Surface vs. Substance: The Importance of an Inner Circle
“You cannot have a private relationship in a public arena. You must look to an inner circle of people who really know you. Don’t expect to have that kind of intimate relationship with people who only know you publicly. Do not seek to be understood by the world.” ~T.D. Jakes
The past couple of months of my life have been so rich with color and inspiration and new experiences, I’m not even quite sure how to put everything I’m feeling into words in a way that won’t get lost in translation. If someone had told me even two or three months ago that I would have been some of the places I’ve been and met some of the people I’ve met, I would have likely laughed in their face. At the risk of sounding incredibly trite…I always known that I was put here on this earth to do something special…I just didn’t know what it was. As my good friend Mastin Kipp put it in New York City, as we were hanging at the Oprah’s Lifeclass VIP reception surrounded by people like Deepak Chopra and Perez Hilton: “I finally feel like I’m not crazy.” LOL! I can relate to that so much, because I’ve been telling people for years that my path wasn’t going to look like everyone else’s, and it is finally coming to fruition, in a way that goes so far beyond my wildest dreams, it almost make me giggle. As a 33-year-old single woman, it can sometimes feel like I have something to prove to the people who are mystified by my singleness, my independence, my unwillingness to be ordinary. But the truth is, I’m learning that I don’t have anything to prove to anyone…and neither do you. Your life will always, always speak for itself.
Though I learned many valuable and life-changing lessons during my experience on the road with Oprah, one of the key lessons that I came away with from Oprah’s Lifeclasses in St. Louis and NYC is the importance of a “tribe.” People who know you, both your good and bad sides, and love you and support you anyway. People who encourage you to rise higher, be better. Relationships that connect you back to your most important values, like faith and love and compassion. I am lucky enough to have such a tribe. My inner circle, the people closest to me, most of which have all known me for a decade or more and have seen both my inner beauty and my inner beast. These people know and love Mandy, the single woman, as much or more than Mandy, The Single Woman. Some of whom know each other, some don’t…but all are linked by the common thread of being a light in my life.
On my first Oprah trip to St. Louis, I was admittedly a little nervous. It was the first real “public arena” for The Single Woman message, and oh, what a way to start! I can’t imagine a bigger platform for my message than Oprah herself, and it had long been a goal on my Vision Board to meet her. I just never dreamed it would be one of the first goals I got to check off my list! Of course I was battling a case of nerves by being tossed into unfamiliar waters alongside some of the most dynamic and relevant bloggers on the pop culture scene today. Was I good enough? Would I meet the expectations of Oprah’s staff? Would I wear the right clothes? My best friends Alli and Jamie traveled with me to St. Louis, and for perhaps the first time ever, I stopped to really look at these two friendships of mine and marvel at how lucky I am to have these two women in my life. When I wasn’t sure what to wear, they stepped up and became my “stylists,” pulling pieces from their own wardrobes to create my “look” and encouraging me to be BOLD and wear red lipstick (for the first time ever in my life.) When I allowed my worry wart side to take over and became anxious, starting to doubt my abilities, they became my motivators, my encouragers, my backbone. And when I was busy as a bee with the rest of the bloggers, barely stopping long enough to say hi to my sweet friends, they didn’t whine or complain about my absence, but went about their business and lived it up in St. Louis as a duo instead of a trio. There was no drama…no jealousy…no catty behavior on any side…just ease and simplicity and FRIENDSHIP. As I’m sure most ladies out there can attest to, it’s rare that you can put multiple women in close quarters for several days and NOT have an ounce of angst – but it happened on this trip. And it showed me how rare and precious of a gift friendship like that is. I knew that I could take risks and be bold and feel free to step out into the unknown, because they would be there to catch me if I fell. I think the strength of someone’s roots determines the reach of their wings…and the depth of their foundation, the height of their dreams.
So how do you determine who your “tribe” is?
First, ask yourself this: If social media and texting and email went away, would your friendships still exist? Are you carrying out entire friendships via Twitter or Facebook? Would you hang out with these people in “real life”?
Do you share a whole tapestry of common goals and dreams and passions with the people closest to you, rather than just one thread? The thing that I love so much, particularly about my friends Alli, Jamie, and Laura, is that we share the common desire to NOT SETTLE. In any area of our lives. What’s so cool about all three of them is that we are at all different stages in our lives – Alli is in her early 20’s, Jamie is about to be 30, and Laura in her early 40’s…yet the commonality we share is high standards at any age! I have watched these brave and spunky women walk away from men, jobs, and friendships without a second glance, when the situation wasn’t honoring them. They don’t just suffer in silence – they stand up and DO something about it! So even though we might not always agree on what movie to go see or what restaurant to eat at or what guy we think is cute…our feisty spirits are the common thread that weaves the tapestry of our friendships together.
Do the friends in your life inspire you to be better, aim higher, dream bigger? Or do they enable you to stay complacent and stagnant? Do they encourage you and motivate you, or do discourage you or tear you down? Are their lives something you would aspire to…or run from? I think the good test of a friendship is how your friend reacts when you experience success, or when you decide to do something to better yourself. Do they celebrate your choices and your victories, or mock them?
And finally, do your friends encourage you to be your best, but still love you at your worst? If they truly belong in your tribe, they will allow you to have a bad day, get it wrong, make bad decisions…and still love you right through it. They won’t discount months or years of a friendship because of a few bad days. Everyone needs room to breathe and to feel comfortable allowing themselves to have an “off” day without fear that the people around them with hit the road if they make a few wrong turns. As Angela Simmons tweeted a few days ago: “Real friends stick with you through the good, bad, and ugly. They’ll sit with you in the back and ride with you to the top!”
At the end of the day, it’s not the quantity of your tribe, but the QUALITY of your tribe, that matters. After all, if one wore diamonds on every finger, it would take away from the rarity and preciousness of the jewel. True, pure, loyal friendships like those that make up a “tribe” are as rare and precious as diamon
ds, and should be treated as such. It only takes a brief run-in with a cubic zirconia to remember that!
I urge you to take an inventory, right now, of your friendships. It won’t take much time or energy to ascertain which ones are surface and which ones are substance. Then take a moment to honor, celebrate, and give thanks to those who belong in your tribe. They will motivate you, encourage you, challenge you, push you, and be there waiting to catch you if you fall. They’re the reason you can take the REALLY big leaps in life…because they’ll be the ones right next to you, screaming with you all the way down! If life is like a skydiving excursion, then your tribe is the parachute.