Nathaniel Hawthorne once wrote:
No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without eventually becoming bewildered as to which is the true.
Last week, at one of my very first Girls In Power meetings, I sat and listened as some of my fellow interns discussed the qualities employed when building connections. Along with verbal communication, the theme of the evening seemed to be vulnerability, and that got me thinking:
What else has an impact on the relationships that we create?
It’s the easiest and the hardest thing, not only to be our absolute selves but to love ourselves absolutely. Whether it’s self or societal, the pressure inflicted upon us to be “better”-prettier, smarter, thinner, wealthier and so forth-can have more than just a negative impact on our self-image. As our esteem takes a tumble, often times our bonds and relationships with those close to us take the hit as well. So how do we strengthen these connections within ourselves and our relationships?
I’ve found that the best thing to do is ask H.E.R. It’s an acronym I came up with as I was brainstorming my ideas for this week’s post. I stepped back and thought up what the foundations of my best friendships and relationships were built upon, and I came up with three main ideas: Honesty, Empathy, and Respect.
H is for Honesty
In literature, Honesty is considered a writer’s most influential tool. It not only builds the reader’s faith in their character but it allows the reader to find commonality with the author, creating a stronger connection to the material.
In life it’s not much different. Honesty is one of the most important qualities to display between one another. It is how we find out of similarities and differences, and learn to accept not only our own characters, but the characters of others.
It begins with oneself. When the pressure builds up, and we start to doubt our brightness and our goodness, we have to find a way to step back and reevaluate what we really see. A great way to do so is take a few minutes every day and write down a quality or two that you admire about yourself. Think of situations in which you’ve displayed that quality and then write down a few ways in which you can further display that quality to improve your friendships. Do the same thing for qualities you’d like to improve on!
Maybe you’re very giving, but you struggle when communicating with others. You can make time to sit down with someone and say: “I feel like I don’t communicate enough with you, would it be alright if I shared some thoughts with you?” Women are usually in tune with one another’s deep seeded emotions, and bond over discussing them and sharing them with one another. If you’re honest with yourself, it’s easier to be honest with others.
E is for Empathy
It’s a commonly misunderstood term but, as Shelby Philips refers to GIP’s own Melinda Crown in the post “How to Show Empathy,”
“Empathy is the art of letting the speaker know you not only understand the words used, but also are sensitive to the feeling that is being expressed.”
When it comes to communication, honesty and empathy go hand in hand. As I said before, it’s important to be honest with one another when sharing and reaching out for support, but a sisterhood and a friendship must also include empathetic communication as well. Much like we learn in our workshops, relationships require us to communicate with both meaning and emotion. Honesty may present the facts, but Empathy binds the emotions together. And likewise, Honesty creates trust, and Empathy builds understanding.
It can be difficult at times to show that we empathize with each other, especially if we are going through a difficult time in our own lives. Sometimes our own pain or sadness seems to be the only pain and the only sadness that matters. What we must aim to see is that we can still make our struggles a priority to overcome while aiding others in our lives with overcoming their own. Empathy is a great tool for doing just that! It also finds commonalities between people, and we can even find resolution by sharing our experiences with others.
R is for Respect
With truth and understanding covered, the last of the three remains. Respect is more than just a display of common courtesy. It is also something we have to practice within ourselves. Self-respect is something everyone struggles with at some point throughout life. We all question ourselves, and on occasion we even make ourselves seem small to please others. But making ourselves appear to be less than what we are breeds a lingering feeling of “not good enough.” And it’s simply not true.
We hear it all the time, that those who treat others like they’re insignificant are really just insecure with their own significance. And we usually write that idea off, because it seems too simple to take it as a fact. Yet in a way, it’s the truth. When we start to feel insecure, don’t we tend to look for ways to boost ourselves up? If we can’t be honest with ourselves about the insecurity we hold inside, then we sometimes try to find a way to show that we have something that someone else doesn’t. Instead, why not own those feelings, share them with someone, and find a clarity and a new sense of self-significance. No one is perfect, but that doesn’t mean that we aren’t enough, and it doesn’t mean that we all don’t matter.
So when we start to feel low and we approach the urge to put each other down to build ourselves up, stop and remember that we are all responsible for our own feelings. Take control of your reactions and respond in a more empathetic and honest way. Those are the best ways to show respect not only for ourselves, but for each other. Remember: everything we say, everything we feel and create, it matters.