Female Friends:  A Celebration

Female Friends blog original by Photo by Matt Heaton on UnsplashResearch has shown that friendship is essential for physical and emotional well-being.  A lack of a supportive social network has a mortality risk equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.  The last few months have given me lots of reasons to reflect on how wonderful it is to not only have great friends, but to have great female friends.  That hasn’t always been the case.

As a young woman a lot of my friends were men.  I liked being “one of the lads” and could hold my own in conversations about music and motorbikes and even football if it was absolutely necessary.  I found men to be less complicated than the women I knew.  They seemed to be more honest and straightforward.

My female friends at the time made me anxious.  I worried about saying or doing the wrong thing, I was never really sure if they liked me.  I imagined (rightly or wrongly) that they talked about me behind my back.  I drifted away from them.

Then came marriage and children and I found I needed more women in my life.  Better women.  Mothers who understood what it was like to suddenly have an entirely different life.  Around this time I had two, fabulous, female friends who would come round, hang out, offer some support and share their own insecurities as we raised our kids together.  Of course we still indulged in a little, unhelpful, competitive parenting (whose child talked first, walked first etc.)  We also nursed insecurities we never shared, growing them into reasons to berate ourselves.  Never quite believing that we were enough.

Now that I am older I have my tribe.  In fact I have tribes, plural.

I have a tribe of female friends who meet to play Mah Jongg or go on day trips together.  They are all slightly older than me and it doesn’t matter.  We talk about our grandchildren, gardens and television.  We indulge in immense silliness and sing out loud at the drop of a hat.

I have a tribe of adventuring friends.  We take each other out of our comfort zones and relish the challenges we face.  They are all slightly younger than me and it doesn’t matter.  We talk about the businesses we run, about politics, music, food & wine and festivals.

I have a tribe of cultural friends and we share trips to the theatre and the cinema.

Along the way I have collected other, fabulous female friends and the really important ones are still in my life.  In some cases, I consider their daughters to be friends too, now that they are grown.

I have female friends who have my back and I have theirs; friends I trust implicitly.  So what changed?

For the most part, I did.  I became more confident.  I learned to trust, to take risks, to speak out.  I became more discerning about the women I choose to spend time with and I, in return, became a better friend.  I strive to be honest and straightforward, uncomplicated in my communication.  I accept that friendships have a certain ebb and flow.  Value must be added over time but can be drawn on when the need arises.

Those tribes are made up of wonderful women, each of whom is a fantastic friend in her own right.  I could call on any of them individually for solace or laughter and there would be no jealousy from the others.  I know who to ask for a book recommendation, for a hug, for a glass of champagne or a much needed kick up the backside.

This is a slightly more self-indulgent piece than usual, an opportunity to thank those friends (you know who you are) who add to my life in more ways than they could possibly know.  But as always, it is also a learning piece.  Here are a few of the things I wish I had known when I was younger:

  • You do not have to compromise your own values in order to fit in. If you have different values you are unlikely to ever become good friends.
  • Be yourself. It’s ok if that is not exactly the same person with every friend you have so long as you are congruent.
  • If your friends spend all their time bitching about other people they probably bitch about you too. Life is too short to spend time with people who make you feel insecure.
  • Accept that some friendships won’t work out long term. Just as you wouldn’t necessarily expect to marry the first person you date, don’t expect every friendship to last a lifetime.
  • Take quality over quantity. A cup of coffee with just one person who lights up your life is preferable to 500 friends on social media if you never have any real relationship with them.
  • Model the kind of friendship you would like to have. If you want friends you can trust – be trustworthy.  If you want friends who listen when you have problems, be the kind of friend who listens.
  • Some women like to talk about music, motorbikes and football too!

If, like me, you have some great female friends be sure to tell them how much you appreciate them.  Maybe you would like to share your top tips for friendship too.

 

First Comes Courage

First comes courage written against a background of blurred city nightscapeI’m a big fan of Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs and last week’s guest was Jacqueline Gold, the highly successful CEO of Ann Summers.   Helping women feel more confident is at the core of the Yellow Dot Women ethos so I was very interested to hear Jacqueline’s views on the subject:

“Success is all about confidence but first comes courage.  If you have faced fears you also have courage to move yourself forward; step outside your comfort zone.  I’m convinced that great things will happen if you do.”

There is very little for me to add to this.  But next time you find yourself nervous and lacking in confidence, take a deep breath, stand up tall and face your fears.  As Jacqueline said, “great things will happen if you do.”

To find out more about how coaching can help you to find your courage and build your confidence, please click the button below.

Coaching for Confidence

 

 

The Difference between Confidence and Self-Esteem

You could be forgiven for thinking that there is no difference between confidence and self-esteem.  In many places the terms are used interchangeably, almost as if they are synonyms.  The reality is that they are very different indeed and that difference is important.

Confidence is generally related to a specific activity or domain.  We are all more confident at some things than others.  For example you might be a confident car driver but completely lack confidence as a cyclist.

Self-esteem is a more generalised condition.  It tends to apply to your overall sense of self-worth.  It is the value you imagine yourself to have in the world.

You can improve your confidence by becoming more competent.  Competence comes through learning and practice.  That learning is reinforced when you receive regular feedback from someone you trust and respect.

However, if you already suffer from low self-esteem, you may find that it has a significant impact on your ability to feel confident.  It is possible that you avoid trying new things because you already believe that you will fail.  When you do learn a new skill it is likely that you will find it easier to see your failures more clearly than your successes.  Even when people give you positive feedback, you have the potential to drown it out with your own, negative inner voice.

In short, a woman with low self-esteem is likely to lack confidence in many different areas of her life.

The difference between confidence and self-esteem is of utmost importance when you decide to do something about it.

To become more confident at a particular skill you may need some training or skills based coaching, you will need an opportunity to practice and some feedback that you can trust.  Depending on the skill you want to learn, this may come from a work colleague/manager, from joining a sports team or from attending an appropriate course.

If you want to tackle your low self-esteem you may need to dig deeper.  You would do better to engage in therapy or personal development coaching.  It would be useful to work with someone who can help you to understand why you don’t value yourself highly enough and who can teach you how to silence your inner critic.

Still don’t fully understand the difference between confidence and self-esteem? Try something new and challenging.  If and when you fail, listen to the voice inside you.  Does it encourage you to get up and try again? Yes? Then you do not lack confidence in your ability to learn (and you probably have high self-esteem) – just keep practising.  If it expresses doubt (“I don’t know if I can do this”) you may lack confidence in your ability – ask someone to help you learn.  However, if the voice is scornful and disparaging (“What on earth made you think you could do this? You’re useless”) then you have a problem with low self-esteem.

Please seek help because it is never too late grow into a Yellow Dot Woman.

I want to raise my self-esteem

 

Sunshine and Confidence

It is summer, the sun is shining and I’ve noticed something interesting – there are women of all shapes, sizes and ages on the beach having fun.  What’s going on?  Could there be a correlation between sunshine and confidence?

My news feed (and I would guess yours) is still full of the usual posts trying to persuade us that if we just buy this diet or that exercise programme, we will be able to go to the beach without feeling like a freak.  But it seems that, this year, women are simply ignoring them!

I consider myself incredibly fortunate to live in Cornwall, just minutes from a selection of stunning beaches and, in fairness, for much of the year I have no problem with my beach body, wrapped as it is in jumpers and scarves and waterproofs.  But in the tiny window of opportunity usually presented by a UK summer, in order to wear a swim suit on the beach I have to stick my fingers in my ears and shout “lalalalala” to drown out that “too old, too fat, too wobbly” message I have been subjected to for the whole of my adult life.

But not this year.  I have swum in the sea after work on at least 8 occasions in the last three weeks.  I have changed into my swimming costume on the beach, walked to the water, swum, walked back up to my spot and dressed on the beach and I genuinely have not cared what anyone thinks.  But more than that, I have looked around me at other women, rocking their curves or embracing their lack of curves, running around with their kids, enjoying an ice cream (in public) and generally having fun.

So what has changed?  Have we finally accepted that, in order to have a beach body, all we need is a beach and a body?  Is there a correlation between sunshine and confidence?  The answer is a resounding “yes”!

This year the UK has seen record amounts of sunshine – (it just keeps on shining) and there is a wealth of research to link sunshine and well-being.

Sunshine is essential to vitamin D production, a deficit of vitamin D is linked to a whole range of health issues including mood disorders and so this weather is genuinely contributing to the nation’s happiness.  It’s easier to feel confident when you feel happy and, when everyone around you is happy too, you are less likely to feel judged by them.

As a further boost to that good mood, sunshine helps to regulate serotonin and melatonin production.  Serotonin helps us to manage mood, sleep, digestion, sexual desire, memory and learning.  Melatonin helps us to develop a strong circadian rhythm so our bodies naturally know when to fall asleep and when to wake up.  Assuming that the heat is not keeping you awake, a good night’s sleep and a fully functioning brain are really going to help you to feel happy, healthy and confident.

Psychologically, it seems, sunshine and confidence go hand in hand.  I applaud the woman I watched doing hand stands in the sand with her granddaughter, the heavily pregnant friend who made her own bikini when she couldn’t find one that fitted well, the teenage girls leaping off the rocks into the water, the unedited beach fun photos on social media and, if you are out there having fun in the sunshine – I applaud you too.

This evening I will be staking out my spot in the sand and feeling nothing but pleasure.  I hope you will be staking out your spot in the sunshine too.

If the sunshine hasn't been enough to increase your confidence ask how we can help.