Why we all need a little girl power in our lives

Kristin Chessman is a freelance writer, editor and mom from Southern California with a passion for travel, fashion, Disney, the beach, Italian food and all-things celebrity. Follow Kristin on Twitter @KristinChessman.

Girl power

Female relationships can be competitive and complex -- but they can also inspire and motivate you to achieve the impossible. Meet four women who understand the true meaning of girl power, and find out how you can improve your own friendships.

Female Friends

Beating the odds together

Fashion stylist Meredith Gray knows that photographer Claudia Hehr was brought into her life for a reason. When Meredith was diagnosed with a second, more aggressive occurrence of cancer in 2008, she decided to document her struggle to prove that a breast cancer diagnosis is no longer a death sentence.

When Claudia was recommended to photograph Meredith during her journey, Meredith knew she'd found a friend for life. "She inspired me to open myself up before her camera. She was with me every step of the way from consultations to surgery (a bi-lateral mastectomy) to reconstruction and chemotherapy."

Meredith and Claudia are collaborating on a book about Meredith's experiences titled Naked. In addition, a documentary of the same name by filmmaker Lisa Simmons will be available this October.

"I couldn't have survived cancer without the support and friendship of Claudia," Meredith says.

Cooking up a successful friendship

When Deana Gunn and Wona Miniati first met in engineering class at MIT, it wasn't friendship at first sight. "In a roomful of students in sweats, Wona was the only one perfectly groomed, wearing a sundress and a straw hat. I rolled my eyes, never guessing we'd be great friends in no time," Deana recalled.

During study sessions full of laughter and junk food, the duo discovered they actually did share some common interests -- including cooking. After moving on to jobs in technical fields, Deana called up her college friend and asked if she wanted to take the entrepreneurial leap with her by creating a cookbook. After plenty of recipe-testing, Deana and Wona have published two books: Cooking with All Things Trader Joe's and the Trader Joe's Companion. More than 120,000 cookbooks have sold to date.

"We always talk about how we never would have been able to do this without our partnership," Deana said.

How to improve your friendships

According to psychologist and physical therapist Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo, having female friends is important to your mental and emotional well being. "Surrounding yourself with loving social support helps encourage healthy habits, fight disease and depression, reduce stress and maintain a positive outlook on life."

Up next: 5 tips to improve your female relationships >>

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