My mom would always say “You are the company you keep.”  Take a look at your friendships, what kind of women are you connected to and what do you do to uplift and encourage one another? Is your circle filled with ladies doing great things in life or striving towards a goal? Is there upward movement within your circle or are you all doing the same things you were last year?  Is your circle full of women who love drama and gossip?  Are you surrounded by ladies who stay in dark spaces or constant depression?  You can tell quite a bit about a person by the company they keep.

I've always known the value and power of having strong female relationships in my life but I've also had to learn how to cultivate and make those bonds strong.   In each stage of my life, I’ve surrounded myself with women who share the same values as I do.  Women who value being great mothers, women who are ambitious and goal driven, women who are hilarious and fun-loving, women who are open to new life experiences.  We’ve grown together, and although we each have different personalities, talents, skill sets, and life paths, our common bond is the life we are each trying to live.  People often confuse strong female friendships with “cliques.”  I noticed that only happens with women tho.  Women can’t seem to link up together without being lumped into some stereotype that includes “group think.”  (That’s another post!) Strong female bonds are scrutinized and analyzed so much, and I’ve often wondered why? I believe some people are intimidated by strong female relationships.  Certain things can’t fly when you try to infiltrate a group of women united and intensely loyal to one another. There is power in those bonds.  I wish more women understood that.  There is nothing I hate more than to hear other women speak negatively about female friendships. These type of women typically listen to men tell them how female relationships should work. (Again…that’s another post!!!)

I would describe my circle of friends as beautiful, multi-talented, compassionate, bold, assertive, colorful, unique and opinionated.    Like a Yin-yang, we compliment one another. I have friends who do many different things; from the artsy and creative to the analytical and logical; DJs, artists, fashionistas, hairdressers to attorneys, psychologists and bankers, we truly are all across the board as far as our talents and skills go.    For the friend who may be real but abrasive, we have a friend who knows how to speak with compassion. To the friend who is an introvert, the bold friend helps her to be more assertive.  We balance one another and draw upon one another’s strength and aid each other in our weaknesses.  It doesn’t mean we are all perfect and exist harmoniously in one another’s spaces, but it does mean we handle those difficult and trying times differently

Your circle should include women you trust but also women you respect.  When friends respect one another, certain things just don't happen.  We are a sisterhood, and there are codes we live by; we handle disagreements and differences of opinion “In House.” We would never think of airing “dirty laundry” about one another. We “respectfully” disagree, without throwing shade or low blows. We try not to be intentionally hurtful in our opinions and suggestions.   We correct one another with respect because we know we have each other’s best intention in mind.  We apologize and “woman up” when we need to because we understand that we aren’t perfect and most importantly, we tell the truth, even if it’s unpopular and we have conversations when they may seem difficult.     We deal with one another differently than we would most random people.  After all, this is the place where you are free to be vulnerable. This circle is the safe space where you are free to express yourself, remove the mask and get real.  You must know people within your circle are individuals who would never violate your trust.

Sometimes we don’t always get it right.  I’ve often wondered about women who speak negatively about other female relationships and at the root of almost each, will be the infiltration of a “fake” friend into the circle.   Imposters disguised as friends who are secretly envious seem to reveal themselves over time.  The “takers,” the ones who are only around when it benefits them, will drain you like the leeches they are. Friends who attempt to fill a void with you then disappear when they have something else holding their attention.  Then finally, you have the people who try to find their identity within the circle, instead of knowing who they are outside of it.  Your circle of friends should never be clones of you, but free thinking individuals with a strong knowledge of themselves.  People who seek their identity in the circles in which they reside contribute nothing to the relationship because they have nothing to offer. These relationships are often one-sided and draining.  I love the diversity of thought and experience within my circle of friends. Frankly, everybody can’t sit with you!

I’ve had those moments over the years, and the realization that a person may not be your friend can be a very painful lesson to learn. Sometimes it is necessary to remove people from your life and it doesn't always have be for a negative reason. Very often as we get older, relationships change and we can outgrow one another. It doesn't mean the love isn't still there, it just means we have to exist in our own spaces and that is ok. Sometimes our life paths require us to step into new circles of friendship.   It has also taught me the value of doing a “circle check.”  It’s like a tune-up for your friendships. Some friendships may require time to reconnect because life has become so busy forgot to make time.  Other’s may be hanging on a thread, and it may be time to cut them loose.  Some relationships deserve eulogy’s and funerals because they are dead and others may require some healing and rebuilding after making mistakes.  The " Circle Check" is the moment you decide to take a good look at the women around you and ask some important questions.  I always ask the following questions when I am determining a person’s place in my life:

1.        What value does this person bring to my life?

2.        What value do I bring into their life?

3.        What’s their greatest quality?

4.        What’s their biggest flaw?

5.        Am I proud to say I know them?

6.        Are they trustworthy?

7.        Do they challenge me?

8.        Do they hold me accountable and call me on my mess?

9.        Are they confident/self-assured?

10.      If they weren’t in my life, how would I feel? Would I feel a loss?

These are just a few questions I ask myself when I think about my friendships or take the time to re-evaluate them.  I believe that it’s healthy to do so now and then.  I have done this at different stages in my life, and I always come away from these questions with the knowledge on how to be a better friend, a better communicator and a better listener.  Evaluating your friendships also means evaluating your role in them.  Are you a help or hindrance? How can I be better? Is there something I can do to improve, strengthen my relationships?  You may surprise yourself with your answers.  Real friends should inspire you to become a better friend.  Having a circle of friends that you trust, admire and respect is one of life’s greatest gifts, and they deserve moments of evaluation. I like to have these conversations with my friends and in my private meditations as they help me grow into a better person.  That’s what friends should do inspire us to reach our greatest potential.

When was the last time you did a “circle check”?   Did you make any changes, additions or even deletions? I’d love to hear your thoughts.  What type of women shape your “circle”?  

Until next time…

Take care of yourself and one another.

D. Sanders