I’ve been thinking a lot about friendship these days. Probably because I have been terribly missing my friends.
My friends are better than I could dream up. We’re more than friends – we’re allies. We’re on the same team. Each member unique, each woman beautiful and gifted. All are strong. All are different. All are perfect. We finish together and are stronger, happier, and more full because of one another.
I have these allies scattered all over the globe. Lucky me. Several are blonde, but a few of those beauties are not. The majority are in California, though and I am used to seeing them on a very regular basis. Sniff, sniff.
All of us are surrounded by talent, gifts, genius. We choose to either team up or compete. Often, we don’t think of it that way – it may not seem so black and white. But really, it is. We are either allies or competitors with those around us. The tone we set – relatable or superior – will determine how others react to us.
Generally speaking, women are not very good at this. Our tendency is to size up and immediately try to match up. And if we can’t match up, oooooh, the claws come out and the competition begins. It’s true. I’m guilty. Most of the time my claws come out in the form of critical comments in my head, but are nasty nonetheless.
The bummer is, competitors either win or lose. And nobody likes to lose, right? So, we spend a lot of energy trying to win and often experience anxiety around the fear of losing. It’s tremendously draining and toxic. Not to mention, we miss out on the value of true friendship.
An alliance is where it’s at. There is no threat. Instead, there is strength, encouragement and love. The greatness of our allies enrich our own lives. Their accomplishments and successes don’t threaten our own.
As allies we have the honor of encouraging each others in our unique gifts. We provide one another a solid foundation from which to step out, take risks and stretch ourselves. We are able to genuinely celebrate each other’s success and shout from the rooftops their greatness.
It means we don’t have to fear being replaced, outdone, criticized or left out. Instead, we can stand firm on a foundation of trust and love. It means distance doesn’t pose a threat.
So, what’s stopping us from creating allied friendships?
To become an ally, we must let our walls down. We have to relate to one another from an authentic place. We must be ourselves. (All of which requires confidence in our individual gifts and strengths, self-love and freedom to be who we are… which is a whole other story for someone else to tell.)
It’s vulnerable and risky. And incredibly rewarding.
A few years back, my friends/allies ran a series of trail races together. We were all in it just for the fun of it and no one was out to beat any record or anything. We went into each race knowing that we would run at our own individual paces and meet up at the finish line for high fives and a fun photo.
We all ran the first race and did pretty well. It was a grueling course, but beautiful and worth doing again. So, the following month we all headed out on a Saturday morning to run the second race in the series. All of us were determined to beat our previous month’s time, of course.
One of my allies is a specimen of an athlete. She is very talented and has very specific expertise in the area of running. (She also has a heart of gold and is loyal to the core.) About 30 minutes before the race, she asked if she could run with me and coach me throughout the run. When she offered, I said “yes” almost immediately, definitely before I thought through the implications of being coached.
As soon as the word left my mouth, I almost cringed. Had I really just volunteered to have one of my best friends point out areas of weakness, make suggestions for improvement and push me to do better? Yes, ma’am, I did. For a second I felt trapped. I wanted to throw up and forgo the race all together.
“Now she’ll know how slow I really am.”
“What if I have to walk up those damn hills?”
“What if I cry?”
“What if she thinks I’m weak?”
Instead of throwing up and bailing out, I rallied myself around the idea that, I might run faster with her than without her. And that morning, I was all about running fast.
That day, I finished faster and stronger than I would have on my own. It was a very mountain-high sort of experience and I was so grateful to share it with a friend.
The race is a picture of something much bigger to me. It’s a picture of friendship. Once we embrace who we are – our talents, strengths, challenges, warts, etc – we can choose to open ourselves up to the unique giftings of others. Agreeing to run with her as my coach was just that for me. It was me admitting, “my friend’s strengths and talents can make me better.”
It was an exercise in vulnerability. I put myself out there for critique, strengthening, encouragement. It was uncomfortable – the vulnerability was not lost on me for a second as she corrected form, encouraged speed, paced breathing, encouraged speed, rooted me on and encouraged speed. As we neared the finish line, a scary thought popped into my head. “Wait. She could totally pass me and finish before me.” I wanted so badly to cross the finish line first. And for that moment, I doubted the ally I had running behind me. I worried that she would kick it into gear and pass me. But she didn’t. Because she’s my friend. She is my supporter. She is my coach. She is my ally.
And allies don’t cut each other down, they build each other up. They help each other finish stronger.
I ran those five miles faster than any other in my running history. The last mile was an all out dash and I crossed the finish line with pride and victory. Running that race together is an experience I will never forget. It will forever remind me of what we are capable of if we are willing to let our walls down and embrace vulnerability. Together, we finish stronger.
I have been thinking of my allies a lot lately. Mainly, the power of their friendship and the strength I have because of them. Their encouragement, love and support have meant a great deal to me during our exodus to Portland. The fact that I don’t have to worry about being forgotten, replaced or outdone is not insignificant – that confidence allows me to let go of the “Wait guys, what about me?!!! Don’t forget meeeeeeee!!!!” tendency. (Although, at times the FOMO gets a little intense… especially when the beach and 85 degree weather are involved.)
I miss my Cali Allies in my daily life. We call, text, send pictures. Our friendship isn’t threatened by the distance. We’re still in this life together. But, I miss the proximity. I’m lonely without them. And, I’m afraid of what it will require of me to build allies here in Oregon. It just feels so risky… It’s all part of the adventure and growth. I know, I know. But, still.
We make our own team. We decide to compete or join together. The life together is worth every bit of the investment and vulnerability to get there. The camaraderie, shared triumph, vulnerable encouragement and authentic connection is what life is all about.
May you open yourself up to the power of friendship and assemble a team of allies. May your allies make you a better person.
To my global allies – I love you dearly and miss you terribly. And in case you haven’t heard, it’s happening in Portland. So, what are you waiting for? xoxo