On Sunday night, I hosted book club. I love my book club. We read a book every month, but our book conversations rarely stretch for more than ten minutes because we’re so busy catching up on each other’s lives, telling funny or appalling stories, and getting and giving advice. The six of us weren’t best friends before we came together over books and we’re at different points in our lives- one of us is single, two are married without kids, three of us are married and have 1 or 2 kids. We work in different fields- from banker to entrepreneur to chef to soon-to-be yoga instructor. Book club is the only time that all six of us cross paths at the same time. And, yet, without long history between, without more frequent contact, we have forged such authentic relationships with one another that going to book club is like going both to a party and therapy and I believe that’s what most girlfriend gatherings are like (or should be like!).
Our friends- from all parts of our lives: work, the gym, college, high school, childhood, the neighborhood- can be such a significant support system. Here are some ways to boost everyone’s self-acceptance when you are with your girls, wherever you may be.
Ditch the Fat Chat. When a woman criticizes herself in front of us, what do we typically do? Build camaraderie by adding our own criticisms of our body. And, unfortunately, what we don’t say can be just as damaging as what we do say. When a woman says, “I am getting so fat,” and her friend replies, “You? I’m getting so many grey hairs.” What the first friend walks away thinking is, “she must think I’m getting fat.” Fat chat is just a no win situation. So ban yourself from going there yourself and when someone you love goes there, don’t join in. Instead, celebrate what you love about her and tell her just how wrong she is.
Never ask “Have You Lost Weight?” You’re in the grocery store and spot a friend you haven’t seen in a while. If the first thing you to say to her is have you lost weight, you are left with a potentially awkward situation. If the answer is no, where does the conversation go from there? If the answer’s yes, you aren’t out of the woods because you don’t know if the weight loss came because of stress or grief or a medical situation. Either way, you send a message that bodies are up for grabs in casual discussion and leave that person thinking that you thought there was weight that needed to be lost. By banishing weight-loss commentary, you keep yourself from perpetuating that someone’s weight and body are fair game for discussion and up for both grabs and judgment.
Offer sincere compliments. We all need to know that our talents, values, skills, and personality are valued. Research has shown that just one compliment in a day dramatically positively impacts a person’s confidence.
Remind each other how subjective beauty is. At book club this week, we started talking about favorite actors. And while we’re a group of women who are like in a lot of ways, what we learned is that our tastes are really different. And that’s just it. So many of us strive to achieve one beauty ideal when people don’t perceive things in the same way. Everything is so subjective. It is impossible to please all people with just one aesthetic or sensibility so we should not try to make ourselves over into someone else’s version of ideal.
Create a place to share anxieties. A lot of our body anxieties aren’t really about our bodies, they are rooted in bigger issues but, instead, we fixate on the body issues because we either think that is the thing that is controllable in our life or because we don’t think it’s okay to talk about the real issues causing our anxieties. By creating an environment with our girlfriends where we can openly share our real concerns while receiving support, we move past insecurity and towards self-acceptance and self-assurance while gaining valuable problem solving and perspective.
What are you and your girlfriends doing to boost each other’s sense of confidence and self-acceptance? What environment in your life have you found to be one of the most positive and supportive?