Friendship, just like any relationship, is a risk. Will they like me? Will I fit in? And while certain aspects of adulthood make friend-finding more challenging, there’s a self-awareness we have as adults that lends itself to some of the most important, fulfilling connections of our lives. That self-awareness can also be our biggest enemy.
In today’s episode, we talk about finding female friends that are your SOUL friends, and finding communities in which you feel like you truly BELONG. What holds us back from being in the types of communities and friendships we long for, and how to take steps to create the kinds of bonds that are fulfilling, rich, and real.
Every season, we’ll be spotlighting an organization that’s making strides when it comes to making shift happen. This season, we’re proud to support She’s The First, an award-winning non-profit organization that fights gender inequality through education. To learn more, go to shesthefirst.org
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Life is always going to keep handing you (or your friend) full schedules. Geography and time zones – or sleep schedules – won’t always be on your side. Here’s how to stay connected when life gets in the way.
It can feel like the companionship cards are stacked against us – but we actually have more in our favor than not. We’ve grown into ourselves. We know what we love and what we don’t. And as we get older, we become less into appeasing others and more into honoring ourselves. We can be “friendly acquaintances” or “work buddies” with people in our various social spheres with zero pressure to develop a deep and lasting bond, like when we’re younger and in school or living in dormitories.
But life changes a lot as an adult, and friendships morph. You don’t need to live far away to feel like you have a long-distance friendship. People move across town, across the country, or across the world. They start new jobs, or grow new families, or take up new hobbies that fill up their soul. Work gets tough and obligations pile up.
Building a life for yourself as an adult is a complicated, ever-evolving process. And sometimes, it gets lonely. That doesn’t mean you’re alone, though: lonely’s just love with nowhere to go.
I gave myself a “friend-tervention” about a year ago when I realized that after planning and executing an amazing wedding, taking on a job that took up the majority of my time and energy, and hunting for a new apartment in the city, I’d been a pretty crappy friend for…well, for too long for me to be comfortable with. Plus, hello, I moved across the country almost three years ago! Time zones weren’t helping at all. I was super lonely, and felt disconnected to my nearest and dearest. And so I recommitted to upping my friendship game, to the people who lived far, but who lived close too.
Part of this meant making decisions to recommit to my sense of community in general – in business AND in life. When I joined Aaptiv, I became able to workout with anyone, anywhere. I could cheer up the people I loved when we were far away – and uplift people I didn’t even know yet. I let go of the classes that made me feel stretched thin and like I wasn’t able to give my all. And I increased the frequency of WANTcast episodes I released per month, and increased the amount of solo episodes I recorded so I could talk directly “to” listeners more and have a conversation “one-on-one.”
I ALSO started looking for ways to meet up with local friends that fit for both of us. Scheduling work dates with our laptops, figuring out when our schedules overlapped, grabbing a coffee with them on their lunch break. And I started to devise strategies around showing up, literally or emotionally, for the people I cared about most WITHOUT sacrificing myself in the meantime. Because to show up for your people, you really do need to show up for yourself first.
Life is always going to keep handing you (or your friend) full schedules. Geography and time zones – or sleep schedules – won’t always be on your side. Here’s how to stay connected when life gets in the way:
1 – Schedule calls into your cal.
My calendar is my lifeline. If something’s in my calendar, you bet it’s gonna happen. If it’s not, good luck to me remembering it. That goes for work, social plans – and sometimes, if the week is really nuts, even phone calls.
Texts to your nearest and dearest are great, but there’s something that can’t be beat about voice-to-voice connection, whether it’s a phone call or Skype sesh. Scheduling out time to “just say hi” or catch up might feel forced or contrived, but if the alternative is that “just saying hi” keeps getting put off…then this might be a strategy that helps you stick to your shared-words.
There are two ways you can do this: Schedule your calls along WITH your friend. If you use a digital calendar, like Google Cal, make a calendar event, and invite your pal so they’ve got it down, too. But if that feels too forced, then just schedule time in your OWN calendar to call someone, anyone, each week. I have three different reminders in my calendar spread throughout the week – when I KNOW I’ll have time to talk – that say Phone Call To Someone I Love. That way, even if I end up leaving a voicemail, I know I’ve taken the first step in connecting.
Of course you can call as many people you want to call, whenever you want to call them. But having it in the calendar is a reminder to take the time to do it, even when life feels overwhelming.
2 – Send them something they want, need, will make their life easier, or will make them smile.
Care packages aren’t just for sick days or sleep-away camp. They’re also for saying I Miss You, Good Luck, or, well, I Care. They can be emotional – like a copy of “Braving The Wilderness,” a book all about finding your place in the world, that I recently Amazon Prime’d to a friend struggling to identify their place in the world – or practical – like the fancy umbrella an anonymous person recently sent my way to help brave this wacky NYC weather (ps….who are you? I love it!).
Yes, this post is sponsored by Small Packages. Because it’s a company I’d champion and celebrate anyway. I LOVE their mission of making connection easier, and I love that they just want women to connect with those they love most. If you’re like me and you’re a bit, uh, over-achiever-y in the gift department, they knock it out of the park: you can select a box that’s themed around a life event like celebrating a birthday or buying a home, or around a sentiment like “I miss you” or “I screwed up.” And unlike some other boxes that might seem sterile or run of the mill, they go for quality over quantity – the products they choose are DOPE (literally have never seen a box this good – check out the picture above!) and they’ll even handwrite a card for your friend, from you to her (with zero character limit for people like me who prefer to write novels over notes).
Last week, I surprised my dear friend Jen with the “Missing You” box because a) The box reminded me of our favorite activities together, and b) Duh, I missed her.
I’m not sure how Jen and I became as close as we are, but the “Us”-ness of us just sort of appeared one day. She was only a few months into living in Los Angeles, and I was just a few months into teaching at Equinox. She arrived in my class and I had an automatic girl crush on the second-row powerhouse who looked like Wonder Woman and joked like Tina Fey. Multiple times a month, we’d meet up at a tiny strip mall in between our apartments for what we called Hooves And Paws: a manicure-pedicure date preceded or proceeded by fancy coffee beverages and the realest of real talks. When I saw the “Missing You” box, including a book of deep-dive conversations, a sleep mask that gave me H+P relaxation vibes, AND some really really good coffee…I knew it was the one.
Jen’s had a pretty wild year-plus, from business highs and lows to a death in the family to almost being on fire, literally. I am so proud of how she’s moved forward fearlessly through it all with grit, grace, and a crapton of humor. She’s got some big things going on right now that I can’t support in-person – so sending her something that reminded me (and her) of spending quality time together made her day, and it made mine too.
(Btw…if you want to send a Small Packages box to a friend, use code WANT at checkout for 10% off your order. Boom. Done.)
3 – Set boundaries, make priorities, and honor them.
Even when I worked in an office 9-6pm, I still was running SOMETHING in addition. Whether it was a freelance writing gig, acting auditions, or eventually WANT, I used to feel really guilt putting my work aside for social time…so guilty, that I almost always did it.
I ended staying up way past the wee-hours, cramming in the work I didn’t get to that evening, or scrambling on Monday when I didn’t use a little of my weekend to prep and get centered. I was way too exhausted and spread way too thin. I was so afraid of saying NO – for my work, for my health, for my sanity – that I started to realize my yesses didn’t mean much. Because I was always sacrificing something. I was exhausted, and wasn’t fully present. I wasn’t placing value on my time, or my friend’s time. Nothing was the priority. And that wasn’t fair to anyone. My friends deserved to really GET ME when they got me.
I now know how to say NO, and it’s saved me AND my friendships. I no longer dance around my priorities, and no longer feel guilty if I turn down an invite. The flip of that? When I say YES, I am ALL. IN. No work, no half-of-me….all of me, right here, right now. My friends respect my work, my health, and my sanity – and I respect theirs. I’ve even had friends tell me that because I’ve said I need to take a mental health day to myself, they feel comfortable saying that to other people now, too.
4 – Meet them where they’re at.
I saved my favorite for last. So often we expect each other to be exactly the same person we were when we first met. But as our lives change, WE change too.
Jacki Carr put it so succinctly in Episode 063: it’s important to reintroduce yourself to your friends as you grow and evolve – and get to know them in their evolution, too. Your friend who is a new mom probably is going to have some new priorities in her life now, and your friend who moved across the country is probably learning things about themselves they would’ve never predicted five years ago. Your friend might be in a period of self-discovery, or in a period of career expansion, or they might just be a different person now than when you first met them. And every single one of those scenarios is something to be celebrated and get curious about. What’s incredible is that when you commit to meeting your friends, whether near or far, where they’re at – you sidestep feelings like jealousy, resentment, and __. You get to stay curious, stay surprised, and keep “friend-dating” them even after you’ve reached soul-mate status. Meet your friends where they’re at in life – and they’ll meet you where you’re at, too.
WANT Yourself: How do you stay close to friends when life gets in the way? What are some ways you keep your relationships strong, even when distance or circumstances might not be on your side?
Leave a comment below telling us – you might be helping out a friend in need who’s reading.
This post is sponsored by Small Packages, next-level care packages for the people you love the most.
Use code WANT for 10% off your order.
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Faking it is the worst. No, matter whether you’re feigning confidence in an interview or fighting off your impulse to hide from adult responsibilities or in the passionate midst of a NSFW sitch, “faking it” feels uncomfortable, guilt-riddled, and, well, fake.
Multiply this by a bajillion if you’re an introvert – and a bajillion more if you’ve just said yes to yet another social invite on the cal.
As an introvert, going to an event or getting yourself into a social situation “just because” is usually a set up for disaster, guilt, and low self-confidence.
So how do you avoid a meltdown…without avoiding a social life at the same time?
On one hand, you’re an introvert through and through…along with about half the population. You gain energy from within yourself instead of from interaction with others in the outside world. You need time to make decisions and mentally rehearse what you want to say, instead of making decisions quickly and thinking out loud.
Most importantly? You have a private self that is only revealed to your inner circle, the people you trust – which can make it hard to want to be social when you don’t know many people.
The people who don’t understand might peg you as aloof or shy.However, you know that shyness and introversion are not the same thing. Shyness is the fear of negative judgment, and introversion is a preference for quiet, minimally stimulating environments – your thoughts and ideas, the way you react to a piece of music or a string of words, that is stimulating enough. You do your best work in your head, with deep reflection. You are truly your own best friend.
On the other hand, just because you’re a bona-fide introvert doesn’t mean you want to shun socializing. And you know, introvert, that being your personality type doesn’t mean you’re necessarily quiet or shy.
As an introvert, you truly enjoy being around others and benefit most from deep connections. Small talk doesn’t really interest you, and the quantity of connections aren’t so much as important to you as the quality. You get high off of those instances that just seem to click – and even though you are at your best when given time alone, sometimes you feel your trait is shutting you off from a whole world that awaits.
We live in a culture that pays the most attention to extroversion: one that tells us that the signs of a thriving personal life are having a large social circle, bustling days filled with activity, and jam-packed nights filled with soirees.
In reality, we actually live in a culture that is FILLED with scenarios made for introverts, from one-on-one interactions to solo commutes to independent choices.
Pop culture caters to extroverts, so you may believe you’re the odd (wo)man out. But introverts are the ones who instinctively know how to navigate the deepest of waters in any social scenario. You’ll gain the most value from your social activities if you not only recognize your strengths, but find a purpose behind why you’re going. Because you, dear Introvert, have so much to add to the world, and every social situation can benefit from your insight and worldview. Introverts instinctively know how to navigate the deepest of waters in any social scenario. Click To Tweet
Here are 7 ways to stay social while still being true to who you are at your core – no faking required:
1.) Enjoy the silence. As an introvert, bustling parties and crowded rooms can be overwhelming – making you shy away from those situations altogether. There will be times, though, you cannot avoid being in the middle of the action or simply don’t want to opt out of every invitation.
Intersperse moments of silence throughout your day, and bookend the event with silence as well. Knowing that you’ll be able to decompress in peace is vital and prevents panic from setting in when you feel like you can’t get away from the literal and metaphorical noise.
2.) Redefine “networking” as “friend-netting.” Don’t worry – I shudder at the thought of “networking,” too. And when you’ve got work functions to attend or mixers you’ve said yes to, it’s easy to feel like a fish out of water.
Instead of focusing on the quantity of people you meet or conversations you have, relish in those one or two meaningful conversations or connections. Instead of networking, find the one or two people that you can devote your focus and attention to. My fiance calls this “friend-netting.” The chances are very slim you’re the only introvert at the party – even if it feels like it at times. Use your killer instinct to find your fellow introverts and maybe even bond over your shared trait.
3.) Ask active questions. One of your strengths is what a wonderful listener you are – and most people love to talk about themselves (not a bad thing – we all love to talk about things we feel we have expertise in, and who is a better expert of ourselves than…ourselves?). Avoid small talk by asking open-ended questions to people you meet, listening carefully, offering up a little piece of information about yourself to form a connection, then ask another question based off the last answer.
For example, instead of asking where someone is from or if they’re been to this person’s party before or if they like the weather or whatever (all of which usually only involve a single word answer), ask how long they’ve lived in your town, how they first met the host, or what they usually do for or love about whatever season you’re in.
4.) Know your yesses – and your nos. What are the qualities you enjoy in an event? What are the things that drain you? Maybe you become anxious and tired at night, but enjoy daytime or afternoon events. Maybe you’re a night owl but any social scenario that takes place before noon makes you cranky. Maybe you don’t bat an eye at parties hosted at someone’s home, but clubs and bars give you goosebumps in a bad way. Know your preferred times of day, locations, days of the week, and other details so that you can make an informed decision about whether to attend or not. If the nos outweigh the yesses by more than two thirds (or even one half), opt out and pat yourself on the back for knowing yourself so well.
5.) Go with a like-minded friend. As an introvert, it’s in your nature to shy away when you sense a highly extroverted personality taking the spotlight. What’s frustrating is not the person herself, it’s that you end up feeling like you’ve put your own personality on hold in order to accommodate someone else – which is usually never an extrovert’s intention to begin with.
Going with a like-minded friend not only evens out the playing field when you’re in group conversations, it ensures you’ll have at least one person to bond with in merriment. Hey, you can even go with a trusted extrovert who gets you and can help take the pressure off being “on.”
6.) Do the coordination yourself. Whether it’s offering up the location of your lunch spot or diving deep and hosting your own soiree, taking charge of the coordination is a secret tool of introverts. If you’re coordinating, it not only gives you a say in choosing an environment/guest list that suits your comfort level (say, a unique hole-in-the-wall coffee shop instead of a loud trendy restaurant). It gives you a sense of purpose…which is key for an introvert’s social fulfillment.
7.) Cut yourself some slack. As author Elaine Aron says in her book The Highly Sensitive Person (someone who is extremely easily affected by their surroundings and emotions – another personality type you very well might possess as an introvert. I do!), everyone is a bit awkward at their non-specialty.
If you find yourself in the middle of small talk or a conversation you’re flubbing up…if you’re slowly gravitating toward the corner and hugging the punch table…ease up on your self-judgement. Your speciality isn’t small talk or big groups, it’s deep conversations and making a small group or one-on-one interaction feel like it’s the biggest, most important interaction there is. And that’s a gift you should never overlook.
Worst case scenario? You get to people watch. And every introvert knows that is a goldmine.
“We are a group of ladies that like to group hug the shit out of each other and make it feel like home. Welcome to the lady gang :-* “
I received this text the other night from a fairly new-ish friend, a rad gal I’d bonded with via WANT and le internet but had never met in person. Now that we’re in the same time zone, we knew we had to meet up.
I was figuring we’d meet up for a quick coffee or some other socially/emotionally “safe” encounter that lasted no longer than 60 minutes max.
But once we started texting, she did something that completely caught me off guard in the best way possible: she invited me into her circle, and into her world.
I don’t know whether it’s an alien sixth sense that I have or some sort of planetary alignment working in my favor, but throughout my life I’ve been presented with some pretty badass babes out of the blue. It always plays out like one of those 90s rom-coms starring Rachel Leigh Cook or Jennifer Love Hewitt or some other teen idol with three names. Except in my version, it’s the potential friend I see from across the room, not the potential love interest. I see them in a group or meet them for a split second and I think, YES. This person is the real deal. This person is My Kinda Person.
Whether I’ve always chosen to do something about it or not has been a different story. When these people, primarily women, present themselves into my life, I sometimes hesitate to take action. What if they don’t like me? What if I am too much, too little, too awkward, too normal? What if I’m a nuisance or a bother, what if I don’t fit in? What if this person I hope I’ll connect with doesn’t understand she can show me her flaws without fearing judgement, and retreats back into her world shunning my friendship forevermore? What if she doesn’t realize that I’m on her side?
My inner dialogue around new friends ends up sounding a lot like the way I talk to myself about the person I hope to be but don’t believe I can (or am ALLOWED to) be.
Just like in romantic relationships, the sign of a healthy and meaningful friendship (especially female friendship, for the sake of this article) isn’t always just that two people can “be themselves” with each other – it’s that those same two people can go to the dark places together as a team and come out stronger on the other end. The sign of a healthy and meaningful friendship is when two people trust they’re right where they know they need to be, and trust that they’re there together.
But that’s not what’s happening out there IRL. I know, because if it was happening, we wouldn’t be talking about finding friends as an adult over and over and over again. “One study, published in 2015 in Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences, looked at 540 men and women and showed we lose an average of two friends when we gain a romantic partner,” the WSJ tells me. “People have an internal alarm clock that goes off at big life events, like turning 30. It reminds them that time horizons are shrinking, so it is a point to pull back on exploration and concentrate on the here and now,” one study in the New York Times concludes. Even science agrees that making friends as an adult kind of sucks.
I keep reading the NYT piece, and something pops out at me: “As external conditions change, it becomes tougher to meet the three conditions that sociologists since the 1950s have considered crucial to making close friends: proximity; repeated, unplanned interactions…and a setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other.”
1950s sociologists might have been using the word “setting” to describe actual places and locations, but I think it’s something much more complex:
In order to set the stage to let our guards down and confide in one another, we must first let our guards down and confide in ourselves. The perfect “setting” that encourages friendship isn’t in a coffee shop or living room: it’s in our hearts.
Friendship isn’t about something exciting and cool to go to in order to bond. Friendship is about compatibility on a soul level. We tend to forget this as we get older, and focus on reserving that soul-compatibility factor for our romantic partner. Friends are for having fun with. Friends are the ensemble. Friends are the side dish, a romantic partner is the main event.
So we engage in more and more superficial experiences and stay on more and more emotionally safe terrain, subconsciously and simultaneously looking for that soul connection but not wanting to go out on a limb and show our whole selves.
That’s the problem: not the coffee date, not the group hang.
If we’re supposed to be the sum of the five people we spend the most time with – then they’re our mirrors, so to speak.
The problem lies in the way we treat ourselves and the internal expectations we set when it comes to how much we actually want to hold a clear mirror up.
Self-acceptance, self love, and therefore friendship, is a messy experience. Many times, we’re scared. We’re scared of the person we could be and the risks we’d need to take to be that person. We’re scared of the rejection, the disappointment, and most of all, the truths that will be revealed along the way. The best work we can do in this life is also the work that brings to light things we’d rather not admit.
And so staying in “safe” friendships is a lot easier to stomach than the alternate. We’re not asked much of, we’re not challenged to the core; we stay in the loop of sameness we’ve always been in because it’s just so comfy there. We fear we might not be able to rise to the occasion, so we sink to the level of good-enough to quench our thirst for connection with others ergo connection with ourselves.
And then we keep talking about how hard it is to make friends as an adult.
::facepalm:: We’re afraid of the friends we know we want – nay, we know we NEED – when we’re the least stable in our own sense of self. We sink to the lowest common denominator or keep things “friendly” with a lot of people at once without connecting with anyone who really seems to get us. We get trampled on because we love to be of service and feel useful, but we aren’t down to be of service to ourselves so we try and be of service to others, but because we’re not being of service to ourselves first and foremost we end up overcommitting and fanning everyone’s fire but own own. If we’re not valuing our OWN presence in our OWN life, how can we expect someone else to value it in THEIRS?
Are we really so afraid to face ourselves that we’re limiting the mirrors we look into?
I spent way too long shrinking back from the friends I knew I needed – because I spent way too long shrinking back from the person I knew I needed to be. I passed judgement, too; thinking certain people would never want to be my friend or were way cooler, funnier, smarter, etc than I could ever hope to be. I shied away from the women I’d feel that sixth-sense-feeling about, the ones I knew I would connect with in a deep and meaningful way. I was scared. I was scared that I was too much. I was scared I was too little. I was scared I wouldn’t be accepted. I didn’t believe we were on the same level. And obviously, it wasn’t really about the potential friend at all. It never is.
Ever so slowly, I started to build up the self worth and positive self image to be my fullest self in every situation I was in. And then I’d meet a soul-friend and she would awaken me to an even fuller version of myself. And so on and so on. The more I committed to not only being my true self out in public, but to diving deep into what really made me my truest self when I was alone in my head in private, a miraculous chain reaction started happening. I gave less shits about winning over everyone and gave more shits about connecting with the select few who resonated with my bravery to show them who I am – because they too were being brave and showing me who they were.
The trick to finding the friends that you need doesn’t lie in a shared affinity for 90s rom-coms or a mutual love of yoga. It doesn’t lie in a class you took, or a mutual friend you made, or even the fact that you fight for the same causes. The trick to finding the friends that you need is being completely and brutally honest about what you need from YOURSELF.
Then, and only then, can you – as Danielle LaPorte says– find your tribe and love them hard. Then, and only then, will your gals come around who can group hug the shit out of you and make it feel like home.
No games. No haze. Just two crystal-clear mirrors facing each other and bouncing the light off til infinity.
Welcome to the lady gang.
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If you follow me on Instagram or read WANT often, you know I’m a sucker for a good fitness experience. And it’s not because I’m super passionate about how to do a lunge or because of any sort of caloric burn: just like anything else worthwhile, fitness, to me, is all about how it makes you feel.
Today’s guest is a long time in the making (we may or may not have tried to record this 7xs, nbd), someone whose journey I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing over the last five years: Kirsten Potenza, the co-founder of POUND.
POUND is a workout unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced – IF YOUR IDEA of a workout looks more like head-banging at a rock concert than logging miles on a treadmill, then POUND may just be your fitness spirit animal. The concept behind this killer workout is simple yet genius: a full-body cardio jam session using weighted Ripstix to drum to the music for 45 crazy minutes. I live for music, so when I was first introduced to POUND, and Kirsten, I felt like I’d found a workout meant for me.
The POUND story was born from struggle and a journey to self-realization that involved finding out what was missing for both Kirsten and co-founder Cristina. When they met, they were both living in extremes – Kirsten, in particular, was a work-a-holic and a play-a-holic with zero sense of balance.
After realizing there was a shift that needed to be made, POUND and the POUND philosophy was born: life can’t be fully enjoyed without balance and nurturing, and if you give up on self-improvement, you give up on yourself. There is always something you can do, big or small, to be the you YOU know you’re meant to be.
In this episode we talk Kirsten’s past with negativity and her catalyst for a new way of thinking, going from feeling completely alone to being a community builder extraordinaire, why all “fitspiration” is NOT created equal, and the immense value in going slow in whatever you feel passionate about.
I’m thrilled to have her on the WANTcast and to be able to introduce you to her.
Like this episode? Shoot me a comment below, leave a review on iTunes (the more reviews, the more Kirsten’s awesomeness is spread), share it on Facebook, tweet it out on Twitter, or post it on Instagram. Be sure to use the hashtags #WANTcast, #womenagainstnegativetalk, and/or #WANTyourself!