Intro: Welcome to Your Confident Self, the podcast that empowers women to step into their boldest, most confident selves. I’m your host, Allegra Sinclair, and I’m here to help you unleash your full potential in every area of your life. From the boardroom to the dance floor will explore practical strategies and mindset shifts that will help you show up as your most confident self in every situation. Join me each week as I either bring you a lesson straight from my own executive coaching practice or I dive into conversations with inspiring women who have overcome their own fears and self doubt to achieve amazing things. From entrepreneurs and executives to artists and athletes, my guests will share their stories and insights so you can learn from their experiences and apply their lessons to your own life. Whether you’re ready to ask for that promotion, start your own business, or simply feel more confident in your own skin, your Confident Self is the podcast for you. So grab your headphones and get ready to unlock your full potential.
Allegra M. Sinclair: Hey, powerful ones. Welcome back to another uplifting episode of the Your Confident Self podcast. I’m your host, Allegra Sinclair, here to inject a little more inspiration and positivity into your week. In today’s episode, I’m shining a light on a topic that has the potential to transform your life in extraordinary ways. I’m going to talk about the company that we keep, our friends, our colleagues, our sister warriors, our companions, and why it’s crucial now more than ever to be intentional about who we share our precious time with.
Imagine your life filled with relationships that inspire you, motivate you, and cheer you on in every step of your journey. Relationships that are carefully chosen, deeply meaningful, and relentlessly positive. That’s the power of intentional friendships, and that’s what we’ll be exploring today. So whether you’re tuning in during your morning run or your commute home after a long day, let’s focus this time together to redefine our relationships and reimagine our lives. So let’s dive in.
When I talk about understanding intentional friendships, I’m sure your first question is what is intentional friendship? You’ve heard me mention my circle before and the importance to me of keeping that circle tight. Well, when I say circle, I mean a group of intentional friends. These folks cheer for you when you have success. They pick you up and dust you off if you fall down. They challenge you when you forget how awesome you are, and they help you achieve higher heights in your career and life. Do you feel like you already have a circle? Is it tight? Some of you may have more than one.
Intentional friendships for women are those in which you share values, goals and aspirations, and emotional needs. These relationships are built on mutual respect, understanding, and the shared goal of wanting to help someone else grow and improve their well being. At the same time, you are being served. They’re not merely byproducts of location or circumstance or convenience, but chosen, protected and maintained with purpose and conscious effort. Did you see how hard I was working? Not to say with intention, because that’s what’s screaming in my head.
They are intentional because you intentionally choose them and you work on them. But intentional friendships are about creating space for open and honest communication, setting boundaries and respecting them. These relationships encourage emotional vulnerability, celebrating successes and supporting each other during challenging times. Women with intentional friendships often find these relationships empower them, giving them more strength and resilience for their personal and private lives. These friendships provide a nurturing environment that helps them thrive, supporting their ambitions and dreams, and assisting them in navigating all the stuff that comes along with life.
So in these circles, you’ll do everything from sharing wisdom and advice, encouraging each other, providing comfort in times of distress. All of those things are part of a good, solid intentional friendship. It’s about being present and showing up completely to influence others lives. It’s about choosing to invest time and energy into relationships that are uplifting, meaningful and mutually beneficial. I feel like I should underline that, because a big part of intentional friendships is they are meaningful and mutually beneficial.
Now, while intentional friendships are not exclusive to women, the concept of intentional friendships can be especially impactful in a society where women’s relationships are often stereotyped or undervalued. How often do we see women’s relationships boiling down to shopping buddies or catty relationships where we do everything except support one another? That’s not what we’re talking about. By being intentional in our friendships, women can foster stronger, more supportive networks that enrich their lives and enhance their career growth.
So how do intentional friendships differ from other types of friendships? An intentional friendship often includes a level of intimacy and trust, and I’m talking emotional intimacy that’s generally not present in a professional relationship with a work colleague. So let’s say, for example, you’re struggling with a significant personal issue. You’re dealing with the emotional stress of caring for an ailing parent. That’s a situation that involves vulnerability and deep personal emotions.
Now, while you might mention to a work colleague that you’re dealing with an ailing parent at a surface level, especially if it affects your availability or productivity, you are not likely to delve into the emotional complexities and the personal strain that it places on you. And let me say, I hope that you are not likely to delve into these deeper issues with a surface relationship with a work colleague, you should only share information with people to the level that you can trust them.
So with a coworker, I might tell them, ah, man can’t stay for that meeting until 08:00 tonight because I’m caring for an Ailing parent and I need to be home to relate to relieve the caregiver at seven. After giving them that surface level explanation, I would not go on to give them deep details of my finances, what was going on with my parent, any of that. I need to keep my communication at the level of trust that is established now.
On the other hand, with an intentional friend, I’d be much more likely to share the depth of my feelings. I would talk about the worry, the exhaustion, my moments of despair, or the feelings of helplessness that come along with caring for an ailing parent. I would feel comfortable expressing that more vulnerable information because of the trust and emotional support that’s present in my circle. My circle is a safe place for such conversations. The hallways of my workplace may not be.
Another factor about intentional friendships is that I can ask for the level of support that I need, whether I just need someone to listen, whether I want advice. You can’t always do that with other types of relationships. This represents a deeper level of sharing and support that is built into intentional friendships, but might not be present or appropriate in a more professional relationship with a work colleague. I’m willing to bet that everybody within the sound of my voice can remember a time when a coworker over shared in a work setting. We don’t want that to be you. Understand what is appropriate to share in the workspace and what you should reserve for your circle.
It’s important to be conscious in choosing and forming relationships, especially intentional relationships. I swear, sometimes we spend more time thinking about what we’ll eat for lunch than we do the quality and type of relationships that we’re building to help us grow in our lives and careers. You don’t have to be friends with someone just because you sit near them in the office. You don’t have to be intentional friends with someone. You don’t have to develop a deep friendship with someone just because they happen to live on your street. You can absolutely seek out the right people for you.
There are a number of benefits of internal relationships. Some of them I’ve alluded to already. But these types of friendships can have a profound impact on areas of your life, including clearer growth, mental health, and professional development. So here are some specific advantages. Let’s talk about emotional well being. Having a solid circle of friends who are there to provide emotional support during challenging times. Offer advice when asked. This can significantly boost your overall happiness and mental wellbeing because you have a support network built in into these intentional friendships.
Personal growth is another benefit. Intentional friendships challenge us to grow. They inspire us to explore new interests and help us see things from different perspectives. Intentional friends aren’t people who think exactly the same way you do, who have had the exact same life experiences and bring nothing new to the party. But they are friends who understand and support your journey. And they can serve as invaluable allies while you’re figuring some things out.
When we talk about career growth, intentional friendships can contribute to this in a number of ways. A friend who is intentional about supporting you celebrates your professional achievements, offers constructive criticism, and might even connect you to opportunities in their network. Your network becomes their network, and vice versa. Also, your intentional friends can provide moral support during career transitions or challenges.
There is a joy and a delight in having a circle of people remember with like values and similar goals and aspirations supporting you while you are both on that journey. And good friends, like intentional friends, help you see positive in yourself, which increases your self esteem. That can boost your confidence and help you navigate those inevitable times of self doubt, contributing to overall improved self esteem and self image.
Now remember, while these benefits can enhance your life, they shouldn’t be the sole reason for seeking out intentional friendships. The essence of these relationships is in mutual respect, mutual benefit, shared experiences, emotional support, and the joy of companionship. So how do we develop? All right, allegra, I believe you. I need to be more intentional about my friendships. Where do I start? Well, forming intentional friendships is a process that requires okay, I’m trying again. Not to say intention. It requires purposeful. There you go. It requires on purpose, effort and conscious decision making. So here are some practical steps. First, identify your values and friendships goals. It’s really hard to find people who are aligned with your values if you don’t know what your values are.
So take some time today to write down your core values, your interests, and what you would hope to gain from an intentional friendship. Are you looking for emotional support? Shared hobbies? Someone who inspires you by identifying your values and friendship goals? It will act as a guide or a ruler you can use when you’re seeking new friendships or deepening existing ones. Then, reach out to potential friends.
Now, for introverts like me that may have just shot a cold, icy finger up your spine, I get it. But reflect on the people in your life who you feel could align with your friendship goals. It could be a colleague in another area who you’ve always wanted to get to know better, an acquaintance you know of who shares one of your passions or interests, or an online contact who you have connected with. Send them a message, invite them out for coffee, or engage with them in a way that feels right to you. But reach out to indicate your interest in furthering the relationship. Then, once you’ve made that initial reach out, practice active listening in your conversations.
I’m going to link to a previous podcast episode I did last November on that series about communication so that you can go back and relisten if you need to, to that episode that was all about how you actively listened, which means you listen to participate in a conversation versus listening just so it can be your turn to talk, right? So as you go about your day. Whether you’re in professional or personal interactions, practice active listening, fully focusing, understanding, responding, and then remembering what’s being said. This skill not only makes others feel valued and heard, but can also help you figure out who potential friends are who align with your values and goals.
Understanding that developing the kind of deep relationships and intentional friendships I’m talking about it takes time and effort. Like any significant relationship, intentional friendships require investment of time. You need to regularly communicate, show genuine interest in their lives, and be there for them in times of need in order for that relationship to grow.
Another key for intentional friendships is to value authenticity overall. It is key for you to develop strong intentional friendships for you to show up as who you really are, not as who you’re pretending to be or who you wish you were, but who you really are. If you show up wearing a mask, what happens when you take the mask off? I’m just going to let you think about that for a moment because that should give you the icy finger up the back. If you have been pretending to be someone and then you suddenly show up as yourself, how do you think the people who you’ve been developing a relationship with will respond? Probably won’t be the most positive interaction that you’ve ever had. Being authentic helps you by leaning more into who you are, and it creates a safe space for the others in your circle to do the same.
Finally, when I’m talking about how it is that you go out and create these relationships, remember that quality is more important than quantity. It is better to have a circle of four that is tight and right than a bigger, raggedy circle of 20. Focus on fewer, deeper relationships that truly matter. Because the other thing I will say is it takes time to be a really good friend. And if you’re trying to do that with 20 people at one time, you’re likely to wear yourself out. Versus if you’re focusing on doing that with four or five people at one time, it is much more doable. You’ll do a better job of it, you’ll get more out of those relationships and you’ll be able to put more in.
Now, building deep intentional friendships isn’t always easy, but not everything worth having is easy. If you want deeper connections, personal growth, and a career support system that can hold you up during life’s ups and downs, then put in the time. You can’t rush this process. You have to allow relationships to develop naturally while you continue to work on developing yourself. Now, why am I saying that it’s important that you be more intentional about who you spend time with. One other reason is the impact of the people you hang out with most.
Now I know we’ve all heard you become like the five people you hang with the most. Okay, I believe that to be true. But what I really want to talk about is how the people you choose to spend time with have a significant impact on other areas of your life. People’s moods are contagious. So if you spend a lot of time with someone who is always negative or pessimistic, you may find that your mood starts to mirror theirs. Versus if you spend time with positive, optimistic people, you’ll find that that mood mirrors as well. And you’ll find that your mood is uplifted and your general outlook on life is more positive. Also, the people you spend time with influence your behaviors and habits both positively and negatively.
So I have some friends who leave wonderful, healthy lifestyles. They hike, they do all sorts of interesting things that I don’t do. But guess what? Having them in my circle impacts my behavior. I might not go out in the woods and hike because I don’t want someone to have to run up on me with an inhaler when I have an asthma attack. But I absolutely will jump on my bike in my living room, because when we get together for our next circle session, I want to be able to say, yep. I was absolutely dialed into my self care, and I took care of myself physically every day by doing X, X and X.
So if we become like the people who we’re around, I want to be around people who have similar values and our goals are similar. I want to be encouraged along a healthy lifestyle, so I hang out with people who have a healthy lifestyle. Spending time with people who engage in harmful behaviors or behaviors that you want to avoid can lead you to picking up those habits. How others perceive us and react to our ideas shapes our self image and confidence. So if the people I spend time with reinforce me, encourage me, affirm me, that boosts me. If the people I spend time with are constantly criticizing me or making fun of the things that I want, that leads to self doubt and to me not feeling good about myself.
So two other quick things the people you surround yourself with can have an impact on your ambition and success. Spending time with driven, goal oriented motivating women can aspire you to set higher goals and keep trying to be successful. And finally, having a support system of women who will listen and provide support and celebrate your victories, as I mentioned earlier, has a profound impact on your emotional health. So the people you choose to spend time with can shape your attitudes, behaviors, ambitions and well being.
So it’s important to be intentional about your circle and prioritize relationships that positively influence you. It’s also important to regularly assess your friendships. We change over time, so our relationships can change over time. And if you’re looking around and you’re applying that ruler you developed, that’s built from your values and goals and aspirations and you determine that a friendship is causing you more harm than good, it may be time to reevaluate that relationship and make some necessary changes.
Sometimes it’s easy to recognize a friend who’s having a negative impact on your life or a friend who doesn’t inspire you to be your best self. It might be a friend that’s always borrowing money from you and never paying it back. Or the friend who manages to turn every conversation into one that’s all about her no matter how the conversation began. But some negative relationships are subtler. See if you recognize anybody in these examples. It’s the person who has a quiet put down at the end of your funny story or the person who’s always giving you unsolicited fashion advice when you show up wearing something new or different. It could be the person who’s constantly telling jokes about your weight loss attempts and you couldn’t see me, but I did the quote fingers about jokes because I don’t think that’s funny ever. It could be the friend who discourages you from setting up a new dating profile.
Sometimes it’s hard to see those people as the negative influences that they are. But you’ll recognize them when you start to think that it feels like every attempt that you make to better your life is met with disapproval. You want to apply for a new job at a dream company, but your friend tells you that you’ll end up disappointed when it doesn’t happen. Or you want to go back to school and get an advanced degree or finish your first degree, but your friend insists that you don’t have the time or money to do that. These are sneakier negative friends, but negative friends all the same. We’re going to talk next week about toxic people. That’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about people who are just they just come from a negative mindset, which is affecting your mindset.
So most negative friends fall into two categories. The first one I’m going to call the Perry Mason friend because she tends to have a negative attitude about everything. My sister loves Perry Mason. She watches them on any off color. You can get it off your antenna channel. She can, I swear. She’s a little old lady inside, but she loves Perry Mason. I don’t like him because he’s always so negative. Right. So you have that Perry Mason friend. There’s always something she could nitpick about. She automatically looks for the downside. No matter how good things are going in your life, she will find that one thing that’s not going so well. Now, your friend’s Perry Mason attitude isn’t usually personal. She sees the whole world through a negative lens, and she just wants to share that view with you. She may even call herself a realist. But there’s a difference between being a realist and being negative.
Now, the other camp of negative friends is the one I’m going to call the Adrian Monk friend. She knows you so well, she doesn’t expect anything new from you. She wants you to play small and stay exactly the way she thinks you are. If you express an interest in doing something new or different, she points out all the ways that could go wrong because she cares about you and she wants to keep you safe. She’ll even tell you, hey, I don’t want to stomp all over your idea, but I’m concerned. Bruce Wilkinson, who wrote the Dream Giver, calls these people our dream police. So Adrian Monk means well. She wants you to stay safe.
The problem is that your best self isn’t going to develop from you staying small and staying safe. Your best self is going to develop when you are called on to do a little bit more, to do the and then some, to be courageous and try new things. So you may have just realized that you have a Perry Mason or an Adrian Monk in your life, and now you’re thinking, oh, great. Now what do I do?
Well, Perry Mason, it’s best to stop listening to that person so that you don’t get sucked into their negativity and drama. And you do that by reducing the amount of time you spend with them. Now hear my heart. I did not say you have to cut that person out of your life entirely. I just said limit her influence over you. Now.
What about the Adrian Monk? Well, she just needs to understand that her opinion matters to you. And then she just needs to be reminded that you’re working to follow your dreams. You may even find that over time, she gets on board with you and shows her support in surprising ways, because her negativity is really coming from her fear. So when you I don’t want to say battle, when you meet her fear with your faith, she may very well end up getting on board with what it is that you are trying to do, because you want to fill your life with friends that support you and believe in your dreams. So why now?
Why am I talking about this now? Because I really feel like there’s urgency in the air about us being intentional with our friendships. If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that none of us know what tomorrow will bring or how much time we have to get some things done. In our modern world, life is moving at a ridiculously crazy pace. Technological advancements offer a lot of benefits, but they’ve also added to the complexity of our lives. We are constantly juggling between all the different hats we wear, all the different selves that we need to be. And it seems like there’s just not enough time in the day to be all of those people. In the middle of that chaos, friends can feel like an afterthought. They feel like a luxury that we don’t have time to work on. But that’s why we need to be more intentional about them.
I agree that time is a precious resource, but I also agree I disagree rather that friends intentional, deep friendships are a luxury. I think they’re critical. It’s important to invest in relationships that matter, that add to our lives and reciprocally, where we can contribute meaningfully. We get all sorts of benefits by giving to others in ways that are meaningful. So the dynamics of friendships have evolved with technology. Social media and digital communication sometimes create the illusion of connection when they’re really disconnecting us. If someone sends you a note and you respond with just an emoji, I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, I’ve done it too. But that emoji is not the same as connection. It is not the same as responding to that person. It’s a finger in the air, as in just 1 minute. It’s a bookmark.
Intentional friendships, where meaningful, deep connections are forged, are critical in this digital age when it’s so easy to get disconnected. The other reason why I think it’s important to be more intentional right now about developing your friendships is the impact of toxic relationships on our mental health and our overall well being can be significant. That’s why I’m going to be talking about that next week. Toxic relationships can lead to chronic stress, lower self esteem, and even depression. You can avoid toxic relationships by staying full of intentional relationships.
Being intentional about who we choose as friends is not just about personal growth and happiness. It’s a critical aspect of our self care and mental health. It allows us to build the supportive network that we have always wanted, that really nourishes us, inspires us, and brings joy and satisfaction. I’m just going to say if I didn’t have my very tight circle to lean on over the last five years, I shudder to think where I would be because I have always been part of this circle. It is stronger now, though. It is tighter than it has ever been and it brings me such joy and balance and challenges me in ways I didn’t think I could handle. It transforms me, like week after week. This tight circle transforms me into being someone who I love more and more every time I spend time with them.
I work with a lot of amazing women and I have sometimes thought about creating good communities so that they can find one another. Because my clients don’t typically know each other and some of the guests I have on my podcast or other coaches I meet don’t know each other. And I thought to myself a couple of different points in time that I should create a community so that we could find one another and create our circles. I just want you to tell me if that’s something you’d get excited about.
Here is your homework. If that’s something you’d get excited about, send me an email. Remember that. So don’t send it on social but send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know that you would find a community like that valuable, and I will get to work on putting it together.
So, in a world that is increasingly interconnected, the company that we keep has never been more important. Our friends, colleagues, sister, warriors and companions shape our thoughts, beliefs and actions. They can either lift us up or hold us back. That’s why it’s crucial now more than ever, to be intentional about who we share our time with. Surrounding ourselves with positive, ambitious individuals who inspire us to be better versions of ourselves is key to achieving success and fulfillment.
Take a moment to evaluate the people that are in your life right now and make a conscious effort to cultivate relationships that will empower you more. It’s time to surround yourselves with those who believe in your dreams and cheer for your victories as they journey towards greatness themselves. Be intentional about who you spend time with. Be selective about the people who you allow into your personal life and emotional space. Thank you so much for joining me. I’ll catch you next time.