4 March 2021|Latest Posts, Psychology
By Scarlett V Clark. On average, female friendships last 16 years, which is 6 years longer than the average romantic relationship, so it comes as no surprise that whether good or bad, friendships have a significant impact on mental health. Strong friendships between women avert loneliness and offer companionship, as well as increase serotonin and oxytocin- the bonding hormones.
Self-esteem is a core identity issue in women which is essential to our ability to experience joy. Despite incessant self-doubts and insecurities, worrying about our appearance, our performance at work and how others perceive us, strong female friendships fundamentally increase our self-esteem and can make life a lot easier.
Women handle stress differently and respond with a reaction referred to as ‘tend and befriend’ which means that when they sense stress in others they naturally reach out and nurture. There is a loyalty to be found in female friendships that can breed strong allegiances and can increase confidence levels. Friends can help you deal with mistakes and keep everything in perspective. As well as boosting optimal mental health and overall well-being through shared experiences, the bond between women grows over time to such an extent that women become each other’s support system, through the best of times and the worst of times.
In moments of need or crisis, true friends are our rock and can open our eyes to issues we may be unaware of. If we are in a toxic relationship, our female friends would be the anchors to notice the behaviours we shouldn’t be tolerating and help pull us out of it. Women naturally encourage us to live better lives and pursue even our most audacious dreams.
They cheer us on
Self-esteem develops from the inside out, it is an internal job. When a woman is confident she radiates, is aware of her abilities and strengths and isn’t reliant on anyone to make herself feel good. According to research published by the American Psychological Association, positive social relationships help shape the development of self-esteem in people over time across ages 4-76. Given that women are inherently relational, true friends will celebrate your personal and professional wins, no matter how small and will make a conscious effort to help your light shine brighter.
Friends support our efforts to grow
Women develop a different type of bond in a friendship, one that sheds light on our deepest insecurities, vulnerabilities and anxieties. True friends cultivate a space for us to open up to be vulnerable, allowing us to be our imperfect selves and disclose personal experiences. This results in breaking down the barriers we subconsciously put up and developing a stronger sense of self-worth. Often the greatest deterrent to achieving our dreams is thinking that we can’t. Female friends are able to see in us qualities that we aren’t able to recognise within ourselves, pushing us to go after more.
They model new ways of being
Life is a constant rollercoaster toward becoming the women we are destined to be. We naturally as humans are attracted to individuals who have traits we desire, meaning that every close friend of ours has a set of skills that can help us. As we watch a friend go after her dream, set up a business, secure that promotion or give a big speech, we believe that this is possible for us too, stimulating the idea that we are worthy and capable and boosting our confidence.
Friends are our tribe
It goes back to our cavewomen instincts, we are not wired to live in loveless vacuums but to be surrounded by community. Unlike men, women shared their lives intimately and were a source of strength and comfort for one another. Even though centuries have passed and there has been a substantial rise in social isolation, women still yearn for the same amount of social bonding and it is a deep rooted part of our human nature.
As much as friends can boost our self-esteem they can also significantly reduce it. Friends who compete with you, compare themselves to you or make you feel insecure or unsafe can dramatically impact your mental health. The outcome of an unhealthy friend on your self-esteem can be just as momentous. If your friend has an unhealthy thought pattern they can turn falsehoods into beliefs and will transfer those limiting beliefs onto you, negatively affecting your self-esteem. It is important to not only be your own best friend but to nourish the true friendships around you.
Scarlett V Clark, CEO and Founder of Smart Girl Tribe and author of The Smart Girls Handbook, published by Trigger 4 March 2021, £10.99. Available from Amazon