A Girl's Guide to Being Friends With Girls











{February 1, 2012}   A Girl’s Guide To Being Friends With Girls: All About You

(This column originally appeared on Buzznet.com on January 13, 2012.  It has been reposted here with some changes.)

Sorry for the lateness of this week’s column, folks.  Was trying to figure out how to approach a topic, then decided to put that topic off for a little while.  And instead I’m going to talk about you.

“But Ashly,” you say, “isn’t this a column about friendship and repairing the social misconceptions about female friendship?”

Yes, it is.

“But Ashly,” you say again, “are you about to tell me that I have to change myself and my likes/interests in order to make friends and become popular?”

Nope.  The goal of this column has nothing to do with getting friends or some ridiculous idea of popularity.  Heck, sometimes it’s not even going to be about actually being FRIENDS with other girls so much as it is going to be about bucking the trend of girls hating girls because they’re girls and fighting against a lot of the institutionalized social ideas we have about being girls.

And guess what?  One of the things involved in that is being friends with yourself.

The Joy of Mixed Messages

The world is a huge fan of mixed messages.  And in this case, we’re going to be looking at one that gets a lot of play in different forms of media, but the worst perpetrator may be women’s magazines.  The message is “Show confidence and believe in yourself, you’re awesome…by the way, have we pointed out every little thing that is wrong with you?”

The thing is, advertisers tend to make their money by making us feel insecure.  It’s an easy trick: tell someone that something is very wrong with them and that you have the thing that can fix it.  We see it with all kinds of products, so there’s not really one place to blame, but the point is that places run advertisements that tear us down in order to get us to buy something we probably don’t need.

Now consider the influx of media in your daily life. Consider how often you’re advertised to on a daily basis.  Now consider you’ve been (consciously or unconsciously) seeing that your entire life.

No wonder we can internalize so much self-doubt and self-hate.  And no wonder we might not want to be friends with ourselves, I mean, rumor on the street is that we kinda suck.

How That Hurts

So, we’ve been torn down and promised that if we buy things we will be fixed.  Problem is, the world doesn’t work that way.  Even after we splurge on whatever was supposed to make it all better, the damage has still been done.  And we’re still going to be told we suck in other ways.

At some point, though, we need to try and build ourselves up.  But that’s really REALLY hard.  I mean, it’s fighting against stuff you’ve been programmed to think through your entire life, while you’re still getting those messages.  And let’s face it: you are probably trying to fix things that aren’t even broken, so you’re doomed to failure.

But you know what’s much easier?  Tearing other people down.

Even worse: once again we’re encouraged towards the negative.  Girls are supposed to be catty/nasty/jealous/bitchy, so it’s fine for you to take all of your inner self-hate out on another girl.

Except how it’s NOT.

Or we put on a false bravado in order to cover up how insecure we are.  And it rings false.  It’s something people can identify.  And it doesn’t help anyone.

So we end up in this awful cycle where nobody likes themselves and it can be hard to like anyone else.  Or to be liked.  And what do we end up blaming?

Being girls.

This is the Part Where I Admit This is Really Hard

Liking yourself can be one of the hardest things out there.  And I mean really genuinely liking yourself, flaws and all.  Not liking yourself if you lose 80lbs.  Not liking yourself once you’re in a different situation.  Not liking yourself in certain circumstances.  Just liking and accepting yourself.

Confession: I’m really bad at it myself.

So what do we DO?  Well, you can start with general media awareness, pay attention to what you’re being sold and taught.  If you can decode what they’re saying-without-saying-it, you can understand how you’re being manipulated and lessen the effect it has on you.

If you’re in a situation where you’re aware you’re being judgmental of another girl, stop and examine why you feel that way.  It might be because of your own issues with yourself.  Feeling this way doesn’t make you bad, but you need to fight the urge to not act on it and instead address your feelings about yourself in a constructive way.

You can talk to yourself.  Not, like, muttering in the street, obviously, but if you have a private place you can go where no one will hear you (or care if they do), then go there and talk to yourself when you’re feeling upset or insecure.  Ask yourself why you feel that way, and answer honestly, even if the answer is “I don’t know.”

Keep a journal.  In this case, I’m encouraging you to keep a pen-and-paper one if possible.  If not, keep something that’s NOT going to go online, that only you will ever be able to read.  It’ll keep you from censoring yourself. This is a case where you have to be open with yourself, no matter how angering or awful your thoughts and feelings might be.  And it’s not necessarily the sort of thing you want other people to have access to.  Also, with the pen and paper option?  You can’t just hit the “delete” button to get rid of what you’ve written down.  If you want to get rid of something, you have to cross it out/rip it up and there’s something cathartic about that.

And if you’re able to, consider finding an unbiased person to talk to: a counselor, a therapist, someone like that.  We tend to stigmatize this sort of thing as being reserved for people who have been diagnosed with some kind of mental illness, but the truth is everyone can benefit from a little time talking to someone who is going to be impartial and non-judgmental.

Mostly, just remember: you need to be friends with yourself.  Because you are the only person that you will spend the rest of your life with.  In extremely close quarters.

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Cait says:

About that journal thing…

My new trick is to journal when I’m happy. When I’m in a good mood, and feeling good about myself. That makes it real. So then the next time I’m having a big downer, it’s not just a memory of “that one time when I was less miserable than today” it’s something that I can go back to, in writing… and know that I can get back there again.



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