Episode 5: The Importance of Healthy Female Friendships
I’m Heather Anderson, and this is Episode 5: The Importance of Healthy Female Friendships.
Welcome to The Mommy Whisperer. I’m your host, Heather Anderson. I’m a mother, wife, educator, and a Certified Life Coach specializing in parenting and relationships. I’m here to talk about all things motherhood, and to inspire more confidence, happiness, and fulfillment on your journey through motherhood… the most important job in the world!
Hello, my friends! Happy New Year! I am very, very excited for this New Year, not only because it has great potential, but because of all of the things we are going to talk about this year on this podcast.
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We just finished The 3 C’s of Successful Parenting method. If you haven’t listened to that yet, go back and listen to those they’re really going to be helpful for all, I believe. And now on this podcast, we will be getting into all sorts of different things that are going to be really great to talk about. We will talk about relationships; of course we will keep talking about parenting; we will talk about household management and some tips and tricks that I think will really help you; and we will also work on our own awareness of ourselves and how to have complete awareness and complete acceptance of our thoughts and our feelings; and I will also bring on experts to interview. I am just so excited about it all. So just stick with me, moms, I know that if you listen every week you will get something out of every episode–and sometimes even lots of things–that will inspire you and help you on your motherhood journey. That is my mission: to help moms become more inspired, more happy, more confident, and more fulfilled, and even to realize that this job is the most important thing they will ever do. So thank you for spending time with me and let’s get on with this week’s episode.
Today is all about you. Did you know that our female friendships are actually very important for our mental health and well-being? If you’re like me, I used to feel guilty like it was some sort of guilty pleasure to make plans and go do something with my friends, and be away from my family and my kids. I felt like my place was in the home and I should always be around my kids as much as possible lest they might need me, or some disaster would happen, and I needed to be there to make sure everyone was okay and everything was running smoothly and everyone had all of their needs met. But I have actually learned (and it’s actually proven), that we women need to foster friendships with other women. These friendships are so important for our own mental health. They even contribute to our happiness, which is so important for us moms to figure out how to be happy, because our kids don’t want a perfect mom they want a happy mom. Of course, there is a balance that needs to happen. I’m not suggesting having girls’ night out all the time, but it’s also not healthy for us to just be around our husband and kids all the time with no female interaction. Only you will know what feels right to you. But when you do make a plan to go do something with friends, try not to let yourself feel guilty about it. Embrace it for what it is: your mental and emotional health. These friendships give you an outlet to share your problems, thoughts, feelings, and good things that are happening in your world.
Some of you may think, “But I have my husband for that. That’s what he is for.” Which is great if you feel like you can talk to your husband about anything. That means you got yourself a good one. But many of the moms I coach want their husband to be their everything like that, but sometimes men fall short of this, and that’s okay. It’s not all their fault. We are just inherently different from men. We think differently, solve problems differently, and are more emotionally driven. Men are naturally more logical and they don’t always understand where we’re coming from. And sometimes marriages even fall apart, because women want and expect more from their husbands than they are capable of giving. Sometimes women tend to think their husband should be their everything: their best friend, their lover, confidante, emotional support system. But sometimes we women need to figure out how to fulfill our own emotional and conversational needs with our bonds with other women.
I’m not saying to let your man off the hook and never expect him to converse or have a deep conversation with you, but if he’s trying and it’s just not everything you feel you need, chances are a conversation with a close friend will fill that void. We just might need to switch our thinking around a little bit from, “My husband should be this for me, otherwise our marriage isn’t good,” to something like, “My husband doesn’t give me these things that I need but I have friends who do and we still have a great marriage because he does provide, or he is really good with the kids, or he supports me in all of my endeavors.” Maybe you feel like you’re both working toward the same goals. So even if your husband isn’t the person you go to with all of your deepest thoughts and feelings, or even if you feel like he doesn’t always get you 100% of the time, it is really great to focus on the things that he does bring to the marriage.
So much of our emotional and mental health comes from the deep bonds we’ve formed with other strong females in our lives. Those bonds can make us stronger and more confident in who we are. And did you know we actually start to reflect these friends over time, in our own thoughts and beliefs and actions? In fact, some say that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. This doesn’t mean we aren’t our own individual, unique self, it just means that we kind of take on a few of their thoughts and ideas. I do see this happening a little bit with me over the years. My family actually says I am mostly the average of Lorelai Gilmore and Cristina Yang. I think I’ve spent way too much of my time with them. But my point is, we should definitely choose our friends wisely and with intention, especially if we’re going to become a little bit of them. I have a story about choosing your friends wisely and I will tell you that in a minute.
I wanted to talk about some of the psychology behind strong female friendships. There was actually a study done about women with breast cancer and it was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. They found the women with early-stage breast cancer were four times more likely to die if they didn’t have very many friends. Those with a large group of friends had a much better survival rate.
And your friends don’t always have to live close by. The beneficial effect of friendship can be felt near or far. They can still be part of your emotional support system no matter where they are.
I don’t have a lot of time to get together with friends, but I like to walk with my really close friends, usually in the morning. I’m surprised how much this does for my soul every single time, but even a phone conversation or a texting conversation can be just what I need.
Try it. Try it today. Try reaching out to someone you haven’t talked to in a while. And don’t be embarrassed if you haven’t talked to them in a while. I know that kind of gets in the way with us women reaching out to old friends, but chances are they need you just as much as you need them.
The other thing that is so refreshing about women is that we, by nature, are intuitive. Our friends have a way of reading our emotions and recognizing what needs to be done, and then doing it. We understand each other, we validate each other, we can be that shoulder to cry on, we’re always good for advice; we share some of the deepest darkest secrets, and also honest truths with each other. We share beauty products with each other, and build those lasting memories that are so needed. Healthy female friendships are something all women can benefit from.
The key word being “healthy.” We all know and we have all experienced some women out there who are anything but healthy for us to be around. Make sure, as I said before, that you are intentional about choosing these friends. Every so often you’ll find yourself in a very unhealthy friendship. I’ve been in a couple of these. One I figured out very quickly and was able to put up some personal boundaries for myself and another one took me a few years to realize what it was. And it was quite the “single white female” type of friendship. Have you seen that movie? It’s really old, but very disturbing. Anyway, this particular friend became quite obsessed with me. When I wore a new shirt, she’d go buy that same shirt and have it on a few days later; when I lost some weight, she asked me all about the diet and did the same (which, you know, a lot of us friends diet together so that’s probably not a big deal); when I got my hair cut, she got her haircut and colored the same way; she would ask me quite often to watch her kids (and she had quite a few of them), while she went to get a pedicure or went to the grocery store and I just never felt comfortable asking my friends to do things like that for me. But when it got really unhealthy was when I made friends with another woman and I spent a lot of time with her. She was so much easier for me to be around. And this particular friend went by my house once and saw that my car wasn’t there, and had this feeling to go by the other friend’s house and she saw that my car was there. And she proceeded to stay outside that friend’s house until she saw me leave. And the next day both me and the other friend got an earful of why we did not invite her, and she knew how long we had been together. It was just very, very weird, and I had to put an end to that friendship, because it was just too much for me. It caused me to rent too much space in my head to this drama. We, as moms, cannot afford to spend our time with unhealthy friendships.
Now, of course, unfortunately, we all won’t have our own “single white female” drama story to tell, but you know those friends that are just kind of negative about life in general? Or about kids and family? And maybe do some husband- bashing? And they’re just really hard to be around? Those are also very unhealthy friendships and we really need to evaluate if they are serving us at all. If they are helping build us up or if they are just tearing us down way too much.
If you’re finding yourself in a friendship that is just dragging you down and making your life harder, it might be a good idea to start to consider ending that friendship. I know that sounds weird. It’s like “breaking up” with a friend, but you might find that it’s something that you want to think about doing. It might really serve you well to do that. If you’re not sure if you want to completely break up you can of course try out a separation–a break, if you will. But one of the best ways to break off a friendship with someone is to have an actual conversation with them. So many times we try to “ghost”, or avoid, our friends and think that they will just go away, but the best way is to have a conversation with them. This really is the best and kindest way. And it’s going to make it so that you can walk away from that friendship and not feel any guilt in how you handled it.
Before you go into this conversation, journal all of your feelings and all of the thoughts you have surrounding this friendship, so you feel really solid in your thinking and your feelings. I like to call this a thought download. You can go to them with some clear words and reasons. BUT I don’t even think this is absolutely necessary because I love the words Oprah said long ago on one of her shows, that if it’s just not working for you, you can use those words: “This just isn’t working for me.” And you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that. You don’t really have to give them any specific reason and that statement is unarguable. This just isn’t working for me; this friendship just isn’t working for me.
A few questions to ask yourself to see if it’s a friendship worth investing time into are:
Does this friend seem emotionally healthy on her own?
Do we have similar values in similar ways that we raise our children?
Are her children the type of kids I want my kids to be around?
Does this friend only ask me for favors when necessary?
Do I feel like I can ask her for favors also? (Because the last thing you want is a one sided friendship where you feel like you were doing all the work and they are sucking all the life out of you.) Also, you can ask:
How do I feel about myself when I’m around this friend?
This is really important. Have you noticed that sometimes you think about yourself differently around different people because you’re kind of seeing yourself the way you think they see you. Our thoughts about how they see us might not be accurate, in fact they probably aren’t necessarily accurate. But you want to try to surround yourself with people you know see you for you, and love you for who you are, and they just get you.
This isn’t necessarily going to be easy to find the type of friend, but keep putting yourself out there and trying and you will find her. This reminds me of a quote by Rebecca Wells, who is an actress and also the playwright for the “YaYa Sisterhood” series. I don’t know if you’ve read those books or seen the movies but they really are great. Anyway, she said, “Some women pray for their daughters to marry good husbands. I pray that my girls will find girlfriends half as loyal and true as the YaYa’s.” We might not find a group of friends like they had in those books, but even just one or two who we could really talk to would be so beneficial for our emotional and mental well-being and happiness.
If you already have your friend or your “person”, as I like to call it (that’s from Grey’s Anatomy), that is so great. Reconnect with them soon if you’ve lost touch, not only for you but for them as well.
I once heard a woman named Dawn Armstrong, who has an amazing story, speak about how she pictures people her life like dots on an airplane flight map. If you’ve ever seen an airplane flight map, it looks pretty scary, like all these planes are going to crash into each other because there are just so many dots. But, of course, they are lining up with each other at different altitudes, so our two- dimensional map makes it look much scarier than it actually is. Anyway, so she pictures her life like this map and she is constantly aligning with other people every day, her dot with theirs, for a reason. She calls them “appointment.” She feels that every person she happens to meet and speak to was an inspired appointment or meeting. She always thinks of it in a way of what joy and happiness she can bring to others, but she said she always comes away with them having given help and fulfillment to her in her life also.
So I challenge you to let yourself be inspired to reach out to a friend old or new. Put yourself out there because they need you just as much as you need them.
When women support each other, amazing things happen.
Please make an appointment with me if you need to talk about anything at all. I would love to help you.
Thanks so much for your time today, and I’ll talk to you next week.
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