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Women's Wellness

How Female Friendships Fulfill Lives

Friends can make life more enjoyable, but is it always easy to have that group of friends you’ve always wanted?. Here is how female friendships can uplift and make you stronger.

By Aditi Mudgal
24 Jul 2022

A blue zone (geographic areas with low rates of chronic diseases and high life expectancy rates) of longevity, Okinawa is known to be home to residents who generally live well above 100 years old. While this might seem shocking to some, it’s simply how things are in Okinawa. While lifestyle factors like diet and exercise may have much to do with it, that’s not all.

 

Moai is a tradition that has been around in Okinawa for decades, centuries even. The term originally denoted a village’s financial support system. Today, the term is used to describe ‘social support’ groups or friendships cultivated throughout decades. A 2009 study by Utrecht University (Netherlands) shows that you lose roughly half and gain new friends around every seven years. However, in Okinawa, friendships are not made for years, but for decades.

 

Related story: How To Revive Your Friendship

 

Good friendships can do more than just extend your lifeline; they improve the quality of your life. Whether in happiness or sadness, friends are the ones you can rely on. But there is a pervading misconception that female friendships are not as common. The patriarchal mindset of society has consistently set up women against each other, so much so that it seems odd when a group of women is good friends with each other.

 

But a 2019 Harvard Business Review study shows that female friendships aren’t only wanted, they’re needed for success in life too. Women with a strong circle of friends are more likely to get executive positions with higher pay. Here is why cultivating female friendships in your life is crucial and how you can develop meaningful relationships with women in your life.

 

Related story: How To Support A Friend Who Had An Abortion

 

More Than ‘Surface Niceties’

Films, books, and other popular media have constantly propelled the notion that girls need to compete with each other for usually one thing: men’s attention. Fairy tales like Snow White and Cinderella see women consistently attacking other members of their sex. And just like in enmity, female friendships are perceived to be toxic and detrimental.

 

Author Roxane Gay aptly discusses the misconception in her book, Bad Feminist, “Abandon the cultural myth that all female friendships must be bitchy, toxic or competitive…this myth is like heels and purses – pretty but designed to SLOW women down.”

 

Many women may feel that they are unable to communicate with other women because society has pitted us against one another for so long. It can prevent them from becoming emotionally open and available with women whom they find relatable. When women realise that they can have more than just ‘surface-level’ conversations with other women, the cycle of change begins. It’s time to start being more than just an ideal girl for boys to like or actively trying to be a ‘guys girl’ when that goes against your personality. Be unapologetic and understand that patriarchal views are only meant to slow you down, not propel you forward.

 

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Being Emotionally Vulnerable

In the modern world, being open and honest about who you are and what you aspire to be can be incredibly difficult. It can be challenging to be emotionally vulnerable in a world that sees many things through the lens of social media, and where ‘fake it ‘till you make it’ is encouraged. Many women may also feel that cultivating friendships with men will allow them to be stronger and less emotionally vulnerable. In female friendships, many times, emotional vulnerability is encouraged, understood and analysed, which is why it can be unwanted in a world where being ‘emotion-less’ or unaffected is valued.

 

“It's okay if most of your friends are guys, but if you champion this as a commentary on the nature of female friendships, soul search a little.” - Gloria Steinem

 

However, it’s only when you are emotionally open with another person, whether female or male, that your burdens will be lightened. Keeping up appearances and looking strong can only look so good until cracks start appearing. It’s time to be honest to yourself, and others, by being emotionally vulnerable.

 

No matter what struggles you are going through in life, having a strong support network of friends to pull you through can make an immense difference. From giving advice to no-judgement discussions, there are many things only a girl tribe can do for you.

 

Related story: The Perks of Spending Time With Your Family And Friends 

 

Support and Comfort

As American feminist journalist, Gloria Steinem famously said, “Women understand,” Women understand turbulent stages in your life, the complexity of juggling multiple facets of life, while often ignoring other barriers like age, economics and other worldly aspects. It reveals far more about the struggles women have to go through than one would expect. While there may be significant turbulence in your personal or professional life, no one will understand it better than another woman. Whether you are struggling to find a balance or just need a shoulder to cry on, finding comfort and solace in their companionship can work more wonders than you can imagine.

 

And it’s not just in normal life you see the power of enduring female friendships. As Paris Hilton famously came out to support her friend Britney Spears during the ‘Free Britney’ movement, praising her for turning ‘trauma into triumph,’ we are reminded every day of the beauty of supportive and comforting female friendships all around us.

 

Related story: How To Break-Up With A Toxic Friend

 

Stronger Together

The Harvard Business Review study further states that women who want executive leadership positions often face unconscious bias, cultural and political hurdles that men don’t. A circle of female friends can help by sharing private information, which can ultimately benefit negotiating and interviewing strategies for women. It proves that women are stronger when united, even when the world wants us to think otherwise.

 

In ‘Girl Squads: 20 Female Friendships That Changed History,’ author Sam Maggs explains – “As girls and women, we live in a world that is incredibly difficult to navigate….many of us have caring, sympathetic men in our lives, there are some things – no matter how many times we explain them – that they’ll never fully understand”

 

Female friendships can be challenging, complex, but ultimately rewarding. You may have cherished friends who you have grown up with, but drifted apart over time. It might be time to reconnect with your female friends and understand their value in your life. Knowing that you always have a support system you can fall back on and who will understand where you are coming from is a joy not everyone can claim as their own.

 

Related story: How To Be More Mindful In Friendship

 

Where To Begin

A strong friendship requires effort from all parties, and sometimes you might not know where to begin. An enduring friendship can be challenging to find, but when you cultivate it, there’s no reason it can’t happen for you.

 

All it takes is for you to reach out. When you want to develop deep and meaningful friendships with women in your life or reconnect with them, you have to lay everything bare. Being judgemental and analytic when it comes to other women is no way to build friendships. Taking the first step and showing yourself to be more open and communicative can be the right way to go. You will have to put yourself out there when you’re looking for genuine female companionship that’s going to last a lifetime.

 

“I believe feminism is grounded in supporting the choices of women even if we wouldn’t make certain choices for ourselves.” – Roxane Gay

Try not to be judgemental and be supportive whenever a female comes up to you. It’s time to be more open and less restrictive about who you ‘can’ and ‘cannot’ be friends with. Next time you’re watching Sex and the City, remember that your girl gang is out there waiting for you too!

 

Related story: Toxic Positivity---What Is It And Why You Should Avoid It

 

Quotes By Famous Women on Female Friendships

“We have been confidantes, soul mates and sisters," - Marlo Thomas (on friendship with Gloria Steinem)

 

“I think about my best friendship — which the Marnie-Hannah friendship in Girls is based on — as like a great romance of my young life.” - Lena Dunham

 

“No man is capable of being your best friend … A best friend is someone who goes to get their nails done with you.” - Chelsea Handler

 

"No power in heaven, hell or earth can separate us, for our hearts are eternally wedded together," -  Elizabeth Cady Stanton (on friendship with Susan B. Anthony)

 

“Girls get competitive, as though there’s only one spot in the world for everything but that’s not true. We need to stick together and see there’s more to life than pleasing men. It’s important not to cut yourself off from female friendships. I think sometimes girls get scared of other girls, but you need each other.” - Zooey Deschanel

 

“I don’t know what I would have done so many times in my life if I hadn’t had my girlfriends.” - Reese Witherspoon

 

“Well, female friendships are fucking extraordinary. They don’t have to be sexual to be intense love affairs. A breakup with a female friend can be more traumatic than a breakup with a lover.” - Keira Knightley

 

 

 

 

 

 

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