Do you remember at high school when you had one group of friends that you hung out with- constantly? You did everything together, went everywhere together, dressed the same, used the same lingo. They were your whole world and defined so much about who you were.
Much as I love those friends (who are still in my life) my horizons have broadened since those days! We all pick up friends along the way don’t we? Former work colleagues, school mums, neighbours, gym buddies, friends of our other halves…
But one thing I’ve found with these different friends and even different groups, is that lately they each seem to meet a different need in my life. Whether its professional support or girly chats, here are the five women that we should all have in our lives to help us become well-rounded individuals:
1. The Mum- Figure
This might actually be your mum, or someone else who fills a maternal role in your life. She’s the person who you go to when life is all a bit too much. She gets your world view and most importantly knows you really well. She’ll make you a cup of tea, bring you tissues and helps you re-focus and see the bigger picture once again. Yes sometimes her advice might cut to the bone, but…..in the end she’s usually right!
2. The Career Mentor
I’m a big believer in mentors both having one and being one. She will usually be someone from your industry who gets your vision and sees your potential to achieve it. Her industry knowledge and experience are ahead of yours so she can steer you in the right direction when making career decisions. She won’t be a shoulder to cry on- this is a purely professional relationship, but she will be sympathetic to your life challenges and how they hinder you reaching your professional goals. Think of her as the sixth form careers advisor but for real life!
3. The Intellectual Equal
Different from your career mentor, this is a friend who is on an intellectual and academic par with you, and usually shares the same interests and passions. Your coffee dates are made up of sharing new ideas, perhaps specific to your sector or area of interest and you bounce ideas off of each other. The phrase “iron sharpens iron” comes to mind here as she is the one who challenges you on your new ideas and gets you to refine them.
4. The Listener
The next time you’re in a public place, just observe (discreetly!) how effectively people listen to each other, even in a one- on- one scenario. You’ll notice that they don’t. We interrupt each other constantly: to state our opinion or our response, or come in with another line of thinking. In short, we’re talking but not being heard. We all need someone who will not only listen, but hear where we’re coming from-without interrupting you and crucially, without making it about them. This is where the old adage “ a problem shared is a problem halved “ comes into its own here, as The Listener allows you to unburden yourself. She does share some crossover with The Mum-Figure and perhaps will give you some advice too, but really she is someone who will listen to you without judgement.
5. The Girlfriend
This is the friend, or group who you really laugh with. I mean belly laugh, gonna- be- sick, might- wet- yourself laugh with. What’s most important about them is that they help you connect with a part of yourself that is completely outside of your day to day roles of responsibility. With these women you’re no longer a mum, a wife, a teacher, a recruitment officer….you’re just you. They allow you to let your hair down and just be who you are- without having to play a role or meet any expectations. They’re you’re best friends, sisters, shopping buddy, partners in crime. Enjoy them, hang on to them and invest in them as they’re the friends who will be with you when a relationship ends or someone in the family is diagnosed with cancer. They are your bridesmaids and the first ones to visit you in hospital when you gave birth.They’re the ones who knew you when you had bad eyebrows and bad hair but love you anyway!
Don’t make the mistake of confusing these friends. You can’t go to your Intellectual Equal and expect to let your hair down. Chances are they’re not going to make you laugh or get your sense of fun the way your girlfriends do. Likewise, your Girlfriend isn’t necessarily going to give you the best professional advice in the world, but she’ll meet your need to kick back and have fun.
Of course friendships are not passive- you can’t simply be on the receiving end of these qualities all the time- it’s vital to give back and play these roles yourself.
Have I forgotten anyone in this list? Who are the women that shape your life?