How Female Friends (Unintentionally) Hold Each Other Back

Sometimes we ladies have the strangest way of showing we care: by feeding and fortifying each other’s inner victim. We keep one another from facing facts and taking responsibility for our lives. When we’re deflated, we fill each other with hot air. Just when we are on the brink of a breakthrough, we often unwittingly hold each other back.

What does this look like? Here are a few examples:

  1. Your friend is dating a deadbeat who gives little to the relationship and when she brings this up (again) you join in ranting and gossiping with her about what douche he is. 
  2. Your friend meets you at a bourgeoise Roman restaurant and starts talking about how broke she is and how she might have to move out of her apartment and go back to living with roommates. The two of you proceed to order an $18 charcuterie plate and numerous glasses of Pinot Noir.
  3. Your friend shows up at your place wearing a tent-like dress saying she feels like such a cow lately. She says she can’t stop bingeing on carbs and her doctor warned her that she’s at risk of diabetes. You lament how she’s under so much stress lately, it makes sense she’s on a muffin bender. You suggest going to get mani/pedis to feel prettier. Your treat.

Do you see a pattern here? In each situation the friend is being open about the thing that is making her suffer. And in each situation you are enabling her to deny responsibility and avoid taking action towards healthier choices.

We ladies often have the most distorted worldview when it comes to “helping” each other. We smear a salve of denial on one another instead of offering positive solutions. We treat each other as though we are too weak to change, or even worse, that it’s not our responsibility to take action towards change.

What if you did the below instead?

  1. Your friend is dating a deadbeat who gives little to the relationship and when she brings this up (again) you remind her that he was always a deadbeat (she said it from the start!). Then you help her examine her choice to be with a guy who consistently lets her down, so she can end the cycle once and for all.
  2. Your friend shows up to meet you at a bourgeoise Roman restaurant talking about how broke she is and how she might have to move out of her apartment and go back to living with roommates. You get the fuck out of there, grab a cheap falafel and sit down on a sunny park bench with a calculator to help her sort out her finances.
  3. Your friend shows up at your place wearing a tent-like dress saying she feels like such a cow lately. She says she can’t stop bingeing on carbs and her doctor warned her that she’s at risk of diabetes. You suggest taking a walk by the river to get the blood moving and new ideas flowing. Together you brainstorm all the positive ways she could shift her daily habits in a healthier direction.

Sure, sometimes we just want someone to complain to. That can be a natural way to connect. But oftentimes the regular complaints and concerns of our friends belie very real issues that they are bogged down in, and have been for years.

Personally I find it exhausting to hear someone complain about the same thing over and over and never take responsibility for how they’re perpetuating that situation. Also general trash-talking about sucky boyfriends/bosses/interns can be such a bummer. I’m not interested in what he or she did to you again. I’m interested in what you’re going to do to end the cycle. Now that’s a fun conversation.

It’s really exciting when you and your friends can count on each other to get real. To stop enabling each other’s victimhood. To move forward together. And you’d probably be surprised by how much your friends might want to get real, if you give them a chance.

Does this resonate with you? Any examples of either approaches to friendship you’d like to share? Would love to hear your thoughts in comments below…

*Above is a photo of me and my friend Carrie who, no matter how much of a pickle she gets herself in, is always interested in finding a positive way out. And she has helped haul me out of a few gutters too…

**For more on victim mentality check out my book SMITTEN: The Way of the Brilliant Flirt

3 thoughts on “How Female Friends (Unintentionally) Hold Each Other Back

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