21 July 2015
Friendship with oneself is all-important, because without it, one cannot be friends with anyone else in the world. ~ Eleanor Roosevelt
I spent last weekend in the company of women. All of us present were related, connected by blood or marriage, to a woman who was our grandmother, great-grandmother, or great-great grandmother. Our ages ranged from 9 to 63. Amongst us, we contained representation for both sides of the political spectrum and various religious orientations. Our occupations included teacher, bookkeeper, naturopath, property manager, designer, full-time mother and wife. Many of us never see each other in between our sporadic reunions and the occasional wedding. In a lot of ways, you might not think this would work. Except for this: There’s a lot of history here. And, there’s resilient, utterly unstoppable love.
Still, approaching the weekend, I was a bit anxious. These women are my family and I care for them. I made a few mental notes about being careful around certain topics and reinforced my desire to enjoy and appreciate each woman. But I wasn’t sure it would be enough. I know my insecurities pretty well.
A group of women can be a land mine for me. I can do a few lightning-quick calculations and find myself to be the least of everything. Everyone else seems smarter, funnier, wittier, kinder, prettier, more tuned in, more put together, more able than I. It can be a quick spiral down to a small, dark and disconnected place akin to shame.
Because we tend to hide our struggles and our feelings of inadequacy, it’s not hard to assume everyone else has things wired and to judge our own selves lacking. To ‘compare and despair’.
A lot of me knows better. Most of me is on board—eager to enjoy others and laugh easily at myself. All of me wants to lay aside the judging, the fences, the bracing, the trying to be more than I am.
It was both all the love and all the differences in this group of women that helped me see so clearly how important self-acceptance is to creating friendship and genuine connection. I think friendship starts within. It starts with our relationship with ourselves.
I watched these different generations with different income levels in different life stages supporting women who made very different choices than their own. They could do that from a place of self-knowledge, of valuing the choices they’d made for themselves while accepting that others had to likewise find their own solutions.
When I accept my flawed self, I move out of the comparison game. When I make peace with my imperfections, I don’t need as much external validation. Creating comfort within lets me require less from others. Which in turn lets me show up and listen, open-minded and eager to add to—the way we create substantial friendships.
My body is still bubbling from that bountiful dose of good women. I am so grateful to every one of them for the joy and wisdom of their unique paths. Each one extended herself and made herself available. We all laughed and shared, played together and pitched in on the work, listened to one another and cared. We had amazing fun.
They have shown me so clearly that learning to befriend ourselves, we will find ourselves walking in a world full of friends.