I was recently in this self healing class called Freedom and Flow taught by Malena Crawford, and while in this class we had several speakers who spoke on different aspects of allowing ourselves to be in our freest form. While listening to Malena and her guest speakers, it was frequently asked what are some things we want to be free from. I, in particular, struggle with being judgmental and really wanted to get to the source of it. It's not as though people have openly critique me for being judgmental towards them or others; it's just always been a nagging feeling over my head. I've always questioned if I'm speaking from a place of care or concern; or is it my ego driving that bus down judgment road?
With that nagging feeling I felt compelled to ask one of the guess speakers, Dr. Vikki Johnson, on how to work on yourself to be a less judgmental person. She came with an answer that put so much in perspective to me and allowed me to look within myself. She responded that if, and when, you see yourself within someone you're less likely to pass judgement towards them. She continued to say that people who come off judgmental are most likely projecting their insecurities and short comings on to others.
Whew! A Word! At that moment that is exactly what I needed to hear because in the journey of trying to better yourself, you want to make sure that you're being better to others too, right? Sometimes we get on a high with the progress we're making in life and can look at others as if you weren't recently in the same situation. However, I want to do my best to make sure that I can be a person, a friend, who has the sincerest intentions. Hence, why I start questioning myself on if I'm a good friend?
I mean, when can speak candidly, to whoever will listen, about how a friend has betrayed us or mistreated us but how often do we take a look at how good of a friend we are to others? Personally, being a friend or calling someone a friend isn't a light title. A friend isn't someone you just have fun and laughs with, but someone you can feel unguarded with. They're there to support you when you need lifting and celebrate you when you're flying high and vise versa. So how do you determine if you're a good friend? Do you go with the cliche' saying "Treat others the way you want to be treated"?
I say that's a start but it goes further than that because we all have a different idea of "treating others the way we want to be treated". So maybe start with asking yourself certain questions in regards to you being a good friend:
ARE YOU CONSTANTLY JUDGING AND CRITIQUING OR ARE YOU CONNECTING AND SUPPORTING?
If you're a genuine friend then you always want the best for your friend. So it's only natural to feel obliged to give them advice when they're in compromising situations. But it is important on the intentions behind giving this advice. If it's not coming from a place of sincerity and support it can definitely be read as judgmental. If with every conversation you find yourself constantly critiquing, condemning or judging your friends decisions or ideas, then most likely it isn't coming from a safe sincere place. Like what was previously stated about Dr. Vikki's advice, usually if you find yourself judging someone it's because you projecting your insecurity on to them. For instance, if your friend wanted to start her loc journey with her hair and you began to tell her all of the negative effects of having dreadlocks. Maybe in some way you're projecting your insecurity or fear of you having dreadlocks on to her.
Make sure before you share your opinion or advice to a friend that you're doing it with all sincerity. You should feel connected with your friend where you can see yourself in her, you can relate or have empathy for her situation rather than judgment. This will allow your advice or opinion to be more supportive and encouraging rather than belittling. And also be okay with the decision she makes even if it isn't the right decision. It's still her life and you don't control anyone's life but you're own. No one wants to constantly feel judged by a friend, we have enough people in the world doing so.
ARE YOU CONSTANTLY TAKING ATTENTION OR DO YOU GIVE YOUR ATTENTION?
If you're a good friend then you're okay with not always being the center of attention. Listen, it's nothing like a friend who monopolizes the conversation with their problems or what they have going on. Whew..it can be draining! As much as your friend is there to support you and be there for you, the same applies to you as well. The "Strong Friend" isn't a permanent role in a friendship and neither is the "Supportive Friend". Roles and positions should always be interchangeable when it comes to building your relationship with your friends. Life is ever changing and we have times when we're going through some tough times and feel really low or we can be at our highest. Your friend could really have some challenging issues in her life and wants someone to talk to about it but expects to be the friend who always has it together with the answers. Maybe they need to feel vulnerable and feel secure with the fact that you WANT to know what's going on in their life. They want a cheerleader and shoulder to lean on sometimes without always having to be the strong, supportive friend. It's a friendship and she's your friend, not your sidekick. You should encourage your friends to shine bright with their light and never dim them down for anyone including you.
ARE YOU CONSTANTLY PUTTING UP WALLS OR ARE YOU TRANSPARENT AND OPEN?
Even though being a good friend is about being able to give yourself and your attention; you also have to be willing to be open enough where a friend can feel they have the authentic you. It's nothing worse than someone knowing about you but you don't quite know much about them. It's a difference between having privacy and being secretive. Private can simply be put in the words of "your business" and not belonging to anyone else but a secret or secrecy is intentionally trying to hide something. With privacy you're not necessarily trying to hide "your business", it won't be a scandal if it gets out. Whereas a secret, you're hiding something for the purpose of it not being known. No one wants a friend that they feel is always hiding something from them. No one wants a friend that seems like a mystery and they can never truly know who they are. If you can't be a friend where you let your guard down and be yourself then maybe you aren't ready for friendships or that might not be the right friendship for you. Imagine a friendship where both you and the friend kept it surfaced and never really got in depth with each other. How real would that friendship be?
ARE YOU ALWAYS COMPETING OR ARE YOU TRYING TO BUILD?
Don't be the friend who has to always one up your friend. You should be happy for any milestones that your friend reaches. It shouldn't be a sign for you to go and do something better than her. And if you do feel that way that's a reflection of your own insecurity. Yep, back to Miss Insecurity again. She'll pop herself in anything you do, feel or want if you don't work on her. You should ask yourself, "Why do I feel so insecure or intimidated by my friends success?" Sometimes, when you ask yourself those types of questions you can find the root reason of your competitiveness; and ultimately it'll come back to you and your own feelings that you are harboring about yourself. If your friend decided to buy a new house and it motivated you to buy a new house yourself, then ask them the steps they took to buy their house. If they started a new business and it inspired you to want to start your business, then ask them the steps or some mistakes you can avoid in starting your own business. You both should be lifting each other up. You both should be putting each other on game so you all can make those boss moves together. It should never be a situation where you feel like she's your competition. Remember if she's truly a friend you're both on the same team. If you are truly happy about your friends success then you'll find ways to support them and in return she should do the same.
Overall, the same way you want to make sure you have true friends in your corner just make sure that you in fact are a true friend yourself. Don't get me wrong everyone isn't a friend and you have to be able to decipher that. And then you have to ask yourself why are you attracting these people into your life, but that's another topic for another day. Just know that you have to be the example you want to see sometimes. You can't complain about not having good friends if you aren't a good friend. Listen, we're all human and we make mistakes. Sometimes we may not even notice that we aren't being the best friend we can be but if you can recognize it then you can change it. Especially as black women, I believe it's important that we stick together and protect our tribe. We have so many stereotypes out there that have people and even us believing that we can't get along or have friends. Although we can't control "people" we can control ourselves and it can start with being a good friend.