Our Mistakes

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

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

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

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

I Am Recovering!

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

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

What Does That Mean Though?

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

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

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

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

5 Ways Recovering from People Pleasing Actually Pleases People

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

______________________________________

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

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

 

 

 

 

Nothing Kills a Potential Relationship Faster

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

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

momentum

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

Why We Lack Momentum

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

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

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

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

Interest Is Contagious

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

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

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

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

How You Can Contribute to Momentum

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Annoying People Can Grow Me

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

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

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

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

Hard to Hold Inner Peace

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

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

How Others Can Grow My Inner Peace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Prayer: Who I Want To Be

I want to show up in life in such a way that you feel greeted in my presence.

Welcomed. Worthy. Accepted. That means when I see you I start with love.  It means I refuse to  wait until my ego can determine your value to me.  Forgive me for my impulse to judge, I want to un-learn that behavior. The truth is that you are human--my sister, my brother-- and that is enough. Your value is exponential and I greet the lessons you will teach me. Thank you.

I want to show up in life in such a way that you feel abundant in my presence.

hands holding a heart

Abundant in the awareness that you are enough.  More than enough, in fact. Where for a moment, you can find refuge from your inadequacies, insecurities, fears, and judgments.  For I want to see you; the part of you that is innocent, beautiful, perfect, and true. I give you my word that I will seek that in you, knowing that those who seek, find. I desire to be someone who sees your best, even when you can't.

I want to show up in life in such a way that you feel loved in my presence.

For you are. I believe in a God that loves you.  A God that asked me to do the same.  I regret how frequently I do it imperfectly.  Nonetheless, I will keep trying.  For it's never because you're not worth my love; rather, it's always because my own fears get in my way of expressing it.  I don't bestow upon you your loveability, I only affirm what is already there. You are love-able and loved.  May I remember that truth that you might feel it when I'm around.

I want to show up in life in such a way that you feel gratitude in my presence.

May my words and actions remind us both that not only are you enough, but so am I.  And so is this world.  There is enough joy for both of us. I can promise you that when I feel lack -- as I sometimes do -- I will own it as my own hunger; refusing to devalue what you have, or who you are.  You deserve all that is yours and I celebrate it.  May I become the person who holds so much gratitude for your life that I invite you to rejoice in it too.

I want to show up in life in such a way that you feel encouraged in my presence.

Not just applauded, but deeply hopeful. I want to hold enough faith in the universe that I can share it with you at any time.  I want you to be able to look in my eyes and see your best self reflected back at you.  May you feel supported in owning your strength, your beauty, your talent, your power, your love, your goodness.  An encouragement that roots itself in a soil of knowing, and branches out in in vibrant action.

It doesn't matter who you are-- you deserve these things from me.

  • You can be someone I walk by in the grocery store, or someone I commit my life to.  Both can be equally difficult.
  • You can be someone I am drawn to, or someone I feel repelled by.  Either way, how I show up with kindness should not differ.
  • You can be someone who has loved me well, or someone who has hurt me deeply. My interpretation of my experience with you doesn't change your worth.
  • You can be someone I watch only on TV, or someone I know intimately.  Your inherent goodness isn't dependent on my knowing you.

How I respond to you says more about me, than it does about you.  I know that.  I own it. Indeed there is a gap between who I want to be for you and who I am. For that, I am sorry.  Life is not a competition where one of us holds more value than another.  And no one, other than my own ego, has given me permission to go around making judgments about your merit. So when I show up, as humans often do, without being all that I want to be, forgive me.  And just know it's no reflection on you.

My prayer is that I keep growing in love, becoming, expanding, inviting, welcoming.  I trust that as I see my own worth more clearly, I might better show you yours.

My prayer is that the best in me honors the best in you. That I can have God-eyes to see you the way you are.  The way you are meant to be loved.

May it be so. Namaste.

 

Forgiveness, Peace & Relationships

Marianne Williamson This last weekend I felt an "ah-ha" in my life.  One of those moments where my soul recognized words that are true for me.

I have long been a student of personal growth, wanting to be awake to life.  It was my desire for leading growth that guided me to Seminary to earn a Masters of Divinity over a decade ago, and my commitment to expanding growth that keeps me on my lifelong search to not just keep learning, but also to keep un-learning. It's amazing how much we hold that doesn't serve us.

This last weekend, while sitting in a workshop by Marianne Williamson, spiritual teacher and author, I found words that affirm to all of us the significance of our relationships.

How is My Peace Linked to My Relationships?

We know the statistics about how much we need friends for our health, happiness, longevity, stress levels & identity.  But, for as important as those words are, there is a depth that can sometimes lack.

Williamson, who teaches from The Course in Miracles, touches that depth.

  1. That we all have the same ultimate goal: Inner Peace.
  2. That we all have to go through the same process to find it: Forgiveness.
  3. And, that, on this planet, our curriculum for practicing that is: Our Relationships.

I'd imagine the first step resonates with most of us?  Pretty much everything we do is motivated by a hunger to feel that we're enough, that we're worthy, that we're special, that we're acceptable.  Henri Nouwen, a Catholic priest and writer, once wrote that 'arrogance and insecurity are two-sides of the same coin.' To be in a space where we know our worth allows us to be both humbled by our value, and wowed by the infinite possibility.

It's the second step that I think is counter-intuitive.  Most of us are trying to find our peace through our titles, our bank accounts, our square footage, our fame, our sense of being chosen by someone, or our hopes we place on our children.  Even as we read this, we can probably see how little it is working.  We all know people who have more of everything we want and still don't live from a place of peace.  Cognitively, we know that achieving the next rung on our ladder won't bring the peace, but trying telling that to our egoes.

Even as we can grasp that we won't find a lasting peace in losing that extra weight, getting that promotion, or finding the perfect romance, neither do we probably see forgiveness as the solution.

Forgiveness is a topic that entire movies and books try to cover, so far be it from me to adequately capture it in one paragraph.  In essence, though, it is the gift we've been given that allows us to choose love over fear.  The miracle referred to in the course: the willingness to shift how we perceive a situation or person. The whisper of a prayer "I am willing to see this differently."

As Williamson, in her book, A Return to Love, says:

"We're not asking for something outside us to change, but for something inside us to change."

That we might become more loving.  Therein lies the purpose of our lives.  It is in the 'letting go' of our fears, anger, defenses, and past stories that we can find our peace.  It truly is counter-intuitive. And both very simple, and very hard.

Why Relationships Really Matter

If you're anything close to human, the word forgiveness is full of more emotion than almost any other word we could whisper.  As a pastor who has journeyed with people from all walks of life, I can attest that I have never met anyone who hasn't had to stand face-to-face with the meaning of this word.  We live in a world where fear and ego seem to reign.  And few things seem to hold more truth to us than the wrongs that were committed against us or others we love.

Forgiveness, while feeling as though it lets someone else off the hook, really is an invitation to us to get off the hook we are on.  Forgiveness doesn't mean we don't set boundaries, stay in relationships that wound, or ever understand why the other did what they did.  Rather, forgiveness is a call to continually remove the obstacle of fear from our lives that we might better receive and give love.

And there is no where you can practice this path to inner peace than in our relationships. In every relationship-- from the most casual of encounters to the lifelong commitments we make to people-- we are encouraged to experience our peace.

How we treat the people we meet either increases our love or increases our fear, determining the person we will become.

"Spiritual growth isn't just about me. It's about the person in front of me." --Marianne Williamson

______________________

I plan to unpack this theme more in a future blog... feel free to leave your questions, experiences or comments.

Also two articles of mine that were published other places last week, if you're interested: Three Steps to Summer Socializing on Huffington Post and 7 Ways Twitter Can Benefit Your Business on Crave.  If you're not following me on Twitter or facebook-- I extend the invitation to join those communities. Blessings on you this week.

The Mistake That Cost Me a New Friendship

On Saturday morning, a beautiful girl stood on the Spark & Hustle stage.  She was the only speaker of the 3-day conference to wear tennis shoes and jeans.  Her stylish t-shirt proclaimed "Save the Ta-tas." Julia Fikse

Julia Fikse's presentation, which was to challenge the 100+ female business entrepreneurs to consider how their companies could contribute to non-profit causes, began with words of vulnerability.  She applauded the attendees for their courage in coming to a conference, admitting how hard it can be show up in a room full of strangers.  To illustrate that point, she shared an experience from the evening prior that happened to her in the hotel restaurant.

It’s a story I regret to share.

Julia’s Honesty

Upon her late arrival to the conference, she approached a table of three attendees during their dinner to inquire about the conference schedule, since registration had already closed. She wondered what other programming was happening later in the evening and what time the conference started the following morning. They answered her questions. She thanked them and went back to her table for one.

What they didn’t know, and what she didn’t say until the following morning, was how much she had wished those three women had invited her to dinner.  In that moment of not being included, she joked about feeling like she was back in junior high school days with the sting of wanting to fit in.

My Honesty

The story obviously touched me.  Indeed, two days before, in speaking at the same conference, I had shared similar words. Hoping to normalize the experience for all attendees, I acknowledged the courage it takes to come to conferences where we always wonder if we'll fit in. The two of us were the two speakers to acknowledge that fear publicly.

That's what makes this next ironic sentence hard to write:  I was one of those three women at that table that triggered her feeling of rejection.

Three Reminders I Take Away

Ugh!  I feel embarrassed to admit it.  And certainly don't have to, but obviously feel that the learning potential of the moment outweighs my own regret.

  1. It’s Always Better to Give Her the Option. After she returned to her table, the question was asked at ours: "Should we invite her to eat with us?"  We turned around to look for her and saw that she had a glass of wine in front of her and that she was scribbling in a notebook.  We concluded "She's working on her talk for tomorrow morning" and decided to not interrupt her.  We assumed that we’d be a distraction or that she wouldn’t be interested. In hindsight, what would have been the harm in us asking her anyway? How ironic that she wanted to eat with us and we wanted it too—and yet it didn’t happen for lack of asking.
  2. Feeling Rejected is Rarely About Us. You need to know—Julia seems like one incredible woman. The kind of person I would definitely want as a friend.  I mean, anyone who is so passionate about a cause that she’s willing to sign over half her paycheck to making a difference; and do so in a humorous and fun way—I’d count myself lucky to know her.  So here is a clear example that while she felt the rejection, I can assure you, being the other person, that it was nothing about her.  It was our own distractions and assumptions that prevented the moment.  I know what it’s like on the other side, taking it personal, so it’s good to have reminders that our feeling of rejection is rarely about us.
  3. Defaulting to Yes! Akin to walking by a brand promoter on the street, only to realize I don't even know what I just refused, I realize that sometimes my default response pushes me to say no before I even evaluate the option. It's often only after passing the moment that I realize I never even asked what they were giving away. We say no so easily. I, in essence, said no to someone I very much wish I had said yes to.  My default needs to be yes.  My default needs to be looking for people to meet.  My default needs to remind me to have eyes to see the potential around me. I wonder how many of us miss moments with new friends for lack of simply not jumping on the moment?

The truth is that we all want to be accepted.  No one wants to risk feeling rejected.  We often think that it's the shy-est, most vulnerable in the room that we need to be sensitive to, when in fact it's also the well-known speaker who is out saving the world and running an impressive company.  No matter who we are, we want to be included.

Julia, I am so sorry.  It is my loss.  You are the kind of woman I want to know.  I'd be honored to take you to dinner the next time you're in San Francisco or I'm in L.A. Or, should we ever find ourselves in a hotel restaurant again-- please know, you are most welcome at my table.  :)

To the Oprah-Haters and Other Women Who Devalue

Their conversation stirred me in a really deep and defensive way.  The example they set has now been forever etched in my memory as an illustration of who we can all become when we forget our own worth. On Sunday, in the Virgin Airlines terminal of Las Vegas, I overheard five women engage in a colloquy of criticism.  It began with one voice sighing, "ugh, you know who I hate? Oprah.  Who does she think she is?" and spiraled into ugliness at such an alarming rate. Apparently her weight, lesbian rumors, amount of money made, career choices, fame and personality were all somehow offensive to this group just shooting the breeze while waiting to board their plane.

Oprah Winfrey

Five adult women, presumably ending a girls weekend in Vegas, spent ten minutes spewing venom and anger toward someone I'd venture to guess that none of them have ever met. There is no need to repeat all the insults, only to say that it was eye-opening and heart-exhausting to witness them all participate in the hate-fest as though adding to the conversation made them each feel better somehow.

We Devalue Others-- Revealing Our Own Insecurities

As a student of relationships, I have long witnessed that we tend to devalue anything that threatens us.  We push down on others; hoping it raises us up.  It's almost as though we think life is a see-saw where only one of us can win.

I see it in break-ups frequently: the person that was most cherished only weeks ago is now criticized in an attempt to comfort us that we are better off without that person. As though we can't admit their worth and hold ours at the same time?

I see it in friendships where two women make different choices: the one who had the baby, took the job for money, decided to move away, chose a private school for their child-- both women, to hold the belief that they made the right choice, are tempted to devalue those who make an alternative decision.  As though we can't hold the belief that we could both be making the right choice for our lives, even if they look different?

I see it where there appears to be an inequality that provokes our jealousy: the person who seemingly has the fame, the power, the money, the happy family or the good looks receives the most criticism. Ironically we secretly want something they have, but instead of using their success as our inspiration, we attack them with our insecurities disguised as complaints. As though it's their problem for having what we want?

And therein lies the toxicity of devaluing: it says more about us than it does about them.

We Devalue Others--Heightening the Conflict in this World

If someone gave me a magic wand to make one wish come true, it would be to give us all the ability to see our own worth so clearly that we never had to treat people from our own fears and insecurities.

Think about it... What problem does this planet hold that couldn't be solved from our ability to see the value of each other? Of not needing to prove our worth? Attacking so we don't look weak? Devaluing another to justify our own choices? Putting up walls so we don't risk not being liked?  Not knowing our own worth and bestowing that gift on others is the cause of wars and political battles, inequality and injustices, suicides and bullying.

Ladies, I may sound dramatic.  But I'd argue that I have good reason to go there.  We don't have control over bombing other countries or solving all inequalities against gender, religious, sexual identity and race differences.  But we do have control over doing the hard work of holding a healthy self-esteem so that we can offer it to others.

We Devalue Others--Risking Significant Relationships

In a community committed to healthy friendships, it is important to me to challenge you to show up differently than those women.

  • I invite you to engage in conversation that ensure that others leave feeling better about who they are.
  • I invite you to own your insecurities.  When you see someone who has what you secretly want choose to be inspired by it rather than threatened by it.
  • I invite you to refuse to engage in any conversation that puts others down. Whether those others are people you know (i.e. your ex's, your family, your work colleagues) or people you may never meet (i.e. Charlie Sheen & the Kardashian sisters).
  • I invite you to do the work of holding firm to the belief that you are fabulous, talented and perfectly prepared to do your life calling.  You are enough.
  • I invite you to not see life as a see-saw, where someone else has to fall before you can rise.  There is room enough for all of us to be our best.
  • I invite you to give the freedom to others, including Oprah to do life her very best way even if you would do it differently.
  • And, I invite you to realize that if you want to bring change to this world, more people are transformed by affirmation and grace than by criticism and shame.

So, to the women in the terminal who felt they were in any position to judge Oprah, I say to you:

I'm totally okay with you not being an Oprah-fan, but I invite you to cheer for her as another woman doing the best she can.  I hope for you that you someday step into your own power and offer the world what you think she's missing. But cheer for her as she does her thing.  And I cheer for you as you do yours.  You are amazing.  You have worth.  As does she.

________________________

I'd love to hear your comments ladies!  Am I overreacting? Do you see your own tendency to step into devaluing others? What have you done to build your own self-esteem?

Pushing Through Nerves to Meet People

Trying to fall asleep last Thursday night, I felt like a school-age girl on the eve of a new school year.  Intimidated. Excited. Fearful. Hopeful. Insecure. Anxious. The cause of my tossing-and-turning? A three-day conference starting the next morning where I knew no one.

On the one hand, its kinda silly to feel that pressure.  I mean, it wasn't like I was the keynote presenter or anything!  All I had to do was show up, sit in workshops and learn. Nonetheless, I felt the anxiety of possibly feeling left out because I didn't know anyone.

On the other hand, those insecurities make perfect sense. Walking into any group, crowd or community where you're not sure you'll fit in is the perfect backdrop for our greatest fear: rejection.  We all want to feel chosen, to feel likable, to feel known and to feel like we belong.  To not know if those needs will be fulfilled, it's normal to feel hesitation.

And you've got to know that I am a confident extrovert who likes people. And more often than not, they like me back.  Nevertheless, I felt nervous. So I can only imagine what it must feel like for those who are shy, who aren't practiced in meaningful conversations, who are drained by interaction, or have felt previous rejection or ostracism.  It's safe to say, we all know the insecurity when we don't yet know if we belong.

Why the Fear is Important

I jokingly said to my husband "Do I have to go?"

To which he replied "No, you don't.  But is it important to you to go?"

And I knew it was.  I wouldn't have signed up otherwise.

In fact, I'd argue that we feel nervous because it does matter to us.  The fact that you feel the fear is a sign that you want something.  The fear serves to remind us that we want what is on the other side. The fear inspires us to recognize that what we're stepping into is indeed significant.

  • We feel fear before a date because we value the possibility of love.
  • We feel fear before a job interview because we value the possibility of finding a place to contribute our skills.
  • We feel fear before a business risk because we value the possibility of success.
  • And, in our cases, it would be natural to feel fear before meeting new friends because we value the possibility of participating in consequential friendships.

An Invitation to Push Through the Nerves

Many of you, my readers, are currently trying to foster more friendships which means there will be quite a few strangers and awkward conversations on the road ahead.

I invite you to not allow fear to prevent you from stepping into what you crave.  We can't wait until the fear subsides to move forward, as it never will.  Courage isn't the absence of fear but the awareness that something else matters more than the fear. And friendship should be one of those things.

Take the risk! Show up for a ConnectingCircle, attend a Speed-Friending event, or simply initiate contact with a woman you want to get to know better.

I'm not saying it's easy.  I'm little Ms. Outgoing who frequently feels shy and uncertain about walking into groups of strangers.  Fear aside, I made a new friend and looked forward to seeing her the following morning for Day Two.

May you feel inspired knowing that the following night when I went to bed, there was no tossing and turning. Only excitement to get to know her more....

My Four Friendship Failures

Yesterday I attended FailCon 2010, a conference for start-up companies that works off the premise that rather than listening to a whole bunch of presenters talk about success, that sometimes we learn more from failure. Their motto "Embrace Your Mistakes. Build Your Success." reminds everyone that failure is part of the process, something to respond to and learn from, rather than simply to be avoided. Love it! So in the spirit of failure, here are some mistakes I have made in my friendship journey and what I have learned from those moments.

  1. Mistake #1: Not Identifying My Need for More Friends. Before I moved to San Francisco I could honestly say that I had really good friends. Really, really good friends. And I had just re-married. Suffice it to say, I didn't move here feeling lonely. If anything, I moved here wondering how I could possibly stay in touch with all my good friends. But my mistake became more clear when I realized that no matter how amazing my friends are-- if they don't live near me then our entire relationship is dependent upon UPDATING each other on life rather than EXPERIENCING life together. I wasn't creating new memories with friends. Rather, I was reliving old ones, simply telling them about what I had done or worse, telling them all that I would like to do if I had someone to do it with me. For me, no mater how awesome my friends were, I needed local friends. What friends do you need to enhance your current life?
  2. Mistake #2: Choosing "Present Easy" Over "Future Meaningful." This mistake is still a temptation for me. When I first moved to San Francisco, it was WAY more easy and meaningful to call a far-away friend and tell them about my day than it was to go grab drinks with potential friends. The former required nothing of me except being curled up on the couch with my phone. The latter required me to figure out logistics, travel to get somewhere/take up my whole evening and it took so much more energy to be "on." The former felt good since she could affirm who I was, whereas the latter often felt exhausting since we were sizing each other up. If given the choice-- it was easy to see why I chose the phone friend. But the truth is, if my goal is to have meaningful friends close by then I simply have to put in the time (even if it's not as fun up front) to build that bond. Like exercise, it will always feel better to sit on the couch than to drag my butt to the gym-- but only one of those options will lead me to my future goal.
  3. Mistake #3: Expecting my Strengths From Others. I'm really good at asking people questions. I'm really good at affirming and expressing value in people. I'm really good at being honest and going deep with people. So it's easy for me to walk away from a conversation or time with friends (or potential friends) and judge them on the things I do well. I'll say to myself "they did almost all the talking, they never asked me any questions" and feel put-off that I gave my best and it wasn't reciprocated. But now, I understand love languages, strengths and preferences better. I have learned to see where my friends are MUCH BETTER than I am at things that are super meaningful. She's much better at offering to help do favors. She's much better at calling me regularly and staying in touch. She's much better at not judging me. She's much better at seeing what I'm possible of and not letting me settle for less. She's much better at telling jokes. And just as I'd hate to be crossed off their list because I don't do their strengths well, I want to go into friendships not expecting us to be 50/50 in each thing, rather to allow for mutuality to come from the whole package, not each trait. Now if she forgets to ask about my life-- I'll just volunteer it. :)
  4. Mistake #4: Treating All Friends Equally. I know a lot of people and now have a lot of friends. Which means that if I had one night a week set aside for girlfriends and rotated a different friend each week then it could be a couple of months before I saw the same one again. One mistake that some of us busy, scheduled and social women make is to see all our friends as a big group we need to tend to, when in fact no one can keep up meaningfully with that many people. Now, I have 4 women that I consider my closest friends which means that I will give more to them than to others. They get priority. Two of them live a long ways away so I commit to calling them daily/weekly even though there are other women I love that I haven't talked to in a while. And two of them live locally which means they get priority when my schedule gets full. They trump the larger group. It ensures that I have some friends that really know my life, can interact with me in meaningful ways and that I have committed to be mindful of their lives. So by all means I want to stay connected to all 20, but these 4 get the regularity!

Clearly, I am far from the perfect friend.

Just as the CEO's and presenters at the conference yesterday are far from perfect. We all make mistakes. We all bring our wounds, habits, fears and tendencies to the relationship. We all get busy and forget.

Two imperfect people who make mistakes can't have a perfect friendship. We'll be disappointed by each other. But let's be the kind of friends that learn from those moments! I want to show up in a way that affirms my friends for loving me despite my lack and more importantly, to love them despite theirs.

To our failures! For isn't that where true friendship is found anyhow? Where we find the people who know us and who love us anyway. :)

------------- p.s. I'll make more mistakes as CEO of GirlFriendCircles too. Thanks for loving me anyhow and staying on the journey as we try to make it as easy as possible for each other to step into new friendships!

Do You Have a Friendship Checklist?

Single? Check.Good-looking, without trying too hard? Check. College graduate? Check. A few years older than me? Check. Likes to salsa dance? Check.

You would be forgiven for thinking this was a dating list! But in fact, it's what we we do with other women all the time. We have this picture that the someone "who gets me" is most likely going to be "just like me." And so we friend-date looking for the other woman whose life experiences and life interests are as close to mine as possible.

We'll dismiss someone because they live on the other side of town. Pre-decide that we probably won't be great friends because her kids are a few years older than mine. Rule out anyone who's married if we're single, or vice-versa. Confirm that we don't have much in common because you're in management for a big company and she's selling jewelry at art fairs. Or, and we've all done it, determine that based on her picture, you can be pretty sure you won't have much in common.

The Consequences of Checklists When I first launched GirlFriendCircles-- we didn't show you the photos or the profiles of the women you were going to meet. For this precise reason. We are incredibly judgmental. We didn't want to risk you not hitting it off with another woman because you read that she likes the opera and you don't. We wanted you to experience each other as people who change, not as though our profiles are comprehensive and static.

But you wanted to know more beforehand and we soon realized that perhaps we weren't avoiding the judgment as much as were only delaying it (which still has some merits! LOL!). Here's a portion of an email I received this week from one of our GFC GirlFriends:

"Sometimes when meeting new people and getting to know them I sense that there is some internal checklist that they reference in order to determine how valuable it is to continue talking to me. It can sometimes be less of a conversation and more of a 'banter' of sorts, each party going back and forth to see how many checks this other person gets. I've just recently started noticing this a lot, and it actually gets really distracting for me because I start to realize that this other person isn't really talking with me - they're comparing me to their checklist!"

Not only is that not fun for either party, but I'm not so sure it's even super effective.

Grateful Our Checklists Didn't Work Several years ago, I was sitting around with some girlfriends talking about how lucky I was to have married the man I did, when one of my girlfriends pointed out that I would have never met him on match.com which had been the source of many of my dates. And she was right since he was beyond the age that I limited in my searches. Which obviously ended up not being a deal-breaker since I did marry the guy, but had he asked me out online, I probably wouldn't have given him the chance.

And in that theme, the girls who were married all started reflecting why their husbands wouldn't have stood a chance either based on online queries. For instance, one girl is now married to an incredible guy who makes a great living, but she would have ruled him out before meeting him because he didn't have a college education. Which she thought was a non-negotiable for her. Obviously not. And another would have ruled out her husband because he's the same height as she is which in real life wasn't a problem, but if she had been searching she would have only dated taller than 6'. And the other, who happens to be vegetarian, would have only considered other vegetarians but ended up meeting her carnivore husband and realizing how minimal of an issue that was for them.

Know Your Checklist: So assess your needs: If you have a full circle of meaningful friends but just wish you had someone to jog around the lake with you on weekends-- then by all means, be picky and only "friend-date" for runners. Or if you love your friends but just need someone else who is pregnant at the same time as you-- great-- find that expecting mom.

However, if you're truly looking for life friends, relationships that will go deeper as you put in consistent time together, then please believe me that sometimes the friendships that can prove most meaningful are the ones where you hold yourself open to being wowed by someone unlike you. And research shows that while most of us are happiest with 5-10 friends and that most of us have 0-2 that we'd consider confidantes-- then that means you have several openings that can be filled with various amazing women.

The morale of the story? Put qualities on your checklist such as someone who affirms you, respects people, brings laughter into your time together and shares honestly. But hold loose the "stats" that you think are so important, for you just might miss out on someone who could have been your BFF for life. Not worth it.

Trust me on this one, for I assure you that I wouldn't want to be doing life without my husband. ;)