What comes to mind when you picture girls fighting? Odds are, it involves rumor spreading and gossip. I’ve always felt there’s a huge distinction, however, between gossiping and venting – although the more you engage in the latter, the blurrier that line becomes.
When I reflect on what the function of talking about other people is in my own friendships, it often serves as a way to validate my own position in that person’s life. There’s a craved (albeit, mean-spirited) common ground we find when complaining and chatting about another. If only for that brief moment, it allows us to deflect our own insecurities onto someone else. I know for me, it gifts me with that such badly needed reminder that I’m not alone, and I’m not the crazy one. But casting negativity onto someone else should not be the solution.
On the one hand, I do think it’s healthy and necessary to have someone you can confide in about the frustrations that build up in our relationships and daily interactions. Particularly for women who tend to lack an outlet for aggression, it is crucial to find ways to release these emotions. On the other hand though, it’s a nasty habit to break, and at the end of the day, will only reflect poorly on you.
It’s a common expression that “great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people,” yet even I, a wholehearted believer in female empowerment and spreading kindness, struggle to resist the urge at times. Now as an adult, I’ve come to realize that the most fulfilling relationships in my life are those that steer away from the discussion of others, and rather focus on bettering ourselves and supporting one another. So why is it still so comfortable to lean back on a habit I know is ultimately damaging my relationships and myself?
I often wonder if we as women would feel alleviated of the desire to talk about one another if we more regularly validated each other and that existing friendship. I can recall several times throughout my childhood and adolescence where vocalizing how much I cared for a friend backfired; it can make you appear weak, annoying, and brand you with the dreaded label: clingy.
But years of learning to accept myself has taught me that such validation is something I personally need in my relationships, and that’s okay. The truest friends I’ve found are those who openly encourage me, support me, and stick up for me – even against my own inner critic. I still find myself resisting the urge to bring up others in conversation from time to time, but in those moments I challenge myself and anyone else who struggles with this to instead redirect that thought; use it to acknowledge what you value and appreciate about your present friend and their significance in your life. More often than not, they’re hoping for that validation too.