Hi friends! Hope everyone is off to another great week and ready to take on another area of our self-love journey. This week we are focusing on friendships and their important role in our hike up the love mountain. How we regard ourselves sets an expectation for the type of people we want to be around. When we show love, compassion, and acceptance of ourselves, we can extend that same grace to our friends. Friendships can be in the form of acquaintances (i.e. coworkers, people you see at the local Starbucks regularly, your dry cleaner, etc) to the real deal friends that you count on through thick and thin. One side of the coin is more superficial, while the other is rooted in deep connection and trust. It's those deep connections that I will focus on this week.
Cultivating good friendships is beneficial to your physical, mental and emotional health. Here are some of the benefits as noted by Mayo Clinic:
~Increase your sense of belonging
~Boost happiness and reduce stress
~Improve self-confidence and self-worth
~Help you cope with traumas, such as divorce, serious illness, job loss or the death of a loved one
~Encourage you to change or avoid unhealthy lifestyle habits
~Adults with strong social support have a reduced risk of depression, high blood pressure, and an unhealthy body mass index
~Studies have shown that older adults with a rich social life are likely to live longer than their peers with fewer connections
The sense of 'belonging' is so powerful when cultivating friendships. Feeling you are a part of something, makes you feel connected. Connection is being seen, heard and valued. This is the focal point of wholehearted living, when we allow ourselves to be seen despite our flaws. When it comes to building friendships in the spirit of connectivity, it takes some vulnerability. Many people are uncomfortable with vulnerability because it invokes fear: fear of being seen as imperfect, flawed, or different. Unfortunately, without vulnerability it's nearly impossible to create 'true connection'. True connection is important in deciding WHO HAS EARNED THE RIGHT TO HEAR YOUR STORY.
As we go through our self-love journey, there will be set backs. We will have moments where we maybe didn't say the right thing, react in the appropriate way, speak out of context or timing, or possibly offend someone. These moments can spiral into what Brene Brown calls a 'shaming spiral'. It's a tornado in your mind where 'shame gremlins' (also a Brene Brown term) come to speak negativity into you, put you down, and dance on your insecurities. Shame wants you to keep quiet, not share, hold it in, so that it could thrive and metastasize. Shame could also cause us to share a 'modified version' of our story; a version that isn't entirely true because we choose to leave out the parts we are ashamed of. When we tailor our story, we do ourselves a disservice in sharing that modified version. We need to be 100% honest with ourselves and the people we choose to share our stories with. Shame HATES being exposed, because then it loses its power. This is why good friends are necessary in your journey, we need those friends as part of our 'shame resiliency' practice.
In Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown, she talks about the steps we must take to fight against shame so that we can move past it:
Step 1 - Recognize shame and understand its triggers - what causes you to feel shame?
Step 2 - Practice critical awareness - reality check the messages and expectations that are driving the shame? Is this really about what you're feeling, or what you think the world expects of you?
Step 3 - Reaching out - own your story; call someone who has earned the right to hear your story, share with them and get their feedback
Step 4 - Speak it - don't let it sit in your spirit, speak positive to yourself, about yourself
Step 3 is why we need to cultivate good friends. Who do you call when you're in a shame spiral (I like to call it a 'gut check'). Do you call an old friend? A relatively new friend? A family member, maybe? Who can you trust to speak into you with love and honesty? We have to practice wisdom and discernment in carefully selecting these individuals because it takes 2 very important elements to make this relationship work: 1) their ability to impart wisdom, loving correction and encouragement from a sincere place in their heart and, 2) your ability to receive what they have to say, even when they aren't agreeing with your behaviors or thought processes. It's a mutually beneficial, emotionally exclusive relationship that is built on trust and compassion. When you find such a friendship, it can be a safe place where anything and everything can be discussed -- and a strong defense against the shame gremlins who come to attack during your weak moments.
Look around at your friendships. Who can be categorized as a good friend? Who is best qualified as an acquaintance? And who needs to just leave and move on, as the relationship no longer serves you? Take a moment to survey your relationships and compartmentalize them accordingly. Even if only one or two individuals stand out as your 'go-to' people, that's more than enough. That's enough to fight the good fight against shame.
Have a good week, love bugs! Please share this movement with your friends and let's support one another in this journey.