The Power of Female Friendships
I grew up in a female dominated household - my mum is one of three sisters and I am one of two girls, my poor dad never stood a chance. If that wasn't enough I moved from my local mixed primary school to an all girls school from the age of 10 to 18, so it's safe to say I didn't have to look too far for strong female influence when I was growing up.
I am a child of the Spice Girls generation - where "girl power" wasn't just a slogan, it was a way of life. I didn't feel the sting of misogyny or sexism until I entered the work place years later, by which point I had enough grounding to know it was not only wrong, but entirely misplaced and completely unwelcome. I could rise above it relatively unscathed, having been blessed with such a foundation of strength and confidence in my value in this world that I pitied the behaviour rather than feared it. Funnily enough, considering the incredibly male dominated work places I have worked in (the hospitality / food industry is notoriously a "boys club"), on the rare occasion that I have experienced an issue at work it's usually (and heartbreakingly) been at the hands of a women. A feisty boss who probably feels she has to be "cut-throat" to survive in a high powered role, or worse - a peer who has some self-imposed competitive drive, relishing in the demise of someone else with the belief this will result in their own rising. Little upsets or galls me more than women being pitted against other women, tearing each other down and shaming each other or making each other feel bad. I have zero time for it in my life.
Despite the horror stories you might hear about girls school environments, of bitchiness and bullying, my memories are the polar opposite. It was eight years of laughing, learning, gossiping, farting (yes, turns out girls do fart after all), exchanging notes on boys, make up, Dawson's Creek (it was the late 90's / early 00's don't forget) and dreaming about what we wanted to be when we were spat out into the real world at the end of it all. For me it was a safe environment, a shared experience where friendships were formed and cemented, many of which I still treasure to this day. I have no doubt it's these early experiences that have shaped my own view and relationship with women, but I know I'm not alone when I speak of the power of female friendships.
You can say many things about me, but one description of my character that comes up time and time again is "Jenna, she really is a girl's girl", and for this I am extremely proud. I take my female friendships very seriously, I rely on them in fact. Wherever I move (and trust me, this happens a lot) I only feel properly settled once I have identified and gravitated towards my girl group. Don't get me wrong I have many friendships that have lasted a lifetime, that never changes - but every girl needs a local tribe of chicks that they can have a coffee / wine / dinner / vent with on the regular - it inspires me and centres me, just being in the company of likeminded women.
When I sat down and chatted about this to two of said girl friends, I asked them what they thought the secret was to this good thing we've got going on. Like any feeling it can be hard to articulate or define, but Loui and Jess nailed it in explaining to me that it's about putting in what you hope to get back. Like with any relationship of love (be it romantic, friendship or otherwise) you really do reap what you sow. If you don't celebrate someone else's fortune or success, how will you expect to relish in your own; if you don't show up when it counts, don't be surprised when your calls go un-answered when you need help. Just as much as your relationships with your partner or your family require nurturing, so does your relationship with your friends.
We also thought it was about genuinely enjoying seeing your friends thrive without agenda...not smiling outwardly but really wishing it was you that snagged that job, lived in that house, won that award or went on that holiday - truly finding joy in the achievements of others. The wonderful Elizabeth Gilbert (a woman who I simply adore with her razor sharp wit and humour) wrote that success isn't finite - there's plenty to go around for us all. Just because that girl is smart, or funny, or "beautiful" or popular - whatever traits you long for, it doesn't mean you aren't or can't be all of these things too!
The more you honestly celebrate a fellow girlfriend or even someone from afar, the more you are likely to be surrounded by that energy and success yourself. Your reality becomes what you create in your own life and the people you engage with. If you encourage, support and faciliate the success of friends and spend time with wonderful, inspiring people that in turn will inevitably become your own world. If you spend your time judging, or tearing others down, being envious of what you think they have or you lack - your reality can only become a shadow of what your life could be. What a damn waste of energy if you ask me.
I'm really conscious at this point that I don't want to sound like a wannabe hippie text-book philosopher, that's certainly not my intention. I also want to point out that I have a great relationship with men, I had a very close knit group of guy mates growing up who I still love, and I have many wonderful men in my life. That said I just know it to be true, considering the tumultuous few years I've had, that my life has only gotten better and better the more I have invested in my gorgeous group of friends (males as well as females). When I have taken true joy in their happiness, I in turn have soaked up all of that good stuff into my very core.
It's tough enough out there, and if you're anything like me you are probably your own worst critic - so you certainly don't need to cop that bad energy from your friends. Your crew should be full to the brim of enablers not nay-sayers - people that will listen, give you honest feedback and tell you when you're being a d*ck (because that we all are from time to time) and they should actively assist you in prospering as much as you do for them.
Sprinkle the good sh*t around like star dust baby! Be a supporter of girls, because when a chick has your back it's a magical, wonderful thing.