Updated: Mar 1
From Regina George and Cady Heron in Mean Girls, Gossip Girl’s Serena and Blair, to the endless alleged celebrity frenemies and feuds, the media’s portrayal of female friendships is too often to depict them as caty and spiteful, or full of jealousy and resentment.
We’re taught almost from birth that we should be comparing ourselves to other girls instead of embracing our differences. Society and the media rarely showcases female friendships as supportive or empowering, and in my experience this couldn’t be further from the truth.
In fact, the female friendships I’ve experienced as I've grown up have been some of the most healthy, nurturing and supportive relationships I’ve ever had. From getting each other through life crises, to celebrating our achievements together, I’ve found my female friendships most of all to be compassionate and encouraging, not competitive or spiteful.
These relationships are in large parts due to the positive and empowering friendships I have been able to form with strong and confident women who inspire me every single day. What I’ve appreciated most about these connections is the point you reach when your friends are willing to let you see past the facade – when you can celebrate each other’s hard work but also open up when things aren’t going well.
To be able to see beyond some friend’s social media masks filled with their successes, self love and effortless happiness has been one of my greatest privileges, and helped to form deep emotional bonds based on a mutual understanding of our life experiences.
Most self-help books or advice columns will often quote some form of ‘you can’t love someone until you love yourself first’. Ru Paul even built his multi-million dollar career around the memorable sentiment of “If you don't love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?”
We often attribute these phrases to our romantic relationships because that is what we predominantly think of when we talk about love. The way I see it though, is that a lot of healthy female friendships depend very much on being accepting of ourselves and our flaws.
It’s our own insecurities and self-consciousness that can give rise to jealousy and envy in our friendships.
When we feel comfortable enough to spend time with our friends, without the outside pressures and can just be ourselves, it helps us to feel nurtured and validated. The women in my life provide me with no judgments, and instead give me candid, no-holds-barred support that I haven’t found anywhere else.
With romantic relationships, or with family, it’s often necessary to temper things so as not to offend them or make things weird. But with friends you tell the truth, and that’s everything.
Often the reasons women are pitted against each other or shown as envious and jealous can be traced back to society’s heteronormative and mononormative understandings of love.
Similar to the idea of superficial or competitive female friendships, the need for a romantic relationship is something we learn to focus on early on in life. Often, we spend so much time thinking about our romantic relationships that we forget the value of our platonic ones.
Emotionally, can’t they be just as fulfilling? Fundamentally both are about building emotional connections. In many ways, friendships can also be less restrictive, and put less pressure on us than the traditional idea of exclusive, monogamous romantic relationships.
Personally, it is my female friendships that I have found most fulfilling across my lifetime – they haven’t just brought me my happiest moments, they’ve also gotten me through my lowest points.
No matter where we are in the world, I’ve found friendships that truly know me, love and support me. It’s a feeling of safety that I can’t compare to any others in my life, not even family.
Though it might sound cliché, for many single women like me, my friends really are a second kind of family. I see them more and confide in them more. As a long-time single gal lacking many of the traditional trappings of adulthood, I’ve often turned to my female friends for the companionship and emotional sustenance that others find in a partner and children, and I couldn’t be more grateful for their support.