Do your friends lift you higher? Women can be hard on each other. We have this reputation of criticizing each other and in turn feeling that we are not measuring up. Is this true? I think we can all come up with a story or two of a friend who turned on us or the girl in eighth grade who made us feel like an outsider. Whole movies are made about these kinds of scenarios, and we recognize bits and pieces of truth in our own experiences. So, who needs friends, anyway?
It turns out, we all do.
Friends are those kind souls we find, and identify with as we plod through life together. This life: this wonky, up and down, back and forth, full of surprises and disappointments kind of life.
We are made for community, we can’t avoid it, inside there is an innate need to be appreciated and loved, it was there when we were born and it hangs with us until our last breath.
And, I’ve found over the past few years that I get to choose to find the women with whom I can really do life.
I think of them as my tribe, my community, my people.
Related: How To Empower Your Female Friends
It took a lot of intentionality.
I had to decide to seek out women I admired and those I knew were willing to grow and learn with me. I looked for women I resonated with: friends with whom I could share interests and challenges.
It meant that I had to get real. I had to ask for help. I had to be myself and let the cards fall as they may. I cut through the crap of trying to keep up appearances a few years ago and when I finally got real, I found real friends.
And, I let them be real with me.
It took vulnerability.
I allowed some amazing women into my quiet spaces, my vulnerable weaknesses, my deep joys and let them teach me, show me the truth: That I am real. I am doing my best to be good, and I am going to make it.
I found out who had my back, who was willing to support my dreams and cheer me on.
I had to be unselfish with them, too, and be the kind of friend I wanted to have.
In the meantime, I found out who couldn’t be these things for me. And, that’s okay, too.
Some women couldn’t be the friend I needed because they had their own. Some couldn’t be because they weren’t ready yet to be real and weak and scared and raw. We let these women continue on their own journey, we allow them to find what they need to do to be whole, with grace.
It took more than one friend.
I don’t mean that you need to have a million close friends. No one can manage that.
But, you need more than one because each friend in this “tribe” contributes something different.
One friend could be a good listener, another might lift our spirits, someone else can be great at doing something practical or helpful. Different friends are right for different needs, different seasons. And, then no one person is burdened with being your everything—that just isn’t fair.
And, you aren’t a one-stop shop for anyone either.
It took understanding my children cannot meet my needs.
As the mother of four daughters, two of whom are teenagers, I also know that I can’t ask my children to be my support team. It doesn’t work like that. My children can’t be expected to fill some hole in me, or make me feel better about myself. It is wrong to even ask them this. I know they, too, will have to find their own people one day.
I will model this for them.
It took understanding my own job.
Having women in my life who are in the trenches with me does not mean that I choose to abdicate from my most important job: Being me, and doing the hard work that it takes to get there.
For me, the hard work to be whole looks like this: a varying mixture of exercise, therapy, and prayer. Those things are my job. Some of this I need to do totally alone, too, without a friend in sight.
What is your formula for wholeness? If you don’t know, find out. Getting whole-er is hard work and it can be tiring and lonely work, too. But, it is work that must be done. Your true friends are the ones who stand alongside you and cheer. They let you know you’ve got this.
Yeah, women have earned a reputation of not supporting each other, but I don’t believe that is the only story that is true. Most of the time, when we are ready to take down the walls that keep us from being real with one another, we will find the women we need who fill a unique role in our lives. It is these women we seek out to be in our support system. It takes time, but the effort is well worth it. Our friends, our tribes, help us become the best we can be.