flip-side (because insecurity and arrogance are two sides of the same coin), I wondered if I'd like some of their answers and approaches as well as my own.  I cringe to admit it for I definitely don't think I'm more valuable than anyone, but sometimes it's easy to judge others within our own industry and feel like they should have the same approach I have.  I've been known to think critically of others as "too academic sounding," or for "giving advice that seems so trite or appears to be dumbing-down," or for getting caught up in the labeling of unhealthy friendships, which isn't my style.  I guess it's human nature to be trying to figure out where we each rank next to each other.  But it's not the person I want to be.

My fear definitely reared its little head.  But I knew, to my core, that I had much to learn from all of them, and that you would, too.  And I knew that we were all on the same page about helping you foster the best friendships you can... and that you'll learn better from different voices and styles. (Funny how sometimes we fear even what we know is right and good and truthful!)  But my conviction that a rising tide lifts all boats, and that friendships around the world will be better because we collaborated, pushed me through my insecurities and I reached out with the invitation to share them with my audience.

All that to say I am super proud of the "faculty" that I pulled together for this course.  Really, really proud.  When Ori Brafman wrote me back on Twitter and said he'd give me an interview (I quote his research from Click in my own book!)-- I squealed with delight!  When I interviewed Dr. Paul Dobransky--whose definition of friendship will help you know clearly which ones to end--about how we can set better boundaries, I was taking notes myself, amazed at how he was explaining things.  When I read Sophia Dembling's book The Introverts Way-- I was convinced I'd find her and beg her for an interview, which she happily agreed to give.  I could go on-and-on.  I secured a dozen amazing teachers.

I interviewed twelve amazing experts-- sociologists, psychologists, a university professor, many NYT bestselling authors,  an organizational consultant, a women's leadership coach, a marketing executive, and so many more roles.  What they all have in common is a wealth of wisdom that pertain to our friendships.

Here's a sampling of what you can learn from these teachers:

  • Why needing new friends is normal—and how to show up with less guilt, anxiety, and shame.
  • The one thing more important to friendship than chemistry
  • The best ways to make friends in a way that is congruent to your personality
  • Is it true that we are the sum of our five closest friends? If so, in what ways are you being impacted and influenced?
  • The five science-based accelerators that deepen our friendships
  • How many people you need to meet to actually find the number of friends you want
  • The biggest obstacle to friend-making and how to best respond
  • The three most effective tips for making new friends
  • How to determine healthy expectations for different levels of friendship
  • The biggest red-flags to watch out for and what to do when you see them showing up in your friendships!
  • How you can prevent friendships from being ruined by jealousy and competition
  • The boundaries that you need to set to ensure that you participate in mutually reciprocated friendships
  • The three most important practices you can add to your life to attract more love
  • Which of the five types of friends you already have and which ones you want to find
  • An exercise to help you feel less judgmental and jealous of your friends.
  • How to tell the difference between what friendships can be saved and which ones need to end

But I learned so much more than that list can convey.  I learned that even when my advice would be very different from someone I was interviewing... I heard the wisdom in their approach and knew it would be exactly what someone needed to hear.  My ego certainly likes me to think that my approach is healthiest, or best; but what is clear is that while none of us has every answer to your every friendship woe (because every circumstance and person and relationship is just sooo different!), we all also have expertise that can shine in different areas.  How we each speak to this subject and approach it is just so different, and so beautiful.

It has been a gift to work on something as comprehensive as this project. (Where else is there a friendship program featuring so many teachers and subjects?)  I'm really proud of the work.  And I so hope that you are one of the women I saw in my vision who was willing to say "I will focus on my friendships for one month. Count me in."

I hope you can join us.  Hundreds of women coming together to make the world a better place by making sure we're each supported, connected, and loved in ways that matter.

With love,

Shasta

p.s.  To learn more about the program and to sign-up to join us, visit www.FriendshipsWanted.com.