Most of my female colleagues and friends have great career success stories to tell. And they always earn admiration, if not a little envy, from their coworkers and family members. But the very same self-discipline and tenacity that has earned us great success can get in the way of our own happiness and fulfillment, especially when it comes to choosing which friends to spend time with.
Think about it, do you choose your friends because they
- emotionally support you, meaning they are there to cheer you on when doubt sets in,
- listen when the going gets tough even though the world thinks you are sitting comfortably at the top, and
- are straight with you when others may shy from telling you the truth?
This is good friendship criteria for smart, strong, goal-driven women.
Or, do you have some friends you’ve been attached to for years that you feel drag you down but your guilt keeps you connected? Maybe it’s time to make some hard choices about who are the friends you want to share your precious time with. There are those that fulfill you. There are those that drain you.
You might have experienced this at work: you set a goal and give everything to achieving it. Yet there are times when it would be better to move on than to spend time on a goal that is no longer useful. You are so intensely focused you may not realize there is a sea change that sucked the value out of the goal.
In the same vein, if your relationships run into difficulties, your instinct may be to work harder at them, but that can only meet with success if your friends are willing to make the same effort. It could be that the changes in your lives no longer support the friendship. This can be an exhausting and stressful time for both of you. If you choose to end the relationship, you may think of it as a defeat.
On the other hand, the stress and exhaustion can be signs for you step back and ask the question: What is the value of friendship?
Why You Need to Ask the Question
Many of the women I coach seem to be struggling against problem after problem. They work harder than everyone else, take on more responsibility, and never seem to get the recognition they deserve. This may be true, but they also struggle with saying when enough is enough. They take on more tasks because they think they need to be the over-responsible teammate and they expect to be acknowledged with little or no self-promotion.
The same patterns play out in their relationships. They “put out” more than their friends and end up feeling exhausted and resentful. If the balance is tipped so that both work and personal life are depleting, they end up having to book into one of those luxury rehab centers to recoup. Now there is a blossoming business!
A Blessing in Disguise?
It certainly may not feel it at the time, but separation can be a positive step forward. If you are feeling exhausted, frustrated and dissatisfied with a friendship ask yourself
- If you met your friend today, would you choose her or him to be your friend?
- Is the relationship built on compromises?
- When you are with your friend, do you leave feeling better or worse about yourself?
Doing a little heart-searching can represent a major turning point in your life—one that you will hopefully look back on with a sense of your courage. It is time to regroup and take a hard look at how you want to spend your time and energy. Other people may judge you negatively for your choices, but you need to make decisions for yourself, not based on other people’s opinions.
One Door Closes…
Women are often taught from an early age to ascribe a lower priority to their own needs and desires than they do to the needs and desires of others. In later life, the result can mean you are so alienated from your true desires that it may be difficult even to recognize what they are. Instead, you worry about gaining approval and being liked.
Yet, when a door closes in your life, instead of focusing on what has been lost, look at the room you now have for a new relationship that is more fulfilling. You aren’t being mean. You are being strong.
Isn’t it time to say enough is enough?