If you were an alien sitting out in space and the only information you had about us Earthlings was from television and movies, your idea of female friendship would look something like this:
1. Every woman has either a BFF that she has been friends with since childhood/high school/college or a tight-knit group of quirky, well-dressed besties, and these kinds of friendships last forever.
2. Regardless of which of those options women have, they talk to their friends several times every day.
3. While the women themselves might be complicated, their friendships are not.
4. If a woman's life doesn't look like this, it is because there is something fundamentally wrong with her.
Does your life look like this? Mine certainly doesn't, and while I am sure that there are some women who genuinely have this kind of experience and these kinds of friendships, I am fairly sure those women are the exception, rather than the rule.
In truth, this perfect picture of how female friendship is supposed to look is just a representation of some of today's most pervasive myths about what happens when women are friends. Buying into these myths and adopting them as the holy grail of how things are "supposed" to be is dangerous, for us and for our daughters. It creates an unrealistic and overly romanticized idea of what it means to have a friend, and to be a friend. And most importantly, believing these myths about friendship sets us up to miss out on the actual friendships that are available to us, simply because they don't match up to the myth.
Let's break that cycle by breaking down this idealized version of friendship into the myths that sustain it and get real about what our friendships are really like.
Myth #1: BFFs and Besties
The idea that two or more people can be "Best Friends Forever" may be one of the most damaging myths our society embraces. Don't get me wrong, I know people who have found this kind of friendship and it can be real and when it is, it is awesome. But it is not something that happens for most of us and that is why it is damaging. It sustains the idea that "real" friendships last forever which minimizes the significant impact more transient relationships can have on our lives.
In truth, believing that you and your friend(s) will grow and change in ways that are always complementary and that will never lead you in different directions is unrealistic and may actually cost you your friendship in the end. Friends come and go over the course of our lives and we are likely to have several people at different stages who feel like a best friend.
Myth #2: Being Friends Means Being in Constant Contact (Facebook Doesn't Count)
Honestly, I haven't had this kind of friendship since I was in college and it was much easier back then because we all lived in the same dorm, took the same classes, and did the same thing on Friday night. And yet, I have found myself questioning how "good" my friendships are because I don't have this kind of constant daily contact with the friends I would consider the closest.
In truth, some days I don't even have anything all that interesting to share with my husband, who lives in the same house, shares most aspects of my life, and does the same thing I do on Friday night. So the idea that I would have something meaningful to share with my friends that often seems a little silly. It is okay to have as much or as little contact as each individual friendship requires. Not talking every day or even every week is not a sign that you aren't good friends; it is a sign that you are grown women with busy lives.
Myth #3: Real Friendships are Easy to Sustain
The older I have grown, the less true this has become. There was a time that friendships just "were" and I didn't have to work too hard to make them or sustain them... it was called high school and had everything to do with proximity. But in the grown-up world, we are raising children, running errands, and hoping to find a single hour for ourselves so we can go to yoga. This leaves little time for female bonding, heartfelt chats, and girls night out.
In truth, having friends, keeping friends, and especially making new friends requires time, energy, and effort. We live in a world where meeting new people and establishing new relationships of any kind is hard work. This is why so many people have turned to online dating to find a mate. Friendships are no different than romantic relationships in this regard which is why websites geared toward helping people make friends are flourishing. Let go of the idea that "real" friendship only happens organically; it is as mythical as the idea that all you need to make a marriage work is love.
Myth #4: If Your Friendships Don't Look Like This, There is Something Wrong with You
This is the most damaging myth of all because it simply isn't true. We all have different needs and are at different stages in our life which means the things we need from others, including the kind of friendships we need, differs too.
In truth, some of us love having lots of friends, and some of us are more comfortable with one or two. All that really matters is that you have the type of friendships that work for you and that those friendships bring happiness into your life.
So if you are looking around and wondering why you don't have friends like Carrie and Miranda or Monica, Phoebe, and Rachel, stop. Instead of comparing your reality to the fantasy these myths told you to strive towards, look at the friendships in your life and judge them based on how those friendships are supporting you, fulfilling you, and bringing happiness into your life.
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