Is it time to curate your friendships?
From Embarrassment to Intentional Living
When we first moved into our last home, it was a bit of a fixer upper. The kitchen cupboards were falling apart, the floors were banged up, the bathroom was painted blood red. Even the ceiling. I was having nightmares of the movie the Shining … redrum… We had also moved in from a condo so we had no furniture, and sat on the floor to eat dinner for a long time.
So there was a part of me that was a bit embarrassed about inviting people over to our house. And then over the years, we fixed up the house. We painted, we renovated the kitchen, we bought furniture and we really enjoyed our space.
But then I was embarrassed to invite people over because we had a nice house and I didn’t want people to feel bad.
I must be like the only person in the world who gets embarrassed after a renovation.
Asking Yourself: Who Do You Want in Your Life?
Do I need to stop trying to please everyone – yes;
Do I need to stop caring what other people think – yes.
And when I’m paying attention and being intentional about my decisions and actions I do catch myself and my emotions, and my automated reactions so I’m getting better.
Here’s the thing. I also started asking myself, who are these people that are coming to my home who would care if it was falling apart or if it was brand new? Do I really think that they’re going to judge me?
Because it’s one thing to be sensitive about being judged, and I’m working on that. It’s entirely a different thing to actually be judged by people in my life who I consider to be friends.
So I started asking myself. What kind of people do I want in my life?
Welcome to the XO Conversations Podcast. I’m your host, Dr Rishma Walji. On this podcast we talk about living an intentional life – which to me means focusing on growth, purpose and peace of mind. I want to show up in my life as the best version of me, and live my XO/extraordinary life, and I hope to help you do the same.
This is a short, quick tip type episode, we also have longer narrative style episodes and interviews with experts. I’m trying to keep it fresh and engaging. If you’d like access to my free resources, workshops and my decision quiz, go ahead and check out my website livingxo.com.
How to Nurture Collaborative Friendships
So who do you have in your life?
In a recent episode, we were talking about friendships – how to find friends and connect – you can go back and listen if you haven’t yet. In this episode I thought I’d talk about which friendships to keep in your life.
Now I know my perspective might not work for everyone or every situation. My episodes never do. I’m about thinking in new ways so you can apply what works for you.
And when I think about living my XO life – having a life that feels extraordinary – a life that I love – I no longer will spend time with people who drain my energy, who make me feel guilty for doing something or not doing something, who I can’t be open and honest with, or people who are just going to go along with everything without sometimes challenging me. There’s just not enough time in life.
Why the Quality of Friendships Matters More Than Quantity
Now of course there are different types of friendships and different levels of depth, let’s call it.
Some people hold on to friends because they’ve known them for years, or because they have other friends in common. Or they’re friends because their kids play together.
And there’s value in that of course. Having things in common, having a shared history, what you’ve been through together. There’s even research to show that in your older years, socialization is important for your health, even if it’s with someone who isn’t a close friend.
Many types of friendships and relationships can be valuable in life.
The Impact of Positive Friendships on Our Health and Wellbeing
Having said that, the quality of friendships is more important than the quantity.
And beyond just intuitively knowing that good friendships should be good for us, there is actually research that agrees – positive friendships have a significant impact on our health and wellbeing.
Analyze the people in your life that take up too much of your time and energy and set healthy boundaries.
Setting Healthy Boundaries: Analyzing Your Relationships
Friendships that are supportive, collaborative, and non-toxic help to reduce stress, increase happiness and improve our mental and physical health.
They lead to a better sense of purpose and identity, they help us to feel like we belong and that we’re connected.
Not to mention that positive friendships can inspire us to achieve our goals and become better versions of ourselves.
Our friendships, the types of people we let into our lives, are essential. And yet, it’s so easy to relax those boundaries, and hang out with people who are not good for us. It’s a really delicate balance between caring about others and their feelings, and protecting ourselves.
So today I want to talk about a concept that has come to define many of the friendships in my life currently, and it’s one of the most important ways I decide if I should keep a friendship, and nurture it, or let it fizzle.
Collaborative vs Competitive Friendships
I look at if my friendship is collaborative or competitive.
Now I’m not talking competitive in the sense that if I’m swimming and my friend says ‘let’s race’, I’m going to be like – no we can’t be friends anymore. Competition can be good if it challenges you and motivates you and energizes you.
What I mean is, overall, do we help each other or hold each other back?
When something is happening in my life that’s tough, does my friend support me or make me feel worse? When something is good, does my friend cheer me on or get jealous and competitive?
And vice versa of course. I want to be a good friend to others too.
Now when I put it this way, it seems easy to do.
But what I’ve found is that it’s not always as easy as it seems.
Setting Healthy Boundaries: Analyzing Your Relationships
Obviously these might change by circumstance and situation, but just think about your own friendships.
Do your friends consistently peer pressure you into doing something that you don’t want to do? I mean it could be anything that feels like pressure, or like disrespecting your boundaries, or your wishes, or your values.
This could also look like them making fun of you for doing something you want to do? Like “I don’t know why you’d ever want to run a marathon, that’s crazy, I would never do that. Or what do you mean you want to forgive your husband for that thing he did?”
OK I’m not saying your friends shouldn’t be honest. Of course they should call you out when you need it, and push you when you need it, they should hug you when you cry, and celebrate with you.
And I’m not saying your friends should be perfect, and never have bad days or grumpy feelings, we all have them.
But this idea of being collaborative – helping each other, supporting each other – it sounds like the most basic idea.
But how many people do you know who say things to put you down, or give you a backhanded compliment? How many people will give, just as much as they take?
When I think about it that way, it’s clear who I want in my life and who I don’t.
Collaborative vs Competitive Friendships: Which One Do You Have?
Last year I hosted a retreat. It was about intentional decision making and many of the people didn’t know each other so of course there was some nervousness before the retreat. Here’s what I told each person. It was my intention for our few days together and the energy that I try to bring for each of my events, and in my life.
Not a single person there is going to judge you for your clothes, your stress, your goals, your lack of goals or anything else for that matter. We are all in this together, we are all struggling through something, and we all want more joy and more peace (that’s XO living!). This is an encouraging, supportive space where we hold each other through the challenges and eventually help each other get to the other side.
I’ve had more than a few people tell me that they don’t want to invite their friends to my events, because their friends wouldn’t belong there. They wouldn’t fit into this vibe. In fact, it’s one of the reasons people like coming to my events, they feel like they can be around other people who are collaborative and not competitive.
This is the kind of space I want to be in all the time.
And I think it’s OK to be honest if you’re not in that space. I know people who are struggling let’s say with fertility and they are open to say, I’m really happy for my friend who is having a baby but I’m also sad for me.
And that might be true for someone who let’s say, isn’t in a relationship but wants one, and sees a friend who is. Or really anything for that matter. Someone who wants a renovated home. I think it’s OK to be sensitive to other people but also honest and free to be yourself.
Because that’s what real friendships are to me, ones that lift us up instead of weigh us down. Ones that are understanding and supportive. Ones that are encouraging.
So if you’re in the space of life where you too are curating your friendships, it’s time to bring awareness to what you actually want in a friendship. What are you getting from your friendships? Is the balance between good days and bad days favourable?
Why Collaborative Friendships Are Essential for an Extraordinary Life
There’s some interesting research that good friendships, really good ones, can improve your physical and mental health. And of course it would make sense that toxic friendships are bad for your health. Interestingly, ambivalent friendships, the ones that you could take or leave, the ones that come with both ups and downs.
You’d think that they’d have a neutral effect – actually it turns out that they might also be negatively impacting your health. That they might cause more stress, possibly because we trust them but also expect from them and end up getting let down. It can impact blood pressure and of course emotional health.
It might be worth considering how to navigate these friendships, adjusting communication or expectations.
Choosing Your Friendships Intentionally
Of course it’s a complex topic but if you’re working on your friendships, making decisions about who is in your life, here are some questions to ask yourself that might help:
- How do I feel after seeing this person (ie. do I feel energized or drained)?
- How are the conversations – do I feel comfortable sharing or do I feel guarded or forced?
- Am I able to continue growing with this person in my life? Are they?
- Do we respect each other’s boundaries?
- Are we there for each other, or is this a one way friendship?
- Are we comparing and competing or supporting and collaborating?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Feel free to email me at email@example.com or contact me through the website livingxo.com
If you’re looking to live your own extraordinary life – try out my free gratitude challenge – it’s a free email series that helps you deepen your feelings of gratitude in life and in your relationships.
I created it when I was trying to learn more about gratitude and reading research on it, and I remember I told someone that I was having a tough time, then I did the challenge on myself and I thought, ‘this stuff really works’.
Take good care, until next time.