Friendship is a funny old thing, isn’t it? I mean, you essentially pick a person and then decide that you want to hang around with them and do things with them. When you think about it in the most basic of terms, every time you begin a relationship, you’re essentially going “oh. Yeah, ok. You’re a person I’d like to do stuff with. You’re a person I think I can be my most weird with, you’re a person who I reckon can deal with my shit. And I’d really like to be a person who deals with your shit too.”
I completely believe that no man is an island. The human nature encourages us to be part of a village. Even those who are notoriously selfish crave companionship in one form or another. Your village doesn’t have to be particularly big, nor does it have to be made up of people you see all the time. My village is spread out all over the world. But finding and curating a group of people who you can share your life with is, I think, integral to living a happy life.
Growing up, many of us made questionable choices about who to spend our time with. While we were trying to figure ourselves out, many of us made friends who weren’t particularly good people to be around. That’s not to say we were all hanging round with people who tried to get us to smoke weed or drink alcohol or steal cars – just that maybe the people we were choosing to spend our time with didn’t allow us to be our best selves. As we grow older, I think we get better at figuring out what sort of people we respond best to, what sort of people help us grow and be better and learn more about the world and our own lives.
I was reminded of something the other day that I had long since forgotten had a name. You might have heard of it too, or it might have passed you by, but there’s a theory that, as women, we thrive when we surround ourselves with other brilliant women. It’s called the Shine Theory and it’s something I think all women need to be reminded of.
Women are so often pitted against each other, in love, in life, in work, that we’re practically programmed to forget just how brilliant it is to exist in a world where women bolster each other up, rather than rip each other down. Surrounding yourself with the best people doesn’t make you look bad – in fact often we find that being around successful and intelligent women makes us more successful and intelligent too. Their shine makes us shine.
But the Shine Theory isn’t just limited to careers and professionalism either. There are people I know who are the very best kind of people and they make me want to be better, to do better with my life. All of my friends have qualities which I can learn a lot from. There are people who volunteer for amazing charities, people who spend their time improving the lives of a generation of younger people, I know some people who are absolute career badasses but without compromising the fact that they’re really bloody nice people (NB: you do not have to be a dick to succeed in business. This is a MYTH we are fed to make up for people who are shitty when they’re successful).
Here’s the thing though. We live in a society where we, as a human race, but particularly women, are told how to be, how to look, how to feel and what to do with our lives. We’re told that we should constantly be striving to “bag the man” “get the job” or “take down the competition” so we forget all of the incredible lessons and skills and experiences we can learn and gain from actively seeking out successful people to surround ourselves with.
Do you know what’s funny though? We’ve all been both sides of the shine theory coin before, we’re just often guilty of not recognising that other people think we are being shiny – we just see the shine in other people.
I’m not suggesting that the next time you go to a networking event, you follow the keynote speaker around asking them if you can be friends, but I’m just saying that we should’t shy away from the opportunity to see the shine effect in action. It’s time we, as a tribe of women, as a village of people, started making friends with those who might give us a feeling in the pit of our stomachs like we aren’t enough. Because we are enough and doing this can bring an end to the female competition that the patriarchy has forced us into living.
Because you know something, our shine will make them shine right back too. And it’s not just a reflection.