Why We Close Ourselves Off to Friendships and How to Open Up

“If you accept a limiting belief, then it will become a truth for you.” ~Louise Hay

Picking the flimsy gold lock on my groovy denim-covered childhood diary, I’m instantly transported back to my ten-year-old life.

Each page duly describes what I what I ate for dinner that day as well as what my two best friends and I got up to. It was 1976 and we were obsessed with Charlie’s Angels, cruising around “undercover” on our bikes, solving fresh crimes around the neighborhood.

Every couple of weeks I’d report the latest drama amongst the three of us. Either my two friends had inexplicably turned against me, or one of them had coerced me into siding with them in a never-ending series of turmoil.

By the time we were teenagers, we’d drifted apart and I’d started struggling to form female friendships that weren’t fraught with gossip or backstabbing

When I got to university I’d firmly made up my mind that girls weren’t to be trusted and I only wanted guy friends. I made an exception for one girlfriend who felt the same, and we went on to be roommates, priding ourselves on our fun circle of male-only friends.

It’s fascinating to reflect on how belief systems are formed. The more I told myself this story of females being intrinsically bad news, the more I avoided getting close to any. As I grew into an adult, my theory was again proven as I got sucked into more dramas and gossip.

Once I got married, my husband became my best friend. He was never jealous of my male friends, and we enjoyed a great social life with other couples. However, after we started a family I found myself navigating fresh female waters: the mothers at the school gates!

I immediately sensed a minefield of gossip and competitiveness. It would have been easier to drop my kids off and go, but I had their social lives to think about too.

Thankfully, I got back into journaling around this time, and I used it as a way to get to know myself better. I explored my struggles on paper and tapped into my wiser, all-knowing self to discover that, for me, the secret to having great female friendships was to see special ones individually, never forming a group.

I turned down all invitations for ‘Girls Nights Out’ or weekends away, as that dynamic wasn’t appealing. I now had a small handful of genuinely lovely girlfriends whose company I cherished and who shared my values of trust and openness. I made a point of seeing them one-to-one and never introduced them to each other, treasuring our meaningful conversations.

One day I heard about a series of life coaching workshops and felt immediately drawn to sign up. I invited a dear friend to join me, but she couldn’t make it, so I invited another special friend who eagerly accepted. How fun to have a once-a-week date together to focus on our lives. But then something ‘terrible’ happened. The first friend I’d invited called back and said she’d rearranged her schedule and was excited to now be able to join me after all!

This sent my head into a spin. I decided my only choice was go with them both.

Although we all lived on the same street, I’d deliberately never introduced them to each other because of my flashbacks to the three-way friendship dramas of my childhood. “One-to-one friendships only” had become my rule.

Together in the car on our way to the first workshop, I endured small talk and introductions, rather than delving into meaningful subjects as I normally did with each of them. But by the time we left the workshop venue, we were all riding on a high of inspiration, so we headed straight to a restaurant to download our insights over lunch.

We did the same thing again every week and by the time the course ended, we’d agreed to form a monthly meet-up for the ‘soul’ purpose of working on our lives together.

That was in 2008, and we’ve met every month since.

Our Power Posse is based on absolute openness and deep mutual trust. Having our monthly check-in to share on how each area of our life is going helps us clarify our intentions and goals. It gives us accountability and motivation to live our best lives.

We’ve even run retreats together, inviting other women with a growth-mindset to join us. I’d have never imagined this back when I was still telling myself the false story that females aren’t to be trusted.

In my case, I held myself back with the limiting belief that group dynamics among women were dangerous. Perhaps you hold a different belief that prevents you from forming and maintaining friendships, for example:

  • No one really gets me.
  • I ruin all my relationships.
  • I’m too intense or too sensitive for people.
  • People always disappoint you eventually.
  • You can’t ever really trust anyone with your personal life.
  • I can’t relate to any of these people.
  • Everyone already has all the friends they want at my age.

We form many of these beliefs out of direct experience from our past. When something painful happens, we draw a conclusion about why it’s happened in an attempt to avoid that same situation in the future. That conclusion feels like a fact, and it then forms a belief that we carry through life. This affects how we think, act, and feel—about ourselves and others.

Limiting social beliefs are often amplified by a fear of rejection, criticism, ridicule, or betrayal. We proceed with undue caution in order to protect ourselves from getting hurt. This leads to limiting decisions. We cut ourselves off from what’s possible by painting ourselves into a box that feels safe. We miss out on opportunities that would enrich our lives.

In order to break free from these limitations we need to act against our self-protecting instincts. It’s okay to take baby steps if you need to. Start by setting an intention. What aspects of your social life or a specific friendship make you feel unhappy or disconnected? Which limiting beliefs may be hindering you? What would you need to believe instead to welcome more people into your life?

For example, “I can’t really trust anyone with my personal life” could turn into, “There are people out there than I can trust—I just haven’t met them yet.” This positive expectation shifts the energy around it. Now you can begin to collect new evidence to back up this belief by opening up more regularly, sharing more authentically, and increasing the likelihood of making a solid connection with someone you can trust.

Our belief system is powerful, so it’s important to pay attention to when you might be telling yourself a limiting story. The more awareness you bring to your beliefs, the quicker you’ll make the shifts needed to let them go.

Shedding my own limiting beliefs has opened the door for a multitude of incredible females to come into my life over the past ten years. They’ve shined a light on my own greatness, and we’ve inspired each other to reach even higher for our biggest dreams. The same can happen for you.

What stories from your past have carried on into your present life? Are you willing to let go of any limiting beliefs that aren’t serving you so you open yourself up to new people and experiences?

About Kelly Pietrangeli

Kelly Pietrangeli is the creator of Project Me for Busy Mothers, helping women find a happier balance between the kids - and everything else. Mixing practicality with self-awareness, Kelly helps mothers get on top of their endless to-do’s and see life beyond the laundry pile. Grab her free Life Wheel Tool for discovering what needs your focus first.

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