What are your friendships contingent on?

Friendships. I think it's fair to say that we all have them. But it's just as fair to say that they don't all look the same.

I can't even begin to explain how many times over the last few weeks I've been chatting with a friend, a client, or an acquaintance and a consistent theme has been raising its hand - the people we're connected with, have relationships with, friendships with, collaborations with are shifting, and they seem to either be coming or going - NOT staying the same. So let's lean into this together.

The optimist in me says, "That's amazing! New, 'shiny' things! Out with the old and in with the new. Embrace change"! The coach in me says "Hmmmm.... How interesting. I wonder what's driving this? Where are the consistencies and themes? What stories are here? Is it a healthy shift that represents growth OR a place where I'm perpetuating my own pain or complacency?" Per usual, the coach wins out and "Voila", we have even more questions.

For simplicity sake, we're going to focus on a key question here: What unspoken and spoken expectations are/were behind these friendships? (In case you didn't know, THIS is a BIG one, in my opinion.) For myself, lately, I've really been recognizing my reaction to certain dynamics between other women - generally via social media. These are women I've either connected with, feel like they're virtual mentors of mine, or have been in spaces of professional development with. I see them doing these amazing things together (that's what the posts say to me anyway) and get this pang of...... FOMO? Envy? Jealousy? Which is so interesting to me because, (first) grace and curiosity, right? So where is this coming from? Welcome to unspoken expectations. Let's back up for a second and talk about those feelings first. Shoving them down, ignoring them or downplaying them isn't gonna get anyone anywhere. I don't know how many of you know who Brené Brown is but I LOVE her mind and the information she shares. Recently I listened to her book, "The Atlas of the Heart" and one of the things that really jumped out to me was the difference between Jealousy and Envy. It never occurred to me that they were different, but her explanation of them made so much sense when I heard it. To paraphrase - Jealousy is a feeling we have when we feel or fear (even subconsciously) that something we have can be taken or replaced by someone else. Envy is about wanting something somebody else has. And envy seems like the thing I've been recognizing when I see these posts about these groups of women doing these "amazing" things together. But wait, there's more.

Another thing that's been coming up a lot lately is the individual definition of success. Even the formal definitions of success are all over the place. Add on the "copy and paste" definition of what success "should" look like, and shocker that so many of us find ourselves measuring against terms and values that don't come anywhere near resembling our own. It's like someone asking what temperature it is outside and giving them the answer in Celsius (when they're used to defining in Fahrenheit) AND with no conversion table in place. Make sense? No? Exactly. What does any of this have to do with friends? It's those unspoken expectations along with the lack of defining what a success in a friendship looks like ("the conversion table") that can lead to stumbling blocks, frustrations, and destructive assumptions. Even my own experience with those posts where I'm wondering if it's envy I'm recognizing, I find myself asking myself what it is about them (them, the posts and them, the people) that I'm envious of. Is it the connection? The activity? Their success (again, an assumption AND different for everyone)? Who says I don't have "it"? That I can't have "it"? If "it" is that important to me, what am I doing to actually get "it"? And now that I've talked myself through all of that, I can get to the meat of it - What are the underlying building blocks of my friendships. When I look at my friendships, especially when I find myself in comparison mode like this I ask myself 1) Is there something missing from my friendships - something I want or need? 2) Is that want or need getting met elsewhere, or could it get met elsewhere? 3) Do WE share a clear understanding of what the friendship is and what it's built on while also modeling those things AND holding each other accountable for them? For instance - The things that represent success in my friendships are ease, authenticity, vulnerability, healthy challenge, accountability, transparency, quality time, growth mindset, a healthy dose of boundaries, and empowering vs. fixing. It feels like because I've been so intentional about curating these types of friendships and continuously lead with the exact things I want for myself, they're naturally woven into our dynamics. BUT even in my own circles I find times where we don't seem to be on the same page or recognize that there's a shift in these things and find myself reflecting on whether it's time for a change or a conversation or both. And because my friendships are what they are and because I've learned to trust myself to know what's best for myself and advocate for that, the ability to have those needed conversations are generally welcomed by the other party. AND in most cases IF it is the end of a chapter it's more about the gratefulness for how we've affected each others lives with the bitter-sweetness of letting go vs. desperately holding on, resentment and just plain bitterness.

But what about those times when your circles don't embrace those conversations? What about when we feel like we've been left behind or abandoned, with no warning, no invitation to continue the journey with them, no clue? I feel like there are two really important things to reflect on here. Are you encouraging vulnerability and modeling it (and setting healthy expectations around being on the receiving end of this as well, vs. showing up as the fixer and continuing to shoulder things that aren't yours to shoulder 😖) ? Are you trying to hold onto something that no longer serves you? And if so, why? Are you trusting and believing what they tell and/or show you they need/want in the relationship? It's easy to downplay, ignore, and simply just not be able to recognize that last piece. It's also one of the biggest ways to make or break trust.

Believe me, I've done it, still do it, and will continue to experience it throughout my lifetime - navigating the lesson of when it's time to let PEOPLE go. The key is to notice and do better FOR yourself. (Remember - progress, not perfection.) The game-changer to me is recognizing what I can control (me), what I allow (up to me), and what I do to receive the same things I'm willing to give others (because THAT piece, the reciprocity, builds trust instead of perpetuating an island AND mutual resentment).

I'd love for you to take some time in the near future and sit with everything I've shared here. Especially if you're feeling like people are shifting in and out of your life right now in a major way. I don't think it's ever FUN to experience this. I DO think that embracing it and leaning into the flow becomes much easier when we give ourselves permission to let go of "good" to make way for "great". May your friendships truly be great. Because we ALL deserve to be supported, loved, and uplifted. - All my love....... P.S. If you want a great book to help you better build and navigate friendships, I couldn't more highly recommend "A Tribe Called Bliss" by Lori Harder.

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