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A dear friend of mine posted just recently a quote on Facebook stating “Why do we, as girls, bring down other girls, knowing how hard life can be…. For a girl” ? There were enough comments and “likes” on the page to prove that most of us women are aware of this awful character flaw.
Almost every female at some point or another has participated in making our relationships as girls and women more difficult. Insecurity, envy, loneliness, emptiness are just some of the underlying factors that lead to malicious gossip, cattiness and dishonesty. These behaviors create destructive storms tearing up relationships by taking on a life of their own, becoming habit and creating hurt that can last lifetimes. For many women it is the only way they know how to relate with each other. I have seen it manifest in all kinds of female relationships; friends, mothers and daughters, sisters, bosses and employees, clubs, teams, classes..ig. It can start young. As a recent article in ParentMap Magazine explored, it can start as early as preschool. Guess what? It’s tearing our sisterhood apart.
Many women have learned and grown out of this institution, but many have not. We often hear it referred to as “High School” behavior, which implies that once it peaks between the ages of 14 to 18 it should subside. The reality is that it becomes increasingly worse, and the saddest progression seems to grow at the time when women need the most love and support from each other, wifedom and motherhood.
Any intelligent well-meaning honest woman knows the exact behaviors that contribute to making our relationships with our fellow females at times impossible. We need to go beyond identifying the pieces and begin to change the fabric of how we relate with each other. Our daughters (and sons) are watching and hearing exactly what we put into the world. Do we really want to continue this path, or do we want to improve and show them that it can be different? My incredibly wise grandmother use to say to me that every generation needs to be better than the last. I think this is the perfect place to start.
I have been blessed with wonderful women in my life. Because of these lifelong friendships I am humbled and grateful to experience what healthy female friendships entail. In honor of these friendships I would like to offer some steps to building a stronger sisterhood. “The journey of a thousand miles, begins with a single step”. – Lao-tzu
20 “Single Steps” to Rebuilding Sisterhood
1. Smile. It’s wonderful to walk into a store, cafe, yoga class, your kids’ school, party…ig and receive a warm friendly smile by another female. It’ is awful to walk in, be looked up and down with snears and snickers. What feels better to you? I pick SMILE.
2. Compliment. When you see another woman with clothing you like, a hairstyle you’ve been wanting to try or perfectly applied makeup – compliment! Be sincere. Backhanded compliments, passive aggressive and catty remarks behind her back only reveal your envy and insecurity. When envy wins, you lose. You are more transparent than you think.
3. Happiness. Be happy for each other! Be happy for your friends’ successes. Support them, uplift them. Let them have their moment.
4. Listen. That is it. If your friend is confiding in you, that is a gift. Do not share it, spread it or take it upon yourself to fix it. Respect their vulnerability and privacy. Give gratitude that they chose to confide in you. If your friend is sharing a story do not interrupt, or “one-up” them. It is no fun sharing an experience with someone who is always interrupting with their “better” story. It is not always about you.
5. Intention. Are you approaching other women with an agenda? Are you creating a friendship because it will help you climb a social ladder or get closer to someone else? What is your intention when you “share” information about someone else? If your intention is not loving it will bite you back.
6. Alliances. Making friends with someone based on who you both dislike is not building a friendship. It’s creating an alliance. Alliances do not last. Have you ever watched Survivor? 100% guaranteed in a few months you will be the one on the outs.
7. Frenemies. Our media feeds on these kinds of relationships. There is ZERO integrity between frenemies. It is just another term for using someone. (See #5) .The concept is out of control and is poisoning the way girls are being taught about relating with each other. Entertainment is one thing, but If you cannot decipher television from reality – Turn It Off. For many parents it is almost impossible to shield our kids from these shows so take the opportunity to sit and talk with your children about why those relationships are toxic.
8. Cliques. Let other women create their own friendships. Trying to control who hangs out with who, talks to who.. ig creates cliques and we all know what happens with cliques. You don’t need to be in the middle of every one of your friends’ relationships. Heathers anyone?
9. Confidence. If you are feeling insecure go out of your comfort zone to find activities or experiences that fulfill you. Insecurity can wreak havoc in our lives. Putting hard work into discovering yourself will take you a million miles in a great direction. If you want to try therapy or counseling there is no shame in checking it out. If you are juggling too many plates, put some away for awhile. Take time to work on your foundations, like marriage/union and parenthood. When those are solid you will have the energy and security to put into your friendships.
10. Let It Go. As women we tend to ponder situations over and over in our heads so much that we end up creating emotions and situations that never happened. Acknowledge your feelings, but stick with the facts. Often the other woman ends up being blamed for something that was created in your head. You know exactly what I’m talking about here.
11. Space. Give your friends space. Every woman I know is juggling multiple plates at one time. Friends are there for each other to vent and support, not to pry and lecture. If a friend shares information with you and asks for your help and advice by all means go for it. If they don’t, just don’t (See #4). Respect boundaries, especially when it comes to marriage/unions, children and finances.
12. Accountability. Refrain from pointing fingers when you have done the exact same thing you are judging. Justifying your actions only dissipates your credibility. Acknowledge your behavior, learn from it and change it. You are not responsible for other’ ‘choices. You are responsible for you.
13. THINK. Before you speak T.H.I.N.K! Is it TRUE, HELPFUL, INSPIRING, NECESSARY, KIND?
14. The Wall of Fire. When gossip gets to you, let you be the LAST one it gets to. Burn it inside your head and let the ashes blow away. We all know how innocently gossip can start, and are well aware that it takes a life of it’s own. The end result is never good.
15. Drama. Are you continuously surrounded by drama? Does it seem like you always have a problem with someone? Step back, be honest with yourself and take a good look in the mirror. You may find your answer. Apologize to those you have hurt. People who love you will be honest with you. Forgive yourself and learn to make a new path. Everyone deserves to earn a new chance.
16. BFF. Just because someone is not your friend, does not mean they have to be your enemy. You do not have to be invited to every party or activity and you are not obligated to include everyone. Not everyone clicks, and that is okay. Be sincere, cordial, polite and kind.
17. Walk Away. It is possible that you may encounter women who just do not get it. You have to use your best judgement and set clear boundaries, with bold honesty. No matter how many times you give the benefit of the doubt their behavior continues. Most likely they are always surrounded with chaos. You will come to the realization that they will never see the trail they leave behind. It is okay to walk away, your emotional health depends on it. Forgive them, send them positive thoughts and move on.
18. Energy. Put out good energy. If you want to talk about someone, make it positive. Tell people what you admire about your friend or what a wonderful job she did hosting the classroom party. Make sure you tell her too! Encourage each other toward the positive. Lighten up, let things go, pick your battles, cut each other some slack.
19. Laughter. Laugh together! Try an activity together that does not always include alcohol. Bowling or skating at the local skate rink are great ways to have fun together and build fantastic friendships. Volunteer together, join a 5K. If you share spiritual beliefs worship together. Discover your common interests like movies or literature and engage in them. There are a million ways to bond in a positive way.
20. Love and Gratitude. Let your friends know you are thinking about them. Send them a random note telling them what you admire about them. Thank them for the friendship.
We need each other. At a time when depression and anxiety amongst women is at an all-time high we have to be each-others’ support system, not each other’s destruction. I love this quote by Eleanor Roosevelt “Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people”. Good friends help expand our minds not shrink our character. I urge you as you read this to make a pact with yourself to be a leader in changing our female flaws. Let’s give our children the tools to build great friendships, that will help them in tough times, cheer them through good and last a beautiful lifetime. But before we do that we have to build those tools for ourselves.
Reaching the halfway point to 40, Ana realized there is more to life than the 9-5, accommodating the wrong people and living up to others’ unrealistic expectations. By exploring opportunities in writing she hopes to help others connect, empathize and find inspiration to follow their passions. Ana has been blessed with wonderful lifelong friendships and gives gratitude for the wonderful women who continue to cross her path. She lives in the ‘burbs outside Seattle with her guy and their adventure guide.. aka five year old daughter. You can follow her on Twitter @anabproctor.
Mandy Brasher says
I love this!!! Thank you for sharing.
Duan Fanimo says
I too, Thank you for this uplifting encouragement.. for us…