Friendship: Finding Your Tribe

FRIENDSHIP: FINDING YOUR TRIBE

Friendship. Some of the most significant relationships in life are friendships. Friends are soul mates who come into our lives to be mirrors that wake us up and help us grow into our full potential. 

Friends are the family that we get to choose and they become part of our tribe. Humans are wired to have connection and our friendships are vital to our mental and emotional health. 

As I have shared in previous blog posts, this past year was one of the most difficult, eye opening and transformative years of my life. 

Some of the biggest lessons that I have learned are centered around friendship.

First of all, I want to say that through our darkest moments- the most important lessons always come forth. For me, it was learning about myself, values and evaluating what friendship means to me.

I must admit, during this time in my life- I wasn't able to be the best of friend. I was in "survival" mode and in many ways was acting selfishly.

This painful time in my life, was the first time that I truly gave myself permission to unapologetically put myself first and do whatever it took to get through the heartbreak.

You can read more about this here:

 YOU DO YOU: WHY IT'S OK TO BE "SELFISH" SOMETIMES.

When we are in pain, going through a traumatic loss and are torn away from our identity- we will do anything to feel better. During this time, I made some mistakes that really challenged my values of how I show up in my friendships. 

I found myself in a very confusing situation. I didn't know how to handle it, but it felt good and took away some of the emotional pain that I was in. It was difficult to think clearly or know what to do... because I was so broken inside and disoriented by all that was happening. Anything complicated felt impossible to handle. 

Yet, the situation was complicated. 

It required difficult conversations to be had and I did not have the strength to face those conversations at the time. Instead I numbed myself, held back from talking about what was happening and being honest. 

It ended up blowing up and I lost a few friends who I cared about and loved. However, I was also "woken up" to how many of my friendships, weren't what I thought. 

I turned to a trusted friend for advice on how to deal with the situation and instead of being there for me in a non-judgemental, empathetic way- I was judged and told that I "lacked integrity."

There is nothing more painful then hearing those words from someone who you thought was a friend that would be there through thick-and-thin. Who you thought knew you better then that. I naively thought my friends would know that how I was acting in this time of turmoil-Wasn't truly who I was. 

Not only was I told that, but I stopped being acknowledged in general! Not even a "hello" back when we ran into each other at work or at the grocery store. 

I also did not expect for this to then turn into something more, however, it grew into this person sharing the information with everyone, including the friend that would be affected, imposing her opinion onto a situation that did not involve her at all, before letting me talk to that person directly or even process how to deal with it.

It ended up growing into something so big and dramatic, before I even got the chance to understand it fully. Most of the friends who I thought were part of my "tribe" turned away, in judgment rather then trying to understand and talk to me about it.

 I felt misunderstood, judged, helpless and at even more at a loss on how to handle it all. 

I have never felt so alone.

Honestly, going through that at the same time the rest of my life fell apart... I was numb.

I couldn't even talk to the friend who I hurt because I was so disassociated from everything. I sat there across from her and all I could say was, "I don't know," "I feel nothing," "I didn't know how to talk to you about this."

It was so overwhelming- I literally shut down. 

This was the first time I truly understood trauma. How after relational trauma and a broken attachment- you will literally do anything to not feel pain, even if it hurts you or people that you love.

It sure helped me feel empathy for my client's at a level that can only be understood through experience. 

Being abandoned by your main attachment figure at any time in life- fucking sucks. 

It wasn't until later that I was able to realize that this friendship had an expiration date, long before this happened- this just was the opportunity for her to get out. 

This journey has taught me so much and despite the fact that it still is incredibly painful.... I wouldn't change any of it. I've used all of the pain and loss to make meaning, change the quality of my relationships and develop a more spiritual side to my life.

I firmly believe the quote:

"People come into your life for a reason, season or lifetime." 

Realizing this has helped me re-evaluate the ways I was showing up in my relationships, friendships and led me to take a hard look at the types of people I want to surround myself with and why. 

Here is what I learned:

Choose Friends Based On Values Not Surface Level Similarities: My whole life I never fully felt like I fit in. I grew up in Utah, being a Russian, Jewish girl with parents who had strange accents and had no idea what "fitting in" meant as an American teenager. I always felt different because of that and wanted to be apart of by being friends with the "cool" girls who had blonde hair, blue eyes and cute clothes. It's hard to admit, because I know my parent's worked hard so they could to give me everything- but being different as a teenager in a predominantly conservative monogamous culture is hard.

I was bullied in high school and developed a deep rooted belief that I wasn't "good enough."

Because of this, I coped by creating a "false self"... led by ego.

I vowed that I would do whatever it took to never feel that way again. This deep rooted fear of being different, not good enough and in-adequate became the fire-in-my-ass to succeed in life and never feel powerless again.

 This false self followed me into adulthood and dictated the types of people that I wanted to be surrounded with. I chose friends out of fear and ego,  who embodied the surface qualities that I thought would make me "valuable."

Little did I know, these friendships were holding me back from being my best self.  

I would hold back my opinions, noticed myself feeling anxious and less than... I would dress and act in a way that I thought would make me "cool" according to social media. Yet, inside I felt a deep rooted sense of anxiety and emptiness- which I would cope with by emotionally eating (15 pound weight gain) and making my life seem "perfect" on social media.

On the outside it looked like I had it all... A beautiful apartment in Santa Monica, attractive boyfriend, popular friends and the ability to travel the world.

Inside... I was slowly dying trying to maintain this facade. 

When my life fell apart, the reality of this facade smacked me right in the face.  I thought my friends would be there... and some of them were.

But they weren't the friends that I expected.

Not the ones that I had labeled as my "best" friends. Those people were nowhere to be found. 

That being said, I also was faced with the realization that I was not the best of friend either... because I was operating out of ego rather then soul. It became clear to me that I am not good at tolerating conflict and would go to great lengths to avoid difficult conversations out of fear and people-pleasing. Friends that avoid getting real honest with you- even when it is hard... Aren't good friends. 

Recently, I was listening to a podcast by Christine Hassler about "expiration dates" in friendships, and she said something that really resonated with me.

Friends that leave your life serve as mirrors of internal work that you need to do on yourself.

In other words, "You are what you attract."

I was so hard on myself, judgmental, critical and honestly... I was angry about that. When everything fell apart,  I wanted was to act out that suppressed anger. In acting it out, I ended up unintentionally hurting someone who really was an amazing friend.

However, I also was able to see the true colors of other "friends,"  in their judgment and critical words.

They mirrored my inner critic-who kept adding fuel to the "fire" of not being good enough.

It was a blessing disguised as a curse. Which "woke me up" and helped me learn to make room for my imperfections and change my relationship with the parts of me that I thought weren't enough. 

It also taught me that I need to surround myself with people who have the same core values as me... Not people who just look good in instagram photos.

It showed me that I need friends who value spirituality, are non-judgmental, understanding, open-minded, don't view life as "black and white" and are able to call me out on my shit... while still knowing who I am at the core (someone who cares a fuck ton about the people in my life and values loyalty). 

Honesty Is The Best Policy: I am trying to look back on this experience without any regrets... But, if I could change one thing, it would be to be honest, no matter how difficult, uncomfortable and scary it may be.

Honesty is always the best policy.

Speak the truth and share it with empathy, if you have made a mistake own up to it.

In life we will get hurt and we will hurt people, we deeply care about- it is inevitable. But, if we take responsibility and acknowledge the pain we have caused... we create the opportunity to heal and connect in the most human way possible. In raw vulnerability of being imperfect, messy humans just trying to figure out this thing called life. 

It takes a ton of courage to look someone in the face and speak your truth, especially if it is something that is going to hurt them.

Hiding it, lying or minimizing just makes it so much more painful for both of you. 

Apologize And Forgive: Holding onto anger, resentment or pain never serves us towards our higher good. There are moments when I still feel angry, betrayed and misunderstood by some of the friends that I lost. 

However, I am able to make space for those feelings, acknowledge them and release them.

I know all that happened this past year was guided by a force bigger then myself and it all unfolded exactly as it was supposed to. Those events had to happen. The relationships had to end for all of us to move towards a higher level of existence.

The lessons learned will be integrated into my life and I am a better person because of it. 

The people that hurt you in life are soul mates that come in-and-out of your life to teach you a valuable lesson, to learn to love yourself and release that which no longer serves you.

Sitting in the negativity only holds you back from seeing the blessings, new opportunities and relationships that are waiting on the other side of the disappointment.

Take Inventory And Invest In The Right People: Write down a list of the people in your life and a second list of the qualities that you value in a friendship.

Take inventory.

Relationships take investment and you don't want to invest emotional energy into the wrong people.

Keep the ones that match your values close and take a look at which relationships need to be re-evaluated or released. When you realize who "your people" are, invest in them, love them and be there for them 100%.

During this difficult time in my life- I had one friend who stayed with me for a month, slept in the same bed, held me when I cried, unconditionally accepted me but also called me out on my shit-when needed.

She was brutally honest with me, but she never changed how she viewed me- even if I made a mistake or she did not agree with my actions.

Another friend who lives in Washington, called me every other day, picked up the phone every single time I called her in tears, came down to LA to be with me and sent a mutual friend who lives in LA to my apartment to cheer me up.

Now those are friends worth investing in... I never would have thought they would step up for me in this way, but they did. 

You better believe that when things got hard for them one with her mothers health and the other with her marriage- I was there for them in the same unconditional way.

I will always be there for them in this way- because this is what the threads of true friendship are made out of.

Don't Be Mean Girls: Women need to start supporting each other more. One of my true friends mentioned above pointed out to me- before this whole explosion even happened: "Every time I hangout with you and your other friends, you guys are always gossiping and talking about others... You never talk about ideas, concepts or things going on in the world." 

She was right.

Our friendship was based on bonding over people we didn't like at work, Real Housewives episodes, drinking, hooking up, The Bachelor and getting hit on at the Bungalow.

We never talked about anything deep or real. It's ok to have those conversations- but if those are your only conversations... You're probably surrounded by a bunch of acquaintances, not friends.

Girls gossip. They do... it's how they fight, instead of with fists. Often using relational aggression, exclusion and words to "bond" or "feel better."

This needs to stop.

After this experience, I have made a vow to myself to never be that girl again- because having the tables turned and knowing that I was now "the one being talked about," sucked. 

Women are designed to be in tribes... We need each other, but the quality of our conversations and the safety we feel with each other is crucial.

Stop being mean, talking about others or bonding over superficial things, it's not a good way to invest your emotional energy!

It can be channeled into something so much better! Like positive change in the world. 

Be You And Own It: I've said it before and I will say it again: "Those who don't matter mind and those who matter don't mind."

Never EVER dull your fire, hold back your opinion or minimize your soul to fit in.

I remember going on a trip to Palm Springs and just being super awkward and quiet with some of my old friends... It wasn't me at all. I felt scared to speak up my opinion during conversations, felt "stupid" and a little left out. The feeling of being inadequate consumed me and I would just agree, stay quiet or nod my head awkwardly. 

Now I know that my intuition was screaming at me... Telling me that these are NOT my people. That I would not be accepted for truly being ME. Fast forward 6-months and that friend is the one that judged me. Go figure? 

Our gut always knows.

If  you aren't 100% yourself, hold back or feel like you wont be accepted for being goofy, having a different opinion or speaking your truth- that's your soul sending you the message that the people you are surrounding yourself with are being chosen by your ego and not bringing out the best in you.

Listen, process and release them with grace.

Thank them for the lesson that they brought you and know that continuing this relationship may be holding you back from your highest-self. 

It's Time To Re-Define "Girl Code": This may be the most "controversial" part of this post- or the part that rubs everyone the wrong way... But it's a perspective shift that I think is important and more grounded in acceptance, compassion and love.

Life is not black and white, at times it's gray and a whole lot of colors in-between. Things happen in life unexpectedly and you have to deal with them head on.

Feelings happen, especially in times of transition, pain and growth.

Ultimately, we all deserve to find our happiness and experience the best version of our lives.

 I've learned that the universe has it's own plan and that certain things are supposed to happen, according to the universes timing and for lessons to be learned. 

I think girl code needs to be re-defined because there is no "black-and-white" in life. When you have a group of friends... You connect with each other and the other people in each person's lives.

If one of your friends vibes better and becomes better friends with someone you introduced them to- be happy for them not jealous. If a friend get's a opportunity that you wanted- encourage them to take it and know that your time will come. If a relationship with a guy didn't work out for you- and your friend works better with them, be ok with people that you care about finding happiness in other places.

Sometimes we meet someone and the circumstances or timing are not aligned- and they are for someone else! That's ok. Jealousy or resentment is not a good look for anyone. Be happy for them and know that your turn will come.

There are NO RULES to life.... It just happens.

It's messy and complicated at times, but it is also beautiful. We all deserve to find happiness, success, love and have special opportunities.

Limiting things because of society's made up,  "rules," "expectations," or "should's,"  can interfere with the divine plan of the universe and takes away the beauty of the human experience.  

Nothing is predictable or organized in love, life or friendship.

So embrace it- even if it is uncomfortable or against the "norm."  Who created the norm anyway?!

I end this absurdly long blog with this take away: 

My hope is that this post resonates with at least a few readers. It was more of a personal post and a lot of therapist's steer away from sharing too much about their personal lives.

But to me, this is part of my story. Part of my journey to being a better therapist, person, friend and human being. 

If I have learned one thing through all of this it is:

Never judge anyone for what they do, because you never know what internal battle they are facing. Love them for their mistakes and imperfections-because someday you might need someone to love you for yours.

In the end- Love is all that matters.

Book Recommendation: A TRIBE CALLED BLISS

From my heart to yours,

Sandra