- Gender and Relationships
Lean On Me - The Value of Female Friendship
Lean on Me When You're Not Strong...
One of the most valuable gifts in one's life¬time is the gift of friendship. Friendships are like a tapestry woven of individual strands of texture and color. They show us the quality of our self-esteem and self-confidence. Your friends should bring out the very best in you and you should help them glow as well.
As children we thrived on friendship; our social lives were of the utmost importance to us. But, somehow as we grow older our hectic lifestyles begin to pull us away from our friends. We become so caught up in our family and job obligations that we lose some of the other important relationships in our lives.
This occurrence is probably more prevalent in women, because we tend to be the main caregivers and household organizers in our families. Often women tend to feel guilty if they take time away from family or work, but in the end we're only harming ourselves. It's important to rekindle old friendships and begin new ones - for your own mental health.
A Greater Need to Bond
In life, it's important for wom¬en to have close female friendships with other women. Physiologi¬cally, females have a greater need to emotionally bond with others. Whereas many men get by with loose, casual relationships with other men, women tend to look for nurturing, emotionally fulfilling bonds with other women.
This need starts in childhood and increases during adolescence, when teenage girls find support from their female peers. In a culture where girls regularly choose boys over friends, we hardly talk at all about how powerful female friend¬ships can be in the life of a girl. Authentic, strong, female friend¬ships are important for girls' social and emotional development. With the proper role models, girls can learn great lessons about loyalty, co-operation and empathy from these relationships. Girlfriends often know each other inside and out. Boys may hold their hands, but girls will hold their souls.
Often, less emphasis is placed on the mother-daughter bond as teens venture out and test the waters of young adult¬hood. But once reaching full adulthood, many young women re-establish the mother-daughter bond as one of their primary female friendships.
The Psychological Benefits of Female Friendships
Women seek each other for emotional support and identity. Together they can create healthy communications and gratifying exchanges of ideas and feelings. Add more women into the mix and an entire emotional support system has emerged.
Psychologically, women gain self-esteem, validation and happiness from such exchanges. Female friendships can boost each other's self-worth through compliments, honest opinions and sug¬gestions. In times of trouble, women seek one another out to know that their feelings or experiences are normal and healthy. From these interactions, female friends bring away an increased sense of happiness and fulfillment.
The Physical Benefits of Female Friendships
The psychological benefits of friendship may be more apparent, since its positive impact can be immediately felt. At the same time, there is a physical benefit to forming such close female friendships.
Physical gains can be both internal and external. With happiness and validation comes a lowering of heart rate, blood pressure and stress. The immune and digestive systems work more efficiently.
When women form supportive bonds, they often plan group activities or form exercise groups. This can improve the individual women's external aspects, such as their weight, complexion, flex¬ibility and tone.
Bad News? Call a Girlfriend!
When we're isolated, we don't have each other to help us through tough situations like earthquakes or fires, financial struggles or relationship changes, sadness or cancer. Without communities of women, we often miss opportunities to be involved in our cities, to learn from each other, to empathize with other women and to share the benefits of laughter and a heart-felt hug.
As women, we sometimes need to be reminded what being a girlfriend means. Too often it takes an illness or loss to hit us with reality, realisation, and appreciation of friendship. That reminder can also be as simple as a caring card, a hug or an e-mailed photo. Once in a while we simply need to take the time to think about our female friendships, stop and live in the moment, and if at all possible, celebrate that moment.
Have you had some bad news? Call a girlfriend. Have something great to celebrate? Share that celebration with a friend. Do you want to feel prettier, be less stressed, and be healthier and, happier? Spend some time with your BFFs. Recognize your own need for female friendships and fill that need with time and memories together.
Life is better together - with your girlfriends.