What a Healthy Female Friendship Looks Like And How to Make It Happen
I met my best friend, Sam, 23 years ago after she met my brother in her kindergarten class. Since then, we’ve literally been through all of life together: great loves, loses, the birth of her daughter, personal traumas, career changes, big moves, and great celebrations. She was the first person that ever made me feel comfortable in my own skin (weirdness and all) and the first person to make me realize my worth.
She even got herself ordained so she could marry me and my husband. To this day, Sam remains not only my best friend, but my family. I truly don’t know who I would be today without her. I think about the friendship that we’ve had and although I truly believe that it’s one-in-a-million, I see so many examples in my life of female friendships like mine. Friendships that are full of compassion, support, and love.
It’s clear to me, after all of these years, (and I don’t care how cheesy this sounds) that there is truly nothing more powerful than the power of friendship.
Collaboration over competition
I think that throughout our lives, especially our upbringing, girls are taught to view each other as competition. As I’ve grown older and have entered the workplace, this has become more and more evident.
However, a study done in 2017 showed that this is most likely because there is a confidence gap between men and women in the workplace. Why is that?
The idea of women bringing one another down in the world is a complete lie and stereotype created by the patriarchy in order to make sure women’s successes are suppressed. Because the patriarchy knows the truth: competition brings people down.
So, I want you to repeat after me: we are not each other’s competition.
There is room for all of us to succeed.
According to their website, Shine Theory is, “Shine Theory is an investment, over the long term, in helping someone be their best self—and relying on their help in return. It is a conscious decision to bring your full self to your friendships, and to not let insecurity or envy ravage them. Shine Theory is a commitment to asking, ‘Would we be better as collaborators than as competitors?’ The answer is almost always yes.”
I think that this is especially important for a variety of reasons. Firstly, it goes to show that when we lift each other up, we all succeed. Secondly, it’s important to recognize that not everyone wants to lift you up--and that’s okay.
Just as in romantic relationships, it’s important to form friendships that are mutual in their support and investment. We’ve all been in friendships where it feels like we’re doing all of the emotional support with no support in return. These aren’t the kinds of friendships you deserve to be in. These friendships will wear you down and can even turn into toxic friendships.
If someone is tearing you down, not supporting you in the same ways you’re supporting them, or even actively marking you as competition--it doesn’t say anything about you, but you do have control over being a part of it.
Thirdly, you do not bear the responsibility of lifting every single woman you meet up. It doesn’t mean that you have to agree with and support every single woman you meet. We will disagree and that’s okay. You don’t have to be the person that helps them shine. They will find their person that does, and it doesn’t have to be you.
Surround yourself with people who light you up, share your passion, and genuinely care about you. You don’t have to invest in the people that don’t.
It took me a while to recognize this fact. When I was younger, I felt like in order to be a good feminist, I had to support the crap out of every single woman I met. I had to give her everything out of me in order to help her succeed. This was partially due to my sometimes-crippling empathy, but also because I thought it was my responsibility.
This led to friendships that I put everything into without any support given back. It was slowly eating away at my own confidence.
However, it’s no surprise that Sam is the one that brought me through this. She was a true symbol of what a true, genuine, and reciprocated friendship feels like.
My wish for you is that you find your Sam and watch as you both shine.
To read more about female friendships, check out:
- Text Me When You Get Home by Kayleen Schaefer
- Work Wife by Erica Cerulo and Claire Mazur
- Big Friendship by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman