I have some exciting news to share – Brené Brown is my best friend...and she doesn’t even know I exist.
Now, before you make a call to protect her from my crazy – let me explain:
Relationships only exist in our thoughts about them.
Go ahead and reread that, pause for a moment to consider and then, if you are up for the adventure, carry on reading.
There are many kinds of relationships in the world – today, I’m talking about those that exist between people and I offer this definition for consideration as we continue:
the way in which two or more
concepts, objects, or people
or the state of being connected
Notice that this does not give any specifics on how people might be connected, or the required reciprocation between the two entities. It simply states a relationship to be a way or state of being connected.
I have admired Dr. Brown’s work for many years and often, when talking about her with another person familiar with her brilliance, would say, “I just want to be best friends with her” and over time this morphed to, “she’s my best friend, she just doesn’t know it yet” (yep, that one can seem a little creepy but you'll see how it has evolved to total creepy-free status). Just this past week, it occurred to me that she CAN be my best friend, RIGHT NOW and she doesn’t need to ever know it. Here’s why:
“Friend” is defined simply as one attached to another by affection or esteem. I am attached to Brené in both these ways through the work she offers to the world. Her words – written and spoken, in books, articles, interviews, podcasts and videos – speak to many. I happen to be one of them. When I read her words, it literally feels like she is talking TO ME. It feels like someone has seen and heard me, shared her own personal experience with vulnerability and held space for me to consider mine in the same, authentic way. In this space, I feel safe to explore the full range of human emotion. She is available to me anytime, day or night, without judgement or expectation of what I will do or say – I simply open a book, watch a video, listen to a podcast and have access to her support.
If that isn’t good best friend criteria, I don’t know what is. The best part is that it doesn’t require anything further of Brené (a relationship free of expectations of what the other person should or shouldn’t do/think/feel is quite liberating!) and the bonus is that my ability to think she is my best friend is not conditional on her or anyone else’s approval.
Relationships can be beautiful. They can also feel tenuous at times. Imagine relationships free of the anxiety of approval, the frustration of unmet expectations, the challenge of wondering what the other person is thinking. Consider the power of showing up as exactly who you are, who you want to be and knowing only you get to say who that is. Feel the amazingness of being able to fully embrace a relationship with feelings of love, joy, support and understanding. Know the ease of having those all available to you, anytime, in any relationship you have or wish to have, based on the thoughts you are choosing to have about it.
Clarification moment: this does not mean that if you are in a relationship where the other person is acting in a way that violates your safety or values you should just change your thoughts and carry on with them. It does mean that you are not in any way responsible for their actions but are entirely responsible for your own. You are only subject to their thoughts about you if you choose to be and must decide if that is serving you and take your own action steps accordingly. If you need help with this, please reach out within relationships where you do feel trust and love, or seek professional support so you can see your own incredible power within to make the choices you need to survive and thrive.
Notice I have not said at any time that I am Brené's best friend or that I expect to be or need to be – that is entirely up to her and I hold zero expectation there. Of course, if Brené reads this, or something else I have written, and feels compelled to call me, I will absolutely take that call (and be totally cool) but it wouldn’t change how I feel about my friendship with her – I will continue on, fully satisfied with having an epically awesome best friend no matter what she is knowing/thinking/doing regarding me or anyone else in the world simply because of my thought about it.
Consider how your circle of friends might expand by realizing the power of thought – beyond time, space, distance, schedules and expectations; you have access to any with whom you wish to be connected. Who are your best friends?