What’s Your (Friendship) Story?

By Janis Kupferer

We all have a story we tell ourselves as to what our lives should be, and for most of us this story includes a chapter on the many and great friendships we hold. But the truth is, our story and our lives don't always jive. Here is how to get your story and your reality in alignment.

I’m a sampler. My favorite meal is a well-stocked buffet or whatever everyone else at the table ordered for dinner. I like to read the comments before—and sometimes in lieu of—the actually article or book. And previews are my favorite movie.

I also sample learning from thinkers, constantly picking through another’s beliefs and thoughts on how we function in terms of our bodies and minds, individually and collectively (I lean strongly to the belief that we are a collective bunch).

Which is how I happened upon the thoughts and teachings of Mr. Tony Robbins (okay, it isn’t difficult to stumble onto his work).

We all have a story we tell ourselves as to what our lives should be, look like, include and involve. The most common archetype is that we’ll find someone to love, marry, become a parent, enormously enjoy our family and friends, and have a successful and fulfilling career where we make a difference—all while keeping our minds and bodies strong and healthy.

Of course, this is just one story that can be told, and for as many people who roam this planet, there is a unique story they’ve created for themselves, perhaps one that doesn’t include the parenthood aspect, perhaps one that requires a 32-inch waistline, or perhaps one designed to provide a promotion and new car every 3 years.

According to Robbins, these stories that we develop for ourselves become our mantras, they are the goals and aspirations that we set for ourselves, and the yardsticks we used to determine whether we are on course, or needing a bit of an adjustment.

They are also the gauges we use to determine our happiness. For when our lives seem to be in alignment with our stories, all is right in the world. But when the story doesn’t synch with the personal plan, then we have a problem.

The gap between our story and our reality, Robbins explains, creates emotion. The tighter the gap, the happier we are, and the wider the gap, well … it can provide emotions that range from simple stress to full-blown depression.

So What is Your Story?
So, really—what is your story? And what is your story for each of the areas of your life? Which areas are you satisfied in, and which ones aren’t your favorite? Robbins says that we tend to focus on the good areas and not so much on the “less good” areas. For example, if we are killing it in our careers, we might opt to stay late and work more rather than keep our commitment to do the Body Pump class or attend book club … because it is easier.

For the members of SocialJane.com and many, many women, one area of our lives that might need some focus is our relationships. Perhaps our marriages or partnerships are sound, but we lack a strong social circle of friends, and according to our “story” we should have well over 200 Facebook friends, at least 5 BFFs on speed dial, and receive a steady supply of invitations throughout the year.

But again for many, this isn’t how it is, and we’ve no idea where to start, and friends are hard to find anyway, and even harder to keep. Women don’t really like us, the time required to foster a friendship just isn’t available because work is too demanding, travel happens too often, there are too many other priorities, etc.

Here is where Mr. Robbins would tell you that you have three choices:

1. You can blame your situation on events outside of your control and never change
(“Everyone already has their own circles of friends, there is no room for me”)

2. You can change your situation
(Give more priority to friendships by actually attending book club, for example)

3. You can change your expectations (aka your “story”)
(Having even one strong female friendship would be wonderful)

A New Plan or New Perspective
I personally love this advice and perspective, and find it applicable to so many areas of my life. As a person who regularly recites the “things are outside of my control” refrain, I find Robbins perspective liberating, especially given that he says simply putting blame on other people and events is actually the equivalent of doing nothing (except giving yourself a short shot of power in the form of anger/frustration). That leaves us with either option 2 or 3 if you actually do want any sort of permanent change. The alternative is to remain in endless stagnation.

Therefore, if you want to add more, better, deeper friendships to your life, than you need to make a plan, a plan that includes either changing your life to accommodate and promote new friendships, or change your story so that “friendship” no longer has a negative connotation and actually fits into your reality.

For example, your new plan might be that you make more of an effort with the friends and acquaintances you do have, or you host a party or girls’ night out, or invite a co-worker to lunch. Additionally, you might sign-up for tennis lessons, or start going to the weekly yoga class regularly and consistently so that you see the same gals week after week (frequency breeds familiarity).

Or, a new adaptation of your “friendship” story may have you simply appreciating the strong relationships that you do currently have, realizing that your career is a bit demanding right now, and that you’ll do a better job of finding companionship with your neighbors and co-workers. And perhaps, that quality friendships and true feelings of connection don’t come from hundreds of Facebook connections, but from time spent with the ladies with whom you do share a bond, and that you can in fact be a “good friend” and be “successful with friendships” without having a designated “BFF” or an annual girls’ weekend.

* * *

To sum it up, if you don’t like your “friendship” story, than change it—either by creating a new plan (which hopefully involves online friendship sites like SocialJane.com) or relaxing and editing your definition of what “successful friendship” looks and feels like.

Continuing to feel bad about your situation and blaming outside events and conditions (like, “I’m more of a guys’ gal” or “friendships are hard to find as adults”) will get you nowhere and certainly doesn’t get you better friendships.

If you are having trouble building a new story, try this one:

"I really enjoy the women whom I have in my life, and I make my friendships with them a priority. I share and support them as best I can, and cherish the support and caring that I get from them (in whatever form and quantity it is offered). I look for opportunities to include more friends in my life, and realize that over time and with continued effort, I’ll be able to build a strong circle of friends of my own. But for now, I appreciate those whom I do have."

Let us know how it goes.

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