You can’t survive without your tribe! Yep, it’s all about your support system. Do you have a best friend? Do you have a group of friends? Do you have a support system that provides stability when you need it most?
As a mental health counselor, I believe a healthy support system is necessary. More specifically, women need a supportive tribe. For decades, social and behavioral researchers have studied the necessity and benefits of female relationships. These supportive relationships have been linked to stress reduction and more fulfilled lives.
The “Girlfriend Resistance” Myth
In my many years of mentoring and counseling women, I’ve encountered a large percentage of “girlfriend resistance.” Many women strongly believed “female” friendships were too difficult to maintain. Oftentimes, I’d hear, “I have more male friends because it’s just easier.” Although I understand this position, I believe there are alternative ideas that may suggest this position to be counterproductive for healthy emotional success in women.
The female-stress study conducted by Laura Klein and Shelley Taylor suggests a correlation between friendships and stress. After I read the outcome of the study “Biobehavioral Responses to Stress in Females: Tend-and-befriend, Not Fight-or-flight,” I needed to know more.
I have subscribed to the fight-or-flight idea for years and, of course, it makes sense. However, according to Klein and Taylor, women react to stress differently from men based on the amounts of hormones released into the bloodstream during a stressful episode. More specifically, Klein, et al., suggests that women release greater amounts of oxytocin, causing a minimal fight-or-flight reaction.
”Tend and Befriend” Explained
The results of the Klein and Taylor study suggest that women are prone to gravitate toward other women during stressful times. Additionally, the research states that it is normal for women to “tend and befriend” instead of engaging in “fight or flight”.
Following this trend and befriend ideology, I believe (based on my own experiences) that my female relationships have provided me more stability, support and nurturing without the complications like that of male-female friendships.
Now, let me be clear, I am not suggesting that male-female relationships are incapable of producing highly supportive and nurturing effects. What I am saying is that women should embrace a solid woman-to-woman friendship circle (free of drama, jealousy, and cattiness) that should ultimately stabilize them during life’s stressful challenges. If you enjoy a strong female support system, I would really like to hear your strategies and how your tribe makes it work!
However, if you are struggling to develop healthy girlfriend relationships, hopefully, this blog post will assist.
Create That Tribe
The evidence is clear: for a healthy mind, body and soul, you need a circle of girlfriends. But how best to gather that circle? Here are four things that will help you create your girlfriend tribe:
1. Cut out the fat.
Whether you know it or not, relationships are emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually draining. On the other hand, relationships can be incredibly supportive, encouraging, and rewarding. People are like banks. The emotional-currency deposited into the relationship bank allows for withdrawing when needed. More people draining you of your emotional currency without making deposits keeps you in an emotional deficit. You have the power to set boundaries, so set them. Stop allowing others to constantly take from you when they refuse to give. Use the power of boundaries to say “No.” In other words, the girlfriends (or any friend) that hang around to receive without reciprocity does not deserve to reap the benefits of your friendship. So cut away the fat.
2. Acknowledge your insecurity.
Insecurity breeds jealousy. Jealousy breeds distrust. Distrust ruins relationships and relationships need trust. True friendship thrives on vulnerability, trust, and honesty. At the core of insecurity is fear… fear of losing something, or the fear of someone taking what belongs to us. No one has the power to make you feel insecure, that is your job. If you feel insecure about who you are, what you have, or where you are going in life, it is your responsibility to acknowledge that. Create a list of your fears (or insecurities). Ask yourself, “What is the worst-case scenario for each item?” Now, seek a strategy to improve each area of insecurity. If you find that an item cannot be improved (for example, you are 4’11” and you want to be 5’9”), you must find acceptance of the things we cannot change. A therapist can assist you in addressing areas of discontentment and build a healthy self-esteem. Do not let your insecurity prevent you from establishing healthy female relationships.
3. Share your dopeness.
I received a candle from my sister that stated, “Trust your Dopeness.” I will take this statement one step further and say, “Share your Dopeness.” It is absolutely understood that you are dope! So, with that said, be willing to share your tips and brilliance with your girlfriends. You would be amazed at the number of resources, knowledge, and beauty you possess in your tribe. We are stronger together. We are weaker when we are divided. So help your girlfriend when she needs it and she will return the favor with a smile.
4. Schedule girl-time regularly.
I believe in girlfriend getaways. Spending quiet time with the girls is a great way to relax, decompress, and bond. When we are intentional about creating bonding relationships, we all benefit.
I believe in creating space and opportunities for women to thrive and become the best version of themselves. I want to encourage you to live your best life, be true to you, and give your best to others. There is no one quite like you and there are many who could use your dopeness!