THE MOM’S SPACE: Authentic Friendships
How to find trust within ourselves and with others
As moms, finding and maintaining authentic friendships can be difficult. How nice would it be if the opposite were true? What if moms felt free to be real and unite through the messy experience of motherhood? Instead, we tend to hide the ugly truth and become trapped under the pressure to be the best, always get it right, and have it all together.
We allow external expectations to drive everything, including our friendships. We are quick to put on a mask and live on the surface of what we think we should be. This is exactly what prevents us from forming the authentic friendships we desperately need. The only way for us to have these friendships is to be vulnerable—a risky proposition for sure.
Why it’s hard to be vulnerable with others:
- Fear (of rejection, safety, abandonment, loneliness, etc.)
- Discomfort with expressing feelings
- Shame (hearing all the shoulds)
- We weren’t taught how
It makes sense that we don’t walk around being vulnerable with every mom we meet. It’s terrifying and feels unsafe. To protect us, our fear hides our true self and quickly reverts to our tried-and-true coping mechanisms: putting on a façade and trying to be perfect. We become what others expect us to be, which leaves us feeling empty and exhausted.
To change these feelings and behaviors, we must acknowledge our fear’s attempt to keep us safe by preventing authentic friendships from forming. Accepting this is the gateway to increasing our awareness of what’s happening in our current friendships.
Questions to ask when exploring current friendships:
- How do I know this person is trustworthy?
- How do I feel when I’m around this person?
- How safe do I feel expressing my feelings to this person?
- How accepted do I feel by this person?
The answers to these questions can reveal which friendships align with our authentic self and which ones don’t. Once we’ve determined the latter, we can decide where boundaries need to be set and from which relationships we need to be freed. The freedom we feel from those boundaries creates space for us to find trust within ourselves and with others. To do this, we must start by being vulnerable.
How to be vulnerable in the beginning of a friendship:
- Start small
- Share thoughts and feelings that are personal, but also feel safe
- Gently and gradually ask deeper questions
- Trust yourself (typically we know when to be leery)
Being vulnerable with others takes tremendous courage, but the payoff is always worth it. We either find a friend for life or we get rejected. While rejection is painful, we also find out the person doesn’t align with our true self and will therefore never bring joy and fulfillment to our lives. It’s better to know this at the beginning of the relationship, so we can move on and continue to be vulnerable with others.
Enduring vulnerability leads to authentic friendships. Our facade comes down. We no longer feel the pressures of expectations or try to be someone we’re not. Our fear takes a back seat and allows a real friendship to evolve and deepen. Before we know it, we have an authentic friendship with someone we can trust as we navigate the hardships of motherhood, which is exactly what every mom wants, needs, and deserves.
MOLLIE GEE is a licensed clinical mental health counselor, married mother of two, and owner of The Nest Counseling.