What comes to mind when think about the word, friend? Is it a trait, a person or a memory? If I think about this word long enough, it almost sounds foreign, maybe because making friends during motherhood is not easy. Maintaining those friendships presents a whole new challenge. If we examine our social media accounts, we will see that have hundreds of surface-level friends. If those friends see only the highlights of our life, where is the depth of the relationship? I’m not saying every detail of our existence should be shared; it is actually the opposite. I would hope by now we all understand that just because someone is your friend on Facebook, does not mean they are in your corner.
So let’s talk about those real life friendships, those in which we feel safe, seen and loved.
Considering the various friendships I have cultivated, I notice as the years pass, my circle grows smaller. There are a few friends — near and far — who hold a special place in my heart. I am thankful for the women who lift me up, inspire me to be a better wife, mom and friend (a better me), who I can turn to and vice-versa. I do hope I am just as much as an encouragement to those women as they are to me.
There was a moment, even not too long ago, I was not always so confident in my friendships. This assurance has taken time to evolve. Finding friends to accept me for just being me has not always been easy. As a self-aware, Enneagram 4 (IYKY), sometimes my personality can be a lot for others, and for most of my life, I diminished my character in hopes of gaining approval.
Every so often I think back to a week in 6th grade, everyone was talking about a particular birthday party happening that weekend. The birthday girl told me earlier in the week she had left my invitation at home as she was passing all the others out. On Friday, after asking her about the invite for the second time that day, she hesitantly handed me a blank envelope with the invitation inside. I could not contain my excitement! I slowly paced the aisles of Wal-Mart searching for the most perfect gift. Nothing was good enough. After all, I was just sure she would already have anything I picked out anyway, but even giving cash would not do. Carefully I chose a clear make-up box and added a few mini-nail polishes. The present ended up being over our budget, but my mom made it work.
There is not much from the party that I remember; I suppose it was not so much about the party as it was about feeling left out. While I longed to be her friend, I missed all the signs saying she did not want to be mine. This lesson, learned the hard way, haunts me nearly 20 years later. I will admit that I am even sometimes embarrassed by how oblivious I was, but like most girls that age, I just wanted to fit in. I wanted to wear the name-brand clothes (that my family really couldn’t afford), I stopped listening to my favorite country music and tried listening to the top hits everyone else liked. Every day, I reduced my personality a little more and tried my best to be like them. I chose again and again to work so hard to be somebody I wasn’t, just so they would like me.
Over the years, when I would not get invited to something, I continually searched inward. There had to be something about me they did not like. Then, I would start the process again of evolving from who I was, to someone I was not. I cannot be the only one who found myself in unhealthy friendships. I repeatedly dialed it down, losing myself and my personality.
While motherhood is the toughest phase to sustain friendships, I found that becoming a mom inspired me to no longer water down my personality for others.
As a mom you are being pulled in every direction, leaving little time for any relationship less than legitimate. There is no time for fake friendships. It turned out it was me those people did not like, and that is okay. I just had not found my people. Once I shed the fictional personality, I have formed the most authentic friendships with some of the best!
I will not always get the invite, and that’s okay. I will be too much for some people, but those aren’t my people.
There is this brave, independent girl with this gigantic personality who calls me Mommy. She is watching every single move I make. If she sees me shrinking who I am for others, she will think this is justifiable behavior. It is not. It is not acceptable to lessen who you were created to be to gain someone else’s acceptance.
If I could write my younger self a letter, I would tell myself that I am wonderfully and fearfully made. I would suggest I hug my dad a little longer. I would also tell myself that being country when country wasn’t cool is totally okay and although I stopped pursuing my dream, I woke up to realize my purpose turned out to be so much better. I would tell twelve-year-old Chasity how I learned to live unapologetically as myself and have friends who love and accept me, for me.