By Phoebe Lee
About two years ago I went through a period of change, I had pushed myself too hard and finally gotten to the point where I was a big, blubbering, overwhelmed mess feeling like I'd missed out on my whole life. Sexy, right? This delightful little moment of hitting rock bottom forced me to start making some big changes in my life. One of the biggest was to take a really good look at the people in my life.
Friends come in all shapes and sizes. There's the Facebook-only friends, who you hide from when you see them at Coles. There's the users, who only pop up when they need something or want to get together so they can spend five hours whinging about their love life. There's also the life-long friends, who you see once in a blue moon but feel like no time has passed when you finally do catch up, as well as the ya-ya-sisterhood/border-line same-sex relationship you have with your very best friend. You're not just friends, you're soul mates!
When I finally took a closer look at my friend garden, I realised it was in need of some serious weeding. It wasn't until after the weeding was done I realised how influential my friendships with other women had been, how much the negative ones had been weighing me down and how important it was for me to foster positive relationships with other women.
Strolling through a supermarket, mulling over a very important Maltesers purchase, I picked up a trashy mag and started flicking through it. Most of the pages were covered with pictures of other women and the accompanying text a series of put-downs. Page after page of things like, 'Who wore it better?' 'Why did her marriage fail?' 'Check out her weight-gain,' 'Why is she struggling to lose the post-baby weight?' and 'Is her career over?' In fact, this same magazine had an entire page devoted to a picture of Rihanna. There was a close up of her legs and they had zoomed in to show she hadn't shaved them. Really? REALLY? This is print-worthy? I haven't shaved my legs since last November, give me the whole cover of the magazine!
Those magazines are aimed at women, we're the target market and there's something seriously wrong with the whole thing because magazine's like those are making woman-to-woman put-downs okay, when it's not okay at all. I began to imagine what it would feel like to pick up one of those magazines and, instead, see pages covered in positive stories about celebrity success. Things like, 'These women look beautiful today,' 'Single, smart, successful women we adore,' 'This woman looks perfect after having her baby,' or 'Five intelligent quotes from talented actresses.'
Gossiping, bitching and general nastiness between girls tends to start at school. We've all been bitched about and we've all bitched about someone. It's never a nice feeling to find out what someone else has said about you behind your back, despite this we tend to get sucked back into it. I know I'm guilty of it, I had the wrong friends in my life and when I was around them I turned into another person, someone I didn't like. Afterwards I felt really guilty about it, but guilt wasn't good enough, it had to stop. Saying something bad about someone else doesn't make you feel better, it just instills doubt in your mind and makes you question yourself.
Why do we waste time on bad friendships if all they do is bring us down and make us feel bad? If we're entitled to choose who our friends are, why aren't all our friendships good ones?
With this in mind, I weeded my garden. I got out my secateurs, pulled on my gloves and pruned away the crappy friends. I dug out the deep-rooted weeds that had been choking me, taking all my energy and turning me into someone I didn't like. I also took time to nurture the few friendships I truly valued, which turned out to be the small and perfect number of six very beautiful women. Just six. As for the rest, well, cutting them off mentally was the easy part, the hard part was telling myself not to feel guilty about it. I stopped returning calls, texts and emails and mentally snipped our friendship cord. It only took a few months to start feeling a difference and it was a feeling of white, crisp, cleanliness.
Focusing on my six great friends created trust and security in my life. I knew they wouldn't be upset if I was busy and couldn't see them, I knew none of them would ever say a bad word behind my back and I would never say a bad word behind theirs. When we got together we would talk about positive, meaningful things like how our life-dreams and aspirations were coming along and we would laugh about fun, fond memories. We would never judge, criticize or berate each other, but would always be honest, after all if your new pants don't sit well on your hips, you need a trusted friend to tell you. Focusing on these six women made me happier than I'd ever been. It still does.
I had to make another big change too, this one had to do with me. I began trying my absolute best to give nothing but love and support to other women. If I had nothing nice to say, I didn't say anything at all. If I felt jealous, I looked at myself and asked, 'Why? What's going on with me that I want what someone else has?" My beef isn't with another woman, it's with myself. Maybe I'm upset because she has time to go to the gym every day and I don't, so, I need to make time to get to the gym.
I don't know about you, but as a blogger I've had a lot of negativity come my way. Not just from the occasional internet troll, but from girlfriends who look down on blogging or scoff at it and make underhanded remarks about it not being a 'real' career or a viable source of income. Quite simply put, "Ain't nobody got time for that." If you can't support me and my chosen path, I can't support our friendship and that's not fair on either of us, so, step off, Fonzy. Hit the pavement! Get outta here! Shoo!
The impact positive relationships with other women can have on our lives is profound because women understand women. To have another woman listen to you in a time of difficulty, without judgement or fear of gossip, to have her understand and respect the gambit of emotions running through you, is invaluable. To have another woman support you and believe in you, tell you that you can achieve your dreams in life and you are beautiful and intelligent, is invaluable.
As women we have a deeply entrenched desire to put others first, heck, even when we cook dinner we give others the better-looking portions of food or the bigger share. When it comes to our friendships, it's time to put ourselves first. Enough is enough. Life's too short to waste any time or energy on negativity, be it in the form of friends, gossip or anything else you can think of. Instead, cut out all the weeds and other junk taking up space and reclaim it for something positive. Reclaim it for you.
You can find Phoebe Lee blogging at Little Grey Box