Being a Phenomenal Friend

We women have a phenomenal power that many of us don’t realise. It’s the power to lift each other to full flight,  or to strip each other back to bone. Either way, it’s powerful.

Both men and women have hurt me from time time but there is something about being being betrayed by one of my tribe – by another woman – that has the potential to ruin me a little more than any other. As women we are all different but we all know what it’s like to feel vulnerable, strong, insecure, capable or scared. There’s a wisdom we have about being a woman and when someone uses that wisdom against us, it feels like the ultimate betrayal.

I’ve also seen how women can use their strength, wisdom and love to make each other soar. There is something about being lifted and valued by one of the sisterhood – by another who ‘gets it’ and knows what it takes to reach full wingspan. By someone who wants to see us soar. There’s a raw honesty and validation in there that can see mountains moved by the feminine hand. 

When there is a phenomenal circle of women around you, it’s harder for the nastiness and put-down of the world to find it’s way in. This is why we need to cherish our girlfriends – put them at the top of the list, or at least very close to the top, and be an incredible girlfriend ourselves.

We women have incredible power to lift every woman in our lives and help her to soar. We can’t help but take flight ourselves in the process.

Girlfriends are an important place to start, by being one of these women or many. All are extraordinary and chances are you’re already at least one:

  1. The Getaway Girl (aka The Travel Agent). 

    She’s the one who is always working on the next girls’ trip. We need this woman! Science has proven that girls’ getaways are a way to do the important things we need to do to at each life stage. Girls’ trips will have a positive impact on health and well-being for different reasons, depending on the stage of life you’re in.  Here’s why:

    .  In adolescence, all-girl getaways feed the desire for independence and provide girls with a way to break away (nicely now!) from their family. It also offers the chance to ‘express their rebellion’. Nobody is suggesting that anybody push the limits to the point of ending up sharing a prison cell, but pushing the boundaries and finding the edge of yourself is important and the stuff of all things wonderful.

    .  In early adulthood, girls’ breaks make way for adventure and experimentation. They form a ‘rite of passage’ to the next phase of life – away from education and training and towards a family and career.  

    .  Middle adulthood can be two things – a break from family commitment or the transition through traumatic life events such as death or divorce. Either way, those women in your life who are beside you will see you through.

    .  Late adulthood is a time when women are able to own their independence in a way they might not have been able to earlier in their life, when travelling without a husband wasn’t as acceptable. Girls’ getaways in this stage might also be a way to cope with widowhood and to solidify friendships, which become particularly important again at this stage of life.

  2. The Go-To.

    This is the woman we reach for when there’s trouble. Women have a way of dealing with stress that heals and according to a UCLA study, we can thank evolution for that. Shelley E. Taylor, the lead author of the study has been researching in the area for 25 years and has analysed more than 1000 studies. She has found that women have a ‘tend and befriend‘ response to stress – they tend to their young and want to be with their friends. Being with others in times of stress is hardwired into our genes. Those of us who have social support and are connected with friends are healthier and have ‘younger’ stress systems and more resilience against chronic disease. 

  3. The Listener.

    She reminds us – without saying anything at all – that we don’t need fixing, even if the world around us sometimes does. She gets it, and we know she gets it. In a crisis, she’ll sit and listen and tuck our hair behind our ears when it sticks to our tears. She’ll be with us when we’re a red hot mess or when we’re on the edge of being fabulous. When we’re bursting with a brilliant idea she’ll nod with a ‘go get ’em’ smile. When we’re falling apart she’ll keep her advice to herself, knowing if she could think of the answer that easily, you would have thought of it and done it by now. She’s the strength when you have nothing left.

  4.  The Cheerleader.

    She believes in you enough for both of you. These are the women who make you soar a little higher because they make you believe you can. 

  5.  The Nurturer.

    She’s the one who is there when you’re struggling to be anywhere at all. The nurturing side of womanhood is so powerful that it can help women survive a chronic illness. Science has proven that too. Researchers looked at 2,264 women who had been diagnosed with early stage breast cancer and found that women who had more supportive social networks were over twice as likely to survive their diagnosis. It wasn’t the size of the support network but the quality that mattered. Women with lower levels of social support were 61% more likely to die from breast cancer or another cause than women with higher levels of support – regardless of the size of the network. We can literally save lives by looking after each other. So let’s do that.

  6. The Reality-Checker.

    She’s honest but never judgemental. She’s wise and loving and usually right, and she will never criticise. Ever. Sometimes we need to hear when we’re doing something dumb. And sometimes we need the world to hush so we can learn the lesson ourselves. The reality-checker will do both. She’ll point out that taking him back four times in six months is maybe three times too many – but if you still decide that this time will be different, fine – she’ll drive you there herself. And if turns out she’s right, she’ll be there to listen and help pick up the pieces, without saying ‘I told you so.’  

  7. The Fearless Warrior.

    She’s the one who helps us find the edge of our limits and pushes us just beyond. Before we can say, ‘Um. That’s not really me’ she’ll have us learning Russian, bungee jumping, trying a round of speed dating, or heading to the outback for a pumpkin festival ‘because it’s something we haven’t done before’. She’ll try anything and get you excited about trying it too. Just check that your chord is tight before you jump. And check hers too while you’re at it.

  8. The One Who Believes You. (Even When She Shouldn’t)

    She’s the one who believes what you say – whether it’s your new business plan or that you’re done with your job or your relationship or any other big changes you want to announce. She believes you, whatever your emotional state when you announce it and starts to devise the plan to help you do it. And she’s excellent at it. She won’t push you either way but she’ll be there with a huge fluffy net to catch you – just in case – when you make your move. She’ll reassure you that you’ll be fine – because you always will be – and she’ll walk beside you every step of the way. If you change you’re mind, there’ll be no argument from her. We love her because she takes us to the edge of our dreaming and shows us how it looks. Then lets us decide whether to go there or not.

  9. The Do-er.

    She figures out what you need before you’ve figured it out yourself. She the one you want in a crisis because she might not be able to be with you, but she will know what needs to be done – and she’ll do it. She’ll have your dinners sorted and your kids collected from school. And as soon as she’s free, she’ll be there talking, laughing and throwing a load of washing on before she walks out the door.

  10. The One Who Knows Everything About Us.

    This is the woman who knows everything about us – the good, the bad, the ugly, and the things that make the ugly turn away. She doesn’t judge – ever – and reminds us that we’re so much more than our dim dirty secrets. You’ll never have to worry about hearing your story from a third party over lunch – these women know how to keep a secret.

  11. The One Who Takes it to a Deeper Level.

    There are some friends who are great for a laugh, and some who are good to let your mind run away with. This woman will talk and talk with you and will have you wondering where the time went. She makes you think and she helps you discover. She’s full of wisdom and puts you well within reach of yours.

And something all phenomenal women do, no matter their special type:

  1. She shares your joy, not just your sorrow.

    For some people, it’s easier to be there when you’re firmly (face)planted on the ground than when you’re soaring. We need to celebrate each other’s success and cheer as loud as anybody when one of us flies a bit higher than the flock for a while – because we all know what it takes to soar. 

  2. She never judges you – or any other woman.

    Phenomenal women don’t necessarily like all women but they never judge them. Instead, they look for what that woman knows that they don’t. They know that every woman has a story and that you can learn something from most of them – even if it’s how not to be.

Phenomenal women are many things but one of the things they do without fail is lift other women.

How do you do this? Probably you do it differently for different people. Is there any you would add to the list? 

2 Comments

Rebecca

This is wonderful and so true in so many ways.
I don’t have very many close women friends and do feel that I need them!

I have a younger sister, who until about 8 months ago was nearly my worst enemy most of the time. Not through choice I might add. Neither of us had ever been able to ‘get’ the other.

We lost our mother suddenly about two years ago and when it happened of course, we both dealt with it very differently.
I, as a parent, went into practical mode and as well as all the obvious things to do I threw myself into renovating our late mother’s house which we inherited.

Of course, this was my way of coping and along with the support of a wonderful man in my life and my beautiful little girl, I was able to somehow navigate through the fog of loss I was feeling.

My sister dealt with the loss of our mother very differently and to me it seemed as though she simply shut herself away, becoming more and more dependant on her then boyfriend. She was angry and unpleasant much of the time, understandably of course! I knew that this was her way of coping and left her to it most of the time. I must say that I too had my fair share of behaving irrationally and being a bit if a b****.of course I did!

Once the major work on the house was completed we made the decision to move into the house together. My daughter and I, and my sister and her boyfriend. My sister and I coped with living together by talking to anyone but each other most of the time. Eventually my sister and her boyfriend broke up and I was left worrying about the idea of living with her without the adult buffer between us that her boyfriend had become.

After a while though, my sister and I started to find ourselves in long conversations, often about our mother and childhood. It became a bit of a cleansing process for both of us. Our mother, though an incredible woman, had often made situations worse between my sister and I. We talked and talked and eventually she started to confide in me and tell me how she was feeling about having lost our mother and her boyfriend etc, and I too started to confide in her.

She’s a very bright, bubbly person who always seems to be the life of the party but can be mentally falling apart, but since she has had to rely on no one but herself she has grown incredibly.

She now has a new group of women friends who she spends time with, I’m almost jealous!

We are very good friends these days. Its amazing, if you had asked me about my sister a couple years ago I would have probably just said that I love her but I don’t like her very much. Now I can say that I not only like her but she fits many of the headings in this article for me and I for her.

We need other women! they just get ‘it’ more than men.

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Hey Sigmund

This is wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing your story. When our relationships with women work, they really work and there’s just nothing like them. The relationship between you and your sister sounds like an amazing one – worth every second of the work you both put into it!

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During adolescence, our teens are more likely to pay attention to the positives of a situation over the negatives. This can be a great thing. The courage that comes from this will help them try new things, explore their independence, and learn the things they need to learn to be happy, healthy adults. But it can also land them in bucketloads of trouble. 

Here’s the thing. Our teens don’t want to do the wrong thing and they don’t want to go behind our backs, but they also don’t want to be controlled by us, or have any sense that we might be stifling their way towards independence. The cold truth of it all is that if they want something badly enough, and if they feel as though we are intruding or that we are making arbitrary decisions just because we can, or that we don’t get how important something is to them, they have the will, the smarts and the means to do it with or without or approval. 

So what do we do? Of course we don’t want to say ‘yes’ to everything, so our job becomes one of influence over control. To keep them as safe as we can, rather than saying ‘no’ (which they might ignore anyway) we want to engage their prefrontal cortex (thinking brain) so they can be more considered in their decision making. 

Our teens are very capable of making good decisions, but because the rational, logical, thinking prefrontal cortex won’t be fully online until their 20s (closer to 30 in boys), we need to wake it up and bring it to the decision party whenever we can. 

Do this by first softening the landing:
‘I can see how important this is for you. You really want to be with your friends. I absolutely get that.’
Then, gently bring that thinking brain to the table:
‘It sounds as though there’s so much to love in this for you. I don’t want to get in your way but I need to know you’ve thought about the risks and planned for them. What are some things that could go wrong?’
Then, we really make the prefrontal cortex kick up a gear by engaging its problem solving capacities:
‘What’s the plan if that happens.’
Remember, during adolescence we switch from managers to consultants. Assume a leadership presence, but in a way that is warm, loving, and collaborative.♥️
Big feelings and big behaviour are a call for us to come closer. They won’t always feel like that, but they are. Not ‘closer’ in an intrusive ‘I need you to stop this’ way, but closer in a ‘I’ve got you, I can handle all of you’ kind of way - no judgement, no need for you to be different - I’m just going to make space for this feeling to find its way through. 

Our kids and teens are no different to us. When we have feelings that fill us to overloaded, the last thing we need is someone telling us that it’s not the way to behave, or to calm down, or that we’re unbearable when we’re like this. Nup. What we need, and what they need, is a safe place to find our out breath, to let the energy connected to that feeling move through us and out of us so we can rest. 
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But how? First, don’t take big feelings personally. They aren’t a reflection on you, your parenting, or your child. Big feelings have wisdom contained in them about what’s needed more, or less, or what feels intolerable right now. Sometimes it might be as basic as a sleep or food. Maybe more power, influence, independence, or connection with you. Maybe there’s too much stress and it’s hitting their ceiling and ricocheting off their edges. Like all wisdom, it doesn’t always find a gentle way through. That’s okay, that will come. Our kids can’t learn to manage big feelings, or respect the wisdom embodied in those big feelings if they don’t have experience with big feelings. 
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We also need to make sure we are responding to them in the moment, not a fear or an inherited ‘should’ of our own. These are the messages we swallowed whole at some point - ‘happy kids should never get sad or angry’, ‘kids should always behave,’ ‘I should be able to protect my kids from feeling bad,’ ‘big feelings are bad feelings’, ‘bad behaviour means bad kids, which means bad parents.’ All these shoulds are feisty show ponies that assume more ‘rightness’ than they deserve. They are usually historic, and when we really examine them, they’re also irrelevant.
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Finally, try not to let the symptoms of big feelings disrupt the connection. Then, when calm comes, we will have the influence we need for the conversations that matter.
"Be patient. We don’t know what we want to do or who we want to be. That feels really bad sometimes. Just keep reminding us that it’s okay that we don’t have it all figured out yet, and maybe remind yourself sometimes too."
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 #parentingteens #neurodevelopment #positiveparenting #parenting #neuronurtured #braindevelopment #adolescence  #neurodevelopment #parentingteens
Would you be more likely to take advice from someone who listened to you first, or someone who insisted they knew best and worked hard to convince you? Our teens are just like us. If we want them to consider our advice and be open to our influence, making sure they feel heard is so important. Being right doesn't count for much at all if we aren't being heard.
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Hear what they think, what they want, why they think they're right, and why it’s important to them. Sometimes we'll want to change our mind, and sometimes we'll want to stand firm. When they feel fully heard, it’s more likely that they’ll be able to trust that our decisions or advice are given fully informed and with all of their needs considered. And we all need that.
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 #positiveparenting #parenting #parenthood #neuronurtured #childdevelopment #adolescence 
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"We’re pretty sure that when you say no to something it’s because you don’t understand why it’s so important to us. Of course you’ll need to say 'no' sometimes, and if you do, let us know that you understand the importance of whatever it is we’re asking for. It will make your ‘no’ much easier to accept. We need to know that you get it. Listen to what we have to say and ask questions to understand, not to prove us wrong. We’re not trying to control you or manipulate you. Some things might not seem important to you but if we’re asking, they’re really important to us.❤️" 
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#neurodevelopment #neuronurtured #childdevelopment #parenting #positiveparenting #mindfulparenting

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