Female relationships can be complicated things. We live in a society that encourages us to compete with other women, to do whatever it takes to come out on top, and begs us to ask ourselves, "what's in it for us?"
We're the selfie generation. Social media now makes us more concerned with things like FOMO (fear of missing out) and good Instagram filters. We are queens of the humble brag. Our society is pushing away from positive female relationships and encouraging the focus to be put on us.
To illustrate this point further, I have a 'friend' who only likes something of mine on Facebook if I like something of hers first. She can go months without liking anything of mine, and the moment I like one of her status updates, I find a little thumbs up on something I've done. I find it so interesting that she operates on a 1 for 1 basis. I give her something, so she gives me something back. To me, that is not what a friendship is about, but shows the direction our society is moving in.
On the other hand, I think our awareness at the state of female relationships has also led us to have deeper relationships with the women we do trust in our lives. We all have those few women that we can be ourselves around, can be completely honest with and who build us up and encourage us. These are the women we need to spend more time focusing on. With the term 'frenemy' an official word in the dictionary, it's easy to see why navigating female relationships is not always easy and why it's important to find a space of encouragement.
By space of encouragement, I'm talking about a space where you are surrounded by positive female relationships, where you spur each other on to reach your goals instead of holding each other back. In a world where there are always going to be frenemies it's important to find a group of women that remind us there are good, strong female bonds out there.
|Photo Courtesy of Janet Fougere/Ideas on the Edge|
I came to this realization when I was working out with my personal trainer last week. I was working out alongside a woman who is training for a fitness competition. She was working her butt off the entire time, and a few times she would see me doing a set of a specific exercise and quietly gesture, showing me how to improve my form. I was grateful she was taking the time to help me move forward and it was so easy to see that her suggestions came from a place of genuine desire to see me improve.
After our workout, she offered to show me some of her poses, since I was inquiring about her fitness competition and what it entailed. I couldn't help but be amazed and inspired by how her hard work in the gym had translated into her physique. I was quick to complement her and tell her how amazing she looked.
I bring up this story to illustrate the importance of finding that place of encouragement. Not once did I think this woman was judging me when she offered me tips to improve how I was performing a move. I didn't feel embarrassed that I wasn't doing the exercise properly, because I knew this was a space where we lift each other up and help each other reach our full potential.
The same thing with complimenting her on her physique. In a world where we can hoard compliments, rarely doling them out, I freely shared them. I didn't see her as a threat. I saw her as my peer and this is why I love working out in the gym with other liked-minded women. We are not competing with each other, we are working beside each other.
I remember once at the end of a workout, feeling exhausted and my trainer had another woman and I do some interval work stepping on and off a step as fast as we could. It was thirty seconds of stepping, fifteen seconds of rest, repeated 3 times. There were two other women stretching at the side of the gym, watching us. I had nothing left in me, but knew I had to finish strong. At the last set, I remember thinking it was the longest thirty seconds of my life. The last ten seconds, the woman stretching on the floor starting cheering, "You can do it! Keep going!" This encouragement helped me finish. When the timer beeped I bent over to catch my breath. Upon rising, I was greeted by a hand held in the air. It was the other woman who also did the interval work, waiting to high five me. "Good job," she said. I remember being speechless, thinking, "Wow I barely know any of these people but they could see I needed support and without hesitation spurred me on to complete the set."
It may seem like a silly tale. Completing that final set didn't earn me a raise, a medal or an award. It didn't effect the course of my future, but it did show me the power of positive female relationships. Every female needs to find a space of encouragement where when they think they can't make it, they are cheered on, when they need improvement they are taught and when they need a friend, one is there.
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