I have this friend. I’ve known her a long time. In fact, I’ve known her as long as I can remember. She’s been there for everything – the big moments and small moments.
When I get dressed up and put on makeup, she tells me, “Lauren, you are so beautiful.” When I buy a new special shirt, she looks at me in the mirror and tells me I have a good eye for style. She knows I love hearing that.
She makes me feel so good about myself.
She was at my wedding – of course. She looked at me before I walked down the aisle to meet my groom. She told me I was beautiful inside and out. And that my groom saw that. She told me I had chosen well – he was a beautiful person inside and out – and he loved me well.
When I labored with my son for 68 hours, she was with me the entire time – constantly telling me how strong I was. She built me up in the darkest moments of that long marathon – through every contraction – reminding me of the beautiful boy I would meet at the end. She challenged me – yes – but it was so positive. So helpful. So encouraging. Looking back, I actually cannot believe how supportive she was every step of that experience.
When I decided to leave my decade-long career to spend time with my son, she talked me through the decision process. She was proud of my leap of faith and how I was stepping outside of the box into the unknown – to focus on my family. To put my own agenda aside to prioritize something even more important. She affirmed my decision – something I felt I really needed. Especially from her.
At the moments in my life when I have felt most spiritual – the closest to God – she praised my relationship and focus on faith. Of course as my very good friend, she knows this is important to me – but it still felt so good to have her recognize it.
This friend has been there for it all. She’s been there for… everything. Every milestone. Every victory. Every high point. Every smile.
But my friend… she has been there in the valleys of my life, too. And if I’m honest, she isn’t always as encouraging in the dark moments. In the lonely moments. In the moments I truly need a friend. Someone to listen.
When I was struggling with purpose in my career as a young woman, she fed those thoughts by telling me I was not as good as my peers at work, but I was good at fooling everyone to think I was “just as good.”
That really hurt my feelings – and was I truly not as good as the others? I had always felt confident in my performance at work.
After my son was born, I struggled so much with breastfeeding. I tried every single suggestion I found on Google and met with a lactation consultant multiple times. It wasn’t working. I was devastated… and my baby was getting smaller. She stood by me with some compassion, but told me I hadn’t tried hard enough. A true mother would have tried harder. I told her how I was giving everything I had to feed my baby. It made me feel like a terrible mother. Like I wasn’t capable of providing for him. The topic of formula was filled with shame and disappointment.
When the baby weight didn’t “fall off” months after delivery, she caught me in the mirror and asked me when I planned to work on that. The pain of the question stung at first – how bold to ask that to a friend – but at the same time, she had a point. I should be losing this weight, right? What’s wrong with me?
When deciding how to proceed with my career – stay or leave – I became filled with fear and anxiety. Like major fear and anxiety that ate me alive on a daily basis. I tried everything I could think of to cope – journaling, prayer, meditation, exercise, therapy, confiding in friends. Some things helped. Some things did not. This friend saw me in the hardest of hard moments, and she told me something I’ll never forget…she told me I will never get over this battle with anxiety because I am a weak person. A weak person. I hadn’t thought of myself as a weak woman – but she planted that seed in my mind. And it haunted me.
As much as I want to shut this friend out of my life – forever – I simply cannot do it. You see, she’s a part of me. In fact, she is me. She tells me truth. She tells me lies. And it is really hard to tell the difference. She builds me up on the mountaintops and tears me to shreds in the valleys. She is my self-talk – my inner voice.
I’ve only recently become consciously aware of her in my life. I’ve taken time to sit back and take note of her commentary. To listen to her praise and to her critiques. To notice trends. I am learning how to talk with her – to tell her she is full of lies. That she is wrong. That I am strong. That I am a great mother. That I can tackle the challenges ahead of me. She gets quiet for awhile – but she comes back. She finds me in a moment of weakness. The more I am aware of her and confront her directly – the more she listens to me. The more she acknowledges my efforts. My goodness. My trying – even if it turns into failing. My inner strength.
I am learning to push forward even if she’s telling me I can’t do it. I can do it. I will do it. I am strong. Now get out of my way.